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.


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.


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