Monday, July 27, 2015

Prayer List

July 27, 2015

Today was the last of the chemo treatments that include the taxotere which is the harsh chemo that I had to get for 4 weeks. I have to continue getting 2 other things for a total of a year and have them every 21 days but they probably won't cause much in the way of side effects.  So I did a bit of a happy dance today at not having to have that terrible stuff anymore.

Like I said before, surgery is scheduled for August 20th and I'll be spending some extra time closer to the hospital while I recover. We won't know if I need radiation to the axillary (armpit area) lymph nodes until after the surgery and the pathology comes back. So I am asking for prayer that those lymph nodes are completely healed and will not need radiation. That would mean that I would recover from the surgery and start radiation and from what I gather, it would be a trip to Iron Mountain 5 days a week for about a 15-20 min appointment and then drive back and that would last for about a month or so depending on what the doctors would suggest and we decide to do.

I have been having swelling in my right foot and we are having a bit of a hard time determining what is the cause. Right around the time of starting the chemo treatments, I stumbled, trying not to step on a toy, I think a lego, and I did something to my foot. It started hurting across the top soon after that. And then the night before treatment #3, so about 3 weeks ago, it swelled up. I iced and elevated it for the night, even sleeping on the couch to be sure to take good care of it and the swelling went down. It swelled a few times after that but not much and the swelling always came down. The pain went away and I thought it was all good. Then the nurse that was doing the education class for the surgery asked me about the swelling of that foot and asked if I had sprained it. I told her possibly and shared the story. She said they'd be concerned if it was a blood clot and my doctor had said we'd watch it. I was to alert him if the swelling went up my leg or I got any pain up my leg. Same thing today with the swelling. I think I aggravated it by walking too much on Wed. I over did it by testing to see how much I could walk and now the top of my foot hurts again and I have been icing it and praying that it isn't a blood clot. A blood clot is pretty serious, would require blood thinners and could affect the surgery date as well as possibly cause me to have to get another chemo treatment with the strong stuff. I am not in fear of this happening but I know it is not part of God's plan for me and I want to rebuke it. The devil thinks that he can stir up more stuff by trying to throw these curve-balls at me and create fear. Well God has not given me a spirit of fear. There is no where in the Bible where it says that is a fruit of the spirit so I don't accept it. But he has sure given me a spirit of love, a spirit of power, and a spirit of a sound mind. Those I accept!

And lastly I'm gonna share some personal stuff about this journey. I may have shared this first one but wanted to say that after talking with a lot of people, I must say that the mouth sores were bad and the digestion issues I've had are not a picnic but the worst of all of the stuff with the diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer was when I started chemo and had to lock Sadie out of the bathroom while taking a shower. It is advised that for 48 hours after receiving treatment that I am extra careful with any kind of body fluid because it would contain the nasty chemo. I mean, the nurses gown up when they come into the room to administer it through the iv. So since I was going to shower, and I didn't know if I would get sick and throw up without any warning, I chose to lock Sadie out of the bathroom. She was used to sneaking into the bathroom and getting her jammies off faster and quieter than I could ever imagine and she'd be opening the shower door and coming in without barely a warning. She desperately wanted to continue this usual morning routine but I could not jeopardize her safety the day after treatment. She knocked on the door, begged for me to open the door, stuck her adorable and sweet little fingers and hands under the door and cried while asking if I was done yet every 30 seconds. It was really hard. I went into super speedy mom mode so I could get out and scoop up my precious little girl that just simply didn't understand why she was being banned from the bathroom.

