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...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Breakfast of Champions

When I was diagnosed, I was still breast feeding Evelyn and had to stop. I have always been interested in natural remedies and healing, having applied them in the past in other various situations, so my first instinct was to go to NaturThyme, a natural food store in our area, to see what they had to say about drying up the milk supply. I visited the store and explained that I needed to stop nursing for medical reasons. They had a few great recommendations, and of course they (politely) inquired what my "medical reason" was.

When I told the kind lady about my diagnosis, she wanted me to talk to one of their wellness counselors. I did this and was given a great deal of helpful information. Now, I know that many people think of this kind of thing as "quackery." I understand the potential for interactions, which is why I keep my traditional doctors informed about EVERYTHING I am taking and doing to with respect to my natural approach. Also,  I am seeing a naturopathic doctor in addition to my wonderful and fantastic traditional doctors. The wonderful thing is that my traditional doctors are all on board with this approach!

Many people have asked me to give them the scoop on my natural approach, so I thought that I would do a little tid bit each day. Please feel free to do what you want with this information. I will do my best to post only well-backed, referenced tips (Nate is going to pitch in here), many of which apply to general health, in addition to cancer-specific information. Really, it is about wellness, something that I have strived for, but of course no one is perfect. My general rule of thumb is to try and stick to whole foods and not processed. I am a sucker for homemade sweets, bread, peanut butter and anything, and some obviously far from perfect. Now, with everything going on, I am a bit more motivated!

So, I thought I would first introduce my crazy breakfast of champions. I laugh everyday in disbelief when I make this and I suck it down, but then I feel great!
  • 1 scoop Garden of Life Raw Organic Green Super Food Powder (available in a natural foods store). Some green "super food" mixes have sugar added - this one doesn't - so this is not sweet at all!
  • 1 scoop chia gel (chia seeds mixed in water, which turn to jelly)
  • dash of lime juice
  • ground flax
  • tumeric
  • tomato juice mixed equally with water to add liquid
  • here is where it gets fun...1 clove of garlic smashed and finely chopped
  • trace mineral drops
  • lemon flavored cod liver oil
Stir and enjoy! Really, it is not that bad. I like the lime and tomato flavor. In future posts I will go into detail about each to give you the scoop on why it is there. The great thing with this drink is that I am probably getting more nutrition each morning than I'd get in a week before I started this. See, breast cancer is making me strive to be healthy! I also think that it is so neat that God gave us the tools on earth to live healthy lives and to purify and detox so why not take advantage!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Treatment Plan

So today was my visit with the oncologist to go over everything. It was nice to finally hear what the plan is so that I can prepare and just know when this is getting started (probably 10-14 days). I am officially a Stage 2B, the B has to do with the tumor size. Some people were surprised that I have to do chemo because my other lymph nodes were clear and the sentinel lymph node was removed. The reason is that the lymphatic system pumps fluid through your body to clean out invaders, so whatever is in the lymph has potential to go elsewhere in my body. Since cancer (and only a small amount) was in the lymph it could have gone elsewhere, but we are declaring that it DID NOT! IV chemo is systematic and goes throughout your body, which means that it should kill any "rouge cells." Also, even without the lymph node being positive, they would still do chemo because of my age and the aggressiveness of the cancer. Better safe than sorry kind of thing. Recurrence is not any fun, so the plan is to eliminate the possibility as much as possible.

So the chemo they choose is dependent on the cancer markers. Like we have said before, my cancer is HR/2 neu positive, which means that there is a protein in my body that feeds a cancer gene and allows it to keep growing. This is the aggressive part of my cancer and on a scale of 1-3 in severity, I am a 3. Another tumor marker is estrogen receptor positive, which means estrogen presence fuels the cancer growth. It is considered weakly estrogen positive, which is good, but they still want to stop my body from producing estrogen for a while.

