Monday, December 22, 2014

Gemzar, I Don't Know

My mind is not here or there. I am in true "chemo brain" mode. I have too many things to do right now with not the right mind and no energy. Can only write in short sentences.

Today, I go in for another Gemzar treatment. Please pray that my white blood cell levels will be high enough for me to receive treatment. My husband had the flu last week, and A3 had some weird, I-don't-know-illness on Saturday. I have been dodging coughs, colds, and flus for the past few months.

Yesterday, someone said, "I heard that you weren't feeling well on Saturday." How do you explain that that is how it always is? That that is my normal. I just have to push through to get things done as a wife, mother, teacher, and pastor's wife.


by Denise Calazans Kobayashi


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Gemzar Cycle 1, Treatment 3

Thank you for all of your prayers! Yesterday, I went for my third Gemzar treatment (wasn't able to get the second due to low neutrophil counts, but it still counted), and my neutrophil levels were wonderfully high! They were at 2.2! I can't remember the last time they were that high! When I first heard the count, I thought that I had heard wrong. I had to ask the nurse to repeat the number. It went from .7 to 2.2! So thankful!

The treatment wasn't as bad this time. I still got a bit queasy, but not as much as last time. As the nurse pulled out the needle from my port, I could feel a stream of liquid. It turned out to be blood. Glad that I only saw the dried up stuff on the gauze strip.

Today was the day that I was supposed to give myself the Neulasta shot (white blood cell booster), but my counts were so good that my nurse told me that I could hold off on it. This was an answer to prayer! This is Thanksgiving week! No time to be sick! Thank You, Lord!

I had to go to Costco to get some last minute things, and by the end, I was dragging my feet and slurring my speech. We must have been there less than an hour. That is the one aspect about the hormone pills that I liked: I had energy. Chemotherapy: no energy.

Thankful that three years have passed since my "big" surgery (mastectomy/thyroidectomy). Thankful for another Thanksgiving with my family!


Monday, November 17, 2014

No Gemzar

My husband drove me to my chemo treatment. Honey, thank you for giving up your basketball for me! I had my blood drawn and we waited. Started getting queasy just being there! Two hours later, I got the news. My neutrophil levels (white blood cells that fight infection) were too low at 0.7. Disappointing. I need a 1.5 or above to get chemo.

The nurse had to call my oncologist. Dr. K said to skip this dose and try again next week.

Please pray for my neutrophil counts to go up. Also, pray that I don't get sick during that time.

At least I got to spend time with my husband and eat a yummy lunch with him!


Gemzar

Long absence that will be explained later...

I started intravenous again. This time, the chemo drug of choice is Gemzar (Gemcitabine).

Last week, the nausea hit 15 or so minutes into the treatment. The nurse slowed the drip of the drug and that seemed to help... a bit.

I'm going for my second treatment today. I had to ask my husband to skip his stress-relieving-Monday-basketball-game to drive me to my appointment.

Thinking about going again makes my stomach hate me.

Needing more prayers...


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

First Day of Homeschool Group

For the past year, A3 has been patiently waiting to attend the homeschool group that A1 and A2 attend. He had to go through the interview process to see if he could keep up with the workload. At the beginning of the interview, he gave a lot of yeah's and no's. Then, they got to the topic of a newsletter that he created about Mount Everest. His eyes lit up, and he started talking.

This past Monday was his first day at the homeschool group. I was planning to take pictures of all the A's, pack their special lunches and snacks, and go with them to the first chapel of the school year. Unfortunately, I woke up at 3:00 am and did not go back to sleep until 5:00 am. My eyes were closed during those two hours because I couldn't physically keep them open, but I couldn't sleep. Different thoughts started to flood my mind, and no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't sleep!

By the time my children woke up, I was completely exhausted. When I get exhausted like that, it feels like I'm trying to wake up from having been under anesthesia. My eyes wouldn't open and my body kept plunging back into deep sleep. I kept trying to wake up, but my body wouldn't follow. Then, the sound of the door opening, downstairs, woke me, and I pushed myself to get up. This was the A's first day of homeschool! I stumbled down the stairs trying not to fall over from my vertigo. Thankfully, I got to apologize to them and kiss them good bye. Then, I couldn't go back to sleep.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

New Dosage

After the whole mouth sore incident, my oncologist changed my dosage for the Afinitor. I went from a 10 mg pill to a 5 mg pill. Because it is a chemo drug, you cannot cut it, so I had to wait for the new pills to arrive. I got my new pills Monday afternoon and was able to eat them at my regularly scheduled time (6:00 pm).

I am very happy to say that my mouth sores are gone! The "Magic Mouthwash" and not being on the Afinitor worked. At this point, I don't want to think about the side effects of the steroids. I just know that the "magic mouthwash" helped me to eat again.

So, Monday night we used a gift card that we received and got some carry out. I ate buffalo mini burgers, chopped salad, potatoes au-gratin, and cole slaw! Yummy, yummy to my tummy!!! A1 got an angus burger, and he said that it was too juicy and rich?? Him and A2 ended up devouring the chopped salad that I so love. They couldn't stop eating it. These are the times that I wish they wouldn't eat so many vegetables...


Friday, August 15, 2014

Losing Your Head

Cold weather = hat all the time

Hot weather = no hat whenever possible

Hot weather + no hat in the house + air-headed, forgetfulness = trouble

Within a month's time, I have left the house twice without a hat. Of course, two different neighbors were out at the exact same times.

Incident #1: I had to go to the hospital for my chemo, and I was late. I grabbed all the things that I had to take when going for chemo, and I walked out the door... and closed it. Just as the door closed, I realized my mistake. I looked up and saw my Korean neighbor outside. I whirled around and grabbed the doorknob. Locked. Desperation. Fumbling with keys. Door open. Complete embarrassment.

Incident #2: I was going to run an errand with my husband, and we both rushed out the door. I started walking towards my husband's car when I saw my next door neighbor in his car. I waved and was a bit perturbed at his reaction: one of confusion/shock? I didn't get it. I just kept walking and got into my husband's car. Then, it hit me: I had no hat on! And, my husband hadn't said anything! He said that he was shocked that I had walked out without a hat on. Hello!! What did I do? I made him go back to the house and get me a hat. 

At least I had some hair on my head.

At least it was before my husband shaved the sides and back of my head and gave me a very bad "fade"(or shall I say, "Partition?") that made me look more male and made my loving husband laugh every time he saw me... All I asked him to do was trim the edges...


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Two Weeks with Afinitor and Aromasin

Two words: mouth sores! Yikes! They started forming within the first few days of taking the meds. Unfortunately, they progressively got worse. I cannot say that I have ever experienced anything like this.

As the sores grew bigger and multiplied, I assumed that this was the natural way that these medications were going to take their course. So what did I do? I just grit my teeth and took it. Actually, I couldn't grit my teeth because my mouth was too swollen to allow my teeth to rest the way they naturally would. I sat in silence and was grouchy. Pain does that to me.

Unfortunately, I couldn't tell my family, in words, that I was grouchy and that they needed to stay away from me. So, I grunted and made a lot of hand and facial gestures.

At the beginning of last week, my husband and I were blessed to attend the youth/college retreat. It was during our time there that my nurse called and asked me to come in to the office. She had been on vacation when I had met with my oncologist, so she wanted to make sure that she went through all the details of the meds with me. Felt like that was a God-send. He knew that I needed to get it checked out. I shudder to think of how I long I might have waited to call.

Could I have told her about my mouth sores when she called? Yes.

Did I? No.

Why? Because I thought that I could wait and tell her when I saw her. It wasn't as bad at the time. 

Well, things progressively got worse. I had to cut food really small to eat it. It took me, like... forever, to eat anything. I had to keep moving my head to readjust food in my mouth. I also found myself closing my eyes as I chewed and putting my hand over my mouth. It must have been quite a sight.

By Thursday of last week, I was in all out pain. I couldn't eat. Or talk well. I tried eating one fourth of a banana, that was cut up, but I couldn't. The banana stung my sores. Okay, okay, I'll admit it - I shed a tear or two. FRUSTRATION! Then, I became so desperate that I mashed up the banana and determined in my heart that I was going to eat! The method that I found that worked: I tilted my head back, gingerly dropped some mashed banana into the back of my throat, and just swallowed it. Chewing required too much pain. This method helped me eat that one fourth of a banana in 15 or so minutes. At dinner, I pureed some jook or congee (that my husband made for me) and was able to eat a few spoonfuls with the head tilting method. That stuff is thick, but swallowable. Is that a word?

