Saturday, May 30, 2009

Wanting it GONE

Hello Prayer Warriors!

I got the results back from my MRI last night. They can no longer see any cancer in my lymph nodes or the couple smaller tumors in my chest! There is a small amount of cancer left where the biggest tumor was but nothing in comparison to its original size!

I am so excited that the chemo has so dramatically shrunk the cancer! I had hoped for a total knockout but it is okay. I will always wonder in the back of my mind if little cancer cells could still be out there. A complete knockout would have helped that fear but in a way it makes the double mastectomy an easier decision. It would have been harder somehow to loose that part of my body if the cancer had been completely gone. Regardless, the results are still miraculous! Praise God that the chemo was so effective!!

Today I thought I would tell everyone what an MRI of the breast is like in case you ever have to go in for future testing. This is the procedure I had last Thursday that gave me these results.

The good news is an MRI is not painful. The first thing they do is start an IV. You then have to lie down on a table on your stomach with your head in an oval cushion. You stretch your arms above your head. Your chest hangs down over this opening (which feels a little funny). They lower you back into a tunnel and you stay in that position for about 30 minutes. They give you earplugs because as the images are taken you hear lots of clicks and knocking sounds some of which do get loud. The only hard thing is remaining absoultely still and breathing while lying on your tummy. About 3/4 of the way through they will insert "contrast" into your IV. It is a liquid that makes the cancer stick out more in the imaging. I was told with my first MRI that they take about 1200 images.

I hope to have the date of the surgery set on Tuesday when I see the breast surgeon.Last Thursday I dropped off several more God is bigger than cancer shirts to Julie at the radiologist's office. She said they continue to be a blessing to others which makes me smile. She hopes to start a support group at the hospital to serve the Knoxville area. Thank you all for your continued prayer. Looking forward to the day when the cancer is GONE! Lots of love,


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Prayer for Upcoming Events

Hello dear family and friends!

I've been doing well since my last post.

The last round of chemo was harder, but I am so thankful for it. God is so good. For every moment that is a struggle I have a thousand more that are so, so wonderful.

On Thursday I will have an MRI to determine how much if any of the cancer remains. We know it has shrunk down dramatically. Please pray that it has been knocked out for good!

I want to remind everyone that Brooke Estrada from Las Vegas will be doing the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer on June 27th and 28th. It is a 2 day 39 mile walk through the Colorado Rockies. Let's cheer her on! Please continue to pray for Brooke as she prepares for the walk. Help her reach her goal of raising $1800 in the fight against breast cancer! Cut and paste this link to go to her personal web page:

Go Brooke!!!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Chemo's Last Kick

Rage. Rage so intense you feel like you have to hit something to get it out of your system. Then five minutes later you are on your knees weeping. You don't know why. You just are. The phrase in the Bible "weeping and gnashing of teeth" literally comes to mind. They're back....the insane hormones from my fourth treatment hit another peak the other day.

And what sets off this wild ride of emotions? It's just everyday child losing her softball uniform, the kids bickering in the car, having to ask your child to do something three times. Normal everyday circumstances that you cope with all the time but with Chemo's last kick are harder to handle. My children just stare at me during these episodes in wonder, eventually trying to give me advice about "controlling my temper" and "Mommy just try to will feel better inside." Ouch! Then you cry because you feel bad about crying! How crazy is that? I feel so sad for my little girls and my husband. I feel so sad that they have to see me like this. At least I know it is temporary. My doctor said it might get worse before it gets better and it has. Last night I sat my girls down and explained to them that the medicine was affecting me. I had to ask their forgiveness for my outbursts of emotion. It certainly wasn't the first time I've had to do it as a Mom. They seemed to understand. They are such strong, wonderful little girls. Later on in the evening they gave me little handmade cards and said a bedtime prayer for me. Isn't that sweet? The light is at the end of the tunnel and I know we'll get through it.

