Archive for September, 2011

The Journey Continues

This week has been rough, but God continues to remind me that He is always right there with me.

I switched from shots three times a week (6 shots) to shots two times a week (4 shots). My reaction to the shots on both Monday and Thursday evenings weren’t so good. Last night (Thursday) was so bad that I don’t really even remember what happened Monday.

Normally, I will get a little achy. My back will feel stiff, but usually a heating pad and a couple of Advil will do the trick. Last night, I felt brittle. I went to bed at 8, thinking I would get a super-good night’s sleep. Nope. I was up about every 60-90 minutes so incredibly sore that I couldn’t even lie still. So sore that I texted a friend at 2:30am asking for prayers.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with the treatments, but I can do no more than take this one day at a time.

I’m meeting a doctor this afternoon to talk about meds that can offset the anxiety and depression being caused by the shots. It’s depressing to have to take medicine so I can take the medicine that is supposed to save my life.

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But anyway, it is what it is.

But there are good things. I got an email earlier this week, reminding me that a young man that I prayed for not too long ago prays for me daily, and by name.

When Matthew was two, the doctors found a malignant tumor on his bladder. He had to go through some long treatments. I remember how sick he was. I remember how he lost his hair. I remember how hard and diligently we all – even our children – prayed for Matthew.

Look at him now. God has healed his body. Thank you, Gina, for sending me this picture.

Matthew, when I see your smiling face (and I look at this picture often), God reminds me that there is an end to this cancer journey. Your smile makes me smile.

Thank you, Matthew, for praying for me by name. Thank you to all of my beautiful and faithful friends across the country who keep me covered in prayers and love when I just don’t have the strength to lift myself up.

Thank you, God, for always being with me.

Side Effects, Who Knew?

I am definitely a person who prides herself in being able to hold it all together. Whether I am successful or not is another story, but I try hard.  Unfortunately, with the introduction of cancer and interferons into my life, it doesn’t really matter what I want. Nor does it matter how strong I think I am. Fact is, I am SO NOT in control of what is happening to me.

Last Wednesday, I had a little meltdown. Really, I feel as though I lifted the lid off Pandora’s Box. Once I started opening up about just how miserable I was, it wouldn’t stop. My agitation level, my frustration level, my depression level, and my extreme level of irritability just seemed like they were going to grow and grow until I exploded.

So, today was my follow up appointment with my oncologist. She was not the least bit surprised how I have been feeling. Actually, she was waiting for me to take a downturn. What I learned is that the way I have been feeling is no reflection on me. (Shocking, I know.) It turns out that interferons are a very tough medicine with some very serious side effects on your brain and your emotions. The medicine causes the side effects that I was experiencing. As a matter of fact, she said that there are known cases of people taking interferon shots that have actually committed suicide. Now, I’m ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that I am not suicidal, but I guess I have to be careful with comments like I’m ready for heaven NOW. But I do need to share the potential side effects with my friends, so if I do end up going off the deep end, there are people there to pick me up.

For the next month, I am going to back the shots down to twice a week instead of three times. Hopefully, my body will feel some relief from a little less medicine. I’m also going to see a psychiatrist, who will prescribe medicine that can counter the frustration, the anger, and the anxiety. Unfortunately for me, that appointment could be a month away.  Fortunately for me, all this is temporary.

There is an alternative to the shots – one that I’m not too anxious to consider at this point. I could go back to the infusions for 4 weeks (Monday – Friday). I would then be off for 4 weeks, with another 4-week set to follow. I absolutely hated the infusions. We’ll wait and see what happens over the next month with the shots and see if we need to head a different direction.

I hate this

I am sick to death of the thought of injecting one more shot! Today, I start my 7th week. I only have 41 more to go. Forty-one!!

I hate this. I hate being tired all of the time. I hate that all I do is sleep and work.

I hate that my children have to “make do” while their mom sleeps and vegetates.

I hate that I look fine on the outside, but inside I am miserable.

I hate feeling like I need to present a positive front.

I hate that my hair is thinning. What if I lose it all?

I hate that I have gained weight.

I hate still having the port in my chest, and the constant reminder that there is something foreign in my body.

I hate medical bills.

I hate everybody thinking that I’m so strong, when I would give anything to be young again and safe in the shelter of my parents.

I hate cancer. I hate what it does to people. I hate what it has done to me.

I hate that I feel I must come up with some “positive-ness” to end this post.

This is me, just being real.

Lessons for my Children

When September 11 happened, my children were too young to be able to grasp what had happened, let alone have an intelligent discussion about the lessons that could be learned from the tragedy. Three days later, on Friday, 9/14, I sat down and wrote them a letter so they would know where they were, would know what I was thinking, and would be able to learn lessons learned in the moment.