Then, we get to Friday. I was supposed to see the nurse at 10 am, but I was too weak to drive. I usually drive myself to doctor visits because I know how busy my husband is. But this time, I had to ask. I didn't even have the energy to talk. I just sat in the car. My husband tried to ask me a few questions, but I didn't have the energy to answer. I just grunted.

When I saw my nurse, I was a complete mess. I couldn't talk well. I had no energy. I felt like I could topple over. My mouth was in high level pain. I ended up staying there for an extended visit because she had to hook me up to an IV. Never had that happen to me. Without the calories in my stomach, I could barely keep my eyes open. I ended up falling asleep during that IV, but when I got up, I felt so much more energy. Enough energy, at least, to get home.

I got in trouble from my nurse. She told me that I was supposed to let her know about stuff like that because she was there to help me. Learn from my mistakes if you are on these medications. Call your nurse when "funky" things start to happen.

My nurse prescribed "Magic Mouthwash." It is supposed to help numb your mouth, so that you can eat, and help heal the sores. I was afraid to read the ingredients. It turned out to be an antibiotic, antihistamine, antacid, antifungal, and steroid concoction. You know how I feel about steroids and extra meds. BUT, I did not care, because I needed something to help calm the craziness in my mouth. I have been using it for the past 4 days, and I can say that it has helped tremendously.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Afinitor (Everolimus) and Aromasin (Exemestane)

Sunday, I started my new medications. There are two pills that I have to take: Afinitor and Aromasin. The Afinitor is a cancer drug that is supposed to interfere with cancer cell growth. It is also supposed to slow down the spread of the cancer cells. The Aromasin is a hormone drug that is supposed to decrease the amount of estrogen in my body and help reverse the growth of the breast cancer. The combination of these two drugs has been shown to work well in patients like me: post-menopausal, Estrogen positive breast cancer.

I have to take these drugs once a day, one pill each, at the same time everyday. It was difficult trying to figure out the time of day I should take them. I take my Levothyroxine (for my thyroid) in the morning, so I didn't want to take anything else during that time. The Aromasin requires food while the Afinitor doesn't, so I finally settled for dinner time (6:00 pm). I can shove some food in my stomach, take the medicine, and then eat the rest of the meal. I had to set the alarm on my phone, because I will forget. If you see me around 6:00 pm, remind me.

Taking new medication always brings some anxiety about the side effects. I just never know what to expect. To be honest, when I got the medication in the mail, my stomach turned over a few times. I was reminded of the Xeloda that I started taking over a year ago. Just thinking about those Xeloda pills makes me nauseous.

I am on my fifth day of taking the Afinitor and Aromasin. The first few days I felt like I had a "buzzy, force field" around my head. I felt weird, but I couldn't describe it. One of the side effect is mouth sores, and they have already formed. That was quick! The craziest side effect of all: "fruit-like breath odor." Who would have known? I don't have that... yet. We'll see.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Summers

I don't know about you, but my summers are crazy. So many things to take care of. So many things to help with. So many events. So much of a lot of things with chemo in between! Too many things for this low energy gal. 

To fast forward what has been happening in my life:
  • I got my photos back! The Apple store referred me to a data recovery company that said it would ONLY charge me $945! I cried. I prayed. Then, I started looking online and found a recovery program. It cost me $90, but it was music to my ears after hearing the other quote! Those of you with any type of Apple product: back up everything before doing an update! Updates can turn your life upside down! If you were wondering, my brother and sister-in-law got us an external hard drive. My pictures are now backed up. 

  • My hair has been growing back. I have a fuzzy head. A1 likes to come by me and rub my head. It does feel soft. I might be able to put a baby pin on soon! It's growing out all crazy, but it is good to see hair on my head again!

  • Our family got to go to Washington D.C. for an annual Korean pastor's meeting in our denomination. We hadn't been able to go to one for over 5 years. It was a long drive, but it was beautiful. I even drove through Pennsylvania!

  • I haven't been able to bake a lot which makes me a bit sad.

  • Little things here and there add up to major fatigue for me. I still have a hard time pacing myself. I push myself like I used to (pre-cancer) and then I crash. Not good. Why is this so hard?

  • The most exciting news: I have my last chemo treatment (for the time being) today! The cancer in my liver hasn't spread and has shown a bit of improvement. My oncologist wants to give my bone marrow a chance to recover. I will be taking a "stronger-than-hormone-pill" pill - if my insurance covers it. Still waiting. Chemo at 8:00 am and then the Neulasta shot on Tuesday. Got to take the Claritin! 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Typing Small and I Dont Like Apple

I haven't been able to write. There was too much busyness and too much tiredness. 

I'm typing on a Kindle, so I can't type a lot. It is a long story and I don't like Apple right now.

I met with my oncologist on Thursday. She changed my schedule to two treatments per cycle. I got chemo on Friday, gave myself the Neulasta shot on Saturday, will not get treatment this Friday, and will go for the second treatment next Friday. So basically, I will get treatment every other week with a Neulasta shot in between. 

And yes, I took the Claritin. This time the pain focused on my legs. No back spasms, so far!

By the way, you should keep Claritin far away from young children because they might use scissors to eat 8 of them thinking they are candy and hide the wrappers in their pillowcase, so that Mom doesn't find out. As a matter of fact, it happened to my cousin today. And yes, her daughter is fine.


Friday, May 16, 2014

Hooray!

I had to go for chemo a day early this week. It actually worked out perfectly. The office is going to be closed on Friday because they are changing their computer/scheduling system. Thankfully, my white blood cell count went up from 0.5 to 1.0. I was so thankful when the nurse told me! Thank you for your prayers!

Today, I am scheduled to give myself the Neulasta shot. I remembered early enough to take the Claritin on Thursday. Now, I just have to remember to give myself the actual shot. I actually set the alarm on my phone to remind myself to give myself the shot. I just have to remember why I set the alarm.

It is going to be a very busy few days, and I don't have time to be sick! My sister is coming from out of town to visit! We are all so excited! AND, this Saturday, my big boy, A1, is graduating eighth grade! I am, officially, going to be the mom of a high schooler! Yikes!

God is so good! He's so good to me!


Monday, May 12, 2014

Mondays

My youngest, A3, was accepted into the homeschool group that A1 and A2 attend. We were all so excited! He had been waiting to go since his brother and sister had started last August! That is A3.

Today, he was able to spend the full day at the homeschool group. He spent the day shadowing the 3rd grade students, so that he could get a taste of what would be expected of him. When he woke up, his hair was a bit crazy. I told him to spray it down, but he asked if he could take a shower. He wanted to look good for his classmates. That is A3. When I dropped the kids off at the homeschool group, I pulled A3 aside and prayed for him. As soon as I was done, he zipped away. Didn't even look back! That is A3. My daughter, A2, told me that she had seen A3 and that he had looked like he had known the other boys for a long time. That is A3. A2 also told me that A3 was with the talkative boys and with the boy that she had told me always had a red ring around his mouth from the juice bottle that he drank out of. A1 had also seen A3 and said that he looked like he had been having a good time. That is A3.

My husband went to pick them up. I was at church praying and came home an hour after them. That is when I saw that he wasn't feeling well - at all. My husband was holding him. When I touched him, his body felt warm. He kept coughing. He had no energy except to tell me that he had a lot of fun today. And, I learned that my husband had bought him a milkshake and that he had thrown it up. It was supposed to be a secret milkshake, but it wasn't a secret anymore. We gave him 2 puffs of his inhaler and waited to see if his breathing got better.

When A3 gets a cold with a cough, I always have to watch him. He has never been formally diagnosed with "asthma," but he gets "bronchial spasms." This usually happens 1-3 times a year. We have to give him the inhaler so that his breathing normalizes.

A3 was laying on the couch and fell asleep. I couldn't help but sit by his feet. The mother in me wanted to comfort my baby! As I sat there watching my baby, I noticed that his pants had, not just one hole, but a few holes in them. I had picked those pants for him this morning. I had never noticed. That is me - now. I believe that those were the pants that he had taken scissors to and cut holes in last year. That used to be and, I hope, isn't A3 any longer. He had a very nice blue collar dress shirt with khaki pants with holes all over them because his mother hadn't noticed. That is me - now.

Then, A1 came around and told me I shouldn't be by A3 because he was so sick. He said it again. Then, A1 said that he would sit by A3. I was so touched to see my oldest looking out for me and his younger brother!

I called the pediatrician, and it was recommended that we take him to the ER. He is there, now, with my husband. He isn't wheezing, but he can't take in deep breaths. The doctor gave him some steroid medication and is watching him. Please pray for my baby!


