Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Facing My Own Mortality

My dad and I a few years ago
My dad says that the older you get the more you realize your own mortality. You know that your days are number and you try to prepare for what will inevitably come. However, we don't know when we are going to die. God never promised each of us would live into our old age. When we are young, we plan for our future, dying never really crosses our mind. We feel invincible with our whole life ahead of us.

Treatment #6
However, getting old is not the only time we come face to face with our own mortality. I am certainly no "spring chicken" but I still want to plan my future and seek what things may be just beyond my fingertips, to see around the bend of the next phase in my life. 

Having cancer doesn't always mean a death sentence. There have been many advances in medicine to fight all kinds of cancer with great success and many, many, many lives have been saved. 





Rachel's Dance
Noah's Concert
I am fighting to be one of those success stories but if you have ever faced your own mortality; whether by age or by health issues, there is a place down deep that is preparing for the "what if". What if this is my last Resurrection Sunday with my family? What if this is the last concert I get to watch Noah perform? What if this is the last dance I get to help my daughter dress for? What if this is the last anniversary with my husband?

Now, please don't get me wrong, I am not going into depression or giving up, but the lesson I am taking away from these "what if's" is that every moment should count whether cancer takes my life or I am a success story to live many more years. Every picture is valuable, every holiday special, every event isolated, and with that, every person unique and every relationship distinctive. How often I have taken life for granted; my husband, kids, friends, gifts, talents, jobs, and God.    

With all that said, since starting chemo I have given up driving because I don't think quickly or clearly enough to make driving decisions. I spend most of my days at home; resting and caring for myself. 

So, I can fill my day with anything that I feel like. I have been advised that I can eat anything I feel like eating. I can do anything I feel like doing. I can go anywhere I feel like going. I sleep when I feel like sleeping and work when I feel like working. It's all about listening to my body and giving it what it "feels" like. With this kind of protocol, I can fill my day with complete nothingness if I feel like it. 

So, the other morning, I scolded my daughter for piddling around instead of getting ready for school. "I don't know if you are getting lost in daydreams, messing on the phone, or going back to sleep but you have to stop piddling around and get ready," I said sternly. 

Five minutes after she made her way out the door I was comfortably positioned in what I call my Shepherd's Field where I spend time with God in prayer and scriptures. I heard God say to me, "You are getting lost in daydreams." 

It is always so astounding to me when God uses situations as a parable to teach me about myself. As I reflected I could see the times that my daydreams led me to my phone for conversation or information and fell asleep to God's voice. 

Every moment counts and I don't want to waste another one lost and asleep to this wonderful life God has given me and I don't want to miss out on another word God has to say to me. 

I am assured of God's mercy, faithfulness, and compassion in the scriptures. "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul; therefore will I hope in Him. The Lord is good to them that wait for Him, to the soul that seeks Him" Lamentations 3:20-25.    


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Revolutionary Changes

I started on the new drug, "Taxol" this week; the first of 12 weeks. I'm not sure how it will affect me in comparison to the last 4 treatments of adriamycin and cyclophosphamide. I have been told that this new drug will not be as hard on me as the others were which is why we are able to move to weekly treatments instead of every 2 weeks. One of the new pre-meds with this drug is Benadryl, which gave me great sleep right after chemo. However, I still get a steroid that gives me insomnia. I hoped for a little counteraction with them but here I am wide awake in the middle of the night.

I want to give an update on how things went last week with the new strategies. I began taking high-quality enzymes on Monday of last week, the next day I got a Vitamin B shot. I have to be honest, if I had known how painful that shot was going to be I may have wimped out, but I am thankful I didn't (sorry if I ruined it for you). I started feeling better by Wednesday, then by Friday the enzymes were doing their job and I was able to feel true relief from the sluggish stomach and gut pain. 

Toni Hebel and Sharon Hoskins
For the first time since treatment began, I felt like getting outside and piddling in the garden on Saturday. And for the first time in weeks, I felt like going to church on Sunday. It was perfect timing because Dr. Bruce and Toni Hebel were back in town to host a 3-day conference "Forgiving Forward" and I actually felt good enough to attend all three nights this week. 

When I attended this conference three years ago it dramatically changed my life. I shared some of it with you in 2016: Hindsight is 20/20. Toni coached me through the seven protocols of forgiveness that they teach at the conference. I forgave wounds from my childhood and wounds from recent events. I also found that forgiving the wounds I had inflicted on myself became important as well. 