One part of my treatment is IV chemo. My surgeon put a port just below my collarbone that is accessed with a needle every time I go in. This lets the drugs go right to the central part of my body, rather than through a vein in my arm which can be both uncomfortable and cumbersome (especially every three weeks). I will be going in every three weeks for 6 treatments, which will be a total of 18 weeks. I will receive two therapies. One is called Carboplatin, the other is called Taxotere. These are the typical "harsh" chemo drugs that make your hair fall out, make you feel tired, and can make you feel sick. In addition to that, I will receive what is called a targeted therapy for the HR/2 neu marker. A targeted therapy means the drugs go after the specific tumor marker and won't kill all the fast growing cells (hair, blood cells, etc). This is where the research trial comes into play.

I am eligible for a research trial specifically for my diagnosis. The only way that it differs from what the doctor would treat me with normally is the part that deals with the HR2/neu factor. Most women are treated with a drug called Herceptin which is very effective at treating this kind of cancer marker. Some research shows that younger women may do better with a drug that is called Tykerb, I have actually done my own reading about it and apparently in other trials it has been a good alternative without some of the potential cardiovascular side effects that Herceptin might have. So...I am going to sign up for this trial and they will send my pathology to the board of research for approval which takes about a week. If I am approved I will start soon after that, if not, I will start treatment using Herceptin. Being part of the research trial doesn't mean I will definitely get the new drug. 25% get just Herceptin, 25% get a combo of both, 25% get a different combo of both, and the last 25% get only the new drug. My doctor assured me that this treatment would always be just as good if not better that what I would do anyway. Another reason why I am doing this is that without research participation, they cannot make progress with research. In a way I am helping my own cause and the cause of future generations by participating, and that feels like the right thing to do. I will need either Herceptin through the IV with or without a combination of the clinical drug in pill form every three weeks for a year. Like I said before, this is much more mild than traditional chemo.

Last but not least I will be taking a drug called Tamoxifen which is a pill for 5 years. This drug stops you from producing estrogen so that any "rouge cells" will not get the fuel they need to grow. The good side is stopping cancer of course, the bad side is menopausal symptoms for that time.  Some women have no problems and others do.

Monday I was in Rochester seeing a very knowledgeable and experienced doctor who practices naturopathic and traditional medicine. She is very familiar with all of the chemo treatments and has tons of experience with cancer patients. She talked to me about nutrition during this and gave me supplements to help me stay healthy and detox some of the yucky chemo stuff. Not only that, one supplement in particular detoxes and makes the chemo more effective! This is all cool with my oncologist as well. Hopefully it will help me stay as healthy as possible. I am also looking into acupuncture which for some unknown reason is very effective in treating the fatigue and nausea that chemo patients experience. I am very excited about how these alternative therapies are going to help me to feel as good as I can for my family and myself!

The next major hurdle that we are praying about is telling the kids about all the treatment stuff. I know shaving the head has the potential of being pretty weird and scary. Thanks to the Smees for sending the amazing books! Another plan that a friend told me about is another mom had her kids cut her hair and her husband shaved her head. She told the kids to just have fun and cut different shapes. I think this will make it less scary and more fun. I am also going to buy them some fun kids fabric and let them make their own bandannas to wear with me. I am hoping this helps, but prayers are welcome!!  

Well hopefully I covered it all. It is a lot to swallow and we do have a trying time ahead of us. So once again, thanks for all of your support! Thanks to all of you who are making delicious meals for us! It is so nice and on those days that I am feeling pretty gross, it is going to be nice to just pull something out of the freezer! We really appreciate it! Thanks to everyone who have been willing to watch our kids. They are having so much fun and getting so spoiled that I think they are going to handle the chemo news well.  We are looking up and trusting God to continue to use this all of good, just as He has already!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pathology results are back

Hello blog followers, Nate is getting another turn at the keyboard. Allison is out and about for the day, but just called me to let me know she got the pathology results - and she wanted me to post so everybody would know.

First a quick review: When Allison went in for surgery on the 18th, we knew there was a single invasive tumor in her breast, and at least a few smaller pre-cancerous calcifications. However, it was not known if the cancer had spread at all. The plan was to extract the sentinel lymph node and biopsy it, on-the-spot, during surgery - the sentinel lymph node gives an indication of if the cancer has spread or not, and biopsying it during surgery lets the doctors know if they need to take the opportunity to look elsewhere for cancer while the patient is "open" so to speak.

