Monday, March 14, 2011

Think Spring

Believe it or not it is just around the corner. We Central New Yorker's know to never trust that early thaw, we smile and think, oh this is nice, but deep down inside we feel the threat of another blizzard or freezing rain storm. Spring...not only a welcome change in the seasons but a symbol of new beginnings, life, growth, and change. I really cannot think of a better time for me to finish up my chemo treatments really.

I have been looking forward to finishing up some home improvement projects (or I have been looking forward to other people finishing them) but we need the warm spring weather. Even though once again fall was crazy (diagnosis time) and I didn't plant bulbs....again...I cannot wait to see the beautiful crocuses and tulips poking up from the barely thawed ground in their brilliance promising that the gray doesn't last forever. I am thankful for my neighbors who have planted bulbs! Needless to say I am so excited for spring. I can already smell the fresh air blowing off the last remains of snow spots in the yard and fresh mud. I can hear the kids squealing with delight on the first real "warm" day that allows them to swing with the wind blowing in their faces on the first good warm outside day of the season. I cannot wait to get an early spring garden in since the beds are all ready from last year. I look forward to having play dates with good friends that allow us to sit and relax and watch the kids run.

About a month or so ago at our women's bible study meeting our coordinator gave a great talk about being stuck in the throws of winter and how that can get us down. She talked about how we literally need sunlight to stave off anxiety, depression, and fight disease (lack of vitamin D and B12 are linked to cancer). Fresh air and sunlight are quite literally necessary to live a good healthy life. She concluded by demonstrating that this is another metaphor that God uses between His creation and our spiritual life. We need "Son" light to get through the darkest days of winter in our lives. There have been so many times where doubt and fear have come at me in this and so many trials in our lives. God just asks us to depend on his care to get us through that time. When we allow his light to come in, He purifies us and makes us new. Only He can melt away the hard gray ice in our lives. Only He can bring the new beginning we have been looking for. Get ready to breathe in the fresh air of spring and celebrate change and renewal. I know I am ready!!
Here is a great link to an article about sunshine and cancer. Very good read!

Monday, March 7, 2011


I think you all remember back in the day when I was posting about my wellness regime and the wonderful concoction I was drinking for breakfast...I say "was" because I have been SO off the wagon. I have been taking my supplements but could NOT stomach the green drink after chemo. It is not that I have had nausea, because I haven't, but things do not taste the same the first 10 days after treatment and when I get out of the habit it is really hard to get back on track. I am proud to announce the new and improved "while I am on chemo green drink" It is my green drink powder and tart cherry juice (which is very good for you for lots of reasons). Why didn't I try this earlier? I did get my garlic in with my seared spinach though :-) The drink was so much easier to stomach and I am getting all of that green goodness too!

I have read a couple of non-traditional wellness books that I was really excited about, but the problem is that they are so different and contradict each other so much that I was really frustrated. I have been eating well, it is just that I have added some unhealthy things to the mix (if anyone is friends with me on Facebook I am sure you remember some statuses that had to do with Reeces PB Cups and ice cream). It is really hard, especially since the junk is the only thing that tastes normal right after treatment. I am currently "trying" to give up dairy, wheat, processed foods, sugar, and then there is a whole other list of foods that are considered "healthy" by all other normal people that I should be avoiding according to these books... To be fair, even my oncologist said that wheat and dairy really aren't great for anyone. Anyway, I have come to the conclusion that I am going to do my best to eliminate wheat, dairy, and extra sugar, and eat lots of veggies. I am just going to try to be healthy because the reality is that when I was sticking to this plan religiously when I was first diagnosed I felt great!