This wasn't the first thing like this that was hard for me to watch happen to my children since this dx (diagnosis), you may recall that I had to stop nursing her cold turkey and even though I was physically hurting from having to do that, my heart ached more. This little girl didn't deserve this, not one little bit, and there wasn't a whole lot I could do about it except pray and ask God to fill her with comfort and peace and that she wouldn't be negatively affected by these things.  Fast forward to a few days ago when I had to explain to my children what will be happening when I have the mastectomy surgery next month. Our oldest grasped onto it quite quickly and cried and cried. She also has a very vivid imagination so I knew I needed to discuss it with her in more detail to fill in the gaps that her imagination was possibly filling in for her. She stated that she didn't want me to be different physically because of the radical modified mastectomy. When the tumor had grown to a very large size while they were trying to get the hormones under control in the beginning, every time I hugged my children, especially my oldest, she noticed the difference in size and I think it scared her. She also noticed the difference as it shrunk and she'd comment about it. It's finally gotten to a point where it is pretty much non-existent (Praise God!) but now she doesn't want that normalcy to change. Who could blame her right? I had to show her some sketches of the drains that they will be putting in and that I'll have to have cleaned several times a day and drained. I showed her a sketch of what the area will look like once it is sewed back up and healing. They gave me a book with some information about the surgery and I shared a few of the sketches so she wouldn't imagine on her own. I thought hand drawn sketches would be better than real life internet photos that could really appear kinda scary.  And then it was #3's turn to have to learn what this meant because she didn't quite get it either. She was upset about the changes in my body but I reminded her and our oldest that my grandma had a double mastectomy and never had reconstruction at her age because they didn't have the plastic surgeon available the day she had the surgery and that they hugged her and never really knew a difference until we had talked about it recently and that helped them to understand that it may be a little different, especially at first but this is supposed to help. So they are working through this. I'm not quite sure how our boy is handling it. He didn't say much so I'll have to talk to him again. I've mostly talked to them individually when I quickly realized that they were at different stages of what they understood was going to happen and really they are at different stages of acceptance. I am thankful for God's wisdom in this situation and would like prayers for my husband and my children and of course myself in working our way through this with God's grace. We really appreciate your prayers.

Our prayer list looks like this:
1. Praising God for last nasty chemo treatment being done today!
2. Lymph nodes healed so no radiation needed
3. Surgery and recovery to go smoothly and quickly with no complications so I can get drains out quickly and return home sooner rather than later. Also No lymphodema infection either.
4. Stand in agreement that my right foot would be completely healed. That there would be no more swelling and that there isn't a blood clot.
5. That God would bring comfort and peace and grace for my family to walk through this part of the journey with all our trust in Him. That all fear would be removed with God's perfect love and that His truth would shine in our hearts, minds, and in our walk with Him and as examples to others.

I shared this very personal family information about what we're dealing with our children in this situation for a few reasons, I really think it needs to be bathed in prayer to help us have the strength to get through it and also because I am sure someone is going to read this and either have gone through something similar and be able to be helped, to help us or maybe someone reads this and in the near or even distant future, they may have a similar thing happen to them. I want them to know that they can trust God to carry them through any difficult situation because He is faithful and is always with us. We don't have to wait on God to show up, He is waiting on us to look to Him, to turn to Him, to call on Him. I truly believe this and my mission is to share His love with others, especially as we walk this journey. I want you to know that I am not more special to God than you are. He loves each of us the same and He wants us to know Him in a personal way and to be filled with faith and to walk our faith out, even when we are teased, when it is challenging, when it doesn't seem like anything is fair. That's when it speaks the loudest to our testament of trust in the One TRUE GOD!  Thank you for walking this journey with is and encouraging us, and lifting us up in prayer. God uses people that are willing to minister to others so needs are met and He is a God of never ending miracles!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

July 22, 2015

After talking with several people and getting the phrase, "oh, I didn't know that." I realized that I really was in dire need of updating the blog with the newest info. I'm hoping I can get it all typed and published tonight while I wait for Sadie to fall asleep. She took a nap so I might have a little while.

Last week Adam worked from 3:30am until about 3pm but on Friday, there was so much stuff going on at work that he didn't get home until almost 5pm I think. He then showered, packed, and we hopped into the van to travel to his Aunt & Uncle's house to stay a few nights. We arrived around 11pm. It was so late and I drove the whole way so Adam could try to sleep but that seemed near impossible with the amount of stops we needed to make for bathroom breaks for everyone.

We woke up a bit late and ate breakfast and then had the opportunity to check out Midland's hands on museum at their Center for the Arts. It was very cool! We all loved it. I especially thought that the computer that you could create fireworks on was neat and so was the periodic table that you could mix different elements together and get the product. such as making H2O for water and then it told a little about water. or making 2NaCl for table salt. Very neat! We did the dinosaur exhibit that had some neat things to learn too and some fun hands on things. I have pics of course but I may have to share those later in order to actually get this published tonight.