Speaking of light I learned something interesting from a sister survivor today. She had listened to a conference on triple negative breast cancer. Our type of breast cancer is only in about 15% of cases and most common in African American women. (Hence I have wondered how in the world did I get it?) There is some research now into the possibility that a deficiency in vitamin D may have something to do with the cancer. Breast suggests that women with my type of cancer on vitamin D supplements (when combined with a low fat diet) may have a lower rate of reocurrence. I was never a sun worshiper for sure but I am not one to avoid the outdoors and lather on excess sunscreen either. I am planning on having my vitamin D levels tested the next time I see my medical oncologist. There is so much new data out there now, so much new research.

Genesis 58:8 says "Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory
of the LORD will be your rear guard." The glory of the Lord as your rear guard. I love that.

Here's looking toward the light. Lots of love,


Monday, May 18, 2009

Round Two...Bring it On!

Hello Prayer Warriors!

Four months ago I began to fight my cancer. Like a boxer putting on boxing gloves and heading into a ring for a grueling match I prepared myself at that time for a long fight. My surgeon had said this would be my "breast cancer year." I knew there would be several rounds...chemo, surgery, radiation, reconstruction, each with its own set of challenges.

Round 1 for me was chemotheraphy. The decisions in this round were simple. Chemo was the fastest, most effective and only systematic way to attack the cancer. Hormone therapies are less effective on someone with triple negative breast cancer like me. With the chemotherapy over now I feel like the round 1 bell has just sounded. I've won the round! Tumors have shrunk! I'm not down for the count! But this is just round one. I've got several more tough rounds to go.

So today I moved forward into round 2. I'm back in the ring, this time laying down the strategy for a successful surgery. The decisions in this round are more complicated. Do I opt for a single or double mastectomy? Do I plan for reconstruction or not? If I plan to do reconstruction later do I have inserted an expander (a new liquid-filled balloon that adjusts in size) to stretch the skin for future implants on one side or both? How does an expander impact radiation? What if the expander fails or is damaged by the radiation? Does that mean another surgery or delay of my radition treatments? If I don't do the expander tissue called a transflap will have to be taken from my back or tummy to create the muscle support needed for reconstruction. How will that effect recovery time/healing?

The decisions involved in this round are dizzying. I have talked to women who (when faced with the same decisions) made very different choices. You also have 3-4 doctors weighing in with differing opinions. I've had two tell me I am not a candidate for an expander on the left but am on the right and one tell me I am a candidate for the expander on both sides. A part of me just wants a date for the surgery, a date when I can get round two outta here, but I've talked to enough women with regrets that I don't want to be looking back wondering to myself, "Well what if I had done this...or that?"

And so today I marched back into that Plastic Surgeon's office with my GOD IS SO MUCH BIGGER THAN CANCER shirt and my movie star glasses (which looked maaaarvelous by the way). I was hoping to get some answers to all my questions.

The first time I went to the plastic surgeon's office I felt "freaky." I saw all these beautiful women who I assumed were striving for physical perfection. I had to wonder to myself "Why are they here?" And then there was me feeling like (because of the cancer) I was going to be mutilated and then "put back together" like a frankenstein. This time I dropped the self-conscious attitude of the previous trip. I again saw several beautiful women around me, but I didn't speculate about what they were doing there. I focused on what I was doing there. I focused on the fact that the surgery is part of my strategy to defeat the cancer, my battle plan. A mastectomy would hopefully defeat the cancer physically. As a triple negative, my chance of reoccurance is high. I have heard of women with reoccurances who endured chemo and surgery AGAIN years after their initial diagnosis. I refuse to be one of those women. When I throw that one two punch on that cancer I want to knock it out for good.

Then I want to defeat the cancer emotionally. It is my choice...all of it, and here is where reconstruction enters into it. I don't want to be wrapped up in the physical, seeking perfection as some are but I want to be as "normal" as possible. And when I stopped to think about it I realized that's what all the women in that office wanted. We are all God's beautiful creations. If only we could see ourselves as He sees us... "beautifully and wonderfully made." Seeing beyond the physical but finding a healthy "normal." That's where I need to be. That's where I am headed in my emotional battle with breast cancer.

When I went into the plastic surgeon's office I was hoping to get some answers and set the date for the surgery. What I got were more questions. But you know what, that's okay. I've got lots of phone calls to do, lots of opinions still to gather and lots of decisions to make. Please pray for insight and for patience on my part in making these decisions. I may be in a holding pattern for now but when I go out swinging to fight the cancer again it will be once and for all. As a friend pointed out to me one time, my initials aren't "K.O." for nothing!