I hope you don’t mind my sharing what I wrote for them. We read it together each year in attempt to never forget the lessons contained in that day.

My dearest Hannah and Nathan:

It has been a really difficult week this week (today’s 9/15/01). I’m so glad that both of you are too young to really grasp the horror of what has transpired. Tuesday, 9/11/01, some terrorists hijacked four planes and crashed them into different places, trying to kill as many people as possible — and hurt our country really badly. Two planes flew into the World Trade Center’s two towers in New York City. The world actually witnessed the second one fly into the building.

Less than an hour later, both buildings crashed to the ground. I actually saw that as it happened on television. Horror doesn’t even begin to describe what I was feeling. This looked like a movie, but it was live. I think it may be some time before we can grasp the horror we watched.

As many as 50,000 people work in those buildings on any given day. The damage in human life could have been so much worse than it actually was. It’s still really bad; currently, over 5,000 people are missing and presumed dead.

The third plane was flown into the Pentagon and killed almost 200 people. The fourth was headed for the White House. The passengers decided to fight back, knowing that they were going to die anyway, and the plane went down in a field in Pennsylvania.

At first, I was panic stricken because I couldn’t imagine what was going to happen to all of us. Then, as it started to set it, I became very grief stricken because of all the lives that were lost. And, to think of the potential lives that are going to be lost as the United States begins to hunt down the people responsible for this.

Hannah, you were at school (kindergarten) when all this happened. I was grateful for that, because I’m afraid that my initial reaction probably would have scared you. I was scared. I’m glad you didn’t have to experience that. I did, however, call the school to make sure you were all right. They said that none of you knew what had happened. I thanked God that you were in a safe place.

Nathan, my little man, you were right here with me. I didn’t think you would understand my reactions, or that would actually notice. Looking back, though, I think you knew something was wrong; you just didn’t know what. You wanted to stay very close to me for a couple of days.

Your precious Daddy was sleeping, as he was working third shift. Bless his heart, when he woke up at 4 p.m., he had to take on all the terrible news in just a few short minutes. At least I had had all day to absorb what was happening and sort things out. Daddy didn’t want to go to work that night, because he wanted to stay here and make sure we were all okay. But, knowing that bills still had to be paid, he went on. He did check in on us during his breaks. Your Daddy loves you and me very much. I don’t think he even realizes how much.

We witnessed pure evil this week, and it was (and still is) unbelievably scary. My generation and those behind me have been lucky in that we have never really had to experience war. Now, my dears, we are in the middle of one.

I could be really scared, and later on I just might be. But, I am really trying to let God take this worry from me. What is happening in our world is so much bigger than my spirit can handle. But, we are children of the creator of the universe, and rest assured — HE CAN HANDLE THIS.

Some people are speculating, and worrying, about all the terrible things that could happen. I can’t even write them here because I just cannot let them have a place in my thoughts. I am trying to let God fill my mind and heart.

Sweethearts, I want you to know that in the middle of what seems like hell, God is in control. He promises us that he will never leave us nor forsake us. Who knows, you may never grow old enough to read the thoughts your mommy wants to share with you. I am comforted, however, that if that be the case, that we will all be together in heaven.

But if you are old enough to read this, my prayer is that you have a passionate relationship with God. There is no way for any of us to get through even the littlest of trials without Him. In the ones like this week, that are too big for us to comprehend, it’s comforting to know that you don’t have to.

Our nation is coming together with a renewed sense of patriotism. And, it seems like many people are looking to God for comfort. Hopefully, people will realize that God MUST be in our lives, schools, government, everything. I am praying that he protects our land; but I know that this may be judgment for a land that has turned its hearts away from Him. Guys, don’t take sin lightly. It hurts God. Because of the sin we choose to let into our lives and hearts, Jesus had to die.

I hope, as you grow older that I am able to teach you about holiness and purity. I want you to appreciate those values as a beautiful gift from God. Christ died to give you those things. Don’t treat them lightly. Take care of your hearts and spirits. Work to keep them focused on the Father.

As we go through this time, I want you to know that your Mommy is praying that we as a family can be beacons of hope pointing the way to God. I want to stand out for Christ. Whatever happens, God is using us to His glory. We must trust that.

Yes, sometimes I am scared about the path that this will take us on; but we have to hold on to God’s promises.

And one more thing that I am just beginning to grasp from this week — don’t take anything or anyone for granted. Don’t miss a moment to grow closer to God. Don’t let your eyes focus or fixate on the things of this world. They are temporary. They will burn up. We will have to leave them behind.

