February 2012 archive

Emotional Deflation

Another day in the life of a chemo patient here, friends. I got a blood draw today, and the results came back good! It’s a great day over here when any results are positive ones.

Now you know I can’t just be super happy and cheery all of the time, don’t you? Here’s the hard facts. I got some news today that traveled differently through my system than it had before. I say it like that, because I was given this news back when I was rediagnosed with neuro-endocrine cancer, however, it didn’t register completely then. Mind you, when someone tells you that you have a way worse scenario, one that is “hard to cure” and “resistant to treatment”, most other things fly right by your senses.

Today, as I was rescheduling another blood draw, getting filled up on prescriptions, and asking questions about this annoying stomach queasiness that’s been haunting me in the mornings, I learned the true extent of my treatment. This isn’t going to be as short of a journey as I thought it would be. Well, truth be told, I never thought it would be “short”, per se. But I wasn’t expecting this to be a 6 month process just to get to remission. That’s what it’s going to be. At least 6 months… if I remain healthy and don’t have any set-backs during that period. Because it was hard for me to even comprehend what my next 6 months will look like without a visual, I will generously supply you with one.

Again, below is a schedule of what my treatment will look like, as long as I remain healthy. Of course, this could change as the time goes on. Praying for miracles, though!

3 Days Chemo

2 Weeks Off

3 Days Chemo

2 Weeks Off

3 Days Chemo

2 Weeks Off

6 Weeks Radiation with Chemo 1/week

2 Weeks Off

3 Days Chemo

2 Weeks Off

3 Days Chemo

2 Weeks Off

3 Days Chemo

2 Weeks off

The End of Treatment!

Doesn’t that just look like a hell-of-a-road? Ugh, I can’t tell you how deflated I was when I heard the news in depth. When I heard that treatment wouldn’t even be complete until July 30, as long as I remain healthy, it was a punch to the gut. 6 months?! I don’t want to go through this that long! God is teaching me perseverance, patience, and endurance. Why give me an easy struggle? Is there even such a thing? He’s making me work for the finish line, and for that, I’m surprisingly grateful. I can’t imagine what better qualities I will have by the fall.

God’s still with me on this one. One incredibly obvious way can be noted through my lack of projectiles. He has held me firmly in His grip, and has not allowed any sickness (besides the minor queasiness) to enter my body. Hallelujah. The nurses told me to expect vomiting last Friday through this Wednesday, and I am here to happily report, I haven’t thrown up once! My God is still a BIG God. He is here with me. He is listening to me. He is cheering for me. He will heal me. He is for me. WOW. As easy as it would be to fall flat, and question where God is through all of this, I am only drawn closer to Him. I feel His presence stronger than I ever have, and for that I can’t begin to express my gratitude. Feeling His presence is overwhelming, and it’s simple to receive. Just ask. I promise.

Romans 8:31-39 (The Message Version)

“So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture: 

   They kill us in cold blood because they hate you. 
   We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one.

None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.”

Chemo Cocktails

I had another good couple of days, friends! Reason to celebrate! Today I had my second day of chemotherapy, and it went well. Before my chemo treatments, I truly had no idea what to expect, but now I’m much relieved. However, I know that rougher days are to come. For now though, I live in the present. I rejoice in the good days. I laugh when something is funny. I cry when I need to. And I hug everyone. I’ve learned that’s the only way I can be nowadays. Living in the now. Not worrying about what scary days might be ahead of me. Living in this day, not tomorrow.

I, myself, always wondered what chemo was like. Does it hurt? Can you feel it? Do you get sick immediately? Does it make you tired? Now, that I am experiencing it, I can share my knowledge! I will answer these questions with the statement “so far” before them, because frankly, these answers might change the deeper I get into treatment. Chemo does not hurt, nor can I feel it. Even though, they hook up all of these bags of liquid poison to my body, I truly can’t tell the difference. Well, that might be a little white lie, because now that I’m writing this, I remember that when my IV is filled with Benedryl or Zofran, I do feel a little cross-eyed and slightly loopy. But those two meds are given in the beginning of my sessions for anti-nausea purposes, and they wear off fairly quickly. I, praise the Lord, have not gotten sick. This morning I woke up with a small quiver in my stomach, but I can attribute that to not having eaten much. I hadn’t even eaten breakfast yet, folks! Once I did, I assure you, the quiver went away. The main side effect that I’m experience from these chemotherapy sessions are the exhaustion. I feel wiped out all of the time. I feel like I can never get enough sleep. It’s almost as if, instead of pumping fluids into me, they are sucking out all of my energy. By the time my sessions are complete, I just want to take a nap. If only it was that simple… These past 2 days, I haven’t been able to shut my mind off. No matter how tired I am, I seem to stay awake and find things to do. I know I need to quit that, and just give into the sleep. My white blood cells need a break, after all. They are fighting awfully hard.

