Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Finish Line

Today is the day!
Today, cancer got kicked to the curb, checked off my list, project completed, mission accomplished and all those other them there cliches.

Let's review the objectives/prayer requests from my first post:

  • That God is glorified in this journey.  (many of you have said yes, that one happened) 
  • Being cancer free is also very high on my list.  (as of today, YES!)
  • Prayers for the boys (and Janet) as we all process this info  (we've all processed well)
  • Focus at work (we’re kicking off a big new project this week).  (Project completed)
Woo hoo!!! 

I wish I could have captured the confetti throw at the radiation office on video, but there was no one else there to capture it so you'll have to enjoy the last dot coming off the door instead (Take 4 finally got it).  

I thought I would share what I learned from having Cancer.

  1. God is good.  All things work together for the good of those who love Him; according to His purpose.  
  2. There is good and bad along the way.  You can look for either one as you go, and you are certain to find what you look for.  
  3. Larry is a great caretaker.  He did just what I needed and backed off when I wanted to be independent again, but checked in often to be sure.  
  4. I have great family.  All had encouraging words at just the right time, shared fun pictures, stepped in and just did things, and J did a really good job of understanding when I was 'done' for the day.  Plus he convinced me to teach him to play tennis during all of this.   
  5. I have great friends.  From the meals, texts, rides, visits, calls, spa day, all were great.  It was fun to visit with each one, especially when we got to be together in real life.  
  6. Other people get sick and need prayer support in their life too.   
  7. Getting better is a process and it's good to have fun things to do, to look forward to, and to mark off even if the next thing is an un-fun thing. 

     (someone started a countdown to Christmas break today)
  8. God's word must be in your heart, your mind, and your soul before the trouble hits.  When you need it most, is not when you can look it up in your Bible or on your phone.  Every time I really needed it I was strapped/trapped on a table or machine and told not to move.  
  9. I felt better 99% of the time when I exercised, even when I didn't want to.  
  10. I can survive without sugar in my diet.  It took practice to say, "Oh, no thank you," but it wasn't my favorite thing.  I think I ate too many celebratory cookies today, and might need to take a break again for a few days.  

Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord all the earth. 

Karen asked if I had a theme song, and while I liked her suggestions, Sandy gave me this idea way back in April; Mandisa's "Overcomer".  Here's a link to watch it yourself.  

Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day.
Declare his glory among the nations; his marvelous deeds among all people.

I won't post as often going forward, but might have a thing or two to share and will.  :)  Thank you so much for all your encouraging words over these last many months.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Three to Go

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday weekend.  Ours was very laid back and I got to do plenty of cooking, but didn't have to clean up every time, thanks Cousin Clayton, and that's always a great combination in my book.

I'm thankful that there are only three more zaps to go.

My skin is on fire.  It does not feel good and I am not able to sleep on my right side, which makes for a restless night.  My ideal sleeping pattern is to rotate like a hotdog at 7-Eleven.

Last week I got a new medicine to take away some of the heat and even Jackie Chiles told me I could put the balm on.

Dr. N2 looked at my skin today and said it looks hot (not in a creepy way), but good.  He was certain I would make it through the remaining treatments without issue.  I'm whiny, but I'm also certain I'll make it too.

I am also thankful that my brain was back to work today as well.

Of course I am thankful for God's strength in getting this far.  Just a little bit more to go.  I would still appreciate your prayers getting over the finish line.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Single Digits

This week we crossed over a nice milestone.  We are down to the single digits.  I do say 'we' because you have all been such a great support over these past almost seven months.

Check out the two countdown boards.

No, I'm not flashing a gang sign or anything like that, just showing there are only eight treatments to go.  Check out that hair too!  So far it is soft, regular brown color with a healthy sprinkling of gray throughout.

This week I had a baseline bone density scan so that when I start taking my Tamoxifen to prevent recurrence they will know how my bones are doing.  One of the side effects of the other prevention drugs is osteopenia.

I also met with Patty the PA, which turned out to be a well timed visit, because I came down with quite a cold, sore throat, and developed a fever as Wednesday morning progressed.  The good news is that by Thursday morning I was feeling MUCH better, though my throat is still sore and I have an rough sounding cough.