I have been trying to think of a way to motivate myself to stay on this wellness plan. One idea that I was afraid to follow through on was using my blog readers to hold me accountable! I was going to post what I ate and what I did for exercise...maybe I still will...will you be nice to me? I also thought about doing a behavior chart for myself. As a teacher I did this all of the time for children who had difficulty with self-control or just needed behavior modification. I never thought of doing this for myself but I DO need self-control and behavior modification! Also, it was in a magazine I subscribe to called Whole Living and they said it is very powerful, maybe I will do this too. I was thinking that I can reward myself with a nice blouse or go out for coffee with the girls (don't tell, I am not supposed to drink coffee, no surprise there!)

I wanted to share a couple of things that are truly motivating to me right now that are helping me to get back on track (at least for today). I think about how those sweets taste and if that report is true about sugar feeding cancer, it is so not worth eating it, it is good, but not that good. I will eat it in moderation, but that is not something I am good at right now.

Another very motivating thing is that the YMCA here does a Livestrong Program where cancer patients and survivors have class together twice a week for 12 weeks. I will start in May or August, depending on my surgery schedule. The classes are exercise or art, whatever the class wants to do. I am excited to be connected to local survivors as well. The best part is that we get a free family membership while I am in the program! We joined last week, so I think the fact that I will have childcare so I can work out will be very motivating.

Also, my awesome and inspiring friends started a team for the race for the cure "Al's Rack Pack" isn't that great? It is a 5K, and although I haven't been running I have been exercising a little bit. I am hoping that I can run the entire thing. I can't imagine how motivating that will be. I am going to have a hard time not crying when I see all of my friends and family running/walking with me in the fight against this horrible disease. I am sure that day will motivate me to keep up with the exercise part of things. Exercise just feels so good when you keep up with it. I also think that if I have a great exercise regimen, if I do fall off the wagon occasionally it won't be the end of the world. I do believe that if you are too strict with a plan it is harder to stick too. If you are interested in joining our team or supporting our team, here is the link...

My most important motivator is my husband and children. When something as staggering as aggressive breast cancer comes at you when you are 30, your head is swimming with wondering "why?" I could drive myself crazy wondering what I can do to prevent recurrence, or I can just do what I can do. I know what I can do, and this is just about it. I think picturing their faces and how I want to be here for everything. It is pretty motivating.

If anyone out there wants to join me in striving for wellness, let me know what you are doing! What are your tricks? What are your great wellness resources and recipes. We all have to remember that we are the ones that are responsible for our health and happiness and that today we can make a difference with our choices.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Still Plugging Along

Wow, it has been way too long and I apologize for that! I have been very distracted with being elated that I am for the most part completely normal. It is funny how being elated and determined that this isn't going to get me down has spurred me to do way more than I would on a normal basis and I like it! Part of it is also the fact that Evelyn has come into her own and doesn't demand my every second. She is happy to play with her brother and sister and get into all kinds of trouble :-) Still doing the daily duties with ease and going to all these appointments. I just told my nurse that I am not going to know what to do with myself when I only have to come in every three weeks for Herceptin. That will start in 6 weeks! That's right- I have only two more "yucky treatments"  as we like to call them three weeks apart until I switch to Herceptin every three weeks. It has gone by very fast. It has also made the winter go by very fast which is nice because if I spend too much time outside I lose my voice (weird I know).

After this last treatment I was more tired. I have my treatments on the Thursday and Friday is usually fine, Saturday and Sunday I was sluggish. Monday I had a day out with the kids, Tuesday I was beat!! Luckily I have an amazing Mom who came to the rescue and brought the kids to her house for the night. This is all so exciting for the kids that it doesn't really matter. We spent the morning until Grandma got there on the couch passing back and forth homemade presents in a cardboard box. We also drew homemade cards to go with each present. It was a great way to keep things positive and pass the time. I guess if that is the worst that I can complain about, once again, this hasn't been so bad. I still haven't needed to take any as needed nausea meds. I haven't had the numbness and tingling in my hands and feet that can come with this chemo. I haven't reacted to anymore drugs. PRAISE GOD!!