Chemo sessions are cleansing. Wow, that’s weird to even admit. I know that by the end of them, I will be over it and ready to move on, but for now it’s the truth. The room in which I get these treatments is positive. The other women who ingest these cocktails beside me are positive. And the nurses are extremely positive. When I enter, I am greeted with smiles. Always. Every patients’ chemo schedules are different, so within these past couple of days, I have not been met by the same patients. The nurses however, remain the same. I can honestly say, I love them. I adore my nurses. They are so happy, exuberant, calming, and positive. I’m sure they have their own life troubles going on behind the scenes, but they always put them aside to take care of us. I will also say that I love my fellow cancer fighters. These women are all so strong, and there is an air of encouragement, that I drench myself in when I am in their presence. Our treatment room is a decent size, filled with about 8 recliners. Typically, it’s me and 5-6 other women receiving treatment at the same time. We all have different mixtures of medicinal poison, but no matter the drink, we refer to them as our cocktails. The first time I heard one of the women say that, I was shocked, but dang, isn’t it the truth!? And such a fun way to spin the current circumstance!

Tomorrow will be my last day of this 3 day stint of chemotherapy. That’s very exciting! Just one more step to recovery. Each step, no matter how difficult or different than the previous, is totally worth it. I have cancer, and I will do whatever it takes to fight this damn thing. Let’s just get it out, no matter how painful or tiring the process may be. I will succeed. Cancer will not.

Romans 12:12

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”

A Day in the Books With Dad

There aren’t many bummers about my dad living in Hawaii (I mean, come on!), but one of the biggest  is that he’s not always as close as I’d like him to be. However, being the wonderful father that he is, he flew out to be with me before and during my chemotherapy. Chemo started on Wednesday, and he arrived on Monday morning. During these past couple of days, we have shared many laughs. I can always count on him to add humor to my life! He, like many others, asked what I would like to do before the chemo and sick battle begins. My answer is always the same. Let’s just hang out! We don’t have to be doing anything. Just being together, and sharing these moments is more than enough.

Tuesday we were at the book store. Perusing through books, browsing around online, and chatting. As I was sharing my Pinterest obsession with Dad, another idea popped in my mind. My fellow pinners understand that creativity is at a high when pinning is present. I started searching online for cancer jokes. I found some really funny ones on a site called cancerisnotfunny.com, and I want to share my favorites with you.

Now, please try not to be offended. Please understand that humor is a priority in my life. Please respect my way of coping. You might find it helps you get through this in a smoother way, as well!

“Reasons that chemo-induced baldness is awesome!”

  1. Blonde jokes no longer apply to you.
  2. Time to get a new driver’s license. (Hair color: Invisible)

“Worst ways to break cancer diagnosis news to your family”

  1. Wear an I’ve Got Cancer t-shirt around the house
  2. (Using overly intricate means): Spouse- “Honey, you don’t look so well. Are you feeling alright?” Response- “Well, if by ‘are’ you mean ‘do’, and if by ‘feeling’ you mean ‘have’, and if by ‘alright’ you mean ‘cancer’…then, yes I most certainly do!”
  3. “Alright, everyone! Raise your hand if you don’t have cancer!” (Leave your hand down.)

Proverbs 15:13 (Message Version)

“A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face; a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day.”

Port Procedure

Today has been the first day since diagnosis that I have felt like an actual human! Sounds odd I’m sure, but with the amounts of tests and doctors’ visits I’ve had, lately I’d more accurately describe myself as an experiment. Not to mention undergoing invasive surgery and a minor surgery within a week of each other. Life has been so busy and chaotic physically and emotionally, so getting a day where I wake up feeling wonderful and rejuvenated is a welcomed change! I felt so great today, that my mom and I even went around town to do some shopping. We came home empty-handed, but the excursion itself was such a treat for me.

Not only is a day like today a treat, but considering its only a day after my port placement procedure, it’s a true blessing. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned since diagnosis has been that plans can no longer be “set in stone”.  You just can’t do it. Well, let me rephrase: the only definite planning that my life contains now is planning for treatment. It’s number one. But as far as planning anything even as minor as running to the grocery store or the bank, it’s now up in the air. Scheduling events is even more of a challenge. My days have recently consisted of resting, taking medication, speaking with doctors over the phone or in person at appointments, chatting with my out-of-state family via phone and FaceTime, and spending time with my mom, step-dad, pup, and most of all, my adored husband. Therefore, scheduling hangouts with our closest friends has proven an extreme challenge. My body gets tired at all the wrong moments, my pain kicks in right when I think I’m feeling good, and just when I think I’m getting settled into the current nest of immediate cancer news, more updates appear. This, however, will not be forever. Today has proven that. I will not always be stuck at home. I will not always be sick. I will not always be tired. I will not always be in pain. I will not. I refuse. That’s not how I’m going to live my life. It’s an oxymoron in itself: living life tired? Doesn’t sound like really living to me. It’s not only a good lesson to those of us affected with cancer, but also to everyone, no matter the circumstance.