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Update to New Schedule

I wasn't able to get my chemo treatment yesterday. My white blood cell counts went to an all time low: 0.5. I was in complete shock. It was only last week that it had been 5.3 or so, and everyone had commented on how good my counts looked.

During the past 4 cycles of Abraxane, the really low white blood cell counts didn't show up until the third treatment and that is why my oncologist had changed my schedule. This happening on the second treatment didn't look too good. I guess the medicine is building up in my body.

Today was the day that I was to give myself the Neulasta shot, but my oncologist wants me to wait until I can get my second treatment. I have to wait and see if my white blood cell count will go up naturally this next week. I also have to be on watch for a temperature of 100.5 because it might be a sign of an infection that my body might be fighting.

A few cancer patients had told me of how frustrating it was when they couldn't get treatment. Now I understand.

Please pray that my white blood cell count will go up this week so that I can get treatment on Thursday.

Gotta get my mask out.


Friday, May 9, 2014

New Schedule

I am run down and exhausted. There has been so much that I have had to attend to that I haven't had the energy to write. My body is exhausted and my back has been acting up. I am a person who needs days of not going anywhere and just resting at home. Haven't had those kinds of days lately and there are no prospects of those kinds of days in the near future. And then, my addiction keeps taking hold of me (will write about that soon).

Last Friday, I met with my oncologist. With my white blood cell count showing a pattern of getting really low on the third treatment, she had to change things around. Now, I am getting two consecutive chemo treatments, giving myself the Neulasta shot, and then having two weeks off.

When you read this, I will be going for my second chemo treatment in my fifth cycle of Abraxane. Which means that I will have to give myself the Neulasta shot on Saturday. Have to get more Claritin. Have to remember to take the pills on time! Have to attend to my addiction again. Yikes!


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Speaking Opportunity

I can't remember if I shared this before, but I think I did: I've always been terrified of speaking in front of adults. I was an elementary school teacher and could speak in front of children (no problem), but something about speaking in front of adults made me want to cry. My brother and sister will testify. My husband will testify. My comfort was that other teachers shared how they were also sweaty and afraid when speaking in front of adults. It wasn't just me!

Growing up, if you had left me in the corner, I would have stayed there nice and peaceful. Okay, I could get goofy and loud at times, but I was never comfortable in large group situations. You guessed it, they made me want to cry. But God. He wouldn't let me stay there. He kept pushing me into leadership positions. I didn't ask Him for those types of positions, but He seemed to want me there. Now, I can see His training in those areas of my life.

Becoming the samonim (pastor's wife) of the head pastor of a Korean church changed me even more. I had to speak to people, even though I wasn't fluent in Korean. At first I was terrified to open my  mouth or make mistakes in Korean, and then God gave me freedom. I could speak and laugh, even though, no one understood me. It's okay. Puzzles my mind also, but it truly is a freedom that only God could have given me.

Over the past few years, I've been given more opportunities to speak to different groups. It's not from me, but I have noticed that I am getting less nervous. Here is an example of this change. A few years back, I went to a Korean pastor's conference with my husband. At the end, several others and I were asked to share our testimonies. A translator was standing next to me because I had to speak in English. I remember it being hard to make eye contact with the group and my hands being sweaty and shaky. This past December, I actually went back to that church in L.A. (so blessed by you, Cornerstone!) and was asked to speak briefly at the Korean service and to give my testimony at the English service. I was shocked. I was able to speak in Korean at the Korean service (hopefully people understood what I said) and was not shaking or wanting to cry. People, that is God!

This Sunday, I've been invited to share my testimony at my home church. Please pray. I'm really excited, but not my words but His be spoken.


Friday, April 25, 2014

Neulasta Shot #3

Everything didn't go as planned with this Neulasta shot. I washed my hands. I prepped the area with alcohol. I prepped the shot. Then, I tried to push the needle in, and it hurt. It felt like there was something blocking it from going in. Mind you, the needle is really small. It didn't really hurt a lot the other two times. As I tried to push it in, I checked to make sure there wasn't some strange bone in my stomach fat. Yes, it was that perplexing that I thought I was hitting a stomach bone. Yes, I do know that I do not have a stomach bone. And no, I do not have washboard abs. I have fluffy abs. Anyways, I let out a bit of a, "Aaahhh," and then there was relief. The needle went in as if that imaginary stomach bone had disappeared.

A few hours later, I realized that I had not taken Claritin. Yikes!! I should have taken it the day before. Then, I took it, well, after forgetting again and remembering again. By Saturday night, I started feeling the effects of the shot. My body and lower back started to ache. I had to prepare myself for the effects.

On Easter Sunday, I had to be the "masked" samonim (pastor's wife) because of my low white blood cell count. I couldn't risk getting sick, and I wanted to attend the Easter service. That morning, I forgot to take the Claritin. Again. This was not looking too good. By late morning, the effects of the Neulasta had taken hold of my lower back. I was achey and in pain. It was difficult to sit still, but I had to!

Monday, I was ready to take the Claritin, and then, I forgot to take it. Again. I took it a few hours later then I should have. That night, we went to a dinner for the youth pastor and his wife who are leaving for Korea at the end of this month. I don't know about you, but sometimes, things happen all at once in my life!

The 3rd or 4th day of the shot, I've noticed that back muscle spasms begin. Usually, the pain shoots down my lower back into my left thigh and causes it to lose all strength and buckle. No matter how careful I am, I can never predict when the muscle spasms will occur. Thankfully, it was not continuous.

This time the back muscle spasms hit on Tuesday night - prayer meeting night. I was going back and forth about going. As the time drew near, I decided to go. Unfortunately, it was very difficult keeping full focus because of the discomfort and pain. Thankfully, I was able to pray, and I didn't get a back muscle spasm.

By Wednesday, the pain had gotten more manageable, but we had a visitation at night. Sitting in chairs for long periods of time are not helpful. By the end, my body was more achey and pained. But, I was glad to have been able to go. Really.

In between all of this, my new addiction kept rearing its head, and I couldn't stop myself. That's another post...


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Treatment Three, Cycle Four

Last Friday was my third round of chemotherapy for my fourth cycle of Abraxane. I wasn't sure what to expect because my white blood cell count the week before had been so low. This third round, my white blood cell levels went down to 0.8. It was the lowest that it had ever gone. I had to wait while the nurse tried to contact my oncologist. Thankfully, I was able to go through with my chemo because I was scheduled to give myself the Neulasta shot on Saturday.

On my way home, my stomach felt a little nauseas, my head hurt, and I was exhausted. Usually when I get home, I eat and then crash. This time, I just wanted to sleep. I had to force myself to eat. I was also hoping that eating would get rid of that bit of nauseousness.

That day, I met a woman who was there for her first chemo treatment. She was in the next room, and I could hear her and her husband ask the nurse many different questions. I could also hear the nurse tell the woman that she would need to get a port. Please believe me when I tell you that I wasn't eaves dropping. When you are sitting there and people are talking in a small space, it is hard not to hear what they are saying.

What I heard sounded very familiar. She had small veins. They had to try a few times to get the needle in. This was her first chemo treatment. She didn't know what to expect. She asked a lot of questions. She didn't know what a port was. She didn't know what it would look like. She didn't know what to expect in a port surgery. She didn't know what type of side effects she would have to endure. She didn't know when to expect her hair to fall out.

I wanted to go over and just calm her fears. I remember that first chemo treatment. The fear of the unknown. I didn't want to barge into another person's life. I just asked God to open the door if He wanted me to talk to this woman. I just sat in my seat and wrote in my journal.

Then, her husband walked past my little chemo area. He asked me how I was doing as if he knew me. That threw me off. I'm not someone who responds quickly to things (foggy head), but this time, God helped me. I told him that I was doing well. He asked what I was in for, and I told him. Then, I told him that I had a port and that I would be willing to show his wife. I told him that I remembered how hard that first chemo treatment was and how hard it was to imagine what a port looked like. The nurses show you what the port they will install looks like, but it is hard to imagine it in your body.

Well, I went over and showed a perfect stranger my port. I shared my story. She asked me about how I took the hair loss, and I told her that it was my faith that had sustained me. Her husband came in by this time, and they both asked, "What faith is that?" I told them that I was a Christian, and they said they were Christians also. They had been praying together for the wife's uterine cancer.

The woman, Debbie, asked me a lot of questions, and I was happy to answer them. One of them was about the hair loss. I told her my hair loss story and how I prefer not to wear a wig. That is when she said, "Oh, no, I have to wear one. My neighbors are really nasty and if they find out, they will laugh at me." It broke my heart to hear that, but I understood her heart.

