Monday, September 27, 2010

Chemo Is Not Loverly

Picture Audrey Hepburn singing these twist on a classic favorite:

All I want is a place somewhere
far away from this chemo chair
where women have no hair
Oh, chemo is not loverly.

The nurse says be careful
what you eat
I say I still can not feel my feet
Off week is such a treat
Oh, chemo is not loverly.

Not so loverly sittin'
abso-bloomin'-lutely still
I want to cry when it comes
in view just over the hill.

Old ladies staring straight at me
Talking over my misery
Oh, where is Stephani?
No, chemo is not loverly.
Loverly, loverly, loverly--
No, chemo is not loverly.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Good News

Several weeks ago, I gave a blood sample for the BRAC analysis test. In addition to all the "regular" cancer stuff, I have carried the weight of worry that people I love will be at a higher risk for cancer because of me. The BRAC analysis checks for gene mutations that would indicate the possibility of that happening.
Yesterday during chemo, Nurse Michelle pulled me aside and said that they had received the test results. She handed me a folder, and in the middle of long paragraphs of medical mush, these words jumped off the page at me: NO MUTATION DETECTED. The tests were negative. My Seester, my cousins, even my children are not at any greater risk for cancer than the average person walking down the street. Thank you, Lord. Michelle handed me a tissue for the tears that were falling, and all I could manage to say was, "I love them so much." And I do.
Now, just a touch of funny. Now that I have to go to chemo all by my lonesome during the maintenance phase, my mom and I have a plan worked out. I keep my phone close by my side and text her during the treatment. That way, she knows everything that is going on and I don't feel so lonely. Here is the series of texts that we exchanged yesterday:
Me: Oh Lord. Just got here. 2 old couples in the waiting room discussing the beauty of Mackinaw Island in the summer.
Mom: Don't make eye contact.
Me: In sick room. One bald head, 2 sleepers, 1 Bible reader with 4 bottles of water. Dr. M just came by and kissed my cheek.
Me: Houston, we have snoring.
Mom: Make up a song about the chemo room. "All I want is a room somewhere..."
Me: New addition who looks alarmingly like (someone we know), only taller.
Mom: How many can fit in the room??????
Me: 6. It's always full.
Me: Old lady a few chairs down has had a voice change b/c of chemo. She sounds like a man with a cold.
Mom: Oh no. The dreaded voice change.
Me: Sick lady is watching a how-to video on her computer about insurance--with no ear muffs!
(I once mixed up the terms "ear phones" with "ear muffs" due to chemo brain. My mother still is laughing about it.)
Mom: She should know muffs are a must in the chemo room.
I can't make this stuff up.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Phillip's Wedding

The second sibling wedding is done! The Brother and his Other got hitched this past Saturday in a beautiful ceremony in our childhood church. Phil was so handsome, and Chelsea was the picture of style and grace.
Mama and her cowboys at the rehearsal

Once upon a time this amazing man was an annoying little boy who shoved me into a thorn bush and tried to convince me I was adopted.

Hubby helping Goliath with his tie. Handsome men!
Goliath and Little Middle walked my grandmothers down the aisle; Baby was the ring bearer.

I love these guys with all my heart.

Phil and his sisters--ready to walk down the aisle.

The happy couple!

Confidential to Phil: All of us who love you have longed for and pleaded with God for the happiness you showed on Saturday. Your joy fills my heart to overflowing. I will never, ever forget the look on your face and the tears in your eyes as I walked down the aisle toward you while you waited for your bride. I mouthed "I love you" to you, and I know you understood that there was nothing that would have kept me from sharing that moment with you. You have stretched my heart in a way that no one else can: Thank you for teaching me about faith, grace, prayer, and humility. My little brother has grown up to be a godly man; I am so proud of who you are and what you do. I will continue to pray for you and Chelsea as you begin your life together. May your home and your hearts be always deserve nothing less. I love you so much!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Teal Toes

Did you know that September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month? To celebrate, I got a pedicure today:

A few facts about ovarian cancer:
*Ovarian cancer is often referred to as the "silent killer," as the symptoms can easily be missed or mistaken for other ailments.
*There is no reliable screening method for detecting ovarian cancer, nor is there any real test designed to catch it before it spreads.
*The median age for women diagnosed with ovarian cancer is 60.
*Ovarian cancer is the 9th most common cancer, accounting for about 3% of cancers among women.
*Ovarian cancer is the 5th leading cause of cancer death among women in the United States.
*About 21,880 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed this year in the U.S., and about 13,850 women will die from the disease.
I will not live in fear. I will not let cancer define me or steal my identity. I will continue to fight. I have teal toes!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Bits and Pieces

~I have had a great coffee week! First this...

and then I discovered this:

~The calendar says we are just days away from the official start of fall, but you wouldn't know it if you came to Dallas. Any day that has a heat index of less than 100 degrees is a good day. Come on, autumn!
~Fall may not quite be in the air yet, but change certainly is. My Hubby took a leap of faith and a good opportunity and began a new job this past week. He resigned from his position of five years and went to work for a Fortune 300 company that specializes in metal products as a senior network engineer. The biggest change? He is going to an office every day as a regular 8-to-5er. The best part is that the new job requires only about 10% travel...significantly less than what he has been doing. I am so proud of him, and so very thankful for God's provision.
~This is my bye week for chemotherapy. I was very much looking forward to a "normal" week with nothing medical going on, but it was not to be. The instant I woke up on Tuesday I knew that something wasn't right. I was dizzy and lightheaded, and my heart was beating fast and hard. My amazing friends stepped up to help with the boys, and I laid low most of the day. When it wasn't better on Wednesday, my chemo nurse helped me make an appointment with a general practitioner that Dr. M trusts. Turns out that what I was experiencing were anxiety attacks. Although I don't necessarily feel anxious (or any more so than usual), the GP explained it like this: You can only stretch a rubber band so far, or put so much tension on it before it snaps. Thanks to cancer and chemo, my body can't handle life as well as it used to. The anxiety attacks are my body's way of saying, "Whoa--this is too much!" I am trying to listen and take it easy, and with the help of a new medication, I have felt better the last few days. Still, I am a little bitter that there is another medical thing to worry about. Sigh.
~I keep finding the little cowboys perched here:
and Gus hanging out here:

~Two dear friends had to say goodbye to their beloved pets this week. My heart aches for them in their losses, and I have snuggled my Abby dog just a little tighter in the last few days.
~Baby and I baked chocolate chip cookies together as an after-school treat for his brothers. As we put them in the oven, he said to me, "Mommy, this has been a good cookie experience."
~One of the most bothersome side effects of my chemo is peripheral neuropathy. I have it in my feet, and I want it to GO AWAY.
~I bought razors this week for the first time in six months. It has become necessary to shave my legs every few days.
~My brother is getting married this afternoon. There will be a whole other post about that later, but for now...I see his joy and it fills my heart.
~My family drank 4 1/2 gallons of milk last week. I think it would be cheaper and more efficient for us to have a cow in our backyard.
~I have really, really amazing and caring friends.
~My sister was in a car accident this week. She was hit by an ice cream truck. She is completely fine, but her husband's Mercedes Benz is definitely NOT. I'm not a bad sister, but I giggle every time I think about that ice cream truck. And they didn't even offer her a fudgesicle!

Frog Baby

Preschool is back in session! Baby and I have both enjoyed our time alone since the two big boys went back to school a few weeks ago, but we were both just as ready to get back to our beloved preschool. My boy is a Frog this year--at the top of the preschool food chain. It is so hard for me to believe that next year I will send him to elementary school with his brothers!

So handsome on his last first day of preschool!

Baby and his pal B. They have moved up through the program together, and are the best of friends. I was feeling a little nostalgic, so I pulled out this picture of the two of them from a couple of years ago. They were, and still are, so very cute!

I have been blessed to be able to return to preschool as a teacher. My great friend Shannon (B's mommy!) and I have a class of the most darling 3-year-olds you ever did see. I love, love, LOVE my job, and I love it that I get to be close to my boy during the day.

Baby and Mommy goofing around before class.