When I completed all the protocols for each wound, it felt like a balloon had been blown up into my chest cavity. I could breathe in more air; fresh clean air with no restrictions. My heart could beat freely and I became a new person with new thoughts and a renewed peace.

Toni suggested putting a balloon somewhere in my home to remind me to never allow the sin of unforgiveness into my life again. So, a balloon has remained by my bed in the place that I prayed until this day.

When I attended this week, I was reminded of the importance of checking my heart frequently. It is easy to revert back to old ways of thinking when dealing with situations and find ourselves wounded once more. The balloon had become a common household item that didn't grab my attention so I will be getting a new balloon and find a better place to display it.

My friend Janie always says that we should keep short accounts and daily ask God to cleanse us of our hidden sins (Psalm 19:12). God is always faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness if we will confess them (1 John 1:9). Unforgiveness is a sin and I know the difference forgiving can make in my life. I ask for it from God so I should be willing to give it to others. Therefore, I choose to forgive and continue to use the protocols when I am wounded.

I am thankful for these protocols, the teachings, and encouragement that Dr. Bruce and Toni share. I am very thankful for the difference it has all made in my life. If you would like to know about how forgiveness can change your life go to forgivingforward.com to learn more. 

Join the forgiveness revolution!!!   

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

My New Strategies

When I was a kid there were three staples for when we were sick; 7UP, chicken noodle soup, and crackers. Now, I don’t believe there is anything “healing” about any one of these items, but there was something comforting about having it delivered to my bed on a tray during those sick days. It also seemed to be soothing to the stomach that didn’t want to be bothered with anything.

I started chemo on Feb. 12, 2019, and that first treatment made me sick to my stomach. My first reaction was to deal with that pain with the comfort of the old standby; 7UP, chicken noodle soup, and crackers but it didn’t work. So, I decided to leave my stomach alone and let it “run its course” because that’s what we did when I was a kid; let the flu, virus, or cold “run its course”.

After my second treatment, I figured out that this is not something that is going to “run its course” on its own. I don’t have the flu; I am getting a chemical that is killing healthy cells along with the cancerous ones and it is being injected into my body over and over again. It was time to rethink my strategy. I needed a plan that would work at increasing my health and give my body what it needed to stay strong.

I want to share some of the new strategies that I am trying. Now, I am not a doctor nor am I claiming that these things will work for you if you are going through chemo. I simply want to share my experiences and the effects that these new strategies have had on me in case you would like to try any of them for yourself or even share with a loved one.

My new strategy for my stomach:
I am keeping a close eye on my PH levels. I have found that keeping it balanced between 7.3 and 7.4 helps my stomach stay calm. If it is too acidic I use 1/3 teaspoon of baking soda in 8 to 14 oz of water. I have also gotten some Alka Seltzer Gold to help with any acid indigestion. To check my PH, I use test strips which can be found in the diabetic section of your local store.

I am finding it helpful to try to eat more alkaline foods. However, food is a very touchy subject because it's difficult to find something that sounds good or tastes good. I have gotten to the point that I hate to eat but eating is important even if it doesn't taste good. This chart made it easy for me to make some better choices in food selection and to eat for my health, not for my taste buds which no longer work (a side effect of chemo).

Now, if you notice on the chart, many of the foods are ones that may be hard to digest so I have incorporated enzyme capsules to help my digestion. As I understand it, chemo is killing many cells in my body; both healthy and cancerous. These dead cells accumulate somewhere inside if they are not processed through the digestive system and excreted. Enzymes help with that very important process whether I am eating the foods on the chart or having food from a drive-thru window. So, I am trying 2 capsules with every meal and 1 capsule with every snack.

Water, of course, this is always important for all of us, but I found it to be one of the most important things that I could do. Just like food, it is very difficult sometimes to drink, but it helps when it comes time for the weekly blood draws. One week I was so dehydrated that the lab couldn't find a good vein and blood had to be pulled from my port. Besides, it helps flush the dead cells out of my body. I have also been taking minerals each day and it seems to be helping most of the time. I personally use mineral waters.

This all sounds very logical, but when I'm sick logic doesn't always win. There have been days that I have curled up in a ball and gone without any of these things because I just couldn't muster the courage to get up. Fortunately, I have friends and family that will push me out of my ball and give me what I need. I found that I am not a very good nurse to myself, especially when I am in pain.

My new strategy for treatment days:
Before my treatments, I rub a lavender blend of essential oils on my tummy to keep it from tightening up. Since getting sick the first day of treatment, my nerves have a tendency to tighten up and the lavender keeps it calm so that I don’t get a knot in my gut that lasts for days. I also use this during the week if I find my stomach getting tense. 

