Saturday, August 22, 2009

These Feet are Made for Walking!

Hello dear friends and family!

This is probably going to be my most controversial post. I hate controversy. I avoid it like the plague in fact, but when I started writing this blog I promised myself and others to be honest about the experience. So I am just going to lay it all out there. Cancer should unite us, not divide us. Yet last week I found myself psychologically torn in two.

First a quick update. I am still doing well physically & emotionally. My skin is slightly red from radiation and when I stretch my left arm I can feel some stinging beneath the skin but still nothing major. Randy, Laura and Leslie are doing well. Saturday was "kid's day" at our house. We went to the zoo, played arcade games and ate pizza at Mr. Gatti's. According to my kids it was "the best kid's day ever," which was absolutely priceless.

Now let's dive into the mental wrestling match I've been having all week. Ever since I was diagnosed I have wanted to do something..anything to help others with breast cancer. Hence the Tshirt ministry was born. One of the first things I looked forward to doing with the ministry way back in January was Race For the Cure, walking side by side with dozens of us in our "God is bigger than cancer" shirts. To me it wasn't so much about the money (although raising money for breast cancer is huge) it was about the witness to others. From a selfish standpoint it was also about being with friends, loved ones and a sea of other breast cancer happy victorious day in the sun, showing the world that GOD IS BIGGER THAN BREAST CANCER.

Okay, now to the sticky part. No matter what side you fall on in the abortion debate, please hear me out.

A good friend of mine informed me last week that the Komen foundation (which oversees the race) supports planned parenthood. Both of us did some research and discovered that a couple affiliate offices of Komen (usually in rural areas) are giving planned parenthood $ for breast health screenings. The concern out there is that once they receive the $ planned parenthood can do whatever it wants with it, even funding abortions.

There is a video out there that says women who have had abortions are at an increased risk for breast cancer. Another concern it voices is that by giving $ to planned parenthood (which does abortions) Komen is in fact promoting breast cancer, not defeating it. Here is a link to the video

I had never heard of abortion as a risk factor before. What I do know is that there are several risk factors, some you can control and some you can't. And even if you live the perfect lifestyle, you can still get cancer. As I watched the video I winced because abortion was the only risk factor it focused on. I understand why the producers focused on it. They felt like women had a right to know and the issue was under reported. Still I had to wonder if I'd had an abortion how would I have felt watching it? With them reasoning that Komen is somewhat "responsible" for breast cancer what is the inference then about the woman herself? It's not so much what the video was saying. It was what I was FEELING. I have long wondered if people ever think to themselves, "Why she's 20 pounds overweight. She asked for her cancer." I know people aren't really thinking that, but it has been a human/gut reaction of mine ever since my diagnosis. And so the video bothered me. If I felt that way (and I'd never had an abortion), how would a woman feel who had an abortion, got breast cancer and then watched that video? And then I remembered the words told to me by the first sister survivor I called to inform of my diagnosis. "You don't deserve this, Kerry. Promise me you won't think you deserve this." Obviously she'd had the exact same emotions. No woman should feel like she deserves breast cancer.

I wish the video had given more resources to women who had an abortion, a phone number or resource they could talk to. Still many of the concerns raised by the video about Komen did bother me. I want to raise money for breast cancer and breast cancer only. I am pro-life and so all of this put me in a tough situation.

Do I walk? Do I not walk? Do I even protest? I have already registered. I've already met fellow breast cancer patients who want to walk with me on my team. (And I can't wait to walk with them!) I want to reach people with my message about God whether they are pro-life or pro-choice. I know and care about people who could be on either side of the debate. WHAT do I do?

So little shy me (who hates conflict) showed up at a team captain's meeting for Race for the Cure. I asked one of the local directors my question. Here's the answer I got:

75% of the money raised by Race for the Cure goes to the National office strictly to fund breast cancer research. It is from this research that tamoxifen and other life saving drugs have been found. 25% stays with the local branch for their overhead, education, breast screenings, and treatment. The national office does not give any money to planned parenthood.

A couple affiliates in very rural areas where there is no hospital or medical facility give $ out of their local 25% to planned parenthood to perform breast screenings. According to the director those affiliates (as well as the recipients of the money) must account (on paper) that the money has gone as intended or they will loose grant money. Could someone fudge this on paper? I suppose so. The director did say that Komen is focused solely on one agenda and one agenda only: curing the world of breast cancer. She assured me that EVERY CENT of the money raised in Knoxville will go to fighting breast cancer.