As most know, I was at the hospital again yesterday. The occasion this time was to receive my port. It’s actually referred to as a “power port”, and that in itself makes me feel powerful. Assuming most of you are like me (pre-diagnosis), cancer terms are not in your vocabulary. So, let me explain. I was given a pamphlet that informs me all about my port, so I will be quoting directly from it. “Your Bard PowerPort device is a small device (about the size of a quarter) used to carry medicine into the bloodstream. It has one or two small basins that are sealed with a soft silicone top, called a septum. The port is placed under the skin on your chest or arm. The port connects to a small, soft tube called a catheter. The catheter is placed inside one of the large central veins that take blood to your heart. When a special needle is put into the septum, it creates ‘access’ to your bloodstream. Medicine and fluids can be given through the needle and blood samples can be withdrawn.” I’ve included a couple of pictures, to better illustrate my device. In case you are wondering, yes my port is purple. It’s actually more of a fuchsia purple in person, but regardless. Those who know me, know that girly is my thing. If I’m having a device implanted in my skin, it better be a girly color.
The procedure itself was only 8 minutes long. That was shocking to me. 8 minutes to implant a device under my skin? Seems a little rushed, don’t you think Doc? (Apparently, that’s why I’m a patient and not a doctor…) I checked into the hospital at 11am, and was not allowed any food past midnight. I, however, could take my prescribed medicine and drink water up until check-in. No big deal right? Wrong. My last dose of pain meds was at 8am the morning of my procedure. Check in was at 11am and the surgery didn’t begin until 2pm. That’s more than 6 hours since my last dose. That’s 3 hours past my scheduled dose, therefore, I was in the most pain I had been in since my hysterectomy. It was excruciating. By the time I was hooked up to my IV, wheeled into the operating room, and told to shimmy onto the operating table I was nearly in tears. I’ve been on a very scheduled pain management regimen, so I hadn’t had much time to experience the depth of pain that my hysterectomy surgery was causing me. This lack of medicinal intervention quickly put the pain on the forefront of my mind.

Once I got onto the operating table, and the nurses prepped me for surgery, my lovely pain management nurse asked me if I had ever had a margarita. Why, yes I’ve had a margarita, Nurse! Why would you ask me such a question before I am to be cut open; interesting conversation starter, don’t you think? She soon informed me that she would be giving me the equivalent of 2 margaritas through my IV. Oh, joy! This is going to be fun. I was given what is called “conscious sedation”, which means I am awake and alert throughout the entirety of the procedure. This frightened me greatly before surgery, but 2 margaritas in, I was fine with it. They placed what appeared to me like a small blue tarp over my face, and I was told to look to my left. They inserted a numbing injection to my right collarbone area, which took effect pretty quickly. Then my doctor walked in, whom I met in pre-op, and he quickly began the implantation. Not only did he start the procedure, but he also started up conversation with me. What a nice guy. Just another nice doctor in my cancer adventure. It’s been amazing. We talked about how long I had lived in Denver, but mostly about my immense love for my husband. How we met. How long we had been together. How I knew by our second date that I wanted to marry him. Friends, I deeply adore my husband. This wasn’t just the margaritas talking. He is my best friend, my encourager, my lover, my rock, my support, my personal comedian, my teammate, and my heart. Pretty soon, I was interrupted and told that I was done. My surgery was complete. What? Dang, that was quick!

This surgery did not hurt at all. It wasn’t even uncomfortable. Thus far, this has been one of the easiest things I have undergone since diagnosis. I merely felt pressure in the area in which my doctor was pushing my port and catheter under my skin. What a relief! Praise God for allowing some of these procedures to be easy! What I’m realizing, the deeper and deeper I get into treatment, is that the peace and grace of God is all I need. Not to say that I don’t get nervous, anxious, and afraid before all treatments (that’s my flesh, folks), but my spirit is continually drenched in the calm of Jesus. He has gone before me on this one. Just like everything before. He has always been here for me, and He will never leave me. He has my back. He has scouted the road ahead to make sure I can handle it. And, even though at times I don’t think I can, with God all things are possible. I will conquer this battle. But, ultimately it’s not just me. It’s Him. He is ever-working through me to fight this enemy. He will succeed. He has promised me that. Hallelujah.

Exodus 14:14 (NIV)

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Tooting Travels

I figured I should share one of the most memorable moments in the hospital with you all. This special occasion was tooting. You see, I needed to complete this action before I was to be discharged. Passing gas doesn’t seem like too big of a feat to many of you, does it? I assure you though, if that is how you think, in my perspective you are highly incorrect.