I am clinging to the following verse: Romans 12:12

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.(NIV)

Lots of love,


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Chemo Graduation- Breast Cancer Style!!!

Hello dear friends and family!!

It's the season for graduations. I had a big graduation and milestone of my own today. I graduated chemo. 18 weeks...6 rounds...done, finis, outta here, hasta la vista baby, history! Yeah!!!!

It is funny the emotions I have. I am SO glad to be done with the chemo, especially all that it has done to me physically. I've continued to develop some weird side effects....a rash on my hands, numbness on my feet, sudden bursts of tears, all of which my doctor tells me are "normal" for chemo. Only my gray eyebrows seem to be hanging in there so I've been using a pencil to "draw" some visible ones in. Despite everything I've experienced, my doctor said I "breezed" through it. Guess that means I was top of my class! :) Again how lucky and I am to be healthy overall. It makes a big difference. I will miss the every three week visit with my wonderful doctor and the terrific nurses that always gave me the hugs and smiles that I needed to keep racing toward that chemo finish line.

Today they gave me a send off "breast cancer style..." with pink, pink and more pink! I was presented with a pink rhinestone hat and a pink feather boa. To the music of "If you're happy and you know it clap your hands.." we all got up and danced and one of the nurses blew bubbles on me. The other patients in the room and their families applauded. A funny ritual, but I cannot tell you what it meant to my heart. I know I won't be in the chemo room as a patient anymore, but I know I will be there. It is so laid on my heart to return and return give out shirts to those cancer patients, to hear their stories, to help them see how God has worked in my life and how He can in theirs.

As I approached the chemo room to begin my last treatment I saw a man with a black grapefruit sized tumor on his jaw & cheek. It broke my heart. Then I looked up and I saw a man staring at my shirt. "Good Luck" he said with a big smile on his face. It was the last chemo cheer before I crossed my chemo finish line, pink boa and rhinestone hat and all! Thank you all for cheering me on.

In Acts 20:24 Paul said "I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace." I have finished this leg of the race but there is more to come, much more. I so long to be a contagious christian. I have a mental image of running the race and then seeing others join in running side by side because they see something that is different about you, about me, about all of us who know Jesus. I can't wait to see what HE has in store. I so want to fulfill His purpose for me and run my race and run it well. Don't you?

Next Monday I go back to the plastic surgeons office. Many of you remember it was not an easy visit for me last time. I am going to go in there with my movie star glasses on, and walk through the waiting room like it is a catwalk with my head held high. LOOK OUT WORLD!!! HERE I COME!! Lots of love,


Friday, May 8, 2009

Breast Cancer Birthday & Being the Bummer Mom

There have been several times since my diagnosis when I have been the "bummer mom." In other words, you (in your children's mind) are the bummer. You've kept your child from something they really want. If you are a mom you've been there. (And many times it is part of the job description). I have tried all I can the last several months to give my children a "normal" life, but there have been many times over the course of my chemotheraphy when I have had to disappoint my children.

I did it last night as well. We were at a Lady Vols softball game. It was 9:30 with three innings to go. We'd been there for four hours. The game was terrific. We'd all had a wonderful time but I was exhausted. It had been a busy day. I have had stomach trouble ever since my last treatment (still not bad, but more constant) and we had a 45 minute drive home. It was time to go. My daughters' entire softball team was there, all with notepads waiting until the end of the game to get the college players' autographs. But not my children. Their mommy is "sick" and we "had to go."

On the way home it was all I heard about. We've had this conversation many times before. One of my daughters was very angry that she was "missing out." They were not tired. I was tired. I was the problem. The truth of it is I don't like disappointing my children. BUT disappointment is part of life and they were choosing to see the hour they missed out on at the ball park not the four hours there they were able to enjoy.

