I didn’t think I would ever experience anything that was worse than the 52 weeks of treatments. Unfortunately for me, I did just that this week. Please forgive the length of this post; it’s long. The only other option was to split this into two posts. I know people who would hunt me down and hurt me if I held them in suspense for a day. Yes, Chief, I’m talking about you. (Smile people, I’m trying to lighten things before I head into the dark abyss.)

Last Friday, one week from yesterday, the process of weaning me off the various medicines that had been required during treatment started. The instructions I had were to reduce two meds at one time.  I, being the science geek that I am, (OK, I will pause as you pick yourself up off the floor from hysterical laughter) remembered something. When conducting an experiment, you can only change one variable at a time to be able to document its effect. Something about “all other things being equal.” (enough science, I don’t really know where this is coming from.) So, since one had already been reduced by half and it was going to be used – at my discretion – to offset any ill effects from the other, I decided to reduce the dose of one med, keeping the other constant. So, one week ago, I reduced med “C” by 20 mg as instructed.

For the most part, I felt fine. The problem came when I had a sudden rise in stress. I couldn’t recover from the stressful event. It wasn’t like I was freaking out or anything like that; I just couldn’t move on, let things go. On Sunday, it took 7-8 hours for me to let go of something that happened while driving to pick up dinner.

Each day I felt the gripping hold of anxiety lessening. Or so I thought. Thursday, I had two stressful events happen within an hour. Now, let me pause for a minute to remind you that I know I am a very strong person. I can put up with a lot of crap (for lack of a better word) from the world around me; but apparently, because of the reduction in medicine, I had very little of my usual coping mechanism.

Ok, back to Thursday. After event #1, I felt like I should be crying; but was afraid if I started, I might never stop. Then event #2. It was like I felt the darkness rising up in me. I was fighting back tears (normal reaction). So, (again normal reaction) I called my mom.

The phone starts ringing and I have started crying, struggling to catch my breath, and fighting to find the words to explain to Mother what was happening. It was like I would say a word, take a quick breath, and think about the next word. Bless that woman’s heart, the stress that I have put on her having to deal with the last 16 months being 10 hours away.  If God never did anything else for me, I know how much He loves me because I got a GREAT mom.

I calm down just a bit, go in the house, and tell Andy that I can’t talk. I can’t explain what is going on. I can’t let Nathan see me like this. Bless Andy, he did exactly what I asked of him – left me alone – and kept Nathan away as well. Fortunately, Hannah is in Nashville, so I only had to worry about one of my children.

Then, I called a friend who has had a similar experience with a medicine in the same family as mine. I called her and she told me what I should do in the immediate term. One, call the doctor on call; two, head to the emergency room. Well, ‘one’ I could do; ‘two’ I wasn’t so ready for. But apparently, my mom was coming to the same conclusion.

I called the psychiatrist’s office. Got the on-call team. Took what felt like an eternity explaining what was happening. Told them (at least 100 times) that I wasn’t feeling suicidal, nor did I want to hurt anyone else. Ten minutes, no call back. Fifteen minutes, no call back. And nothing inside me seemed to let up.

I decided to call my oncologist – the angel known as Dr. Elia. I knew I probably wouldn’t get her, but someone at the Cancer Center would help me. The on-call rep told me should would immediately call Dr. Elia. MY VERY OWN DOCTOR WAS ON CALL. Praise God. Relief swept over me. I told the kind person on the other end of the phone that God knew I was going to need Dr. Elia that very day.

God reached down, amid all the chaos, and showed me that He’s got this. While I couldn’t stop what was happening to me physically, there was a small, tiny little place in me that started to calm down.

Dr. Elia called me three minutes later. We talked. She called my other doctor at home. They talked. I have since returned to the original dosage of Med “C”.

I went to work yesterday, trying to keep my normal routine. I thank God for my boss. I had told her a week ago that I was beginning the process of coming off the meds, and it could be ugly. I only thought it fair that she know what was possible. Thank God this didn’t happen at work, I would probably never have lived it down. Anyway, I was able to work yesterday with my door closed and very little interruption. Erin & Doug, thank you for providing an environment where I could still contribute while healing. I actually did get a lot accomplished yesterday.

