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." 


"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!