We hit up the splash pad, sooooooooooo very cool that I wish it was possible to put one in at say Royce Park in Escanaba. They had River Days in Midland that we got to watch lanterns and then fireworks for. They had live music and it kind reminded me a little of Rock the Dock in Escanaba.  We checked out their Community Center Pool area and had a lot of fun on their water slide, with their water mushroom falls, a huge water table and outdoor splash pad as well as basketball and I tried to teach the kids how to do somersaults and handstands in the water and how to not get water up your nose without plugging it while going under water. We were worn out from all that water fun but Adam & I had to head to Ann Arbor, the main reason we were downstate in the first place.

On Monday, I had to have a mammogram and ultrasound done. Then I met with the surgeon that is doing the mastectomy. She is very nice and skilled from what I can tell from when she did the biopsy back in May. We had lunch at AppleBees and then one more appointment for pre-op instructions for what to expect before surgery and how the care for after surgery. We didn't get done with the instructions until about 3:30 or 4pm and then we drove back to Midland. The kids had done a fun video of them dancing in the dark while wearing those glow in the dark necklaces and bracelets on Sunday night. It was actually quite fun looking because they each had them on differently. It was sort of hard to guess which of our kids was wearing what. There was a lot of giggling in the video which made me smile so much and laugh. Before we went back to where the kids were, we stopped at Michaels craft store and I got a new floor light to help me while cross-stitching. It should help me be able to work on my project while watching tv but not bothering everyone with overhead lights that are hard on the eyes while watching a movie. And we picked up a few things because while Morgan patches her eye, she has to work on things and I'm going to teach her how to cross-stitch. We're starting with a cute watermelon.

On Tuesday, with sad hearts, we headed back home. Our dear sweet and sensitive Morgan cried, dare I say bawled, when it was time to leave. We all enjoyed our time with Aunt & Uncle for the few days we were there and it was hard to say goodbye so instead we'll say see ya in a few weeks.

So here's the medical update of things. I go on Monday July 27th for the 4th and LAST chemo treatment. I will have a PET scan done in Green Bay, WI on August 6th and need to get the results to the surgeon in Ann Arbor, MI to be sure that it doesn't change our surgery plan.

The results from the mammogram and the u/s that was done show that the tumor in the breast has shrunk but looks like something has elongated. The Nurse Practitioner said that what they saw could have been necrosis (or the death of tissue) in the breast which can happen with chemo. They will know more when pathology comes back after surgery. They also said that no lymph nodes showed up as inflamed (I think that's what they referred to it as), which is good and shows that the chemo is working. They will have a better view of things with the PET scan in August.  Now remember that the 1st PET scan I ever had back in Nov of 2013 showed 1. the tumor in the breast, 2. the axillary lymph node AND about 20 other spots that lit up in the bones of my shoulders, spinal bones, hip bones, ribs, sternum, etc. The PET scan done in April 2015 showed only 3 spots and the rest of the bones didn't light up 1. The original tumor 2. the right axillary lymph node (probably how the cancer traveled (metastasized) to the bones 3. A new spot on the tailbone   Even though there was a new spot that we weren't pleased about, because that meant something had changed or that the meds had stopped working, we praise God that all those other spots were not lit up, they were clear, even though the doctor says it is good that they didn't light up but that we don't know what is there microscopically.  I know that God has healed those bones and that even though I am having this surgery, that God is directing my path and healing me.

The plan for the surgery is that we'll head down to drop the kids off and Aunt & Uncle's and then Adam & I will continue on to Ann Arbor and try to get a good night's sleep. I will shower and fast and then have a radial modified mastectomy with axillary lymph nodes checked out. It will be done as an outpatient and Adam & I agree that it is probably best that we sleep that night in Ann Arbor and then travel up to where the kids are the following day. We were given special care instructions for the drains that they will put in and when there is less than 30 ml of collection for 2 days in a row, we can call and go back to Ann Arbor to have the drains removed. They say it usually takes between 7 - 10 days to reach this point and I am believing that God will heal me quickly and there will be a smooth recovery. We are looking to stay within the area until the follow up appointment and then head back home in hopes that the several hour drive will be more doable for me and not cause blood clots or any other complications.