Patty said she would ask Dr N. about getting the port removed.  That will be an in office procedure and hopefully that can happen before the year is out.    

Yesterday I did not get any lab work done, so I don't know how the WBC's are doing, but my energy level has been just fine (aside from yesterday).

I can tell you've been praying for my clearer brain, I've had several exceptionally good days in the week.  That is very exciting since I'm about to kick off another project.

Thank you again!!! You are doing great and I so appreciate all of the prayers.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Fifteen to Go

I'm definitely starting to see progress on my visual tracker.



I'm super thankful for all the prayers that are still coming (you guys are so faithful) and still making me feel strong physically and emotionally. God is so good!

My brain has had fewer and fewer clear days which is frustrating; think San Francisco--the fog rolls in rather unexpectedly and you don't know when it's going to leave.  I know it is to be expected, but there are MANY days where I know full well there is a good long list of things that need to be accomplished, and it is well past 1pm before I really start making any progress.  I've done the obvious things like make myself a list when I'm in a good state, eliminate distractions, but EVERYTHING is a distraction when I'm in that spot.

The last week of zaps have been what they call a 'burst', covering an area about the size of a silver dollar.  I have three more of those to go (total of 8).  Dr. N2 explained it as 1.21 gigawatts of radiation going in.  Since I don't have a flux capacitor, and I'm not travelling 88 mph, I have not experienced any time travel.  Hmmm, perhaps he had different words than gigawatts, but it sounded every bit like that as he described it.

Larry's thumb is continuing to heal.  Last week he got a hard cast put on, and will go back on Wednesday this week and get that one taken off, and a new smaller one put on.  That allows for a better range of motion and hopefully less rehab when the cast is off full-time.

Prayer Requests:

  • Clarity of the my brain
  • Continued good strength
  • Continued healing for L's thumb

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Making Progress

Another five zaps down, only 20 to go.  The post it notes are starting to disappear.  Yay!  
Most days I don't feel anything during the treatment, but in the last week I've started to feel a little buzz in the muscle as the machine goes through its routine.  

In the evenings I'm starting to be able to quote Tony Horton, "Feel the burn."  By morning it all feels relatively normal again.  Some point in the next week or so, I expect they will turn up the heat and go into the more intense treatments for 5-7 days.

I've volunteered for a post-chemo study at UT Nursing School and I was able to answer "Often" to about 75% of the qualifying questions that she asked relative to my ability to focus, get things done, etc.  It was actually quite encouraging that so many of the questions were things I was experiencing.  The official study will likely begin in January.  

Larry's surgery went well last week Thursday.  He was up and around town on Friday feeling pretty good.  By Saturday he was ready to go and pick J's new show pigs.  J wanted to be sure I added a picture of the new pigs to the blog.
The black Hampshire pig is named Arthur.  So far the Chester pig remains unnamed, and J is willing to entertain any suggestions you may have.  Feel free to reply to this email with your suggestion. 

Prayer Requests: 
  • Thanksgiving for L's successful surgery
  • Continued healing for L's thumb
  • Focus in getting things done

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ten Down

Radiation treatments started two weeks ago and so far I've had ten zaps.  

In the first few days there was some confusion about how many zaps I would get exactly.  Initially the plan was for thirty, then on day 1 the tech said it would be forty.  On Wednesdays I meet with Dr. N2 and he confirmed that there will be 36.  He didn't mind taking a moment to look at my countdown board.  At that point he confirmed the 36 and had an appreciation for all of my grilling questions.  

Here's a little visual for you

and as of Friday: 

If you are curious, this is what the machine looks like that administers the daily zaps.  
The table raises and slides so that my body is more centered over the big white circle on the floor. The big square panels rotate around the body and the circle on top has its own rotation schedule too.  The blue pad is shaped to my body so that I lay in the same spot each time.  

So far so good.  My energy level is still good despite my WBC's still being down at 3.1 (they checked them again today).  

My hair is starting to come back. 

Here is a picture that Dan took at a work meeting on September 23rd. 

Dan is a great photographer, and I really want another picture when I have a full head of hair again,
and then a selfie I took last week when Terry asked how my hair was coming along.  I think it is even better and longer since I took this on Thursday.    However, I am down to only eight eyelashes on my lower left eyelid.  I'm saving a ton on mascara right now.   