Immediately after surgery, and still to this day, my stomach looks distended. A couple of days after the procedure, one of my nurses informed me why. It’s gas. During the surgery, my doctors had to put air inside of me to expand the areas in order to get a better view of what they needed to move and remove. Once they sewed me back up, some of the air remained, and transformed into body gas. All gas in your body needs to exit at some point. Burping and farting (more politely referred to as “tooting” by my nurses), is very natural. We all do it. Men and women. Old and young. It’s a common occurrence of the human biology. Many people find humor in it. Which makes sense, because when flatulence is lacking, it is all but humorous…

Let me just jump right to the main show. I began experiencing pain mid afternoon on Friday. Once I informed my nurses, they explained the reasoning behind my pain. Simply put, it was the build up of gas. And it needed to come out. The only way it could be released was through me tooting. Seems easy enough, huh? Wrong. I never knew passing gas could be so difficult. It just wasn’t happening. I could audibly hear my stomach churning, gurgling, and moaning, but nothing was making it’s way to the exit sign. The pain that continued to build was becoming nearly unbearable.

Fortunately for him, my husband was out that night with my step-dad and papa. I had told him to have a night with the guys to get out and take a break. I can only imagine how draining it is for someone to take care of me 24/7. Typically, he would’ve resisted my requests, but he came to the conclusion that I was probably right. All 3 guys enjoyed a  much needed fun night at a little bar downtown, playing pool and drinking beer. Guy stuff. Because he was out that night, my lovely and beautiful mom took his place. She and my step-dad visited with us a lot during my stay at the hospital, but we usually gave them the boot in the evening so we could have our private time. No naughty thoughts, people. Major surgery doesn’t allow for much physical intimacy like you’re imagining. I wish.

About an hour after Matt had left, or at least according to my “Delaudid time frame”, my stomach felt like it was a ticking time bomb. It appeared to have grown double the size, felt rock solid and protruded even further than the regular distend. I was describing it to my nurses and mom that there could easily be 3 or 4 balloons full of air inside all the spaces of my abdomen. They didn’t feel like they would pop. Rather, that more air would fill them, and they would continue to grow and grow.

My night nurse made the decision to give me Gas-X to relieve the pain. This specific medication breaks up the gas into smaller pockets, so they can be released easier. Still, nothing. The war in my stomach was not being called off any time soon. The nurse soon gave me directions to help assist the gas outwards. These steps included rolling from side to side, sitting up, and walking around. If you’ve read my previous entry about movement in the hospital, you know that it would be appropriate to laugh at that. HA, you want me to not just move, but roll around from side to side!? Oh I don’t think so. But, soon enough, my pain led me to it.

I felt awful for my poor mom who could only sit and watch. There was physically nothing she could do for me. There was nothing anyone could do for me, it had to be done on my own behalf. Another dammit, and multiple other expletives escaped my mouth during these throes of agony, as I’m sure you can imagine. I was writhing in my hospital bed. Rocking back and forth slowly, because any movement caused other areas to hurt. I would sit up just to lay right back down. Sometimes with the amazing help of my mom, I would get out of bed and walk around my room, hunched over holding my stomach. In my mind, all I needed was for someone to jump on my belly and all the gas would burst out of me, and all would be well. But, wait. That wasn’t possible. I had a fresh incision that would most definitely not be happy with that.

After hours of tears, writhing, moaning, complaining, walking, rocking, and moving around, no toots. I felt defeated. Defeated by flatulence, folks. How pathetic! My night nurse stopped by and assessed my situation again, and decided to give me a different type of medicine, a muscle relaxer. Through my expedition and determination to release gas, I had the rest of my body worked up and achingly sore. Within 2 minutes of administering Ativan, I was out like a light. What I remember her saying before I drifted off to sleep was, “This seems to be the problem on the floor tonight, many other women are experiencing the same thing. But the good news is, 2 other women just tooted! And I’m betting you’re next!”

I awoke to find my mom gone, and my husband in his little recliner that had transformed into his bed during our stay at the hospital hotel. Feeling a little more relaxed, I got up by myself as to not wake my sleeping love, and walked around a little. I slowly but surely began noticing the gas finding the exit sign. Ladies and gentlemen, it did not happen all at once. A teensy weensy tiny little bitty toot departed from my body. This for me was reason to dance and praise God! Finally! One toot leads to many others, and in my case it did. Over the course of the next 2 days, my gas had nearly completely dissipated and I was relieved! Now, I could really focus on the main thing: my incision and it’s healing.

It may seem funny to us to pray to God for certian requests, but He doesn’t find them humorous. He takes to heart every prayer you send to him, every desire of your heart. Even prayers for toots do not go unheard.

Psalm 107:28-31 (Message Version)

“Then you called out to God in your desperate condition; He got you out in the nick of time. He quieted the wind down to a whisper, put a muzzle on all the big waves. And you were so glad when the storm died down, and He led you safely back to the harbor. So thank God for his marvelous love, for his miracle mercy to the children He loves.”