Baby has three of the most spectacular teachers for his final year of preschool, who also happen to be a few of my great friends. We are looking forward to a fun year with Ms. Maureen, Ms. Michelle, and Ms. Dee!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Out of Control

I'm a control freak. I am a fan of lists and schedules. Details are my friends. I like my calendar to be color-coordinated, and my shoes to always match my outfit. I pick out my kids' clothes for school, make a dinner menu for each week, and write a to-do list on my mirror with a dry erase marker. I would like my house to be tidy, but the reality of 3 little boys has changed that to "managebly messy." For the most part, chaos and calamity can take a hike as far as I'm concerned.
Knowing this about myself goes a long way in explaining something I am currently wrestling with. It goes without saying that my life has been turned upside down this year. Cancer waltzed right in and stole so much from me--my dignity, my hair, my stamina, my self esteem. I have fought hard, though, to preserve the things that are truly important: my character, my love, and especially my faith. No doubt that as I've walked this road--even though I absolutely did NOT want to--God has walked right alongside me. I have been helped and held by his hands. I have seen him, felt him, and heard him.
There have been times, though, when it seems that he has been silent. Days when I strained to hear his voice, and there was nothing. Times of darkness when I needed a touch from my Father, yet felt nothing. I look for him, but can only wonder, "Where is God?"
I wondered last Thursday while I sat in a chair watching toxic drugs drip into a vein in my arm. A very sick (and seemingly odd) old woman stared at me for 30 minutes while I did anything and everything to keep from meeting her gaze. "Where are you right now, Lord?"
I wondered yesterday when I made the connection that the little boy that Goliath had invited for a sleepover was the same classmate who three years ago found his father near death after he tried to commit suicide in their home. "Where were you then, Lord?"
I wondered this morning, knowing that my mother was having to explain to a group of 1st graders that their Sunday School teacher dropped dead from a heart attack on Friday night. "Where are you today, Lord?"
I am wondering tonight, even as I write this, while my cousin is keeping vigil in a hospital room beside the bed of her 3-year-old daughter, whose sudden and unexplained neuromuscular disorder may forever change their family. "Where are you tonight, Lord?"
Each of these instances brings to reality the very thing I fear: not being in charge. There is no way to tell you how much I wish cancer had never happened to me. I can't put words to the fierce tenderness and protection I felt for Goliath's friend. I can't show you the tears I cried for children I don't even know or express how seriously angry I felt when I told God, "It's not fair!", all the while asking him to heal little Ellia.
"I like control. I like to know where God is going, exactly what he is doing, the exact route of how we are getting there, and exactly when we will arrive. I also like to remind God of his need to behave in ways that fit with my clear ideas of him. For example, God is just merciful, good, wise, loving. The problem, then, is that God is beyond the grasp of every concept I have of him. He is utterly incomprehensible." --Peter Scazzero
But maybe the blessing is hiding within the "problem." God doesn't have to be bundled into a neat little box. He is God, after all. Perhaps I should spend less time waiting for him to work and move within the confines of what I want him to do and be, and start watching for him to work and move in ways that I would never expect. I don't have to understand everything; I only have to trust in his goodness.
"I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." Psalm 27:13-14

Friday, September 3, 2010

Bad Mommy

Once upon a time there was a mommy who had three little cowboys. On a beautiful fall day, the mommy's Baby cowboy had a birthday! He turned four years old. He was very strong, very smart, and very, very special. The mommy knew that her smallest cowboy would need shots to keep him healthy and strong, but it was cold and flu season and she wanted to protect him from the germs in the doctor's office. The mommy chose instead to keep him at home and make huge leaf piles for them to jump in.
Fall turned to winter, winter to spring, and spring to summer. At the end of the summer, the mommy received an e-mail that said, in a nutshell, "We are so glad you have enrolled your cute little cowboy in our preschool. Unfortunately, his immunization records are incomplete and he will not be allowed in the doors if you don't take care of it asap."
The mommy knew exactly what to do: she panicked. Then she made a panicky phone call to the pediatrician's office and made an appointment for very early the next morning.
The mommy took her little cowboy to see the doctor . The doctor was pleased with how much he had grown since his last visit and said that he was very healthy and smart. Then it was time for the shots. The mommy laid down on top of her Baby while two nurses gave him four shots in his little legs. While she felt grateful that he would not get polio or chicken pox later in life, she looked into his tear-filled eyes and felt her heart hurt.
The mommy also felt very guilty about taking her Baby cowboy for his four-year-old well check just 69 days short of his 5th birthday. To assuage her guilt, she and the small cowboy shared breakfast at the local donut shop before they dropped the updated shot records off at the preschool office.
The End