Well, the bad news was that the sentinel tested positive, meaning it was cancerous. Because of that, they removed several other lymph nodes from that armpit/shoulder/collarbone area, to determine the extent of the cancer's spread. (I don't remember the count, but it was somewhere between 10 and 20). These other nodes were sent to a lab for biopsy, along with the (known to be positive) sentinel node and the original tumor.

It was a bit scary that the sentinel node came back positive, so we've been eagerly waiting for the last week to get the results back for the other nodes, to see if the cancer had spread to any of them as well. Allison just got the call - all of the rest of the nodes were 100% clean! Hallelujah!

In addition, the lab was able to tell us that the margins for the original tumor were very clean, which is also good news - this means the chance that it had spread to Allison's skin or chest wall are slim to none - which means the chance of local recurrence is greatly reduced.

So, a very happy day indeed.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Carpe Diem or "Cancer Leverage"

There is so much I have been rattling around my brain lately that I am trying to make a list of topics to blog about and just pluck away at the list as we continue on this journey, adventure, trial, test, opportunity, what have you! One of the things I have been thinking about is that I have all of these crazy ideas and plans that I try to convince Nate are excellent all of the time. Poor guy! I know this husband/wife dynamic is probably present in most relationships whether it is mutual, husband to wife, or wife to husband, it is a major part of every coupling isn't it?

I loved a sermon our pastor did over the summer as part of a series discussing our psychological personas as compared with what the bible says and how it plays out in daily life. He talked about the four personality definitions: optimistic realist, optimistic dreamers, pessimistic realist, and pessimistic dreamers. He then went on to define each and what they might sound like. He said that his wife always had big plans for their home that involved very involved projects etc. and that she was an optimistic dreamer. He also said that he is a pessimistic realist because his answer is always "Nah- I am not sure we can do that." Well we were at church and Nate's mom, Jan, happened to be there with us and we were just cracking up because we had to look at our neighbor and tell them what they were, isn't amazing how we can totally peg our family members and friends but we might have a different interpretation of ourselves? See- I saw myself as an optimistic realist, but Nate and his mom couldn't say quickly enough that I was definitely an optimistic dreamer! I was a little thrown off, come on, I like to dream but I am realistic...right? As our pastor finished the sermon he ended by saying it isn't necessarily important what kind of personality you have, it is what you do with it. If you know you are a certain way and you can get the reigns on it, than you can use it for good in your life...or better yet God can! So what does this mean for us?

For me, breast cancer is fueling the flames of my hopes and dreams! I want to savor flavor of each experience and moment, I want to do things and enjoy life! I have always wanted to, but more so now. I have had some hopes and dreams in the recent past that I just toyed with, now I am feeling like we can DO these things, especially those things we feel God putting on our hearts. A sort of "kick in the pants" I always encourage only doing those things you can do in unity with your spouse.

One of the things that I would love to do someday is adopt whether it be local children or refugee children, it is something that has been on my heart and we are praying about. Of course we have our hands full now and so much going on, but it is nice to focus on the future and dream about how God is going to use it. My new and amazing "bosom buddy" (friend and breast cancer survivor) Laurie sent me some words to encourage me and I looked up some verses that support this optimistic dreamer vision of mine...

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11).

"A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)

So that is my altruistic plan for our family. Here is where it gets a bit crazy and funny. My mom is way worse (or should I say better) than me, if I could categorize her it would be..."super ridiculously optimistic dreamer" which I am sure spurred me on. She is such an inspiration because she always sees the glass half full, but honestly keeps me in check. We keep each other in check. One of our dreams is to start a family commune involving anyone on either side of the family including dragging my sister and brother-in-law Jeremy back from Vermont, so that we can buy some land and build our houses next to each other, have a huge organic garden with chickens and other small farm animals running around, maybe having some business involving schooling little ones, or just simply following through with the adoption plan and continuing our homeschooling in said environment. Isn't that fantastic??!! My friend Hannah, sister Becky, mom, and of course our amazing neighbors who have adopted 7 children are the inspiration (you are awesome!) Check out Hannah's blog at Oh and a large greenhouse so I can continue growing kale (super for breast health) and other greens and herbs fresh through the winter months (if that is even possible here!) Nate entertains us with saying that would be great with the tone of "let's be realistic."