Remember that little motorcycle accident back during the summer when the ER docs said that no one had broken anything?  Well turns out they were not exactly right.  It seems that Larry's right thumb that continues to ache was actually broken in two places.  He's been going to physical therapy the last couple of weeks and the therapist finally referred him to a hand specialist.  

A sonogram/ultraound and fluoroscope showed a tear of the ligament late last week. The MRI today confirmed it and showed that two bones (now healed) had been broken.  All of this information gave the surgeon a plan of action.  The surgery will be this Thursday at 6am.  The doctor thinks that the surgery will take about two hours.  He has three different plans for repair, and it will depend on what he finds when he gets started as to how he will proceed.  He will not be re-breaking the bones to 'fix' them.

There is also a tear on the volar plate on his index finger, but he will not be repairing that.  According to the doctor, "If it is a bad problem, I can make it better, but I cant guarantee any improvement on a minor issue."  The volar plate is considered a minor issue.  

Recovery will require a hard cast for six weeks, but the cast will be changed fairly regularly and each replacement will be smaller than the one before.  

The idea is to get as much of this completed before the end of the year so we potentially avoid paying another deductible in 2015.  

J is not worried at all about the surgery because he gets another mid-week sleepover with his buddy J.   Oh and there is a chance that cadaver ligaments could be used; which for a boy (or man) is a cool thing.   

Prayer Requests: 
  • Successful surgery for Larry
  • Continued good energy level
  • Growth of white blood cells
  • That we are good witnesses of the hope and goodness of God as we go about all of our medical appointments

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Phase 3 Begins

Monday's visit to the doctor did not yield the results I was hoping for when it came to blood counts.  The WBC's were still at their lowly levels of the prior week; 3.1.  The concern is that with radiation the WBC's will drop further.

I have been feeling quite well, and I'm sure it is the answer to your sweet and precious prayers.  To God be the glory!

However, after talking with the PA she found Dr. N and had a chat with him.  They decided that I was ok to go ahead and start radiation.

This afternoon I started the radiation.  I had already been in and met with Dr.N2,  had a template made for my body to lay in every day, along with two very tiny tattoos.  I was sure thankful Tom warned me that I would be getting those.  The technicians were able to use a well placed mole for the third spot they needed.

The plan is that I will have 40 treatments.  That is different than what I was originally told.   For those of us who have had the conversations about 5, 6 and 30 this is not another iteration of that fiasco;promise.

As I was leaving today the technician asked how many treatments I thought I was signing up for? Thirty.  Oh, well Dr. N2 has ordered 40, but he usually lets us break the good news to the patients. Swell, but with one down by the time she asked, I guess I'm in this far I'll just keep going.

The forty treatments will be dished out every work day, Monday through Friday with 28 of them being what I translated as broad spectrum radiation and twelve will be more focused and intense.  About once a week I will see the doctor and one other time I will see his nurse just to check in and see how things are going.

All of the appointments are at the same time every day; 3:15 and only take about 15 minutes.  Today took longer since it was the first visit and they did extra x-rays.  I should be good to go back and forth to work since the office is about 10 minutes away.

For those of you who I have talked to about my wardrobe issues, I have a two week stay before implementation has to begin.  Whew!

For a little FUN along the way I thought I would do a countdown of treatments.  Since I'm at work more often than at home, I gathered a variety of post-it notes from my co-workers and made this little count down board.

I'll add another 10 post-its to capture all 40 of the treatments, update my spreadsheet with the days (yes, that IS necessary), and make a countdown visual at home too.  I'll have to figure out the plan around Thanksgiving of when they are open and closed.  I was sure hoping to be done before that, but oh well.

If you want to make a post-it note countdown too, jump right in!  I completely understand if you don't want the random chaotic looking thing I created (random is quite difficult for my orderly mind).  It is already a bit distracting in my cube and is no doubt one reason I'm thankful to be getting started and removing some of these.

Of course the real reason to be thankful about getting started is so that I can be DONE and declared cancer free!

Prayer Requests:

  • White blood cell production gets ramped up
  • The skin doesn't burn or blister during treatment
  • Sleep is less restless