Monday, April 26, 2010
Friday, April 23, 2010
Chemo Day (Tuesday) was uneventful. It took one nurse one try to get an IV started. That alone was a vast improvement over last time! Hubby and Mom were with me the whole day. Three people in one small room for eight hours might seem a little claustrophobic, but there's no way I could make it through these treatment days without them! To pass the time, Hubby and Mom work on various professional and personal projects, and I write thank-you notes, read, and sleep when the Benadryl kicks in. I had a change in perspective toward the end of the day. The lady in the room next to me was obviously having a very difficult time. We could hear her vomiting every few minutes--difficult to listen to, excruciating to live through. The chemo nurse helped her as much as she could, but when the worst of it was over, she pulled up a chair to the lady's bedside and gave her this grim news: "At this point, there is no way to continue this course of chemotherapy for you." The conversation continued quietly, with the woman's husband asking what--if any--other options might be available. I was floored. I have been so wrapped up in feeling sad about my cancer and my chemo, that it hasn't really occurred to me to be truly thankful. What if I was the lady on the other side of that thin wall? What if Nurse Michelle had to say to me that chemo was no longer an option? Lord, forgive me for taking this awful, life-saving medicine for granted.
On Wednesday morning, Mom and I drove back down to Dallas for my Neulasta shot. Neulasta is a must during chemotherapy! It boosts my white blood cell count and helps protect against infection, especially during these days when my immune system is compromised. The labs I had done last week were right on target, so I guess it's working.
Also on Wednesday, I received a much-needed, much-appreciated gift. Precious friends from our Sunday School class are sharing their housekeeper with us! I was a little nervous when she dropped by earlier in the week to get a look at the house. I obviously have not been doing much (okay, any) cleaning. I showed her around and watched her carefully as she worked out some fancy housekeeping equation in her head. It had something to do with the number of bedrooms + the number of bathrooms - the pity she felt for me=how much she will charge. While she was figuring, Goliath charged in the front door, cheeks bright red and breathing hard from riding his bike. The next second, Little Middle and Baby ran through the back door, fresh off the trampoline. The air was filled with the smell of sweaty little boys. The tiny Latino housekeeper looked at them with an open mouth and said to me, "Ohhhh...you have three boys?" I nodded and introduced the stinky boys to her by name. She looked at them again and said (this time more to herself than to me), "TRES?!? Oy, Dios." Then she offered to knock 5 more dollars off the price of weekly housecleaning. She left my home that evening probably feeling grateful to Dios that she is not me, and I felt like I had won the lottery!
I had an appointment with Dr. M before I left for the wedding last week. He asked a lot of questions about the first round of chemo: how I felt, how long it took for me to get "better", symptoms, etc. He was not too thrilled with my report that it took a good 7-8 days for me to be semi-functional. According to the good doctor, most patients need about half that time after a chemo treatment to begin to feel more like themselves. He attributed some of that listlessness and extreme fatigue to possible dehydration. So, in an effort to ward off dehydration this time around, he put in orders for a home health nurse to come out to my house and run fluids. Nurse Debbie came for the first time yesterday. After nearly 2 hours, all of the paperwork was filled out, and my Caretakers (Hubby and Mom) were trained in hooking up an IV line, operating the pump, proper sanitation procedures, saline and heparin injections, and even removing the needle from my arm. It was pretty fun last night, especially given my drugged-up state of mind, to watch Hubby act as my own personal nurse. He did a great job, though! I will do another 8-hour IV drip today, with the final one tomorrow.
About my hair...I wasn't sure I would be able to write about my hair on the blog. I can write about cancer, my family, my faith--but somehow, telling you about my hair makes me feel extremely vulnerable. But over the course of the last week, as I stood next to my best friend during her wedding, and danced with my husband, and survived another day of chemotherapy...I was reminded that there are literally thousands of people who are faithfully bringing my name before the Father every single day. Many of you are my friends and my family members, but there are MANY more who have never even met me...yet you continue to pray. That's not something I take lightly, so I want you to know everything--even the things that feel ultra-personal. Early last week, my hair began to fall out. After a couple of days and one traumatic shower, it was obvious that I would not be the first Taxol patient on the planet to keep her hair. So I made the heartbreaking decision to go ahead and take care of it before I went to Houston for Caroline's wedding. Mom and I went to Survivor Gals, and she held my hand and sang to me while the stylist shaved my head. I could feel the hair sliding off my head and the tears rolling down my cheeks, but I still felt a sense of disbelief--a "no-way-is-this-really-happening-to-me-right-now" feeling. I did not look at my bald head until late that night. I was safely locked in the bathroom, ready to wash my face, when I peered in the mirror. One glance was all it took to sink me to the floor and consume me with shoulder-shaking sobs. I don't know why it is that my hair seemed so important, or why losing it has been so devastating. I feel real grief over it! I also feel ridiculous and impatient with myself. I have a disease that could KILL me, and I have spent much more time and energy worrying and grieving over my hair than anything else.
