Monday, December 31, 2012

...And Don't Let The Door Hit You On The Way Out!

Ah, 2012.  I woke up this morning and remembered that it was the last time we would meet, and I actually smiled.  You haven't been too kind.

I dreamt last night that my family 'o five was on vacation.  At our resort, there was a Belgian waffle buffet for breakfast.  We loved it!  The waffles could be made into any shape and the toppings seemed to stretch for miles:  cherries, strawberries, whipped cream, blueberries, flavored syrups, pecans, get the idea.  It was a waffle smorgasbord.  That's what I want 2013 to be like:  full of choices.

2012 didn't give me much choice.  It handed me cancer on a silver platter, not caring whatsoever that I don't want it.  It took my job and replaced it with chemotherapy.  It gave me The Great Heartache.  2012 found me seeking professional help for the first time in my life, only to realize that I might be too much of a mess for it to matter. 

Now, as 2012 prances its way out, I feel like I'm left with a huge natural disaster that requires clean-up, but it's so big and unruly I don't even know where to begin.  Should I start with my Baby, who might think it's normal for a mother to oversee homework progress from under the covers?  Or should I start with my calendar, which is dotted with lab appointments, doctor visits, and infusion times--all in pencil, because they are subject to change at any minute?  Maybe I should start with my husband, who confessed to me through tears on Christmas night that he can't "do THIS"--meaning, "You make Christmas smell like Christmas, look like Christmas, and taste like Christmas, and if you're not here, we won't have the right kind of Christmas."  How about my Little Middle, who knows that a half hour of Duck Dynasty with Mom is a surefire way to escape reality and laugh?  What about my Goliath, who worries and is constantly on watch for the next bad and unsafe thing for our family?   How about those all-too-real thoughts and ideas that are taking form on paper, outlining my wishes and what-to-do's for the end of my life?  I wish it were as simple as a "delete" button.

Clark Griswold had a point:  "Look around you, Ellen!  We're at the threshold of hell!"

It's no wonder that I hibernate.

I'm tired of 2012.  I'm fed up with its surprises and never-saw-that-comings.  I'm exhausted from trying to hold it all together, only to have everything crumble around me.  I am sick to death of treading water with the hopes of just staying afloat, rather than really being out there and living.

My pastor said this in his sermon yesterday:  "Look at your 2012.  And give thanks."

Give thanks.  Give thanks?  Are you serious, Clark?

I know that he is.  SGH doesn't kid around when it comes to direct commands from God.  So I'm hunting down a few things to be thankful for in 2012:

1.  Reese Elizabeth.  Lordy, I love this baby girl.  She makes me happy when skies are gray.

2.  My cousin Christina moved to Dallas a few months ago, which has afforded me the pleasure of her company.  We think the same things are stupid, we have in-depth convos about theology, and we are gonna write a book someday.  Oh, and neither of us has an actual dessert menu.

3.  My house.  I l-o-v-e this house.  It makes me happy to be here (which is good, since I spend so much time here!).  I am particularly in love with my freshly-painted kitchen right now.

4.  People.  God has put some pretty dynamic people in my life.  Some of them are related to me; a lot of them I just lucked out with.  I am blessed in an amazing way with people who love me and my family, who pray for us, who feed us, who knew us way-back-when and still care...pretty unbelievable.

5.  Opportunities.  Although The Sickness has brought a lot of undesirable misery my way, it has also presented opportunities that I would never have had otherwise.  I can be real about suffering, but I can also be real about my Savior to a world who needs to know.

Hmm.  It's a good start.  My life, as messy and unpredictable as it is, is still intact.  I have so much more than a lot of people.  I am blessed, in spite of this year's best efforts. 

Make no mistake, 2012.  I won't miss you AT ALL.  You will go down in history as one of my least-favorite 365 days ever.  I'm definitely looking for more sunshine and sparkles in 2013.  But you are valuable in your own way because you taught me a lot. You gave me happiness in spite of yourself.  Most importantly, you stretched me.  I'm not the same person I was, and that's not a bad thing.  I am determined to add to the list, and I will give thanks.  In all things. 

"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.”--Albert Einstein 

Here's to new beginnings and a bright 2013~Cheers!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Can I refill your eggnog for you? Get you something to eat? Drive you out to the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead?