Things Happen So Quickly

Right when I feel like I’m settling into the current circumstances, things change. In fact, it’s been the pattern. With every doctors appointment I attend, I leave cradling worse news. I was not looking forward to my appointment with my oncologist yesterday. My husband and parents were trying to encourage me to continue seeing the positive side, but I just felt I wouldn’t come home with good news.

My feeling was right.

Like I’ve mentioned before, I appreciate my oncologist’s personality. She is straight and to the point, but not harsh. She is compassionate, but not overly emotional. My husband and mom accompanied me into her office, and we all sat down. My doctor began by saying they have further identified the actual type of cancer cells I have.  Below I will list the straight facts of what I’ve learned. I’m extremely exhausted today, so I won’t be able to put as much emotion into my writing, like I typically do. Maybe, once I’m up and energized, I will add my response. Point is, this is crappy news. It changes the whole ball game. It’s like going onto the baseball field expecting to play the Astros (no offense) and finding out you’ll be playing the Yankees. It’s still a game, but you practiced and were prepared for playing against one specific team. Suddenly, a new team shows up and you’re left thinking… Dammit, this truly is going to be a battle. The difference is, God is still by my side and will fight hard on my front line. I am more and more thankful for Him everyday.

Here are the facts:

  1. The results of the biopsies came back and show that the other lymph nodes have not yet been affected by the cancer. This is good news. This means that the doctor removed the cancerous cervix and lymph node, and no other area is showing positive for cancer. Praise God.
  2. Because of the biopsies, they were further able to identify my specific type of cancer cells. Originally I was diagnosed with squamous cell cancer. There are 2 very common cancer types, one being squamous cell carcinoma, and the other being adenocarcinoma. Typically those are the most common cancers seen. However, there are a bunch of other little random and very rare types. Neuroendocrine cancer is an extremely rare type. That’s what I’ve been re-diagnosed with.
  3. Neuroendocrine cancer is an SOB cancer. This monstrous cancer is far worse and meaner than the 2 most common types. My doctor informed me that neuroendocrine cancer is very difficult to cure, and is extremely resistant to treatment.

Because my cancer is hard to cure and resists treatment, we have to get the treatment ball rolling a LOT quicker than we had planned. I start chemo next Wednesday (2/22). My port is being surgically placed under my skin this Friday (2/17). This first round of chemo will be for 3 straight days. Wednesday I will receive 5-6 hours of chemo, and both Thursday and Friday I will receive 3-4 hours of treatment.

After my 3 days of chemo, I will get a 2 week break to rest. Then my radiation/chemo program begins. It’s the same as I stated before. For 5 1/2 weeks, I’ll go in 5 days a week (M-F) to receive radiation. Once a week during that time, I will receive a shot of chemo.

Once the radiation/chemo program is complete, I will have another 2 weeks off from treatment. Then I will begin my next set of chemo rounds. 3 days in a row. Similar to the first time. After this sandwich effect of treatment is complete, they will reassess me, and see what we need to do from then on.

Here are some personal thoughts that I dwell on. I will definitely lose all of my hair within a month. I’m actually not too frightened by this. I’m thankful for a pretty face, and nice skin. And even more thankful that I’m a makeup artist and can make even a bald woman look hot. My husband’s an artist and we’ve already talked about some artwork he could draw on my head… Ya know, like a baseball, football helmet, or field of flowers. Just comedic ideas, friends. I also know that I’m going to be very sick and weak pretty soon. I won’t be able to do much of anything. That’s a bummer. Being as independent as I am, this will be a huge adjustment. I am going to have to completely rely on my husband and family for any needs I might have. But it’s a good thing I’ve got a stellar husband and incredible family to help me with this!

Like I said before, today is a day full of exhaustion. I really need to rest. My incision pain is bad and my intestines have remembered how to work, so I’ve got a little stomach ache. My apologies for not being as fun as I typically am in my entires. But I’ll be back to posting soon. Just need to lay down and catch up on my ZZZ’s. Thank you all for your understanding, support, prayers, and encouragement. You all rock.

2 Chronicles 20:15-17 (Message Version)

“He said, ‘Attention everyone- all of you from out of town, all you from Jerusalem, and you King Jehosaphat-God’s word: Don’t be afraid; don’t pay any mind to this vandal horde. This is God’s war, not yours. Tomorrow you’ll go after them; see, they’re already on their way up the slopes of Ziz; you’ll meet them at the end of the ravine near the wilderness of Jeruel. You won’t have to lift a hand in this battle; just stand firm, Judah and Jerusalem, and watch God’s saving work for you take shape. Don’t be afraid, don’t waver. March out boldly tomorrow-God is with you.’”

I’m Back From the Hospital Hotel

Hello friends, family, and strangers! I’M BACK! It’s such a blessing to be writing to you all from my blog again. It’s one step closer to full recovery, and it also means I’m feeling better at this moment. As you’ll soon learn, these moments are few and far between lately.