This is where I will introduce a concept that I have coined "the cancer pull" which is defined as:
"The advantage you have as a cancer patient to get your way." We were joking about it this morning as my sister was getting ready to go back to VT and she kindly informed me as I was looking for a cute term to coin the phrase "Allison, I am pretty sure that is just manipulation" Ha, ha. She is right, and of course I am joking about using my "cancer pull" (I say as I mischievously smile and tap my fingers together palms facing in...:-) ) Please comment if you have a better title for "cancer pull" because I think we can do better. So then what? Keep dreaming! I am going to make a list of these dreams that I have and bring them to the altar! God has amazing plans for our family and I get so excited to think about them and how we can advance His kingdom, whether it be by taking care of those orphans out there, volunteering for a young women's breast cancer group, going out there and paying it forward like Alissa has inspired in many through her blog, and continuing to do things to fight for social justice with our kids.

Carpe Diem! Use your gifts, have fun, get inspired!! Let me know if you want to join the commune!!

Oh and PS- Please encourage Nate to write some blog posts of his own. Afterall it is our family's journey. I think he is hesitant because of my writing prowess...LOL!! No seriously- he is an amazing writer and I am sure you would all enjoy it! I am hoping to get some segments in from the kids, but we aren't going into detail with them stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


So here we are Thanksgiving week.  Still recovering from surgery which is going fairly well with the hiccup of either having the stomach bug or reacting to the radioactive dye injection. That really was quite unpleasant as you can all imagine, but I am feeling much better now. So to keep on a positive note while we wait for more news I thought it was appropriate to write a list of the things I am thankful for in all of this.

-Having a wonderful husband and young kids. I am so distracted by them that it takes my mind off of just being someone with cancer, and reminds me that first I am a wife and mother.

-Of course my wonderful family and friends who have done so much! Especially the survivors or "pink warriors" if you will that have called and sent cards and have offered so much support that can only come from someone who has been there!

- The ability to read other blogs from young women with breast cancer and all of the breast cancer support out there, it is incredible!

- The sun came through the clouds today as we were on our way out of the doctors office, only for a few minutes, but it was enough.

- Jokes, laughter, especially the fact that I have a list of inappropriate breast cancer jokes that I might share with you sometime if I can get up the guts to do it, but in the mean time I am keeping some of the adults in my life entertained.

- I have the best motivation to exercise, and eat well. I mean seriously? Oh I am just running to get away from cancer...yada yada...I probably won't have a problem keeping up with exercise once I recover! I love exercise, but have a hard time prioritizing it, now it will be different.

-Every moment with my kids, the good, the bad, the ugly. I am not perfect and this won't make me perfect, but I will cherish them more than ever (tears...I have been quite weepy today).

- Ok, I am just gonna say it, fake boobs! It really does make you feel better about the whole thing, at least I do! It was bad enough that I cut my hair short a couple of weeks ago, and then this! My dad asked how I was feeling and I said "Like a boy!" Don't worry I was laughing!

-Now I am going to give the American Cancer Society props. They offer free makeup, wigs, and makeovers for chemo patients. That is going to be nice because I do like the makeup and girly stuff. Plus...if anyone needs to know how to make fake eyebrows I will be your girl!!

- Of course, I am thankful as you all know to my awesome God who has given me the ability to take this both seriously and humorously, after all he made me so we know He has a sense of humor! My faith is carrying me. I am on a raft on the rapids but it is anchored securely and I am not going to stray from that!