It's Christmas Eve.  Later today, my parents, my siblings, Reese the Niece, aunts, uncles, and cousins will gather at my Gran's house to celebrate.  I can't be there in person, although my heart sure is.  I'm sure that there will be plenty of leaves for a certain little boy to play in.  There will be dishes of candy in every room.  There will be a motion-sensor snowman planted by the front door who will sing a little jingle every time anyone goes in or out.  (Mom or Aunt Mary Kay will eventually roll their eyes heavenward and shut him down.)  There will be a crazy Santa hat that some uncle will don to pass out gifts.  There might be a plumbing problem, in which case all of the men will gather in the backyard and pretend that they know how to fix it.  There will be a silver coin in each of the 28 stockings.  There will be music of the uncommon sort--Christmas tunes played on the old player piano, or a family band with cousin Jonathan on the guitar and Gran on the saw.  (What?  Doesn't your grandmother play the saw?!?)  There will be football on the TV, and maybe later, a viewing of the timeless Christmas Vacation movie.  There will be tamales, Big Red, and eggnog, because these are the things that make a Conner Christmas. 

Gran, here's the recipe I promised you.  You and I and my Baby understand that eggnog makes everything better.  Thanks for giving me a lifetime of good holiday memories. I am loving all of you so much today!

Egg Nog Coffee Cake

1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup eggnog
1 container (8 ounces) sour cream
1 teaspoon rum extract
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Struesel Topping

1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon butter or margarine, softened
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Grease bottom only of rectangular pan, 13x9x2 inches, with shortening. In small bowl, mix all Streusel Topping ingredients with fork until crumbly; set aside. In large bowl, beat 1 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup butter with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon. Beat in 1 cup eggnog, the sour cream, rum extract and eggs until blended. Stir in 2 1/2 cups flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt. Spread in pan. Sprinkle Streusel Topping over batter. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours. Heat oven to 350°F. Uncover pan; bake 35 to 40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes.

Egg Nog Glaze

1/2 c. powdered sugar
1-2 Tbsp. Egg Nog

In a small bowl, mix all Eggnog Glaze ingredients until smooth and thin enough to drizzle. Drizzle over coffee cake.

Note: You can wait until right before baking to make the struesel topping and sprinkle it on the batter and then bake if you want a more crunchy-type topping.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


So, chemo's not going so well.  Actually, I think that chemo is going exactly as it is supposed to.  I do this funny thing where I just decide that things are going to happen a certain way.  I seem to think that just by sheer willpower I can escape side effects that are universal with chemotherapy.  Silly, huh?  I set myself up for disappointment when I actually sleep for three days, or when I stand in front of the refrigerator wondering why we don't have anything good to eat. 

So the universe will have to forgive me for not feeling as Christmassy as I ought to.  Yes, all of my gifts are purchased and wrapped.  The tree is still standing straight (usually by this time it's leaning to one side or the other).  I've caroled, shopped, churched, baked, and traditioned myself as much as possible.  One might say I'm ready for Christmas.  But I know the truth.  I have been too tired and honestly, feeling a little too sorry for myself to get into the spirit. 

This morning I woke up determined to do something beyond the four walls of my bedroom, where I've been since my last infusion on Tuesday.  I wanted to bake cookies.  There are certain tastes and smells that mean "Christmas", and I wanted them in my house today.  So I went to Wal-Mart.  I needed only a few things--powdered sugar, butter, eggs.  I didn't bother much with makeup or wardrobe.  I just wanted to go fast so I could get home fast.

I was so caught up in hiding my non-made-up face behind my big sunglasses that I didn't notice him at first.  I was in a rush, but Mack was not.  He never is.  Mack is a greeter at my local Wally World.  It's his job to say hello to everyone, give directions, wipe down shopping carts, and put stickers on return items.  If I had to guess, I'd peg him in his mid-sixties but it wouldn't surprise me if he was younger.  He walks with a limp, as if he never quite healed from an old injury. 

Now, I'm more of a Kroger girl when it comes to grocery shopping, but there are days (like today) that the Mart is good for one-stop shopping.  I've been there enough to know that Mack is a fixture.  He is as steady as the stream of people that pass by him each day.  He stands in the entryway of the giant store, often leaning on a cart to support his weak leg.  He must get tired.  He has to be bored.  I can't imagine spending hours every day at such a menial task.  Better Mack than me.

But this morning, the Saturday before Christmas, when I was completely wrapped up in ME, Mack made a difference.  He greeted me, like he's done a hundred times before.  There were people in front of me, and  lots of people behind me.  But Mack made me feel like I was the only person there.  He gave me a huge smile that showed his teeth, made eye contact with me, and then he said, "Merry Christmas." 

And as I pushed my cart into the aisles with all the other Saturday-before-Christmas-crazies, I couldn't help but think:  Mack gets Christmas.  Mack IS Christmas.  Mack works a seemingly unimportant job that surely doesn't pay nearly enough.  He is physically inept.  From where I (and most of you) stand, he is at some disadvantage.  But Mack embodies the spirit of this season:  J-O-Y.  He made me believe in our second of contact that there was nowhere else he would rather be than right there in that windy atrium, welcoming me to my friendly neighborhood Wal-Mart.  He made me think that I mattered, and he had the smile and the kindness to back it up.  He put someone else ahead of his own needs and wants.