So, I am back to the original dose, still waiting for Dr. A to call and discuss where to go from here. On Monday, I am waiting no more. I will set up an appointment to see her.

But I am anxious about the next time. I know there are varying ways to come off this med. Please pray that the next attempt is successful and painless. I want to get off of all this junk.

But let me assure you that God’s got this. Amidst all the fear and panic of what was happening, God assured me of His presence. Fortunately for me, the eyes of my heart were open to see what He did.

As much as I would like for this entire experience to be behind me, it appears that there are still things to learn. I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus. Teach me your ways, oh Lord.

Withdrawal Isn’t Easy

It’s on to the next leg of this journey – being weaned off all of the medication. Two of the meds I am coming off of are considered highly addictive, one because it calms you and people tend to abuse it – who wouldn’t want to be calm. The other is just flat out hard to come off of. My body feels every single change in dosage.

I started the first change last Friday. The immediate impact is that if I have a sudden spike in stress, it will take me hours to return to normal. (Sunday afternoon, something happened, and it was 8 that night before I started calming down.) However, I am becoming very skilled at deep cleansing breaths.

So, here’s what I feel like most of the day: I cannot focus on more than one thing at a time. Being the reigning Queen of Multi-tasking, this situation is very, very frustrating to me. I have a very low tolerance for stress – and stress is a constant in my day-to-day life. In addition to the stress, I seem to have no filter that keeps me from saying something incredibly sarcastic or downright mean. For the most part, I am not myself.

I want this to be over soon. Actually, I want a lot of things; but I am learning to wait upon the Lord.

Please be assured that I am not doing this without a doctor. Actually I have two doctors watching and tracking my reaction to lower doses of both meds. I’m trying not to push it, but I want this junk out of my system.

Coveting your prayers,

Kathy

The Results are In

My dear, sweet friends. It has been a good couple of weeks since I have last written you. I have had a PET scan, a party to celebrate God’s healing, and have begun what, so far, is looking to rank close to the top in terms of difficulty. Before I start, thought, I want to thank each of you for your never ending gifts of prayer and encouragement.

Two weeks ago, I had what I understood to be my last scan for the next 12 months – if all came back as it should. I had complete faith that my scan would come back clean and thought I could put this whole thing behind me. I guess that’s what comes from not asking questions ahead of time.

I went to the doctor last Thursday to discuss the results of my scan. Now, before I tell you what happened, you have to remember that my doctor is from Russia. She has a strong Russian accent, so sometimes understanding requires extra effort. Dr. Elia comes into the office (file in hand), sits down and says “your skin looks good.” I look down at my arms and say “thanks, I guess.” Realizing what I thought she said, she said it again, but this time with a very strong enunciation of one letter – “Your scAAn looks good.” Me – “OH, good.” Doctor – “But your skin looks good too.” We had a good laugh. Dr. Elia is a jewel.

She went on to say that I would need a CT scan in two months, and another PET scan three months after that. I don’t know what was going on in my head, but that little addition at the end wiped out the joy of my good news. More scans? I thought that I was done with this, at least for a year? Is it ever going to end?

I don’t know what the rest of my life looks like, but these follow up tests (I have since learned) are normal. I didn’t mean to sound so ungrateful about my wonderful news. It was that I am so ready for this journey to be OVER.

I continue to keep my focus on my Heavenly Father and remain very grateful for his provisions, peace, and guidance.

Now to the fun stuff. This past Sunday, my Life Group at church through me a celebration party. Silly me, I thought no one would show up. But they had to get out more tables. What a rush. My parents came up from Nashville, and a special friend came up from Sedalia. I am so loved. You know how the Bible says that we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses? Well, I have been surrounded by a crowd of believers. It was a blessing to see a small part of that visually.