There is also a nationally recognized Christian food chain that is sponsoring the event locally. I talked to their Marketing Director (and a friend of mine) and they are very comfortable that they money is going only to the bc cause.

These are the viewpoints of the video and Komen as well as my first impressions.
At first this issue was so deflating to me, but now I am glad it has come out. It has raised an interesting theological debate.

For example, suppose I gave money to a homeless man on the street and told him it was only to be used for food. Suppose he went off and used it for something else (drugs, alcohol, a criminal act even). Suppose he only spent a fraction of the money on something I disagreed with and all the rest on a good cause? Suppose I also suspected he might do something bad with the money but gave him it anyway with hopes he would not? Am I doing something charitable or am I doing something wrong?

SO I've prayed about it and here's what I've decided to do:

I am going to walk in Race for the Cure. Komen has done SO much to advance the fight against breast cancer. I want the message from the shirts out there and that is the best forum in which to do it. If people want to give, give.
If they don't feel good about the race, I understand why. Everyone on the team can do what they think is right about the fundraising.

In addition I would like to take part in some other activity to fight breast cancer that those unable to do Race for the Cure can participate in. Any money raised from that event would go toward the Tshirt ministry or to St Mary's Medical Center where I was diagnosed and had my surgery. I'll even sign a petition encouraging Komen to seek another solution in rural areas rather than use planned parenthood. This is the decision I have come to and I am at peace about it. (Now I hope I don't have you angrily picking up tomatoes and throwing them at me and into your personal computer). ;)

Here is where I need YOUR help. Just DO something. Give where you feel led to give and most importantly PRAY. Pray that we reach people. I want people to come up to us in our God shirts during any walk we do. I want us to be able to tell them that the only thing we can count on in life is God. That doesn't mean I will never have cancer again. It doesn't mean that we'll never have any problems. What is does mean is that we will always have HIM. HE is bigger than cancer. He is BIGGER THAN ANYTHING!! If only one person, ONE person gets will be SO worth every minute of my breast cancer fight. Lots of love,


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Radiation Week #2 Done & Counting Down to Cookie Day!

Hello friends and family!

I have now gone to radiation 5 days a week for two weeks. 10 treatments down 23 to go. I still am not experiencing any discomfort. In a two week period I will have seen 4 doctors (my Medical Oncologist, my Surgeon, my Primary Care Physician and the Radiation Oncologist). This has become fairly routine and I am looking forward to the day when I can go a whole month without a doctor's appointment. All the doctors say I am doing well and very pleased with my progress. Needless to say Laura and Leslie have been real troopers and well behaved except for one appointment last week when they got into a pillow fight in the doctor's office and hit the doctor! Oh the insanity of it all. Fortunately the doctor has kids and a great sense of humor.
I can laugh about it now although I didn't then.

It is funny what becomes routine. My kids usually sleep in their clothes for the next day to help us get off early enough in the morning. They looked at me strangely Friday night when I said they could put on their nightgowns to sleep in since we didn't have a treatment the next day. We usually eat cereal out of the bag in the car for breakfast so today I made a point of fixing a big, sit down breakfast of bacon and eggs for them.

Thursday has become an exciting day of the week for the girls because it is cookie day at the treatment center. They have all sorts of cookies...peanut butter, chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, macadamia nut. There is one elderly couple we run into every morning. The husband has cancer. You should have seen the smile on his face when he told my girls about cookie day. It is amazing to see what a difference even the smallest, thoughtful gesture can make. Now every weekday my girls are counting down to the next cookie day.

It may sound strange to say it but "counting down to the next cookie day" has become a sort of philosopy of mine I adopted early on in my diagnosis and has served me well ever since. I think if you are fighting something awful like cancer it helps you to always have something coming up that week to look forward to. For me it might be a getting together with family, a date night with Randy, a Mom's Night Out with friends, our coop, playdate with other kids or many different things. But it always helped me get through the day, even the stinky ones.