That sounds like quite a load to attribute to a man I don't even know, doesn't it?  Maybe so.  But when it is so easy to get lost in the endless to-do lists, and when the budget it blown, and when "peace on earth" is out of sight, and when the season doesn't make sense...I think we should be even more on the lookout for the true spirit of Christmas.  So here's to you, Mack...have yourself a merry little Christmas.  As for me, I baked those little almond cookies and sprinkled them liberally with sugar.  Tonight I will share them with my family and make a new holiday memory.  'Tis the season.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Letter To My Sons

Dear Goliath, Little Middle, and Baby,

Something big happened on Friday, December 14.  It didn't happen here.  It didn't happen to us.  But it was big just the same, and I can't--and don't want to--just shake it off and get on with life as usual.

I didn't want to tell you that a sad, sick person went into an elementary school.  It was a school just like the one the three of you go to every day.  I didn't want you to know that he had weapons and an intent to kill, that he wanted to cause harm to children who are just like you.  I wanted to protect you from knowing that the world can be such a scary, awful place.  But I couldn't.

You are each so smart, and there was no hiding from you the rampant news coverage, the solemn moods of the adults around you, and the half-mast flags that are all over town.  You asked all the right questions, if there even is such a thing as "right" in this horrible situation.  You wanted to know what happened, and if it could happen to you, too.  You asked about the children and the teachers.  How did the bad man get in?  How did he kill them?  How did they get out?  And you asked the question that most of our country is asking:  WHY?  Oh, little loves.  Why, indeed? 

We, of course, have talked a lot in our house about why God allows bad things to happen to good people.  Although I don't necessarily like it, I've thought that maybe, in terms of my cancer and our other family heartache, that I might have figured it out.  I've told you that if I--if WE--trust God and we are faithful to Him, than our suffering is not in vain.  He promises good things because we love Him.  He promises to take care of all of us and to give us exactly what we need. 

But my suffering is easier for me to process because I am a grown up.  I've had a life full of experiences and mistakes, happiness and sorrow, growing and learning.  I never say it out loud to you, but I think you already know that you, my babies, are the reasons I worry so much AND why I fight to get well.   Because you have everything ahead of you.  I don't want you to be frightened or worried or disadvantaged or helpless.  Most mommies want the best for their children, just like I do for you.

Those children in Newtown had everything ahead of them.  Their mommies helped them get dressed on Friday morning.  Maybe they rushed them through breakfast the way I sometimes do.  Maybe some of them sang silly songs about the weather, or maybe some of them had to ask more than once if teeth had been brushed and hair combed.  Some of those mommies might have been flustered or annoyed, or maybe they loved mornings that bring the promise of a new day.  Some might have even been relieved when they dropped their kids off and came home to a quiet house.  I have mornings like that.

I don't know why.  As much as I want to assure you that you are safe, I know that would be dishonest.  Daddy and I do our best, but this world is so broken, sweet sons.  There is so much hurt and people are damaged in millions of ways.  You, maybe better than a lot of other kids, know what real suffering is.  I'm sorry that I can't protect you like I want to.  I'm sorry that you will remember December 14, 2012 as a day that you felt scared.  Will you do this for me?  Let's try to remember December 14, 2012 as a day that we were reminded of what we already know is true:  God loves you.  God cares about you, down to the smallest detail.  God is with you everywhere you go.  The Bible is absolutely true.  God wants good things for you. 

God gave you to me, the three greatest gifts of my lifetime.  You are mine only for a time, though, because He and I both know that you really belong to Him.  I promise you that I will hug you a little tighter in the mornings.  I will listen a little more intently when you talk, I will soak up every minute I get to spend with you, and I will look for every opportunity to teach you Truth.  Your Daddy and I love you with everything that we have and we are.  So do your Poppy and Nana and your Papa and Mema.  But nobody--not even me--loves you the way that God loves you.  Love people without reserve, show kindness and respect to everyone, and live large, boys.  The world can be scary, but you can be and do anything.  YOU ARE LOVED.

With my whole heart,

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Night Before Chemo

'Twas the night before chemo,
when all through the house,
were my kids and my mother
and Hubby, my spouse.
School lunches were packed
by the Nana with care
As I dragged boys to bed
up every last stair.

The cowboys were nestled
snug in their beds,
With lyrics of Christmas songs
stuck in their heads.
And Mom in her pjs
and me in the same
Both were worn out
from the $%&! cancer game.