As much as this whole diagnosis and process sucks to have to deal with, we are so very thankful for how God is orchestrating the big and little things on this journey. We are blessed with so much wondering and helpful family members to make sure that all the details are taken care of, including our 4 precious cargo, I mean children. And we are also blessed with caring and loving friends who have helped feed us, watch the kids for the hours and hours that it takes for treatment, when we wanted to go on a few dates, cards and gifts of encouragement and practical things like new dish towels from all over the states, gas cards for the traveling expenses, etc. God is providing and we want to thank all who have headed his nudge to pray for us, to call, meet up with us, to help out in big and little ways. And honestly, nothing is really little. It all matters and means so much to us. So thank you all for helping us cope and keep going on this journey. You help me keep my faith strong and my eyes on God because of all the precious little things that He's taking care of and using you all to help with. Thank you!!!!!!!

I think I covered everything for this update but it is pretty late and I'm pretty tired because today I dropped my van off to have the oil changed and some work done to it and I walked back to the house. The kids and I walked to lunch and back. Then I biked with Morgan for her meeting about being baptized, and then I walked back to get my fixed van. I'm trying to get as much exercise and be as healthy as I can in this last few weeks before surgery because I won't be allowed to lift my arm above my head or lift more than 10 pounds for about 6-8 weeks. That's a long time to have to tell Sadie to climb onto my lap to get loves instead of lifting her up into my arms. Gonna be a change but we can do it.
As I was walking today and my foot was hurting and I knew I didn't have too much left to walk I did what I have been doing, I started speaking scripture out loud because it helps me remember to keep my eyes on Christ. I realized that I pushed the walking past my physical ability with my foot having issues but I did way more than I thought I could do. Trust God to help you with the BIG things and the little things. He will help things fall into place in the right way. He wants the best for you. He loves you deeply. Be open to Him and His ways. They are better than you could possibly imagine.

After Treatment #3 July 7th (published on July 22nd)

Thought it was time to give a more in depth update for everyone. I have been keeping busy with the kids and all this medical stuff this summer. And visiting with people stopping in to town for a quick visit and trying to get together with people in town for visits. The summer is in full speed but I wish I could put the breaks on and make it slow down a bit.

I had treatment #3 of 4 on Tuesday July 7th.  It went great. Felt fine during treatment and all that night. Got to visit with my dear friend when I picked the kids up after the treatment. They weren't eager to leave but a lovely lady was bringing us dinner which turned out to be like 4 meals in one. She made us so much food that we ate it twice just the way it was and then we were able to take parts of the meal and add a few things to make a completely different meal and I did that twice with my mom's help.

On Wednesday July 8th we had a busy day. We drove to Iron Mountain for a routine checkup for one of the kids and everything looks great! No shots needed for anything because I refuse to get that HPV one. I know many people have opinions on immunizations and in general, we've gotten everything that has been recommended up until this point. There is something inside of me that is not at peace with this immunization and we will not be allowing our children to receive this one.  Obviously I feel quite strongly about that.  Sorry to digress. We then drove to Felch to pick up my mom so she could help us out for a few days in case I wasn't feeling well.  We arrived in Escanaba and drove straight to the grocery store because we needed to get a cake mix and frosting to make Adam a German Chocolate cake to celebrate his 40th. I hadn't had much time to plan anything and I was not going to let his day go unnoticed if I could help it. The kids helped heat up leftovers for dinner and mix the cake so we could get it baked and frosted & sing to him. It was fluffy & moist & we took pics but they are stuck on my camera right now. lol

Thursday I woke up and felt pretty good for most of the day. I rested and fell asleep while Morgan had "Into the Woods" movie on. Glad I had seen it with the girls in the theater because it allowed me to doze off as I needed & get some rest.