However, God is good. Always. He’s never-failing, never-ceasing, and never-disappointing. As my incredible husband mentioned in his previous posts, surgery went successfully. And while my stay at the “hospital hotel” is now over, I’d love to fill you in on my visit. And oh boy, was it a visit…

I awoke in recovery and was groggier than I have ever been in my life. Thank you Lord, for medicine! Apparently, I was in recovery for a LOT longer than I should have been. Looking back from the other side, it doesn’t matter to me, for I now know the reason. My room took a while to clean. You may be thinking, a hospital room took long to clean? They aren’t even that big. Well, I shall inform you, they can be. Lead in to yet another gift God dropped down for me: one of our closest family friends works for the hospital. He is higher on the food chain, and was able to talk to his people and get me a suite rather than a room. Seriously, wow! Even when I was wheeled in the first time, while high in the clouds on meds, I was still able to tell it was an enormous and very nice hospital room. That, among my family and friends being there, was the greatest addition to my hospital experience. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You know who you are.

For those who have been in a hospital bed for a few days, you will understand when I say my days and times all blurred into one big mess. I couldn’t tell you if it was morning or night. I couldn’t tell you if it was Thursday or Saturday. Thankfully, I could remember my name and birthday, because they asked me that frequently. Not only was I not able to differentiate times, the first couple days I really didn’t feel very lucid at all. I had just received a very invasive surgery, and required extensive doses of Dilaudid to keep me comfortable. The day after my surgery, which I now know to be Thursday, I could barely keep both of my eyes viewing the same thing! I knew I was feeling weird, but I didn’t comprehend how “weird” I was acting until my husband showed me videos of me trying to do simple things, like eat a popsicle, or apply chapstick. No, my husband is not cruel. He just knows me very well. I learn this more and more each day. These “home videos” showed me even more how well he gets what’s going on in my head. Had I been able to step away from my body, I would have recorded myself. I love knowing every step of the process, and I’m very thankful that my husband understands and accepts this. I still enjoy watching those 3 videos that are only a few minutes long of me doing “simple” tasks. Trust me, they are hilarious! And, man, was I in a Dilaudid dream!

My days in the hospital were hard. Let’s be real. You all know by now that I’m authentic. I lay it all out there. Here I go again. My days in the hospital were the hardest and most painful days I’ve had thus far. For you to comprehend my pain level, I’ll need to explain what Dilaudid is. This specific pain management medication can be most easily compared to the well-known drug, Morphine. Morphine is strong, folks… Dilaudid is as well. It’s ranked right up there with the “gold standards” of pain medication. Point is, even the constant flow of Dilaudid through my IV didn’t cut through the pain. It was hard to move. When I say move, I mean, move anything. Turning my head was painful. Readjusting in my bed, which needed to happen frequently, was excruciating. And once I got to the point where I was able to sit up, the pain really kicked in. Like I’ve said before, I’ve never experienced more than the removal of my wisdom teeth, so this was not only new, but on a completely different level for me.

My incision is right above my pubic hairline, which is very low. Once fully healed, I’ll still be able to wear “low-rise” jeans without my scar showing. It is, however, still in my abdominal region. A region we use for everything. Bending over. Twisting. Coughing. Blowing our noses. Walking. Crying. Laughing. Drinking. Eating. Using the bathroom. Getting dressed. Brushing our teeth. And more. I now know exactly why our abdomen is called our “core”. It definitely is the core of all movement in our bodies. And that sucks when it’s been cut open and is vulnerable and sore. It makes everything difficult. There were a couple of mornings when I needed to clear my throat and blow my nose, and those typically simple (and very taken for granted) tasks became hour-long excursions. Whenever I moved, I had to put pressure on the pillow on my belly. This helped- how shall I say it?- things stay in place.

Having friends and family visit was a true gift. Although, for those who visited me the night and day after surgery, it might have been sad and entertaining all at once. You special ones, were able to see me in my Dilaudid dream! I now understand what it takes for people to visit others in the hospital. You’ve got to be able and willing to see it all. You can’t be deeply irritated by sounds of moaning, sights of writhing or silent tears. And you definitely can’t be offended if the patient falls asleep in the middle of a conversation. I was privy to all of the above. And to those who stood by me, prayed for me, brushed my tears away, gave soft hugs, and encouraging words, I will always be grateful for you. Among my visitors, I had some surprises. My Nanny and Papa (maternal grandparents), and my 2 younger brothers all flew in from around the country to be with me. I am very close with my family, so the sights of these 3 had me in tears. What a gift it is to receive time with loved ones we don’t see often enough. In addition, my husband worked it out where I could FaceTime with my dad while in the hospital. For most of us, our parents voices are very comforting, and my dad’s gave me deep comfort during this time. Not only was he able to see me lying motionless in bed, but he was able to view me walking for the first time! Technology is amazing these days. For those who resist the change, rethink your reasoning.