Debbie's nurse came in to start her chemo, so I went back to my area. We hugged and said goodbye. I was really tired, so I took a bit of a nap. I ended up finishing first, so I stopped by her room and said goodbye. She said that, maybe, we could pray together the next time we saw each other.

So thankful that I could comfort someone with the comfort that God has comforted me with.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

This Is Me

Last Friday (not yesterday), I woke up to go to the early morning prayer service at church. I will be very frank with you: I am not a morning person. It takes my eyes a while to open. But, our church has been having a special 21 days before Easter early morning prayer service, so I asked God to help me wake up.

That day, I woke up and rolled out of bed. I didn't turn on the light in the room. I just reached into my drawer, grabbed a shirt, put it on, and then put a fleece jacket over it. After the prayer meeting was over, I came home and got everything together to go to see my oncologist.

It wasn't until I had to change into a robe at the doctor's office that I made a stunning realization: I was wearing an undershirt. You know, the kind that you wear under sweaters? The kind that are supposed to keep you warm during winter? The kind that are never supposed to be seen? All that time, I had thought that I had put on a scoop neck top.

Then, I had to go for my chemo treatment. I didn't want to unzip my fleece jacket, but I had to allow the nurse to access the port. It was so embarrassing. I had to explain what I had done. This is me... now.


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Nice Scar

I have a scar across my neck because of my thyroidectomy. The doctor explained that he was going to cut in the natural fold of my neck, so the scar wouldn't be so noticeable. I had no idea what the scar would look like. I didn't really care. I just wanted the (thyroid) cancer out.

After my surgery, my eyes were open to thyroidectomy scars. That is when I started to notice that there were a lot of people that had them. Mostly women. An abundance of them. Why hadn't I noticed before?

Some of the scars are still red from being fresh. Some of the scars are so faded that you can't even see them. Some are a bit high in the neck. Some are a bit too low. Some are very straight across, while others are a bit crooked. Some look very jagged, while some look quite smooth. So many variations.

When I see people with a thyroidectomy scar, I find myself admiring their scar or being thankful for mine. I confess that I talk to myself saying:


"Nice scar." 

"Yikes!"

"Is that what my scar looked like?" 

"Wow, can't even tell on that person."


Let me tell you, I do appreciate a good scar when I see one.


Monday, April 7, 2014

No-No for Medication

Last week I had another CT. Three months had already passed since starting the Abraxane! I was a bit nervous about the results because of my last CT. I just prayed that I could continue with the Abraxane versus some stronger chemo drug. 

About a month after starting the Abraxane, I had unknowingly made a big mistake. I ate grapefruit. Apparently, grapefruit can react with different medications to cancel out their effects. This was one of those medications. Of course, I had gorged on grapefruit. I really, really like grapefruit. Always have. Always will. When I mean gorged, I would eat 1-2 at a time. Sometimes up to 4 a day. Yes, a day. I really, really, really like grapefruit. It also doesn't help when your mom knows this and buys several big bags for you.

I had made this mistake when taking my first hormone medication: Tamoxifen. After taking that medicine for 3 months and having a CT, we had to switch medications. The Tamoxifen had not helped my cancer, at all. I had gorged on grapefruit during that time also. I found out too late about the grapefruit no-no. 

I guess if I had been a normal person and eaten one, it would have been fine. But, I couldn't do that. Had to eat several at a time. Some habits are hard to break.

When I got to Dr. K's office on Friday, I found out that my cancer had not grown nor had it gotten any smaller. That's ok. As long as it doesn't grow or spread. So, we are continuing with the Abraxane, and I am staying away from grapefruit.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Unexpected Happening

Yesterday, A1 and A2 had a presentation night for their homeschool group. Something happened on the way to the church where the homeschool group meets. This is a story of that happening.

I was driving down a major street that had narrowed in the heart of the town where the homeschool group meets. Traffic had slowed down due to the street narrowing and the speed limit going down. That is when I noticed a group of 8 or so middle schoolers being really loud across the street. I also noticed that there was a boy walking in front of this pack of boys. I kept asking my children, "Are they picking on him? Are they picking on him?"

The boy was walking by himself and not talking or interacting with anyone. Nada. It seemed to me that he was trying to get away from this group, but they kept following him. I got stopped at a red light, and I saw how the boy in the front was trying to run across the street while the pack was trying to follow him - five or so steps behind. They never converged into one group. The pack stayed behind and the boy was always five or so steps ahead of the rest. He did not look back at them or join in conversation with them. But the pack seemed to keep trying to follow behind this boy.

This is when I did something that surprised even me. I rolled down the window and yelled, "Stop picking on him!!!! Leave him alone!!" It was my teacher voice. My, I mean business voice.

It was rush hour and there were a lot of cars. No one stopped. No one said anything.

Traffic was moving slowly. I could see the boys still walking behind the one boy. They were being extra rambunctious and several of the boys were waving their arms in a mocking way behind that lone boy. The boy did not talk to any of the other boys. He did not try to walk with any of the other boys. He kept looking forward and walking really fast. The group still kept walking five or so steps behind the boy.

That is when I did something else that surprised me. I stopped the car in a bank parking lot, ahead of the boys, and got out of the car. The boy and the pack were coming towards me. People were staring from their cars.

I stopped the boy and asked him, "Are they picking on you?" He looked up and seemed caught off guard. The boy said that the other boys were not. The other boys said they were not. In that situation what do you do?

I told the boys why I had to stop. I told them that it looked like they were picking on the other boy and that I couldn't just pass by.

I wanted that lone boy to know that someone was standing up for him if he was being bullied, even though she was petite in nature, Asian, and had a head wrapping because she had no hair.

I apologized for misunderstanding the situation. But, did I misunderstand? I'm still thinking about this one. Praying that I truly did misunderstand.

When I got back into the car, A1 was huddled over in the passenger seat in embarrassment. I couldn't see what the other two were doing. Maybe the same?

I explained to my children that I couldn't pass by when I thought that one of the boys was being picked on. It broke my heart. I asked them if they would want someone to do the same for them if they were in such a situation. Yes. I discussed how I would want them to stand up for someone who is being picked on. Isn't that God's will for all of us?

This was the happening after seeing my oncologist, getting chemo, getting my Xgeva shot, frosting the baked donut holes I had made for the homeschool group presentation night, and running to a store last minute because A2 didn't have anything appropriate to wear. Just a day in the life of a mom...


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Neulasta and Claritin

Neulasta is the name of the (expensive) shot that my oncologist ordered to boost my white blood cell count. The shot did do its job. My white blood cell count did go up dramatically. But, my first experience was, how shall I put it, H-O-R-R-I-B-L-E. There was severe lower back pain, body aches, chills, lack of appetite, and a lot of discomfort. When I looked it up on the internet, I wasn't alone.

When I talked to my oncologist about this, she told me to take Claritin with it. For some weird, unexplained reason, it seemed to soften the side effects in certain people. I have to tell you, I was a bit skeptical. Claritin? After those crazy side effects that I had had?

The morning that I was supposed to give myself the shot, I remembered the Claritin. But, I had forgotten to buy the Claritin. I also wasn't supposed to be around crowds because my white blood cell count had gone so low. So, I had to call my poor husband to get some for me. He had to go to the drug store, get the Claritin, drop it off at home, and then, go back to church.

I took the Claritin, waited an hour, and gave myself the Neulasta shot. This was the second time giving myself the shot, and it was so much better than the first time. And yes, I remembered to wash my hands. I took a breath (didn't have to take a deep breath) and plunged in with the needle. Not bad. Truthfully, after seeing the tiny needle of this shot, it seemed like nothing compared to the big, thick needle they used for my port.

Giving the shot slowly also seemed to help minimize the pain in the shot location. And, I have to say that the side effects were less severe and shortened, compared to the last time. My back still hurt, but it wasn't as bad as the first time. I still didn't have much of an appetite nor did I want to go near strong smelling/tasting foods (Korean food). My comfort was knowing that the side effects only lasted a week. I was really thankful for that.

But overall, the Claritin helped. It did soften the side effects. I took it once a day for 4-5 days. If you are about to give yourself the Neulasta shot, take Claritin!


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Happening #4

Now to the last of these string of happenings. We were gone all day last Sunday. We were at church and had two visitations at night. We got home very late and went straight to bed. The next morning, we found that one of our refrigerators had stopped working. When my husband opened that refrigerator, it was warm inside. Yuck! We had to throw away a lot of food.

Why do we have two refrigerators in our tiny home? One was gifted to us a few years back. It was a gift from God. My dream refrigerator. The other refrigerator was here when we purchased this home. It became our "Korean" refrigerator. We put all of the strong-smelling items that we loved to eat in it. It is the one that conked out on us. It is the one that had many rotten, smelly things in it.