Friday the 10th, it was beautiful outside and we finally had the chance to get the sunflower seeds planted after a neighbor had tilled the soil behind the garage and prepped it for us. I can't wait to see sunflowers popping up back there. Sunflowers are in my top 3 flowers and they're going to look beautiful. I sat in a camping chair with an umbrella perched above me for shade while the kids planted and watered. It was fun and I got to visit with a neighbor while out there.  I started to get a little tired so I rested a bit and since we've been going to the school for lunch, we did that but I had my mom drive. I also had my mom drive us to the library before closing time to turn in the kids' summer reading program stuff. They had completed all their points and we wanted to get everything entered before other things cropped up. I expect them to still continue reading but at least we aren't obligated to keep track of things. Friday was our 16th Anniversary too!  My dad came over to pick up my mom and they left after we had dinner. So very thankful for my mom to help us out. Please pray that her toe heals. She had surgery on it and has been dealing with some kind of infection and pain ever since. She's been on different meds but it hasn't cleared up yet and it can be quite painful but she did what most moms do and sucked it up and helped us anyway. Thanks mom, you're the BEST!!!!!!!!!

The kids received personal pan pizza certificates from the reading program so we decided to hit up Pizza Hut on Saturday to celebrate Adam's birthday and our 16th anniversary with some family.  After we ate, we drove over to the marina to take a look from a distance at the Nina & Pinta ships that were in the harbor. So crazy to think that people came over on those ships, they were quite small to be crossing such a vast and open water. In the afternoon, we also made a trip to Menards to purchase 2 Zero Gravity chairs for Adam & myself to enjoy in the house and the yard. Adam & I both really miss the reclining part of our couch and agree that we love the look of our current couch but oh to have the reclining position while watching movies and relaxing....that would be great!

So far, this has been the easiest treatment I've had. God has been taking good care of me. The heartburn was not near as bad this round. I did take some meds for it and had to drink one dose of apple cider vinegar to combat the burn but eating ice cream helped and the power of prayer is what did it. I didn't have near as much fatigue this time either and I was concerned that it might be worse since they build on each other. The digestion system troubles are far less this time too so I am very thankful and grateful for God's faithfulness.  And though my mouth and tongue are starting to have that rough feeling inside, I am confident that I won't have the mouth sores this time either. Chewing gum and rinsing my mouth helps but again, the answered prayers are key! I haven't had any acne either so that's nice because after the 1st time it was actually painful. I do however think that the chemo meds may be messing with my ability to process gluten and I am having to cut back on it. I may see if I can cut it out for a week and see how I feel. Anyone who has gluten issues....I really feel for you. I shaved my hair weeks ago when my head got far too itchy and I thought I was going to scratch it raw and bleeding but it never all went away. It seems as though the stuff I was losing was actually not coming from the root but breaking off from being so fragile and brittle. And though my hair is quite short and thin, it actually seems like it might be slowly growing again, kinda like my nails that I keep super short.

Next week I have a pre-op appointment in Ann Arbor. They plan on doing a mammogram as well and then will be discussing my case with a board of doctors and then they should be scheduling me for a mastectomy to happen in August. I am praying that God's hand be upon everything. When he orchestrates things to happen, they work out so melodiously that I don't want it any other way. The last round of treatment is scheduled for July 27th and then I'll have to get another PET scan done in Green Bay before surgery which should take place around August 20th.