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Gus and Other Goings On

My Hubby is an outdoorsman. He hunts, he fishes, he sets up feeders, cameras, and deer blinds. Every good hunter needs a hunting buddy.

This is Gus. He is cute as could be, with his white fur and dark patch around his eye. He sort of resembles the Target dog! In this picture he looks deceptively calm and peaceful, doesn't he? In real life, though, he is anything but calm. He lives in the backyard most of the time--because he's an outdoor dog. But even an outdoor hunting dog must start out as a puppy. That means running, chewing, and general destruction of everything in his path. This is what we woke up to one morning last week:

No, it didn't snow in our backyard. Gus must have decided he didn't like our outdoor decor, so he removed the cushions from our bench swing and shredded them. WITH HIS TEETH.

This is what I will be sitting on from now on while I watch the boys jump on the trampoline. Aaarrrggghhh!
In other family canine Uno. He is Abby's cousin, the dog-child of my brother. Phil rescued him from a shelter almost 12 years ago, after he had been abused and lost vision in one of his eyes. Hence his name, Uno. He also answers to "Richard."

I got to fly to Houston this past weekend to attend 2 wedding showers for The Brother and his Other. I saw a lot of people who love me, but no one was happier to see me than this furry guy.
This is my little (but much taller) brother with his two sisters. His wedding is fast approaching--we are so thankful for his beloved and their joy.

These are the ladies I used to refer to as "Mom's friends," but now I don't feel like they are just hers--they are ours. These women have managed to make real love and friendship stretch between Houston and Dallas in ways that are both creative and beautiful. They have comforted my amazing mother when she needed them most and cradled her hurting heart in such a tender way, often standing in the gap for me and giving her what she needed when I couldn't. They are funny--good grief, are they funny!!!--and fun to be with. I adore this picture of the six of us, and I hope it ends up on some people's desks in the Children's Ministry office soon!

I also had the opportunity while I was in Houston to attend my parents' church on Sunday morning. I didn't actually go to the service, though--I spent three hours walking the halls of the children's building, putting faces with names of people who have been such a blessing to me over these last months. I was so excited to hug (and be hugged by) countless people who recognized me and wanted to tell me how they have been following my story and praying for me. Houston friends, the pleasure was all mine. Thank you so much for who you are and how you've ministered to us. It was such fun getting to visit you!
Many friends have asked me how I am feeling since beginning maintenance chemo last week. Here's the answer: I am better than I was, but not as good as I want to be. I am not lying in a dark room, nor am I feeling fantastic. The chemo makes me feel fatigued and gives me muscle aches, especially in my legs. Those symptoms seem to fade within a couple of days, so hopefully it will be the case this week as well.
I went to my second session today. Let's just say that when the pouring rain this morning meant that I had to sit through the painfully slow car line to drop the boys off at school (but don't get me wrong--we need the rain and I am thankful!), and then when my car wouldn't start after dropping Baby at a friend's house, I should have known it might not be the best day I ever had. Yep--far from it. The chemo room was full of true characters. I don't want to be friends with those women, especially not the one who has been going to chemo for three years and who doesn't mind telling anyone and everyone that her toenails are falling off. Ewww. Today I took my ear buds, but forgot my iPod at home. No matter--I just plugged it into my computer and listened to nothing, hoping they would take the hint and leave me alone. My Facebook status today simply reads "Ugh."

It's been a long day, so I am off to pop some pills and enjoy an early bedtime. I have a few more tidbits to share, but they can wait until the weekend. Stay tuned...