So, that feels better to get that all off my chest (no pun intended)! Happy Thanksgiving and please hold your families close, don't stress, enjoy it and every moment! Also check out Alissa's blog on Thanksgiving- she is doing Thankfulness stories all day and mine will be posted at 1

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Reflecting on Hope

So Nate gave you the post surgery update and I of course have been swimming in thought about all of this since surgery. Some things I'd like to share. I want to tell you how therapeutic it is to get this all out and share it. I am a talker and it really helps a ton! Thanks for listening to me babble :-)

Of course I was a bit disappointed to learn that my lymph node was positive. I actually told people ahead of time that it was going to be negative, but optimism never hurt, right??!! It was one of the first things I asked and then of course I just changed the subject because I could see it wasn't an easy thing for the closest people in my life to tell me. My doc had gone home after a long day and I wasn't waking up too soon, so they were left to give me the news. I am not complaining about that one bit, all of my doctors and care have been fantastic! Like Nate said, we will know about the other lymph nodes she removed hopefully by Wednesday. We will also know whether or not to get a second opinion from an oncologist at a young women's breast cancer center to decide the best course of treatment. I really like the oncologist I am seeing but she said not to hesitate to get a second opinion. She really is wonderful. My brother actually has a contact at the Dana Farber Institute in Boston who has helped me a lot and has offered to help me get set up with a consultation there if I want to. So we are thinking and praying about all of that.

One of my wonderful friends Marni, sent me a little care package the night before surgery and when I woke up in the morning and opened it, there were several bible verses written out and laminated. This was so great, because of course I was a bit anxious that morning, the timing and verses were perfect. I brought them with me and read them after surgery the next morning and all of my anxiety went away. Especially now when there seems to be a little more of a challenge to the situation than we anticipated. I'd like to share some of the verses that are seeing me through and keeping me positive!

"But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like Eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." Isaiah 40:31

"...And we REJOICE in the hope of the glory of God. No only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character, hope." Romans 5:2-3

"Yet I call this to mind that therefor have HOPE: because of the Lords great LOVE we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." Lamentations 3: 20-24

"And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." Philipians 4:7

"Let us hold UNSWERVINGLY to the hope we profess, for He who has promised is FAITHFUL." Hebrews 10:23

"For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skies." Psalm 57:10

"Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.: Psalm 31:24

So I guess what I am trying to get across is something that I have told others who have been suffering from different trials in life and need to take my own can't go on what you see, you have to go on what you know. I know God's word to be true, because it has been so real in prayer in circumstance throughout so many times in my life. I know God is GOOD and wants GOOD for me. I know He holds me in His hand and counts every tear. I know He is crazy about all of us! I know that it would be just as true even if the circumstances seem so much more extreme. I hold onto this hope even more  in this situation! Although there is lymph node involvement it doesn't change the hope that I have in this situation because God doesn't change, and there is nothing that he can't change for good!

There has been so much evidence throughout this trial of God providing me with the best care, love, and joy. Emmalise (our 5 year old) is a big time worrier about all things medical. She heard me say surgery when I was on the phone with the doctor and she said "Surgery, Mommy who, me?" Without thinking I said "No honey, Mommy." Thinking that she would freak out she said "Oh, ok!" with great relief, so I thought that was pretty funny. A couple of weeks later before bed she asked why I was having surgery out of the blue, so I told her that something bad was growing inside of me that the doctors needed to take out and that was pretty much the end of it.

So for us this was pretty amazing...When Em first woke up the morning of surgery the first thing she said was "Mommy I am going to be praying for you today and that your surgery goes well." Then she promptly said "OK everyone, come over here, Mommy you sit in the chair and everyone else sit around her, we are going to pray!" "Dear Jesus, please take care of my Mommy today and heal her. Please make her as well as possible and help her to get better quickly! Amen!" It was no surprise that she wanted to pray, but the depth that she prayed and the way she executed the whole thing left us with our jaws on the floor! She normally would just avoid these stressful situations, which is understandable! We were all so proud of her. I looked at her and said "Em, no worries ok!" and she looked at me and said "No Mommy, no worries!" with complete confidence. I am glad that God used our girl to confirm the confidence that we need to have in this and in all other things in life. He used the one that we were worried about to expel of all our own anxieties!