Among my friends and family, I also received visits from my other doctors. Remember my Gynecologist who diagnosed me with cancer? The one I refer to as my personal detective? She stopped by to see how I was doing. I adore seeing her face and hearing her voice. She is the one person God blessed me with to discover my disease. She truly saved my life. I will forever be thankful for her. My Oncologist’s assistant also dropped in, and like Matt stated in previous entries, she brought with her a guardian angel pin for me to wear. These simple acts of kindness mean the world to me. They show me that people really do care. That I’m not just a patient. For those of us affected by disease, who visit doctors and hospitals frequently now, we deeply appreciate when we aren’t just another patient. When we are seen as someone other than a walking hospital gown.

Overall, my stay at the hospital hotel was a rough one filled with blessings. An excruciating one with many smiles. A sad one filled with laughter. A defeating one triumphed by victory. And God continued to be there through it all. Some times people may wonder, where is God? Why is He is making me go through this? Can’t He understand this is hurting me? But the truth is, God is always there with you. He doesn’t make you go through certain trials, He allows you to go through them. He allows us to experience pain, suffering, hurt, loss, and grief in order for us to learn something. After all, what would our lives be if they were easy all the time? Would we learn anything? Would we grow? No. We, as human beings, need to be challenged. And, as for me, I’m thankful for a God who challenges me. Even though the midst of these trials may royally suck, I look forward to the knowledge I will gain because of this. The story I will have.

You know, all of our journeys are unique ones. God gives each of us different stories to tell. Different chapters, different words, different characters, different plots. I believe He does this so we can personally learn and grow, and so that we can share them with others, so that they too, can grow. Be reminded that God also allows us personal victories, good days, and happiness. He is not only the author of the crap, but He also writes our greatest times as well. We gain knowledge through these victories, but as for me, I gain a hellofalot more knowledge through my trials. I am thankful for my journey. Don’t get me wrong, just because I’m thankful, doesn’t mean I always like it. However, my thankfulness is rooted in the fact that God will bless me for being faithful. He will bless me with things I can’t even imagine yet. These trials he puts us through will always result in reward. It’s the truth. God guarantees it.

As I have grown and gone through many trials in my life (this being by far the biggest and most difficult), I choose to view these shitty circumstances not as “Why?” moments, but rather as “What are You teaching me?” adventures. God is working in me. He is teaching me something that will benefit my future. He is honing my character. I look forward to the person I will become due to this diagnosis and the immense blessings He will pour out to me.

1 Peter 5:8-10 (Message Version)

“Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ -eternal and glorious plans they are!- will have you put together and on your feet for good.”

Homecoming: Update #4

I am happy to say that today is the day that Stephanie gets to come home! That means I need to get in what I want to say, because soon, Stephanie will start writing again.

Yesterday was (overall) a good day. Stephanie was up, alert, and active. She was taking a lot of walks through her hallway and she was doing so well, in fact, that they took her off of her IV and pain pump. It was great to see her with nothing attached to her. No tubes going every which way and no more entanglements whenever she wanted to move. Stephanie also was able to change into a custom hospital gown (guardian angel pin included) that was made especially for her. Those who know Stephanie know that she isn’t one to blend in with the crowd. Yesterday was such a turning point, she even asked (actually, told) me to go out and have a guy’s night with her stepdad and grandpa. She said I deserved to go out and have some fun, so I did, and we had a great time, celebrating a successful surgery and the defeat of the cancer (surgically, at least). But what a fantastic, remarkable woman. There she was, laying in a hospital bed, and still thinking of other people. That girl of mine has one huge heart.

Today, I was shocked to wake up and find her walking around by herself. She had a bit of a painful night due to gas buildup in her stomach, but you’d never be able to tell. She brushed her hair and even put on a little bit of makeup. It got to the point where she was tidying up her room. “Everything has its place,” she always says, and she’s right. Needless to say, I now sit in a room that is much cleaner.

Not long after I woke up, we got a visit from Stephanie’s surgeon. She came in and checked up, then the discussion turned to filling scripts and following up with the radiologist and herself in a couple weeks to check on healing and talk about radiation and chemo. Filling scripts and following up? It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the good news: Stephanie was going to be home soon.

Sure enough, as I type this, we are free to go as soon as we get discharge instructions. However, Stephanie wanted a nap beforehand, so once again, I type from her bedside and she is fast asleep, free of cords and tubes and beeping machines. Awesome.

In a nutshell, that is the latest. God is good all the time and He always provides. He is “Jehovah Jireh, my provider,” indeed. He’s seen us through this surgery. Although this operation was the first hurdle, it is a victory. There is victory in Jesus, Stephanie is living proof of that! Thank you everyone for praying, and thank you to those who have visited and have sent cards and flowers. Flowers are in abundance in this room (and needless to say, it smells awesome)!

Thank you everyone for everything.

Matthew 6:31-34 (Message Version)
“What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. ‘Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.’”