I was able to tell my story about how God brought me to this place and is seeing me through it. It is a story of God’s faithfulness. He means what He says. He promised he would never leave us – and He WON’T. One of my favorite images in scripture is in Isaiah when God says, “I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Uphold – one definition is to prevent from falling or sinking, support. I like to think of God holding my tightly, full of love.

His promises, my belief. “Don’t be afraid, just believe.” – Mark 5:36

ps – Tomorrow, I’ll update you on the tough couple of weeks I face. It’s not bad, just difficult. For now, would you just continue praying for me?

I will overcome

PET scan was yesterday. I was/am nervous, but I really shouldn’t be. It’s the limbo and not knowing that will drive you crazy if you let it.

Kelly, PET stands for positron emission tomography (PET) compared to the MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Aren’t you impressed that I knew that? You shouldn’t be; I looked it up on the web. The scan was mostly uneventful, except anyone who know me will appreciate this little piece…

I knew they would be injecting me with radioactive stuff and then giving me an hour for it to circulate throughout my body. So, being the person that I am, I brought a book to read.

Nope. Not gonna happen. They wouldn’t let me do ANYTHING for that hour. They covered me with a warm blank, turned out the light, and closed the door.  Before the cancer, that would be a tremendous blessing. But remember, I have been napping at every opportunity for the last 12+ months. I was looking forward to some quiet time that I could use wisely. I know, I know… quit whining and appreciate what I had before me.

It’s no biggy. Just another example of how I am returning to my former self.

I do hope there are some things that I can continue to maintain. The first is my appreciation of God’s presence in my daily walk. Music has definitely been one of the ways God reaches me and encourages me.  When we sing, it is like my heart is going to jump out of my chest. As I grow older, I find myself paying more and more attention to the words, singing the WORDS, worshiping my Father. The music now comes from the deepest parts of my heart and soul.

There is a song that, over the past year, we have been singing often at church. Then, the artist finally released the song, and I have admitted to getting tired of hearing it.

However, this morning (the day after the scan), while driving to work, I heard the song again. My heart exploded as I if I were hearing this song for the very first time. Song is “Overcome” by Jeremy Camp. I’ve included a youtube link, should you want to hear it: Overcome

Seated above, enthroned in the Father’s love
Destined to die, poured out for all mankind

God’s only Son, perfect and spotless one
He never sinned but suffered as if He did

Power in hand speaking the Father’s plan
You’re sending us out, light in this broken land.

All authority, every victory is yours
Savior, worthy of honor and glory
Worthy of all our praise
You overcame
Jesus, awesome in power forever
Awesome and great is your name, you overcame.

We will overcome by the blood of the Lamb
and the word of our testimony, everyone overcome.

This song opens my heart like the old hymn, “it is well with my soul.”  With God, I can overcome anything.

Gotta get back to the daily grind. Enjoy your weekend.

Oh yeah, the results of the scan? Won’t know anything until next week. Will definitely keep you posted.

How I am feeling

So, it’s been two weeks since my very last treatment. Did you catch that? LAST. It’s over. I don’t have to take anymore. My evening doesn’t revolve around making sure I am home between 6 and 6:30 so I can take the shots at the most opportune time.

The most common question is how am I feeling? I feel AMAZING!!!!!!!!

I think the emotional high carried me for a couple of days. I left the doctor’s office without even asking about coming off the meds, how I would feel, and how long it would take before I could feel more “normal”. At that point, I didn’t care. All I knew was that I could stop putting that poison into my system.

Mentally, I feel more like myself. I can reason. I feel more initiative. I can plan. I can think. I can recall things. AND, I can stay focused for increasingly long amounts of time. I’ve started setting some goals and identifying some projects I want to work on. I am also thinking about volunteering at the cancer center. I feel so different emotionally – grateful, compassionate, and looking for opportunities to share. I have no idea what God has in store, but I’m looking forward to heading down that road.

Physically, I am still tired, but it’s not all day, every day. I don’t have to stop and rest when I walk from my car to the door at WalMart. I don’t have to take a nap as soon as I get home from work. Nor do I sit and watch tv from dinner to bedtime because I have no energy to do anything else.