I love you, always,

Mommy

Where was I on 9/11?

Hannah was in kindergarten, and Nathan was home with me (he was 2). He was watching Blue’s Clues, when I got a call from Melissa Johnson telling me a plane had just flown into the World Trade Center. The concern in her voice told me this was more than just a little single-engine plane that had flown off course.

After getting Nathan distracted away from the tv, I turned over to the news just after the second plane had flown into the second building. I called my mom; she reminded me not to worry – trust that God is still in control.

I was on the phone with Becki Hendrix when the first building collapsed. It looked like one of those videos of a building being imploded; unfortunately, it wasn’t. It was sheer horror.

We all signed off the phones and headed to church. On Tuesdays, we had Ladies Bible Class. Since the staff was at the church, and the building was open, we decided to go ahead and have class. What a better place to be than joined together with sisters in Christ.

I remember precious Sheryl Friend, hugging each of us young moms as we came into the building. We left our precious children with Debbie Hutchins who watched them while we spent time in prayer and sharing.

That next hour, we pondered what might happen. Then we reminded each other of who was actually in control. We talked about God’s promises, His provisions, and His faithfulness. We talked about how far our nation had strayed away from God, and pondered if this was the beginning of judgment on our land.

My precious sisters, I am so incredibly grateful that I had you to spend time with that morning. I am so grateful that we share a faith in the Most High God that allowed us to absorb what was happening, with peace instead of panic. I want you to know that when I think back to 9/11, my first thoughts go to the time that we spent together. I am comforted by our foundation, before I let my mind stray to the horror and terror that was that day.

Just remember that no matter what horrors man can dream up, God is still stronger and bigger. Nothing surprises Him. He wasn’t surprised then. He won’t be surprised tomorrow or the next day.

Stronger and Grateful

The news is not always bad. As bad as I felt last week is as good as I feel this week. Praise God for the relief.

No aches, no nausea, just a little bit of fatigue. I’ll take it. Really, I’ll take whatever comes my way, but it is such a blessing to be able to just enjoy the day. The temperature all week has been around 75 all week. That alone is enough to bring relief. But physically I am able to enjoy it.

I did, however, learn my lesson from this weekend. Just because I’m feeling a little stronger physically AND mentally, it is no excuse for overdoing it. So, I’m taking it easy and enjoying the lack of yuck. Except for last night, at choir practice, there was no taking it easy. My spirit was filled with so much joy, and I am so blessed to be able to express it through song. My precious friend, Tammy, kept cautioning me to take it easy. But for the first time in a long, LONG while, I didn’t feel physically limited (or held back) in my time of worship. I didn’t take it easy; I left it all out there for God’s enjoyment. Of course, I was tired when I got home. I slept VERY well last night.

Thank you, my precious friends and family, for your never-ending chorus of prayers on my behalf. Thank you for your encouragement through cards, emails, and texts. At no point during this journey have I ever felt alone.

With much love and gratitude.

Starting a New Week

Despite last week’s difficult time, I am hopeful that as we start this new week things will be easier moving forward. The side effects from the shots didn’t ease at all, until yesterday afternoon. I was very stiff and achy, like I had the flu and was running a fever. I took a half day off of work to sleep. I spent most of Friday and Saturday sitting with a heating pad on my lower back. Thankfully, Sunday brought with it relief. Sadly, though, I wasn’t able to make it to church.

Honestly, I took it pretty easy this entire weekend – watching television, long hot baths, peaceful naps, and embracing the invaluable heating pad.

Today, I start the shots again. Yay me. Can’t you just hear the enthusiasm?

I am very prayerful that this week will be much easier than last. I almost said it couldn’t get worse, but I imagine it could. So I am prayerful that they just won’t get any worse. Praise God that I haven’t been nauseous, not yet anyway. I hate being sick to my stomach.

Saturday, I got a beautiful gift from God. I think fall is just about here. God’s promise of new things on the horizon is always so very exciting. The milder temperatures are so refreshing and so very encouraging.

With the beautiful day and the side effects gone (albeit temporarily) I decided to help Andy with a little yard work. Thirty minutes, and I was BEAT. Of course, I overdid it; but it felt good to get something accomplished. And I know he was grateful for my help.  I was grateful that Hannah went out to help when I couldn’t do anymore.

So, another nap, two more shots, and a large diet Coke, and I am ready to settle down for a restful evening. Please pray that this week will go much easier than last. There’s a lot going on at work and at home that is going to require my focus and determination. I’m just glad it’s a short week.

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