My husband looked up how to repair a refrigerator on the internet. Doesn't everyone do that? He watched this and that. He tried this and that, but we still had a broken refrigerator. It was dust-free and clean, but it still wasn't running.

After trying all that he could, my husband called someone we know who used to be a tech at a big electronics store. He tried something, and it worked... for a few hours. He came again the next day and knew what the real problem was. He fixed it, and now we have a working refrigerator where we can store all the strong-smelling foods that we love!


Friday, March 28, 2014

Update on Happening #3

Someone referred us to a dentist that I was able to see on Thursday. I had to explain my medical history, prescription medications, chemotherapy drugs, symptoms, dental history, and dental fears. He listened with an attentive ear and explained things in an extremely thoughtful way. Then, he examined my teeth and took x-rays.

My husband and I were so relieved when he told us that things weren't as bad as he thought they would be. He had seen many patients who had endured chemo and found their teeth and gums completely destroyed. My teeth looked pretty good.

Those black teeth? Old amalgam fillings (which were fine). Hehehe... The conversation also brought to light a redo on a root canal that I had forgotten about. A root canal that I had completely forgot about. How could you forget that you got a root canal redone???? I don't know. I did. This is why a few years back, I had entertained the thought of having an early onset of Alzheimer's disease.

So thankful to Dr. L for the kindness that he showed us.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Happening #3

Chemotherapy has its secrets. A friend who had gone through chemo warned me about one of these secrets. This is a story of one of those secrets.

One day, I was minding my own business, eating some blueberries. Blueberries are yummy, but something annoying happened. The skin of one of the blueberries got caught in between my teeth. I could feel it, so I went to the bathroom to floss and brush my teeth.

I flossed between all of my teeth except two particular teeth. I tried and I tried, but I couldn't get the floss through. How could the skin of a blueberry be so tough? I picked at it with one of those plastic flossers, but nothing happened.

That is when I called my lovely daughter, A2. I asked her to see what was stuck between my top, back molars. Her reply was chilling.

She said, "Mom, you have black teeth."

I said, "What?!!!!!"

She said, "You have rotten teeth."

I said, "What?!!!!!"

I tried to look at my teeth using a large bathroom mirror. Could not see a thing. Then, I asked A2 to let me use one of her little mirrors.

To my horror, I saw black also! My two, top, back molars. I had to steady myself. That is when the other curious souls who live in this home came to look. My husband had a look. A1 had a look. A3 had a look. Then, A2 had to have another look and so did I!

Maybe that is why my teeth had been so sensitive and hurting these past few weeks? I've been brushing. I've been flossing. But as my friend had shared: chemo ruins your teeth. She had discovered that she had 10 cavities after her chemotherapy was done.

O Lord, help me.

And yes, after what seemed liked a few hours, I did get those blueberry skins out - only to get a few more stuck the following week.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Happening #2

The next thing that happened has never happened in this home - at least, not since we've lived here. We've lived in this town home since 2003!

We got mice, and I'm not ashamed of it! Okay, maybe a little, but I've realized that even nicer homes get them. I think the frigid weather lured them into our laundry room. So thankful that they are isolated in the laundry room and not the whole house!

We use the laundry room for storage also. We had a brand new bag of rice on the floor. I found that the corner of the bag had been chewed off. At first, I wasn't sure if it had been ripped by the door. My mother and father had come to my house that day, and they confirmed that it seemed like it was a mouse.

We conducted a test to verify. We cleaned up the bag of rice, laid out some grains of rice on the floor and closed the door. When I checked a few hours later, they were gone. It felt like some monster had come and taken those grains. I couldn't believe it, so I laid out some more grains of rice and closed the door. They were gone a few hours later! Really, it felt like some monster mice were back there.

My husband freaked out! Did I tell you that he has a phobia fear of mice? Well, we enlisted the only one in our family who is not afraid: A3. My baby. We gave him the important title of "mouse hunter." He would check every few hours to see if we had caught any mice.

First, we got sticky traps. The guy at Home Depot told my husband that those would catch the mice. He also warned my husband to get the mice before they bore offspring (every three weeks or so). We stuck grains of rice on the sticky traps and left them out. What did we find? The mice ate the rice and took off. We could see the tiny tracks they had made on the sticky traps.

Tip #1:  When setting out a traditional mouse trap,
                        set it in the middle of an opened and flattened
                       plastic bag. This makes clean up a lot easier.

That is when my husband went back to Home Depot and got traditional snap traps. We put peanut butter and cheese on them. That is when we saw some progress. We caught four mice. I had to pick up a few of them and tightly close the bags. One was caught in the trap and still alive. A1 and A3 had to use tongs to pick up the trap and put it in a ziploc. Boy, did I sterilize those tongs!

Tip #2:  Don't look at their eyes. Trust me on this one.

We had quite a few days of no more mice, and then we found another one. Only this time, the mouse was a lot smaller than the other ones. Not sure if it is a youngling of the other mice. We are finding that those little critters are eating the food off of the traps and getting away! Now, we are re-strategizing.

Tip#3:  Check your house for mice.
                  

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Happening #1

Within the past few weeks, a few things have been happening in our home. Boy, oh boy, do I have some stories to tell.

This past winter was brutal in our area. It snowed a lot, and it was f-r-i-g-i-d. I haven't seen this kind of weather in a really long time. This was the type of winter I remember growing up with. There was always a lot of snow to build forts, and the windchill was always below zero. We are in the middle of March, and we are still being threatened by some snow flurries and arctic winds.

Well, one of the first happenings to hit our home was ants. What? It's not even Spring! I know! We never saw winter ants before! Usually, they come mid-Spring to Summer. The ground outside was covered white with deep snow. I found the little pests under the table, and then all over the floor. Freak out - although, I wasn't as freaked out as I used to be.

I started squashing and spraying a vinegar and water solution on them. Did nothing to them. Then, I sprayed full strength vinegar on them: nothing. That is when I remembered something someone had told me a long time ago. I filled a spray bottle with dishwashing detergent and water. I sprayed those pesky ants, and they were dead. Don't ask me how it works. I just know that it works.

If you know me well enough, I hate bugs. But, I think that I'm beginning to get de-sensitized to ants. I find that I don't scream and panic as much.

After cleaning all of my floors, I went full force and put natural and man-made ant traps out. The man-made traps kill the ants as soon as they come out of the traps. The natural ant killer solution lets them drink in the deceptively sweet solution and take it back to the colony. We were talking to the ants and praying that they would take it back to the queen! The ants were gone for a while and then came back a few at a time. I'm still fighting the battle!

Wait until I tell you about the other happenings!


Friday, March 21, 2014

Update

Thank you for your prayers! Unfortunately, my white blood cell count went down to 0.9 (needed at least 1.5 to get chemo). The nurse had to call Dr. K to see what she should do. Thankfully, Dr. K gave the ok. I was a bit shocked that she gave the ok. But, it is because I am going to give myself the Neulasta shot tomorrow, and she wants me to finish the full cycle. The nurse told me to stay away from crowds and to monitor my temperature.

P-L-E-A-S-E pray about the Neulasta shot tomorrow. Pray that the Claritin will help with the side effects and that my immune system will be strengthened.


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Treatment #3, Cycle 3 (Hopefully)

Friday is supposed to be the last chemo treatment for my third chemo cycle. With last week's white blood cell count being so low, I am not sure about this week's treatment. I'm calling all prayer warriors to please pray that my levels will be high enough to receive my treatment.

If I do finish this cycle, I will have to give myself a second Neulasta shot on Saturday morning. Please pray that the side effects won't be as horrible as the last time. I am going to try taking Claritin to ease the side effects. Doesn't make sense, but it is supposed to help.

Thank you for your prayers!


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Treatment #2, Cycle #3

Last Friday, I went in for my second treatment (third cycle). It was a bit different because the nurse that usually takes care of me took another position at a different hospital. I was so sad, when she told me last week. She was so nice and she took such good care of me! She has treated me for over two years. I will miss her! It is people like Nurse Susan that made my Xgeva shot/chemo experience so much brighter!

Another nurse took me on. She is also very kind and friendly. I've had her several times for my monthly Xgeva shot. She drew my blood and sent it to the lab. The week before, my white blood cell levels had been over 7.0 because of the Neulasta shot. This week, they dropped to 1.2. To get chemo, it has to be 1.5 or higher. The nurse had to call my oncologist to see if I could get my treatment. Thankfully, she gave the ok.