Some fun tidbits. The kids love my bald head. Funny though- my hair won't give up. I have quarter inch strands sticking up all over, so that is pretty funny. Evelyn loves to surprise baby attack when I am not looking and try to rip my hat off so she can wear it. She also let me put a head wrap on her and she was strutting around the house so proud of herself. Adorable! I will have to try it again and post some pictures. I also have to use LOTS of hand lotion because with winter and chemo it can be pretty rough. The kids love lavishing their hands as well, especially Evelyn, of course, who will come up to me desperately pleading "Hands, hands!" until I open it and squirt it on for her. She then giggles so excitedly and proceeds to rub it on her hands or anything else she thinks needs moisture like the couch.

There are a lot of bright sides to look at which is good because I have definitely had some down days as well. I do struggle with the fact that having more children (not that we were planning on it) isn't a very realistic option. I just wasn't ready for that door to be so abruptly closed whether or not it was going to happen. I had my cries and vented, now I am good. If God wants to open a door when one is closed, He will! Hope you are all having a good winter. I hope to better about making posts but can't make any promises :-)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

God's Provision

Over the past few days I have really had some moments of being overwhelmed in a good way. I have had so many "close calls" within this journey with the cancer being aggressive, catching it just in time, having an allergic reaction last week to meds (Not that I am trying to be dramatic) people have been saying how strong I am, etc. but I want to give credit where credit is due. Although it has been pretty scary at times, I really see how God is showing us that it really is in his control and he is GOOD! Everything has fallen into place and I feel so fortunate to have been in the care that I have and that every detail has worked out for our benefit. I have really been brought to tears thinking of how fortunate I am that everything has gone as smoothly as it has. I have a very treatable cancer. It was caught early. I have great traditional and alternative care. I have amazing people in my life. I have a wonderful and supportive husband who has carried me. I can go on and on. Blessings are just pouring down!

Like I mentioned earlier, last week I had an allergic reaction right at the beginning of my infusion to the anti-nausea medicine. It was very scary. I felt like I was having a heart attack. The nurses were amazing, in no time they were pumping Benedryl into me and then within minutes everything calmed down. It was scary to have to continue with the rest of the treatments, but I just handed it over  and said "Jesus, please take care of this" of course everything worked out fine. The thing that was most amazing about this allergic reaction experience was that the first thing I thought was "Why God, isn't everything else enough? Can't I just get through the rest of this without a hitch?" Later that night as I was lying awake I realized how God's is really "holding me in his giant hand" like my friend Hannah said. I was supposed to pre-medicate at home with the medicine that I reacted to at treatment. The doctor's office called me and told me not to take it because they could just give me what I needed at treatment.

All along people have been praying for us and that things would go smoothly. People have been praying for protection over me and that I would be able to get through this smooth sailing. I really believe that God protected me from taking that medicine at home alone with three kids. I was in an environment where I had great care right away to take care of the problem. Yes, it was scary, and I wish it didn't happen, just like this diagnosis. Isn't it true though that sometimes we have to go through these trials to really see how blessed we are? Life is so much sweeter knowing that God has brought me through this and can bring us through so much more! I love that we serve the God of the impossible and that He takes pleasure in guiding us on our journeys! I continue to be amazed at how God is providing me with the energy and strength during chemo. Really, I have felt a little tired here and there, but other than that, fine. I have been able to keep up with the kids, do our school work, housekeeping, etc because I ask God everyday to give me the strength that only He can provide and I can't do it alone! He is faithful! I have been feeling pretty good. I know it may get harder as treatments go on, but I am counting each day that seems "normal" I as a blessing. Thanks again for checking in and for all of your prayers!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Gittin' R' Done

It has been a while since my last post, and actually I wanted to wait a little bit to give you an accurate report of what is going on. I started my treatments last Friday December 17th. Nate and my good friend Shell came with me, it was a long day. By the time they give you everything you need plus all the drugs to help with everything, and the blood work it was almost 8 hours. On the flip side, it was nice to sit in a recliner on my laptop or dozing. I was joking that if I could just get Nate to rub my feet then it would be like a spa! See, you just have to use your imagination!