Tuesday night at the young breast cancer survivor's meeting I met a girl who was just diagnosed. She was starting her chemo treatment the very next day. She was obviously nervous. She said she would have rejected doing the chemo altogether if it wasn't for her family. She asked for some advice from us. It told her how I lived a full life on chemo, that she'd get through it. But the most important advice I gave her was that you should always have something to look forward to. That has made the biggest difference for us. Laura and Leslie are battling cancer too and for them it is cookie day. Thank goodness for cookie day! Hope you have your equivalent to cookie day to look forward to. Lots of love,


Saturday, August 8, 2009

Radiation Week 1 Done!!


This is just a quick update to let everyone know that my first week of radiation went really well. Every weekday morning Laura, Leslie and I get up and make the 30 mintute drive to the hospital. The girls sit in the waiting room right off from my treatment area and do a little homework within sight of the technicians. The whole process (including my changing into the hospital gown and out) usually takes about 30minutes. I have 4 purple marks on my skin that the techs use to line me up for the treatment each morning. I jokingly call the marks my crosshairs. I am not experiencing any discomfort as yet. We usually end each treatment with a trip to the hospital gift shop where the girls pick up a 10 cent candy or treat for hanging in there with me.

This week I dropped the bandanas and the wig. It is August afterall and hot. It feels good. I look like an army recruit but it's just fine with me. I get ready in the mornings now in half the time. :)

The Knoxville Race for the Cure is coming up October 24th. I have started a team called the GOD IS BIGGER THAN CANCER team and entered our breast cancer shirt into a Tshirt contest. (I think we should win it but of course I am a little biased). I will be sending out emails in the next week inviting all who are interested to join us either through donations or in the walk itself. I am very excited about it. I hope if there are several of us in our shirts people will see what a difference God has made in our lives and want that same blessed assurance that only He can give. Lots of love,


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Let the Radiation Begin!

Hello dear friends and family!

Last Friday I went in for a simulation of my radiation treatments. On the way in I ran into Angie (the bc patient whom I met at my first chemo treatment who was sitting across from me reading the same book I was). She has only a couple more treatments next week and is doing really well. She showed me her scar and treatment areas. She looked like she had a red, blistered sunburn. She said she was getting a little fatigued but only now at the end. It was such a joy to see her.

During the simulation I was asked to lie down on my back on this long, flat table. There was a huge machine dangling over my head. It was round in the center with what looked like a mouth in the middle with little red laser beams shooting out from it. There was a remote control for the thing which hung from the ceiling.

Two female technicians came in and began drawing square and circular shapes all over my chest with sharpies. Over the mouth of the machine they inserted different flat trays with holes in them. They had my last name on them and abbreviations like Lat for lateral and Med for medial for the angles/sides in which they were marking me. At times the mouth of the machine would open and close from each side in a square pattern that reminded me of sci fi movies with the view of a shuttle craft boarding into the bottom of a mother ship. The head would also move from side to side as they worked on different views of my anatomy. There were even laserbeams that crisscrossed the ceiling. It was a little wierd.

Every once in a while the techs would pick up the sheet underneath me and scoot me a few centimeters one way and a few the other, turn down the lights and look at some ruler marks projected on my chest. They would call out those number marks and draw on me with the sharpie again. After they did each position, they would tape over the marks with special tapes and take an xray. The doctor would then look at my xrays and have them fine tune the marks and my position (taking more xrays) until after an hour he was satisfied they had me marked exactly where he wanted the radiation to go. Nothing hurt. The only uncomfortable part was staying still for long periods of time and keeping my hands over my head. They kept falling asleep.

After I left I ran into a man in the elevator. I had on a V neck top and you could see all of the circles at the base of my neck. He laughed and said he could tell where I'd been and that it looked like I had cave drawings all over me. Personally I think it looked like I'd been attacked by a crazy preschooler with a magic marker. Most of the marks I was able to wash off but the ones in purple (including what looks like crosshairs) under the tape will stay with me until I finish the radiation.

Today I had my first treatment. Everything went really well. The technicians spent most of the time positioning me. Once they were satisfied that I was precisely lined up, they would leave the room. They stepped into an adjacent room where they could see me through a monitor. (There was at least one camera in my treatment room). A red light would come on making a buzzing sound. It would last about 30 seconds and then turn off. The techs would then come in again, reposition me and it would start all over again. The machine over me would move from side to side depending on the angle they needed to shoot. It didn't hurt. I've been told it takes about two weeks for the discomfort to kick in but that it isn't too bad, just itchy. 1 down and 32 to go! Thanks for the prayer! Lots of love,