This Friday will be the third treatment and the end of my third cycle. We are praying that my white blood cell counts will be 1.5 or higher. If not, we have to delay another week for the end of my third cycle. Consistent treatment is better than sporadic treatment.

Last Friday, I also got my next Neulasta shot in the mail. Finishing this cycle would be great, but I am not looking forward to this shot again. Dr. K did tell me that taking Claritin before the shot and for a few days after seems to help with the side effects. I guess Tylenol helps also.

Last time, I couldn't do anything for a week. But then I'm reminded: this is nothing compared to other chemo treatments. Someone I know had a 12 hour chemo treatment! T-W-E-L-V-E hour chemotherapy! Perspective. Still have to keep thankful.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Don't Get Robbed

Last Friday, there was a miscommunication, and I ended up going to see Dr. K when I wasn't supposed to. I was supposed to go this Friday before my chemo. My memory these days…

I talked briefly to my nurse and found out that I'm not the only one who hates the Neulasta shot. After telling her about the severe back pain and bad flu-like symptoms, the receptionist (who was waiting to ask Nurse J a question) commented that all the patients talk, not so nicely, about the Neulasta side effects. Those side effects are supposed to get better with each shot. We'll see.

When I got home, I had to crash and sleep - after eating, of course. Going back and forth from the hospital, wiped me out. But, the rest of the day, I wrestled with my feelings. Haven't had these types of feelings in a long time. I felt as if this darkness was looming around me. I know this sounds weird, but it felt as if it was trying to make me feel "bad." I wanted to cry, but I tried to ignore it and push it aside.

Anyways, that night, we had church. As I sat in the pews getting ready for the service, a flood of feelings of unworthiness, depression, and condemnation, tried to take their place in my heart. I can't tell you how overwhelming it felt. So many thoughts sped through my mind.

Why are you here? 

You don't belong here. 

You call yourself a pastor's wife? 

You're full of sin.

You can't worship God.


But then, I felt as if Jesus whispered, "I paid for all of that." 


And I believed Him.

I had forgotten… once again.


Then, there was:


Freedom

Liberty

Joy

Thankfulness

Worship


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Abraxane and Neulasta

Last Friday, I was able to finish my first full cycle of Abraxane. My white blood cell levels were 1.6 (had to be above 1.5), and we were able to go through with the treatment. The last two times, I had opted out of taking the anti-nausea drug before the treatment. I didn't feel like I needed it. Thankfully, everything went well and I didn't have to take that extra drug in my body.

Since this was the last of the first full cycle, I needed to give myself a shot 24 hours after the chemo treatment. Give myself a shot. My husband said he couldn't do it. My oncologist asked if I knew a nurse or a diabetic who could give me the shot. I chose to give it to myself. Give myself a shot.

Unfortunately, I was busy all day Saturday and completely forgot about the Neulasta shot. I remembered right before I was about to go to sleep. My husband didn't want to watch, so I had to take A1 with me. He went to the kitchen with me to give me moral support.

I took the shot out of the refrigerator, remembered to clean the area with alcohol, grabbed a big chunk of belly fat, and stalled for 15 minutes. I should have read the directions thoroughly, but I thought that I could remember all that the nurse had told me to do. By the way, I forgot to wash my hands.

I prayed. I looked around the room and at A1. I took deep breaths. And then, my spontaneous side kicked in. I slowly stuck the needle into my belly fat. Not bad. And then, the pain kicked in. This is a stinky (not smelly) shot. It reminded me of my monthly Xgeva shot, except the pain in this one lasts longer.

Sunday night is usually the time that the aches and pains of the Abraxane kick in. This time, it was intensified. I reread the Neulasta side effects and found that it too had a "body ache" side effect. The two drugs had joined forces in their side effects. By the time Monday morning hit, I had woken up multiple times because of the aches in my lower back. Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday nights had been spent at various church/pastor related functions. Could not opt out of these. I sat through them with lower back pain that continued to intensify.

By Monday night, it was worse. Thankfully, I was so exhausted from the weekend that I conked out. Unfortunately, the pain intensified on Tuesday morning. I had an intense, dull pain in my lower back, my legs felt like they were giving out at times, I had lower back muscle spasms, and I couldn't find a comfortable way to sit or lay down. So much frustration.

I am praying that the pain has peaked and that it will be better tomorrow.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Whatever Works

My children have been commenting on how much my hair (the hair I have left, that is) has grown. When it was first shaved, it was interesting to see and feel how stubby it was. Now that it has grown a bit, I can see how some of my hair is bending and fuzzy looking. Slowly, more bald spots are forming. Who would have guessed that I could have this much hair? This hair fall out seems endless. So much hair.

The week after my husband shaved my head, I had a problem. Those leftover short, shaved hairs started falling out - everywhere. I would take a shower and my towel would be covered with short hair. Then, I got an ingenious idea: roll tape! Just roll on your head and presto!


As you can see, whatever works. Better on the tape than all over my clothes.


Friday, February 7, 2014

Power Port

On Thursday, my husband and I left for the hospital at 7:10 am. We got home at 3:00 pm. Needless to say, it was a very long day.

The surgery was scheduled for 9:00 am, but I had to go in early to get prepped. We had the same nurse from my CT guided biopsy. She remembered us! We went through all the paper work and prepared for surgery. I told her about waking up in the middle of the last biopsy, and she said that she would make sure that that didn't happen again.

The surgeon turned out to be Korean! When he came, he greeted my husband and I in Korean and then said that he couldn't speak Korean that well. I replied, "Good, because I can't either."

The operating room is a cold, cold place. Literally. They have to keep it at a temperature where bacteria can't thrive. Makes sense. But, it is still a cold, cold place. Thankfully, they gave me another warmed blanket when I got there.

I heard the anesthesia nurse tell me that she was going to give me some medicine. Then, she said that she was going to give me more. I can't remember after that. I conked out.

Sealed with glue.

The next thing I knew, I could hear that I was in the recovery room, but I couldn't open my eyes or speak. I kept going in and out of consciousness. I heard my husband's voice, and then I conked out again. It took more than an hour and a half before I could open my eyes and keep them somewhat opened.

They wheel chaired me to my chemo appointment. We had to go through the hospital to do this. I could  barely keep my eyes open. I could feel people's stares even though my eyes were closed. I must have looked a wreck. Really.

The extra anesthesia made it a little more difficult for me. I was nauseous, drowsy, and had the worst headache. Each movement made it worse. I wanted to sit perfectly still, but I had to move. The port was put on my right side so the right side of my chest, shoulder, and neck were extremely sore. It hurt even to swallow. Brought back memories of my thyroidectomy and frozen shoulders.


Right before starting my chemo treatment, I had to go to the bathroom. As I sat down, I felt that horrible feeling welling up in me to throw up. And throw up I did, three times, into the garbage can. Nurse S had been walking by when she heard the noise. She tried to get me to open the door, but I couldn't. When I finally did, it was a bit embarrassing. Throwing up while going to the bathroom. Thankfully, everything went into the garbage can and not on me or the floor.

I did feel a lot better after throwing up. Unfortunately, the anti-nausea drug that I usually take before chemo also came up with everything else.

When I got home, I was in and out again. Slept a lot. Ate a bit.

I'm still sore. I'm eating better. I'm recovering. I'm, thankfully, not nauseous. I added two more scars to my collection. And, I got a nifty card to carry in my wallet.


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Chemo Port

Thursday, at 9:00 am, I will be having another minor procedure done. I'm getting a chemo port put in! I'm actually quite excited. The techs and nurses will be able to draw blood from it and not have to stick needles in my arm. This will also help get the chemo drugs into my body without ruining the veins in my "good" arm (my non-mastectomy arm). This is the only arm I can get blood drawn from, get shots on, and get my blood pressure taken on. Gotta be careful with it!

After the first chemo treatment with Abraxane, the area where the chemo had gone in was bruised and really tender and ouch-y for two and a half weeks. The nurse had taken great care inserting the needle and setting up the temporary port on my arm, but it didn't matter. Chemo drugs are strong.

When I saw Nurse S again and told her about what had happened the first time, she told me that the chemo drugs can harden your veins - not good. She told my oncologist right away, so that we could set up a time to get a port put in. After the second Abraxane treatment, Nurse S took extra care to flush out my veins a few times with a saline IV after the treatment. That seemed to help a lot.

The port was coming. My non-mastectomy arm could only take so much. We have to preserve it as much as possible, so this is a good thing.

They will be using a "twilight" anesthesia for this procedure. They used this type of anesthesia when I had a CT-guided biopsy of my spine and also of my liver. Apparently, they can still talk to you and give you directions during the procedure, you just won't remember any of it.