We can't believe the amount of support we are receiving from friends and family. I feel so spoiled! I haven't for one moment worried about my kids. They are having a blast with their friends and Nana. My daughter was actually having a count down to surgery because she couldn't wait to sleep over with her friends that are like sisters (Grace and Morgan). Thanks to the Kingsley's for loving our kids like your own! Thanks to the Riedl's for taking Bubs too and your willingness to help us out! Thank you to all my beautiful and supportive friends from the Caz Mom's Club and MOPS for meals, care packages, encouragement, prayers, etc. The realization is that the tougher the trial the more I feel loved! We are totally encapsulated by this love that you are all sending to our family. Thanks for having the faith like a mustard seed that can move mountains! 

Much Love and Blessings!!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Report from Surgery

Hello everyone,

Nate's turn at the keyboard to give a live report from the surgery center. We checked in this morning, at which point Allison met with various doctors and nurses to discuss the procedure and do more imaging and testing. Afterwards, they checked Allison in to her room (a nice private room with a real window!). More doctors and nurses in and out to talk about the procedure, sign forms, and so on. Before long they had Allison in a bed and were whisking her away. Those of us in attendance were allowed to hang out in her room, which was a nice change from a public waiting room.

During surgery, nurses stopped in and gave us updates, asked if we needed a drink, and so on. The entire staff here has been excellent.

When the breast surgeon was finished with her part of the operation, she came out and gave us an update. Things went a little slower than planned but there were no serious complications with the surgery itself. They did pathology on the sentinel lymph node during the surgery, and it came back positive. This meant that several more lymph nodes on that side were removed, to allow for more pathology. We are praying that they come back negative - we'll get the results in about a week. These results will play a big role in determining the type and duration of chemo that Allison receives (as well as officially "staging" the cancer). At that point the plastic surgeon was still working away, so Allison still had about an hour of surgery left.

After things were finally wrapped up, the plastic surgeon spoke with us, letting us know that everything went well. He commented that he thought it was a very successful operation and that things had gone well. Allison was moved to recovery, where she came to and was monitored for about a half an hour, before being returned here to her room where she will spend the night. She's here with us now talking about how things went - she seems to feel fine other than being really thirsty!

We want to thank everybody for the overwhelming support we have received - Allison's facebook and email accounts are overflowing with positive wishes and prayers. Our chest freezer is already loaded with meals, and we've got plenty of people lined up to help with the kids. Thanks for everything and stay tuned for more updates. Allison will be busy recovering over the next few days/weeks but I will post updates as we know more info.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Jennifer Wolsey Photos- Chasing Faries

Appropriate Blog Title

This week so many people have been reaching out to me, asking how I am, etc. before surgery Thursday. It is hard to explain in a few words the process. I was diagnosed almost six weeks ago and I had three weeks to wait after getting the surgery date. Some people were kind of frustrated by that (waiting so long) and asked me if I was upset. At first I was kind of frustrated but then came to the realization that I had already handed this over to God and I just needed to continue doing that. God's timing is always perfect.

I decided that we were going to be "better than normal" for the few weeks until surgery. By that I mean do lots of fun things, go on some field trips hang out with friends and family as much as possible, and that's what we did! It was so nice to be around all of the people that feel so invested in this with us and are there to support us but also not have to talk about this too much and just enjoy every minute of it.

There are times when fear and anxiety try to creep in, but with God's help I just shut that door and don't go down that road. This is our story, and our story is going to have a different ending than some others that I have heard. I have been reading the Psalms because they offer such encouragement. I was thinking about all of these things the other day and then read Psalm 5 and the end of the psalm stood out Psalm 5:11-12:

"But let all those rejoice who put their trust in you; Let them ever shout for joy because You defend them; Let those also who love your name be joyful in you. For you, O Lord, will bless the righteous; With favor You will surround him as with a shield."