It's been just a little more than a week since I lost my hair. In some ways, it seems MUCH longer. It's amazing what you can get used to if you simply have to. In all of the pre-hair-loss discussions, I had promised the boys that I would never go out in public without my "pretend hair." The last thing I want to do is make this more difficult for them! So when we go out, or when other people are around, I wear my pretend hair. But when it's just us at home, my head is covered by a hat, scarf, or turban. All three little cowboys seem to be adjusting just fine. Last night, after his shower, my precious Goliath came out of the bathroom wearing clean pj's and my black Bank Robber hat. He did not say one word about it, choosing instead to crawl up in bed with me and cuddle. No words were necessary.
Some days I look in the mirror and tell my reflection that yes, I can DO this. That I AM doing it! Other mornings, I look and all I see is a shell of the old Allyson. Some days are sunny and hope blazes through; other days are clouded over and doubt and depression linger like the smell of sickness. I hate those days. It is on those days that I remind myself that, sick or not sick, I am precious to God. "For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession." Deuteronomy 7:6
I am chosen. I am treasured. And with my God's help, I will beat this!
Snuggling with my Baby
Hat time with Nana!
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Dancing with my boys...
and my brother.
The whole family
Sweet Caroline~This picture says it all. I will treasure every memory of your special day, but especially this precious moment we shared. The tender words and the tears will be locked in my heart forever. You have been part of me for nearly 30 years...I can't even remember a time that I didn't have you. You were every bit as beautiful on Saturday as I knew you would be. Thank you for giving me the great gift of YOU and sharing your day (and your life) with me. Here's wishing you and Lowell all the happiness you deserve! I love you.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
I come before you, Lord.
My heart's in a thousand pieces,
Maybe even more.
The last few days have been filled with small joys and great sorrow. I was in the backyard on Sunday afternoon with Little Middle and Baby. Hubby had taken Goliath to Lowe's, giving the three of us a chance to play playdough on the picnic table without interruption. While we rolled out the pieces we needed to build The Longest Road Ever, I told the boys that Mommy is going to lose her hair because of the chemo medicine. Little Middle had a few tears and sniffles, and even more questions. "Why does the medicine do bad things to you, Mommy?" "Will you be sick again if you don't have any hair?" "Will you look like Poppy?" (That one made me laugh.) Baby listened intently, but finally got fed up. He put his little hand on his hip, looked at his brother, and said, "Little Middle, it is okay, because God is taking care of Mommy." Then he went back to building the playdough road.
Hubby and I had decided that we would do everything we could to prepare our sons for what is to come. After all, they are just as much a part of this family as we are, and they deserve to know what is going on. So after we enjoyed a takeout dinner and a little bit of classic Star Wars, I put on my wig (aka "pretend hair") and pulled out the hats/scarves we had purchased. We let the boys see how much the pretend hair looks like my real hair, and allowed them to try on some of my hats. Each hat has a name--there's the Swimming Pool hat, the Bank Robber hat, the Blue Bandana (which is actually a beautiful floral print scarf, but my kids like the word "bandana" because that is what cowboys wear), the Karate Kid hat. Little Middle and Baby had a great time modeling for us, and we were able to snap some pretty funny pictures. Goliath, on the other hand, did not enjoy our little family meeting at all. He kept a safe distance from me the entire time, and did not say much. As soon as he was able, he escaped to his room, and when Hubby went after him, he was laying on his bed crying. I took over (I felt a sense of entitlement--it's MY hair, after all!). But after I lay down next to him and wrapped him in my arms, I was lost. All I knew to do was to hug him and tell him that I love him, and that God loves him. We cried together for a long time, and it felt like he was comforting me just as much--maybe more--as I was comforting him. After a while, the tears stopped, and he whispered these words: "Why is this happening to us, Mom?" I swear I heard my own heart break.
I don't know, baby. I DON'T KNOW.
How could I doubt your goodness,
your wisdom, your grace?
Oh Lord, hear my heart
in this painful place.
On Monday, I got up early, and after dropping off my two older boys at school, I headed to a place where I love to be: preschool! I have the best class of 4-year-olds, and I have missed them terribly. I have been feeling pretty good this last week--good enough to go back to teaching, at least for a little while. I was tired after a few hours, and left around 11:30. But those sweet little friends were every bit as happy to see me as I was to see them...the smiles on their faces made every minute worth it!
On Monday and Tuesday evenings, I volunteered to be the parent on Sports Duty. I took Little Middle to his karate class and to soccer practice. My boy athlete amazes me...I love to watch him learn new skills and play. In spite of his quiet nature, he loves karate, and is quite good at it! I especially enjoyed watching him spar. He went four rounds, and won each time! On the soccer field, he is fast and swift. He listens carefully to his coaches, and tries hard to follow their instructions to a T. He swells my heart.
These seem like small things, but I have missed them so much! My life is being a wife and a mom. These four people I live with are everything to me. There is nothing I would not do to protect them and keep them from being hurt. It feels like my prayers are falling on deaf ears--is it really too much to ask that I am able to keep my hair? But this truth from my childhood still rings true: Jesus loves me, this I know. I will continue to trust and praise Him, even when all I can offer is a broken hallelujah.
When all that I can sing
is a broken hallelujah
When my only offering
is shattered praise
Still a song of adoration
Will rise up from these ruins
And I will worship You
and give You thanks
Even when my only praise
is a broken hallelujah.