During the CT-guided biopsy of my liver, I woke up and was aware of the doctor standing next to me and pushing the needle into my side. I felt it. I looked at him, groaned because it hurt, and then I was out again. I DO NOT want that to happen again. I don't want to wake up in the middle and feel any pain. Isn't that a fear people have?

After they are done with this procedure, I have to go for my second cycle of Abraxane. The oncology nurse told me that it would be better to get it done while that area is still numb. Otherwise, I would have to go the next day and the skin under the port would be very sensitive and sore.

Please pray:

  • that God would lead the surgeon, anesthesiologist, nurses, and anyone else that's involved
  • that everything will go well and that no infection will form (couldn't finish my first round of Abraxane due to low white blood cell counts)
  • that I can start this second cycle of Abraxane 
  • His peace for my family



Thursday, January 30, 2014

It's Like That

Last Thursday, my hair started falling out.
I took pictures of my children with a beard that I had made out of my fallout hair.
We, also, took pictures of Gobe. Couldn't leave him out. We gave him the Franciscan monk look but, he seemed a little upset...




So we rearranged the beard, and he was happier.



Last Saturday, my husband shaved my head.
I shed a few tears, and then I was able to joke around with my children.

Last Sunday, my baldness went public.
Some people didn't know what to say to me.

On Monday (or was it Tuesday?) I realized something as I replied to something a friend had texted me.

HE has put laughter in my heart.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Losing It

Last Thursday, I ran my fingers through my hair and a big chunk of hair came out. Each time I ran my fingers through my hair, more strands started coming off. Eventually, my kids started running their hands through my hair to see how much hair would come off. A lot did. It became interesting to watch.


It was amazing to see the strength of these chemo drugs. I had only had one dose and my hair was already falling out. Also, my arm still had a bruise on the injection site. Every time I pressed on that area, my arm hurt - even two weeks after the injection!

On Friday, I went for my second Abraxane IV. The nurse took my blood, and then my husband and I waited to see if I could do the treatment. It turned out that my white blood cell counts were still low. Ideally, it would have been above 1.5, but it was at 1.2. The nurse had to call Dr. K to see if it was ok to go ahead with the treatment. Thankfully, we were able to get the thumbs up to continue.

I took the anti-psychotic, anti-nausea drug, waited 30 minutes, and then started the chemo. It was a really busy day at the office. All the chairs seemed to be taken by other cancer patients. We went early, so Nurse S let us stay in a private room. Thankfully, no nausea came with the chemo. The nurse also took the time to flush my veins out really well after the chemo, so that there wouldn't be any residual medicine on the injection site. Hopefully, this will minimize the bruising and pain in that area. I have to get a port quickly. My veins can't take it!

Saturday came around and there was more hair loss. A lot. A lot, lot. I kept running my hands through my hair and a lot, lot, lot of hair came falling out. It was a bit sad, but also a bit addictive. I actually ended up making a beard out of all the hair that fell off and took pictures of my kids with it on. My kids, also, pointed out all the hair that I had shed on my clothes. It took a lot of time to pick all the hair off my clothes.


At night, I took a bath to relax and warm up. That is when all hair broke loose. Strands, chunks, handfuls started coming off. It was everywhere. EVERYWHERE. EvErYwHeRe.

My plan had been to shave my head on Sunday night. I didn't want to freak out our church members. My plan had been to tell them that I would be going bald this week, so that they could expect it next Sunday. But, things don't always go as planned.

After blowdrying, before the big shave.

I had to blow dry my hair, more hair loss, jump in the tub, and have my husband shave the hair off my head. I'll be honest. It wasn't easy seeing and physically feeling all my hair fall off. A woman has a special relationship with her hair. I couldn't help but shed a few tears as I said goodbye to a head full of hair. There were tears and a runny nose.

Hair loss after blowdrying my hair.

But, despite all of this: He has shown Himself faithful, constant, loving, kind, graceful, and good to me. I can't deny that fact.

And you know what? As I looked in the mirror, I had this feeling of strength rising up in me, as I looked at my shaved head for the first time. Strength of a new understanding of those in pain because of cancer. Strength that I was going to be ok even though I was bald. Strength that God was still with me in this new chapter of my life.


I know I posted this song recently, but this is the song that kept going through my mind as I sat in the tub with a runny nose as my husband shaved my head:

by meredithandrewsmusic


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Too Low

Last Friday, my husband drove me for my second Abraxane chemo treatment. The nurse drew blood and sent it to the lab. My husband and I were in a deep conversation, when the nurse came back into the room. She said that my white blood cell levels were too low to have a chemo treatment. I had to go home. Don't know if that was good or bad. Either way, I was happy to go home. We will try again next Friday! Thank you for your prayers!

Have a blessed Sunday!

by meredithandrewsmusic


Friday, January 17, 2014

Suffering Injustice... and Blossoming

In my Bible reading, I am towards the end of the book of Genesis. By the way, it's never too late to start reading the Bible in a year! I love this part of the Bible. One of the reasons is because of the story of Joseph. Whose heart doesn't go out to someone who is suffering injustice?

When I was in high school, I can still remember working at my parent's dry cleaners and listening to a sermon about Joseph on Moody Radio. It was a series about Joseph, and I would anxiously wait to hear the next sermon. As the pastor spoke about Joseph's life, tears would flow. Thankfully, the hot, humid, summer weather and the unbearable temperature inside of the dry cleaning plant made my teary face not so noticeable. My question was always the same: how could Joseph have suffered so much injustice and still looked to God with a trusting heart?

When my children were younger, we came across a dvd about Joseph. I think we bought it at Costco for a great deal! It was titled: Joseph - King of Dreams. I used to love watching that dvd with my children. The story would come to the part where Joseph would sing the song, "You Know Better Than I" and I would be in tears. The kids would always ask, "Mom, why are you crying?"

Joseph was sold into slavery because of his brothers' jealous hearts. He was put in prison because he did the right thing in refusing Potiphar's wife's advances. Yet, in spite of all this, he blossomed. Whether he was in Potiphar's house or in prison, Joseph chose to follow God, no matter what. People saw that there was something about Joseph that set him apart. That is why they trusted him and gave him so much responsibility. There was no doubt that God was with Joseph.

From the pit that he was thrown into, by his brothers, to the pit of being a slave, to the pit of being in prison, Joseph was trained in pits and trials. He wasn't aware of it, but each pit brought something new to learn. Each trial brought new training that he might not have perceived. It seems that Joseph chose to learn and do his best during these difficult times. Nothing was lost because he seemed to have given in to God's plan.

What seemed meaningless turned into something of great importance. What seemed like a great waste turned into something that was of great worth. Each pit helped him to take in the training that he needed to save nations from extinction/starvation to becoming an official second only to Pharaoh. Hardship helped this spoiled, favored child turn into a man that would save hundreds of thousands and would help lead a powerful nation.

As I read about Joseph, I started to ask myself whether I had fully given in to God's plan. There are a lot of things that I have given in to His hands: like my cancer. But, there are still many little things in my life that I am still struggling to hang on to. Not wanting to see the whole picture of God's plan, but just wanting to hang on to them. Sometimes just making excuses. You would think that someone with stage 4 breast cancer would have given everything up to God at the beginning of her diagnosis. Nope, I'm still a human being capable of so much sin and selfishness.

Another thing that came to mind as I read the story of Joseph was this: Am I blossoming in all the situations that I am currently in? My honest answer: No. But I do want to blossom in all situations! I don't understand everything God is leading me through this cancer, but I do know that I want to be in the center of God's will. Cancer can't stop me from being obedient to His will and doing what I can, wherever I am.

All I can pray:

Lord, go ahead of me and prepare the way. 
Give me eyes and the will to follow You wherever You lead.
Help me to learn from every situation
and to blossom wherever You place me.

 I've put this on my blog before, but I will do it again.

by kalilakah2007


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Abraxane #1

My first intravenous chemo treatment with the drug Abraxane went very well. I went in at 8:00am and left around 12:00pm. It took quite a while, but it wasn't because of the chemo. It seems that when you go in for chemotherapy, they have to draw blood to make sure that your white blood cell count is at a good range. So, the nurse drew blood, and we had to wait for the ok from the lab. After we got the ok, the nurse had to place the order to the hospital pharmacy.

Hospital pharmacies are very busy. This is what took a long time. We waited and waited. It was fine with me, because I got to spend time with my husband. We just talked and laughed together. The nurse felt so bad that the process was taking so long, but we were fine. The pharmacy finally called back, and then, we had to wait for the meds to be delivered to the office.