Besides all the medical stuff going on since school ended, we attended a Girl Scout ceremony, graduation party, got my hair cut short, got my hair cut super short, shaved my hair with no guard, went to rummage sales and got great deals for clothes for the kids, found a saxophone to buy for Braly to start his 6th grade band experience, picked out a free wig, went on a date with my hubby & some friends, celebrated the adoption of my niece & had a party with family for it, celebrated father's day for an amazing daddy to my kids, 3 of my  kids were in a play that the production start to finish happened in a week, we had a Papa bear, Pixie, and Assistant Director that put in 32 hours, watched Rapunzel that the kids were in, ate nearly every day M-F at one of the schools for free, found what Sadie deems as the right wig (lighter red color and now she won't let me wear anything else), attended church at the park a few times on Wed nights, had my phone get used for all sorts of silly pics on more than one occasion (it's actually quite funny to scan through the pics sometimes), found a great game table for way less money than if we'd bought at a store and got it for Braly's birthday, found a great deal on a new bike for Morgan who has been content with a used bike for years, loved seeing her ride her new bike and be thankful for it, it has a speaker connector inside a pouch for an MP3 player, the kids have been doing activities pertaining to Heroes for the summer reading program, Morgan made a Lego Hero that is on display at the library, attended the Petting Zoo, met up with a former roommate from college, toured the Public Safety with some friends from church, kids tried on equipment and sat in fire truck, I held the belt of the officer to see how heavy it was, had cousins and Auntie visit for a few days, watched Inside Out at the theater, ate lots of popcorn and drank pop, had water balloon fights, went to the eye doctor for 4 appointments and then picking up new glasses,
cleaned up the weeds behind the garage in hopes of planting sunflowers, neighbor tilled behind garage and prepped it for planting, kids rode around in the kid truck we got for Braly's 5th birthday 6 years ago, visited Animal shelter with cousins & Aunt and played with 2 kittens and a puppy, then fed some of the bigger dogs some treats, visited the Sheriff office and received Frisbees, sheriff stickers, and the kids got to climb in the cars, turn on lights, the siren, and ask questions about all the buttons in the cars, the kids got to help try to name the wooden carved dogs at the lighthouse, celebrated Independence Day with breakfast in Felch and then parade where the kids received half a walmart bag of candy, then had dinner, pool fun and fireworks with family & friends, put a flag on Papa's grave to honor & remember his service, celebrated a 40th birthday, 16th anniversary, met up with another former college roommate, turned in all the points for 3 kids worth of summer reading program, received ice cream treat, personal pan pizza, and entries into drawing, Gabby won the Where is Buzz Lightyear hiding for last week, had Pizza Hut with family, saw the Nina & Pinta ships in Escanaba harbor, made it to the beach for a few hours, ran into old neighbors at the beach and stayed longer than we planned because we couldn't pass up a nice visit, made a sand castle, listened to Sadie say, "this is the BEST day EVER!" several times while at the beach and she asked on Monday if we thought it was the best day ever yesterday. Watched my son get excited and have fun cooking dinner for the family after I made him do it. Watched my son help his sister in the water at the beach. Watched my daughter help her sister get her Puddle Jumper life jacket tightened so they could play in the water. Watched my family work together to make a neat sandcastle and then not get upset when it was wrecked later. Watched my kids work together to make sure they got the dishes in the dishwasher. Watched several movies that the kids earned from getting A's in their classes. Heard my kids say, wow, this movie was way better than we thought, glad we finally gave it a try. Was told that I need to teach my kids how to cross-stitch this summer because they want to learn. Finally able to get into basement to go through junk that has piled up. Threw away 3 bags of papers (well recycled them). Threw away 3 -4 bags of trash that was stuff not worth keeping. Organized craft stuff so it isn't taking up so much real estate and downsized it. Organized school supplies and condensed so I know what we have and what we need, no more buying the wrong stuff. Went through some stuff in the playroom so I can figure out what things Sadie is interested in playing with and keep those things readily available. Went through kids clothes and took baskets of too small of stuff out so we can be on the lookout for what they have need of. Fixed air mattress (hopefully it holds). Did 4 days of PiYo with the kids. Need to keep it going. Ate another meal the kids made together. Took the kids grocery shopping and had them play "Bring Me" to get our list done quicker. Watched them work together to get all the groceries in the house and then put away together and quickly.  Looking forward to witnessing the baptism of our 3rd in a few weeks and celebrating another birthday and heading on a family road trip that will be more fun then the reason that we're actually taking the trip. I am truly a blessed woman. God has blessed me with a wonderful husband and amazing children to make a family but He has blessed me with saving grace, healing, and a different way to look at life. I'm thankful that I get to see how even the little things are filled with good, amazement, love, life, goodness. He helps me see things in a positive way. I am grateful and I am enjoying most moments of this summer and looking forward to adding more memories to our archives.

Edited July 22nd:  I wanted to add several pictures into this post but haven't had the chance to get them in here and I actually need to do another update so I'm just going to publish this as is. That's how it goes sometimes. ;)