How am I feeling? Well for starters they give you so much medicine to counteract any symptom you could have from nausea to an allergic reaction that it doesn't leave a lot of wiggle room, which is good. On the other hand, those medicines and the chemo have left me feeling a bit "loopy" and tired. I also had a shot a couple days after my treatment for the white blood cells to make sure they don't drop off which gives you aches because it makes your bones produce white blood cells. I didn't have too much trouble with pain, but again, I think those drugs made me feel a bit loopy. The great news is that overall I feel pretty good! I didn't have to take any as needed nausea medicine. If I snooze here and there and get a good night sleep I feel pretty good. Some days I am more tired than others, but really, I can't complain! The nurse just told me she has Christmas songs stuck in her head, and I said that lucky for me, I don't have the attention span for that to happen! Yipee for Chemo Brain!

I am so thankful for Jan and my mom who have been a tremendous help. Jan took the kids for the weekend so I could rest and adjust, but I still hung out with them Saturday and we did church Sunday. They had so much fun and I think they had a great time sledding with Ri, Brit, Karen, Seth, and Nana. My mom has been with us during the week when she can and I can't say enough about how nice it is and just how having someone there is just so nice. My sisters and brothers have been hanging out here and there as well, making cookies, joking around, watching funny stuff, and just being there. I feel so blessed by our supoport! Meals continue to come as well, which really makes it easy on us, so thanks again!!

I am now at my second infusion of Herceptin only, which isn't as harsh as the others. I did have blood work done and a follow-up with the NP. My white blood counts were "in the basement" so they prescribed me an antibiotic being the holiday weekend so that I don't catch anything. Hopefully that shot will kick in gear this weekend and I will be feeling a bit more energetic.

Overall I am just hoping and praying that my side effects and fatigue stay under control and I know that I will not always have good days. In that case, I will be calling all of you lovely ladies from MOPS and the MOM's Club who have so generously offered to help out so I can nap and the kids can play! It has been nice to have things stay kind of normal. Having the kids be effected as little as possible is obviously a priority to us, and so far so good. I am happily taking the advice to just be with the kids, enjoy them, and try not to get too crazy about the rest. But the crazy part of me is so thrilled when I can still do the dishes and read books, and tidy up without feeling too tired. Normal is good.

Thanks for your continued prayers!! We are still hoping and praying God leaves the good meds and takes the bad side effects out of me! Prayers have been answered in amazing ways so far in this trial. We hope you all have a Merry Christmas! It is a good year to reflect on what a gift we have in this life, and not just any life, but one of peace, joy, and hope!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Just a Hiccup

This week I had one more hurdle to overcome in the diagnostic process. I had a CT Scan head to toe. I also had a bone scan. These scans are to check to see if there  is any cancer anywhere else.  Once again I was confident, and pretty much still am, that they are just making sure the cancer is gone. The office called today to tell me that two of my lymph nodes were slightly enlarged, one in my chest and one in my right armpit. The oncologist thinks that it is just from the surgery, but to be sure is going to do a PET Scan, which can find cancer anywhere in your body. I really am not nervous about it because I did have a little fluid on the right side, so I am thinking that it is just my lymphatic system trying to clear out, and since I had so many nodes removed it is harder for my body to do. My treatment is not starting tomorrow as originally planned. They want to do the PET Scan first just to know for sure what we are starting with. The good news is my bone scan was negative!!

Before I heard this news I had an appointment with my breast surgeon and I asked her given my specific diagnosis, etc. how much recurrence she saw.  She said in 10 years...none! That was great to hear, especially before the other phone call. Which is another reason why I am not really worried. Still trusting in my divine physician!