This night came on the heels of a week when I have been the recipient of so many blessings, packages, caring cards & letters from friends and family. (Thank you coop friends, Amy, Lorrie, Christine, Aunt Pat):) It really bothered me that my children were oblivious to the blessings all around us, even something so simple as a softball game. I had to explain to them that the three of us being healthy enough to spend the night at a softball game was a privilege. (Most mommies going through chemo, I explained, couldn't do that). Having the car to get us there and the money to pay for the gas was a privilege. Having the people in our lives who cared enough to invite us and fellowship with us there was a privilege. Having the luxury of time to go was a privilege. Every day is a privilege.

We started focusing on what we had, not what we didn't have and then I believe my kids "got it." Only then did my girls start talking about how exciting the game was, how skilled the players were, how much fun we'd had. By the time we pulled into the driveway I believe my children finally understood how privileged, how absolutely priveleged they were to have even gone at all.

It got me thinking how much our human nature is like that sometimes. God has given us so much, so many blessings. Often times we focus on the things we don't have in our lives. Sometimes we feel as though we're missing out. Sometimes we feel like we've been denied something, maybe even that God has denied us something when the whole time we have blinders on, unable to see that He is absolutely showering us with blessings. I personally feel absolutely drenched in them.

Monday is my birthday. I will be 38 years old. I am calling this my Breast Cancer Birthday. I intend for it to be my ONLY Breast Cancer Birthday. Being a year older is a another privilege that I plan to enjoy. (And I don't even have any gray hairs this year)! :) Lots of love,


Saturday, May 2, 2009

I've got the Joy, Joy, Joy Down in My Heart....

Hello Dear Friends and Family!

Last night I had the pleasure of attending my first Relay for Life event. It was in Jefferson County. My inlaws, aunts on Randy's side and even my mother in law's employer were there to walk for cancer. The event was very touching.

Everyone there who had ever battled cancer wore special survivor shirts and sat in the center of the Jefferson Co High football stadium. I was struck by how young those people looked. There were several children and I can truly say not as many gray heads as you would have thought. Dozens of school and business teams sat behind us in the bleachers. Our speaker was also a breast cancer survivor. She talked about how many cancer survivors she'd met were people of JOY, not because life had been easy on them but because they saw life with new eyes, with a clarity that comes from the cancer itself. She encouraged us not just to walk around the track but to dance around it. It reminded me of that song we sang as kids "I've got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. Where? Down in my heart..."

Then it came time for us to walk. They called each survivor's name one by one and stated how long they had battled cancer. One person had battled it for a month. Another was a 42 year survivor. Each person walked past the others to the track and received a Relay for Life medal from the mayor. Once they had called everyone's names, we lined up together on the track and began to walk, wiggle and boogie our way around the track. I saw several women with bald heads like mine, people with canes to support themselves, people with tubes coming out of their bodies. I saw what looked like a 7-8 year old boy with colon cancer. They all walked. They walked around that track with their heads held high....hopeful. I walked with a thyroid cancer survivor named Teresa whose daughter has just been diagnosed with cancer in lymph nodes behind the ribcage. She is currently battling with her insurance company to get a less invasive cancer surgery approved that would allow the surgeons to go in through the throat rather than the chest. The chest surgery would require breaking several ribs and a long recovery time. I cannot imagine having your cancer surgery on hold because of an insurance company.

After the survivor's walk there was a kid's walk. Randy, Laura and Leslie participated with shakers in hand. It was jubilant, loud, wonderful.

As soon as the kid's walk ended, a downpour began. I was not able to sit at my little card table and sell my shirts. (The cardtable would have been gone with the wind if I had tried). I was very disappointed about this, but the truth is within the last few days I had gotten 11 shirt orders. I had only 25 shirts. Half were already spoken for. How cool is that? Perhaps it was my night not to focus on the shirts but to focus on the JOY.

Later on in the evening I saw people dancing in the rain. It was a beautiful sight and an image I will not soon forget. It was the JOY that the speaker talked about...the joy that I see in the laughing faces at the cancer ward. It is hard to wrap your head around it. You don't see it in all the faces obviously. You see alot of sadness also, but when you do see that Joy it becomes contagious. Those are the people who have hope in HIM, hope for a cure, hope for healing. Those are the people you are inspired by because they are survivors in the truest sense of the word, not just in body but in spirit. Psalms 30:11 says, "You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy."
Wishing you all lots of joy.