The Day After: Update #3

Hello everyone,

Today was an eventful day for my lovely lady. Stephanie is on a diet of clear liquids right now, so she has been putting down the water and ice chips like it’s no one’s business. And, although I wouldn’t classify it as any type of “clear liquid” (actually, it’s neither of those), Stephanie has been able to have popsicles. Those, too, have been put down like it’s no one’s business.

Pain-wise, Stephanie is doing pretty good. Standing, of course, hurts like no other. Apparently, she stood up with a nurse early this morning while I was still asleep. Sneaky, sneaky. Stephanie is finding out that being in a hospital (I guess) is one of the best ways to feel itchy like crazy. Her mother and I have been her honorary scratchers.

I suppose the biggest news of the day came when I wasn’t even in the room. Stephanie insisted that I go home, get a shower and clean clothes, and relax. Of course, once home, I found myself getting anxious because I wasn’t with her, so I returned to find out that while I was gone, Stephanie walked. With the help of her mother and a nurse, she got out of her bed, walked to the door of her room, and walked back. Her bed is roughly 15 feet from her door, so this is super impressive. While this event proved to be painful, it was good that she did it.

Also, this afternoon, Stephanie was ecstatic to see her brother and his girlfriend walk into her room. They both attend Oklahoma State (Go Pokes!), so this was a big deal. It means so much to Stephanie to have family around her, and it will just get better when her other brother gets in tomorrow!

Needless to say, all this activity made my gal a bit tired. After her grandparents, brother and his girlfriend left, Stephanie got to FaceTime with her dad (if only for three minutes). The call had to be cut short because she was falling asleep as they talked.

That left Stephanie’s mom, stepdad, and myself in the far side of the room as she slept. As we were eating (and as Stephanie was in her drug-induced la-la-land), we had a visitor. It was the nurse from Stephanie’s oncologist/surgeon’s office. She wanted to check up on her and see how she was doing, but also came with a gift in tow: a guardian angel pin. Stephanie’s surgeon wears a guardian angel pin; she wore one on her jacket during our family consultation just a mere two weeks ago, and she had it on her jacket yesterday when she came out to visit with us following the surgery.

Now, Stephanie sports her own guardian angel pin as a gift from her surgeon. It is pinned to her hospital gown. What a sweet surprise that was! We definitely know that God has sent His angels to watch over and care for my wife, and this was a confirmation of that truth.

Stephanie sleeps now, as she will be needing her strength tomorrow. She is resting comfortably and we continue to praise the Lord for His provision in our lives. Thank you for remembering us in your prayers. Goodnight all.

Psalm 91:11-16 (Message Version)
“He ordered his angels to guard you wherever you go. If you stumble, they’ll catch you; their job is to keep you from falling. You’ll walk unharmed among lions and snakes, and kick young lions and serpents from the path. ‘If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,’ says God, ‘I’ll get you out of any trouble. I’ll give you the best of care if you’ll only get to know and trust me. Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times; I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party. I’ll give you a long life, give you a long drink of salvation!’”

Surgery Day: Update #2

Blessings abound!

What a whirlwind of a day. About two hours after Stephanie went back, her surgeon (regarded to be one of the best surgeons in the country for these kinds of procedures) came out to meet with us to let us know that surgery was complete. She said Stephanie did VERY well during the operation and that she was able to get a good “margin” around what she needed to get. This means that she was able to safely remove the bad tissue. It’s kind of like removing a bruised part of an apple. No one wants the bruise, but you remove some of the good stuff around the bad stuff so that all that is left is good stuff (if that makes any sense).

That troublesome pest of a lymph node has also been removed, and surrounding areas were taken and will be biopsied to determine if the cancer has spread further. Overall, Stephanie did great and our prayers for a successful surgery were answered. A side note: Stephanie’s surgeon told us that she said a prayer for Stephanie before the operation. How awesome is that?!

Right now, I am blogging from her bedside. I will be with Stephanie every night until we can come home together. The main thing right now is Stephanie’s pain level. Our main prayer request now would be that the pain management would be handled well. We would also appreciate prayers for healthy rest!

My mom always played a Tom Petty song when I was growing up, and it’s called, “The Waiting.” The chorus includes the line, “The waiting is the hardest part.” That’s not a flippin joke. Waiting sucks. While my lovely wife and I were separated, I was anxious. The only thing I wanted to do and the only place I wanted to be was with her. But I took comfort in the knowledge that God was, is, and always will be with her. Like He was with her, He was also with me, and that gave me the peace and endurance to be patient. Like Stephanie said in an earlier post, God is the ultimate physician. For that, we give thanks.

All in all, it was a big day. A turning point in our lives, a turning point in the path God has set for us. What a remarkable story He is crafting! We’re blessed to have our faith tested and to be instruments of His goodness. His love and mercy abound. We have an awesome God.

As always, thank you for your prayers. Update to come tomorrow. Bless you all and keep the faith.

John 16:33 (Message Version)
“I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

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