Before my phone call when I was anticipating my first treatment tomorrow I was praying and just meditating on God's goodness and how much good he has brought out of this situation already. I am just so blessed to hear people say that God is inspiring them through this trial in my life. That is really all I could hope for and ask for, besides healing of course! God is so awesome, and it is so amazing to see Him at work. He works so beautifully in our lives, weaving the thread of joy, hope, peace, charity, and love between us all through the trials and joys we endure. We are so blessed and awestruck to be able to witness it and be a part of it.

As I was driving this morning I remembered back a few months ago to a night that I was praying and talking with the kids at bedtime. They had been having nightmares and were afraid to go to sleep. We had just started homeschooling and our memory verse was "Keep me as the apple of your eye, Lord. Hide me in the shadow of your wings." Ironic, that just a month later all this would start. Not, ironic, really it is God's timing. He used that verse in our lives to prime us. Anyway, I reminded the kids of that verse and then I felt the Holy Spirit lead me to think of this analogy to share with them. I told them...

"God never lets go of you. No matter how afraid you are or how real those dreams are, God has you and you are way too important to Him to let go of. You know when you are holding Mommy's hand and you slip and fall and I pull you back up? That is what God dooes with us. He is always holding our hands and when we slip or fall he says:

"Whoopsie, I got ya, are you OK? I love you and won't let you go." "

It is funny that while I was driving, that night came back to me. It is neat that God uses the words to inspire you later in your own situations. On a side note, they never have nightmares when we remember to pray at night and ask God to protect their dreams. That is such a great testimony to them that God loves them so much he protects their dreams and night, and not only that, they wake up having had the most amazingly fun dreams! I can just see our heavenly father looking down in delight, glad that we asked for help and delighting in giving them their sweet dreams.

I really think that all helped the kids to deal with this. They really aren't afraid. Actually, they are pretty excited that I might be bald soon :-) Em and Seamus can't wait to cut my hair! They also can't wait to take care of me. Em is already doting on me, telling me to sit down and let her do everything! She is also glad to volunteer Grandma as well ;-)

I will keep you posted as soon as I hear anything else. The new schedule is PET Scan Thursday morning, First chemo treatment Friday morning, and Neulasta shot (for blood cells) Sunday morning. I will be following that schedule pretty much for the next 18 weeks, but going in the off two weeks for my Herceptin shot (the targeted therapy that isn't bad on your body). Once again, thanks for your thoughts and prayers and for continuing to hope with me!

I forgot to tell everyone that my friends at MOPS got me a sign that says "Git R' Done!" Which I love! It is definitely going to motivate me and make me laugh throughout treatment! So when you hear someone say that, think of everyone out their battling cancer, and send a prayer up for them and a prayer that we'll find a cure soon!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Treatment Update...

As you all know from my previous "Treatment Plan"  post, I was hoping to be on a research trial. Unfortunately the insurance that we will have until the end of the month doesn't like research trials even though it would be better for the doctors, myself, and the insurance company. It's just one of those things! The oncgology group could appeal it, but that would add a couple of weeks to the process. I have been on the phone with the doctor's office throughout the past couple of days and we have been trying to figure out a way to make it work, including waiting until January 1 to start treatment so that I could be on trial if the new insurance would cover it. Like I have said before, I have been trusting God with these decisions and trusting that he knows what I need and when I need it and that He will work through the doctors. My doctor was back in the office today and is pulling me off trial and is going to do the "normal" treatment for this diagnosis. Which is the same IV chemo and Herceptin. The difference is that I won't be getting the experimental drug Tykerb, which I may not have gotten on trial anyway. She doesn't want to wait, I am trusting that decision.

I have scans (MUGA (heart), CT, and bone) on Friday and Monday and my first treatments will be scheduled Friday and will probably take place sometime next week. The good news is that usually at the end of your three week cycle is when you feel best, which should put me around Christmas, yay!

I know you were all just DYING to hear about my next health food tid bit, but I guess you'll have to stand the suspense for a little while :-)

I also wanted to share that I just read my Rick Warren devotional before I wrote this entry and it was so appropriate, so here is the link if you are interested...