Once the temperature gets below 90, I am going to start walking again during lunch. I am, however, going to take it easy returning to my former, active self. (Besides, my doctor hasn’t given me the “all systems go” yet; but that’s coming.”)

Thursday, I have my PET scan at 10 am. The next Thursday, 7/11, I will meet with the doctor to get my results. I completely expect everything is going to come back clear. While that be the case, I must admit that if I allow myself to go there, I am terrified about how I will react if the news isn’t good. But you know what; I am deciding not to go there. I’m just going to hang on to what I know to be true and real. God’s got this. Whatever happens is to His glory. We’ll deal with it – whatever, whenever. NO WORRYING!

I also have a couple of meds that I need to get off of, but those are going to require a doctor’s guidance and watchful eye. That’s the depression and anxiety stuff. One thing at a time. Good days are ahead.

Before I go, I would like to ask you to pray for Joey. I don’t know him, but he is a dear friend of some friends of mine. He is battling cancer and having a hard time. Joey has touched many, many people in his young life. Please pray for his family and friends that are walking alongside him.

God is so good. My prayer for you is that He opens your eyes and allows you to see how much He is working in your life. This last year has taught me that even when times are bad, if God has decided to use my life and circumstances for His glory, then it’s a good thing.

Gratefully keeping the faith. Much love to you all.

Scripture promises us that “God is at work throughout all of history, from generation to generation. He is able to do more than we could ever imagine.” My favorite translation of this verse is the NKJV. It says that God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we can ask or imagine. And He does it for our delight, because He loves us, and He wants us to love Him.

I knew God had this entire thing in His hands from the very beginning. But today, I was afraid. I’m sure that God was just laughing because he knew what was going to happen.

I went to the doctor this afternoon and, as I shared from this morning’s post, I was more than just nervous. All I could imagine is that Dr. Elia would tell me something had gone terribly wrong. She was going to tell me that I had to continue the shots (or something), that this painful journey was not yet going to end.

I know I’m strong, and that God is holding me up, but I just didn’t think I could continue this beyond what I had expected, which was June 30.

Well, God had a surprise for me. I am DONE!!! No more shots!!!!! Somehow, I had miscounted. Dr. Elia and I counted three times, and each time, Saturday, June 16, was my last and final and the end of my shots. Can you imagine the smile on God’s face when he asked himself, when am I going to learn?

I’ve gotta tell you, I am shaking I am so excited, relieved, grateful, humbled…there aren’t words to describe my joy.

Would you please stop and thank God for his work in my life. I believe with all I am about that He has got great things in store for me. Like He has told me for years, “Don’t be afraid, just believe.”

I am living proof.

Today is my last “in treatment” appointment with Dr. Elia. Just another milestone in this incredibly painful, but joyful, journey.

While I am very, incredibly, unbelievable excited for this madness to be over, I have to admit that there is a little tiny spark of fear attacking me. What if it isn’t over? What if it comes back and I have to do this again? What if one of these thousands of moles sparks the cancer again? What if? What if?

In one breath, I say that I couldn’t do this again, yet in the next, I know that God is in control. I would do this again for my children, if nothing else.

Joyce (one of my biggest encouragers, and cancer survivor) says that is normal. For a while, every bump, headache, knot, ache, will have me questioning whether or not it is cancer.

For example, I have a knot in my stomach. Now I know this isn’t cancer because it came up right after one of my shots, and it hurt for several weeks. And, it is getting smaller. As a matter of fact, I have to really poke around to find it. So, do I point it out or not?

If I don’t tell Dr. Elia, it cannot possible be more cancer…right? Seriously, not talking about something doesn’t mean it’s not there. And, again, I remind myself of the One steering this ship.

God knows what is going to happen, but I find myself just begging that this is all over. I want to get on to the next chapter, to be able to use this experience for God’s glory. I really do. I just hope the next chapter is not a continuation of the last 13 months.

Selfish? Maybe, but very honest.

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