This speaks volumes into my situation. I have prayed that God would guide the surgery and I have a vision of God hovering over me and protecting me through surgery and everything that is to follow, shielding me.

It seems that in the moments that I feel vulnerable or that I start to feel down that God provides me with someone, the angels on Earth that help me. It is my friends calling to say "Hi" or ask us over to play. It is the song or verse that someone sends, it is my kids coming to give me a big hug or kiss for no apparent reason. It is our friend from church calling about setting up meals. It is a friend who calls to say they have a freezer for us to put all of those meals in! Amazing blessings and love pouring into our family sent from God above through you!

I want to share a couple of things that especially stood out this week. My new friend Jen, who is an amazing photographer, came to take our family pics up at on relatives beautiful land and the series of pics is called "Milkweed Magic." It was such a nice and special time. My daughter, who is usually SO difficult to take a picture of was captivated by "chasing faries" in the milkweed with Jen. When said our goodbyes and got in the car to head off to Friendly's My daughter said "Mama, I think I made a new friend!" It was so cute. Jen just wanted to "pay it forward" and do something nice, and it was amazing! I am looking forward to paying it forward after being so inspired! I hope you enjoy the pics :-)

I asked my friend Sara about some worship music that she would recommend listening to, because that totally makes my day and she posted this link on my facebook page which made me cry, in a good way. It totally has been stuck in my head and is keeping my mind where it needs to be! It is nice to be flooded with tears that come from being filled to bursting with love that is heaven sent! This woman has an amazing voice as well!! Check it out...

So to bring this post full circle, the title that Alissa so appropriately suggested "Fueled By Love" isn't just a cool name, it is such a reality right now.

Just so you know, Nate will post the evening after surgery to let everyone know what's going on!!

 Love you all...thanks for everything!

Monday, November 8, 2010

One of many opportunities to grow

Thanks for visiting my blog! Before I jump into anything I want to send out a very special thanks to my sister in law and good friend, Alissa, for setting up this blog for me! I am so grateful for all of her help and advice so far in this process. She is a wealth of knowledge and encouragement!

Also, I want to thank everyone who has jumped without hesitation to our sides during this "bump in the road" with care packages, cards, goodies, words of encouragement, hugs, prayers, and the list goes on and on. I keep saying that this is really going to be as easy as it can possibly be because of the tremendous support that we are getting from family, friends, church, and our community.

So I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma on October 5th. I actually had to look up the date because in the chaos I totally forgot or just didn't take note, for those of you who know me well I am sure you aren't surprised ;-)  Of course we were caught off guard, but my wonderful husband Nate said when I broke the news "Well we are just going to do what we need to do to get through this." He has been such a rock through all of this, which is no surprise! You can read more about my diagnosis, in the "My Diagnosis" section of the blog.

My surgery (bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction) is scheduled on November 18th. I will only be there overnight and then I come home. I have a no lifting restriction for 6 weeks so friends and family and going to help take care of the kids.

Following surgery I will have chemo (they will know specifics after surgery when there is a detailed pathology to determine the course of treatment). It will be IV chemo probably every 2 weeks for 4-6 months and then a drug called Herceptin every 3 weeks for a year. I will lose my hair during the IV part of chemo and have some of the other symptoms such as fatigue and nausea, but I am hopeful that I won't feel sick at all because many survivors tell me that they didn't feel sick.

There are many other things that help you get through. Also I have read that diet and exercise are key in making treatment successful, so I have been working on that as well. I have been doing mostly pilates, wii fit, and I will try to get outside as much as possible! Also, I am putting all my trust in the Lord, I believe that He is my divine physician working through the doctors, treatments, and giving my all the peace and strength to get through this. Reading scripture, inspirational quotes, and prayer are keeping my mindset positive and uplifted.

This is what I will be using to keep everybody updated so please sign up for email updates to stay in the loop! Also, thanks so much to everyone who has offered to help with meals, etc.  Our church is going to set up a calendar for people to go to if they want to do a meal. We so appreciate the help and although it is hard to accept it, I am told to just do it! Thanks again to everyone for supporting us through this!