Getting a foot massage during treatment has also been a huge help in keeping me relaxed. I have been fortunate enough to have a friend who is willing to do that for me each time but if you don’t have someone it may be something that you could try to do yourself. Working the tight areas you find on your feet will give you some relief and relax your whole body. If you can’t reach your feet then perhaps an automated or manual foot massager could be an option.

My new strategy for side effects:
There is a list of side effects that are different for each individual and treatment. One of the side effects that I have and found to be very painful has been mouth sores. When I brushed my teeth with my regular soft bristle toothbrush it felt like I was using a wire brush in my mouth. So I bought a special soft toothbrush for cancer and chemo patients and switched to sensitive toothpaste. 

I also invested in a water flosser which I used every morning, evening, and after every meal whenever possible. This made my mouth sores go away so I stopped using the water flosser so faithfully; "Yay it worked!" so I quit but my sores returned. Now I am back to using it as regularly as I can and my mouth sores are gone. 

Now, I still have bad days along with good ones, but these are just a few of the new strategies to help me fight the bad ones and give me more of the good ones and I give praise to my Heavenly Father for every day that I have; both good and bad. I will keep you posted on any new strategies that I come across along the way. And if you have any advice for me please use the comment section to share them. I would very much appreciate learning your strategies as well.  

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

My Progress

I just finished my fourth treatment this week and I thought this might be a good time to update everyone on the progress that is happening. The protocol that I have been given requires 16 chemotherapy treatments with 3 different kinds of drugs. My first two drugs were given together; Adriamycin injections and Cyclophosphamide IV drip 4 treatments over the course of 8 weeks. This portion is now complete.

During this time the tumor in my breast has been measured. The first measuring of my tumor, before any treatment, was 6 cm (by hand). Before my second treatment, my tumor measured 3 cm (by hand). Before my fourth treatment, we had trouble locating the tumor at all. It is still there but not measurable by hand.

This has not been an easy process, overcoming my fear of chemo is easier now that I am in the midst of the battle and learning how to help my body stay balanced. Hearing these reports of my tumor shrinking gives me encouragement. I know that chemo is the cure that I must face but I never want to overlook the wonderful things that God is doing in my life along the way.

The next drug I will be getting is called Taxel or Paclitaxel. These treatments begin on April 9 and will be given every week over the next 12 weeks. I don’t know how my body will react to this drug but I have the assurance that the Lord will continue to teach me great lessons along the way. 

I have met some wonderful people through this journey and our paths would have never crossed if I didn’t have cancer. I have also formed some treasured friends and a tight bond with those closest to me. Thank you all for your prayers, texts, calls, sacrifices, visits, cards, gifts, meals, and friendship; I love you all.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Just Cosmetics

Going shopping is described by many people as fun and exciting, but others find it to be a stressful, dreaded excursion. I think it all depends on the shopping purpose. My husband and I have had the same living room furniture since before our wedding day over 25 years ago. We love the style and comfort but it is starting to show a little wear. So, shopping for new furniture could be fun and exciting, shopping for toilet paper; not so much. But getting “new” doesn’t always mean better. I’m kind of fond of the old things; they are durable, beautiful, and dependable. 

As you know, one of the side effects of my treatment is hair loss. I’ve been told it will probably grow back different; color, texture, curly, etc. I don’t know what “new” hair I will get. 

My fingernails will also be affected by treatments. They have always grown out so perfectly strong and looking like a French manicure. They are beginning to turn dark at the root. I don’t know what process they will go through or what the “new” will look like in the end.

I find myself dreading these kinds of unknowns. When we go shopping we don’t know what we will find, but we do have some choices on the outcome. But when we have no control over the results then the unknowns can be scary. In the overall grand scheme of things who cares what my hair or nails look like, I will have my life which is much greater than the cosmetics of it.

In that same respect, our life here on this earth is just a moment of time; the cosmetic, if you will, of the grander eternity. "For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower thereof falls away" 1 Peter 1:24. 

Yet, many times we are wrapped up in the cosmetics of this moment of life and forget the bigger picture of our eternal. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" John 3:16. 

Could it be because we see the eternal as an unknown that we have no control over? Could it be that people refuse Jesus Christ as Savior because of the fear of unknown or of giving up control of this moment of life? What will it cost me? What will it change? What will people say? I asked these very questions once, but after almost 20 years I can honestly say, there is nothing to fear. 

"But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life" Titus 3:4-7.