Then, the nurse gave me anti-nausea medication. Remember: the anti-psychotic drug? I gave in and took it. I wasn't sure what to expect with the nausea, so I took the drug. We waited 30 minutes after taking the anti-nausea/psychotic drug, and then the chemo began. It took 30 minutes for the milky looking fluid to be dripped into my body. Not bad.


Remember that I had a cold going into this treatment? I had hoped to wait a few days for the chemo, but as long as I didn't have a fever, it was fine to proceed. After the treatment was done, I got a few dramatic cough attacks. I had to be moved to another room, because I was freaking other chemo patients out. I would have been freaked out if I had been hearing my coughing while having a depressed immune system. The coughing was so bad that I almost threw up. Ironic, isn't it? The nurse kept me a bit longer to make sure that it wasn't a reaction from the chemo. We waited until the cough attacks subsided. After another cup of hot tea, I was better.

Going into any type of new treatment, you don't know what to expect. I was expecting the worst: throwing up in the elevator or car on the way home, losing my hair in the elevator or car on the way home, getting neuropathy (numbness and tingling in fingers) in the elevator or car on the way home… I didn't know what to expect. Thankfully, I didn't have nausea, my hair didn't fall out (yet), and the neuropathy has not set in (yet).

The next time I see Dr. K, I think that we will be discussing having a port put in my arm or chest. I think that they will have to knock me out again. More anesthesia… But, it will allow the nurses to hook up my chemo without any needles. My arm is still a bit sore and bruised on the chemo injection site, so having a port will makes things a lot easier.

This Friday is the second treatment. The effects of this drug are cumulative, so we will see about the side effects this time.


Friday, January 10, 2014

What Do You Do?

Hearing the news that you have cancer is quite alarming.

Hearing the news that you have stage 4 breast cancer knocks the wind out of you.

Hearing the news that you have to go through intravenous chemotherapy and that you will lose your hair when you thought that you were done with oral chemo: no words.

When Dr. K told me the news that I would have to be switched to intravenous chemotherapy, I was shocked. I had thought that I might not have to go through it; at least, not for a long time. I had expected to hear that my liver cancer spots had shrunk, and that I would be going back to hormone drugs. She also had to break the news to me that I would be losing my hair.

Let's go back a bit. When I first heard of the spots in my liver (July), I had thought that I would lose my hair during chemotherapy. I prepared my heart and was ready. When I heard that I would be taking an oral chemo drug and that I wouldn't be losing my hair, I was ecstatic. Hearing that I would be losing my hair when I thought that I would be going back to hormone drugs, not prepared.

As I waited for the nurse to come and talk to me about the chemotherapy, I was in shock. I was trying to process everything that I had not been expecting. All I could do was express my confusion to the One who had my life in His hands. I know that He is good. I tried to rest in the promises that I had felt that He had spoken into my life.

For the next two days, I was trying to process what had happened. I prayed. I read His Word. I allowed myself to mourn. This is the same pattern that I have gone through after hearing not-so-good news regarding my cancer. In the end, I mourn and grieve and then He revives me. He strengthens me. He renews the hope in my heart.

This is not the Moni I have always known. The old Moni would stayed depressed for a long time. The new Moni makes me wonder if she is in denial. But, I'm not. Ask my husband. Really.


by meredithandrewsmusic


Thursday, January 9, 2014

Last Friday, This Friday

Last Friday, I made the trek to my oncologist's office. As usual, I had to stop at the lab to get blood drawn. Before going, I prayed, prayed, prayed. Did not want anymore drama in the lab. To my surprise, the woman who had hurt my arm called my name. I could have fought her, but I felt like I should just go with her. I did.

I had made some White Christmas snack mix to give to the techs in the lab. I appreciate all that they do. I see them so often that I did want to show my appreciation to them-despite the hurtful incident mentioned above. This is the time of year that I try to thank all the hospital personnel that I see on a regular basis.

As the woman took me to the lab room, I gave her the snack mix for the techs. I also told her how much I appreciate them. She was really happy and took it to the back. She thanked me for thinking of them. In the end, she gave me a hug as I left the small lab room.

I had prayed that God would go ahead and prepare the way for me. He did. He took care of the situation. All that tension is now gone. I felt closure.

After the lab, I made the trek to Dr. K's office. I was checked in and escorted to one of the exam rooms. I kept praying as I waited for Dr. K to arrive with the CT results which would determine whether I would continue with the Xeloda or go back to hormone drugs.

When Dr. K came in, we talked about our children and our Christmas breaks. We talked for quite a while, and then, her facial expression changed. She told me that the CT results did not turn out as she had hoped. The spots on my liver had grown a bit and new spots had appeared. She told me that she would have to switch me to intravenous chemotherapy-what I had hoped we would never get to.

This Friday, I am scheduled to start my chemo. 8:00 a.m.


Monday, January 6, 2014

We All Have a Story To Tell

After we came back from our mission trip to Panama (last August), our team took some time to share our experiences to the church. To be honest with you, I don't like speaking in front of adults. Yes, I am a former teacher. Yes, I had no problems speaking in front of students. But, something about speaking in front of adults, freaked me out. There have been times when I had felt like crying, gotten wobbly legs and shaky hands, didn't want to make eye contact, and had wanted to run away. Call me weird. My comfort was that other teachers felt the same way.

Last August, I was able to share something that I felt God had put strongly on my heart: we all have a story to tell

We all have a story. We have all been through similar or different life experiences. We all have been through some type of trial or hardship. We all have experienced some type of deep joy or deep sorrow. Many of us have hit rock bottom.

A lot of people choose to keep their story bottled up inside. They don't want others to look at them differently. They don't want others to ask them questions. They don't want others to talk about them. They choose to keep quiet. Guarded. Alone in their pain.

Others choose to tell their story. It is about their life. Their experiences. Their trauma. It can make people feel happy for them, or it can make people feel sorry for them. It can make people go crazy - you know what I'm talking about. In the end, it is just another story. Another story of another person's experiences. A story that will soon be filed with all the other stories.

But...

When we tell our story and intertwine Jesus into it: there is power. Power to change lives. Power to give freedom. Power to bring peace where there was only turmoil.

Why?

Because of Jesus. He brings life into situations that seemed beyond repair. He brings hope into situations that were deemed hopeless. He can turn all of your worst experiences into something that brings glory to His name. He can turn the worst situation into one that is overflowing with grace. I can testify to that!

So don't be afraid to share your story with others. Just remember to add Jesus. He is there.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Reading Through the Bible in 2014

I can't believe how quickly 2013 passed! It was a year of such blessing, chemo, and jubilee!

From Hawaii to home to Panama to home to LA and back home! It was quite a year of travel for me! In spite of the craziness of schedule, travel, and chemo, God helped me to go through the Bible again. I had a few setbacks, but He helped me to keep pressing forward in the commitment I had made to read through the Bible each year. After all, if I'm not reading it, how can I recommend that someone else read it?

In 2013, I made a checklist of all the books of the Bible. After I read each book, I would check it off. I did this because it fit our busy YWAM DTS schedule and all the reading we had to do for our lectures. This worked for our schedule there, but I realized that I missed writing down notes as I read.

Last year, I also had to listen to the Bible, part of the time, because my eyes were hurting from the chemo. They felt very strained and tired. They still do. The chemo side effects always manifested itself in my eyes first. Anyways, there are some awesome Bible apps that allow you to read and listen to the Bible.

This year, I got an ESV (English Standard Version) Bible and will read through this translation. I enjoy reading the rich wording in different translations. I also plan to write my notes/thoughts in a journal. I am finally using the Winnie-the-Pooh journal I had gotten in Korea many years ago!

So here I am encouraging all of you to read/study through the Bible again in 2014. I wrote the ABCs of reading through the Bible in 2012, but I am posting it again. If you need a Bible reading plan, email me, and I will send you the one I am using - it goes through the Bible chronologically.



Reading through the Bible...

  • alleviates our everyday worries
  • balances our imperfections
  • carries us when we feel no hope
  • develops our character
  • explains how we are to live
  • flowers beauty in our lives 
  • gives us a picture of God's heart 
  • heals our inmost being
  • invites us to a great adventure
  • janitors our not-so-clean lives
  • kicks us when we need it
  • lowers our heads at His throne
  • moves us to action
  • navigates us through the storms
  • opens our arms to others
  • pierces the numbness in our hearts
  • quantifies His character
  • reminds us that we're not home yet
  • showers us with courage and strength
  • teaches us to love
  • unites our heart to His
  • verifies Jesus' claims
  • watches over us
  • x-rays our hearts
  • yields an abundant harvest
  • zippers us in His love