When up in my head
there arose such a clatter
I sat up in bed
to think what was the matter.
Away to my blog
I flew like a flash,
Opened my laptop
Praying it wouldn't crash.

The gleam on the screen
of my trusty old Dell
gave me a chance
for my story to tell.
When, what to my wandering mind did I think
I should make an appointment to go see a shrink!

More rapid than eagles the images came,
And I got mad, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Dumb sickness! Dumb chemo! I hate you a lot!
Mean nurses! Cold tubing! My blood will not clot!
Stop touching my port! Stop giving me meds!
Now dash away! dash away! or off with your heads!"

And then in a twinkling
I knew in my mind
That sure enough, I was
in a big bind.
I reigned in my thoughts
and settled on down,
Then something else happened
that caused me to frown.

My hair was two colors,
and getting quite thin,
And my clothes were too scratchy
for my sensitive skin.
My stomach was rumbling
from the inside out
And I felt like I needed
a drink that was stout.

My eyes used to twinkle
But now they're ablaze
And my soul is determined
to fight through these days.
When the morning comes
and I rise from my bed
I surely know I have
nothing to dread.

I spoke not a word, but
bowed my head to pray.
"Lord, give me the strength
I need for that day."
Then, knowing that my God
was holding me tight,
I reached to the lamp
and turned off the light.

Friday, December 7, 2012


Goliath's jiu jitsu class is a great place for me to talk on the phone.  I am stuck there for a solid 45 minutes while he punches and wrestles his little heart out, which is plenty of time to play catch up.  This was the case yesterday.  I spent a good 25 minutes chatting and sharing with a long-time friend.  We had just hung up when my phone rang again.  The caller i.d. said that the caller was "unknown."  In my world, that means it's the oncology office.

It was Dr. F.  I'm not sure that he has ever called me himself before.  Isn't that why doctors have minions?  To do the bothersome work of communicating and scheduling?  But this news was far too important to assign to a minion to deliver.  I knew it as soon as I heard his voice.

The news is bad.  New cancer is growing in my body.  It is growing out of nothing, at the same time that active poison chemotherapy is being delivered into my body.

We were both silent for a moment.  Neither of us knew what to say.  Then I took a deep breath, tuned out the sounds of punching bags around me, and said the only thing I could think of:  "Well, this really sucks."  He agreed.

The course of action is up to me.  Obviously, I am done with Doxil.   Dr. F assured me that the problem is not necessarily that the Doxil wasn't working.  The real problem we face is that the cancer that plagues me is big and fast and aggressive and strong.  It simply overpowered the drug.  So, I am going straight to the next drug.  Remember when I told you that Doxil was the one and only possibility?  That list is still true, but in my case will serve as more of a guideline than an end-all cancer Bible.  I've given the go-ahead for the medical team to stuff Doxil and move on to topotecan.  It is standard, as far as chemotherapy goes.  I will be nauseous and sick.  I will be very susceptible to infection due to low blood cell counts, and weak.  I will possibly lose my hair.  The plan now is to do six cycles. One cycle means treatment once a week for three weeks, with the fourth week off.  I will start immediately.

The reason that I have to do this is simple, and can be divided into three parts:  Goliath, Little Middle, and Baby.  I may not be the best mother in the world, but I am their mother.  Made for them.  I'm the only one they are ever going to get.  I will not--WILL NOT!!--do anything less than everything for my sons.  This disease may kill me, but not without a hard fight.

Last night I cried with my husband and my mother.  I called my dad, my sister, and my brother and cried again.  The sorrow among the six of us is overwhelming.  The despair, the anger, the absolute grief--too much.  The hurt...oh, the hurt!  I think our hearts must be broken, but none of us have the luxury of giving in to heartbreak.  Because there are three little cowboys who need their mom.

I am close to the edge.  I'm teetering on the side of keeping it together.  I am so close that I can look over into the pit of despair and hopelessness.  If I am pushed ever so slightly...if I get one more phone call...if I have to make one more decision...if one more inkling of uncertainty darkens my doorstep...I could just give in and let go.  I could surrender to the inclination to cover my head and hide out until I die.  And who would blame me?   

But there are these little men who call me "Mom."  And some days, when I'm really lucky, I still get to be "Mommy."  And I have this God who I sure don't understand, but he promises to stay close to me because I am brokenhearted and my spirit is crushed (Psalm 34:18).  I know that I am not done.  I'm close, but I can back up, take a deep breath, dry my tears, and look ahead.  Brokenhearted, but not beaten.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

When I Am Afraid...

Doxil 3/6 has not been fun.  Or easy.  Or calm.  Or without drama.

Last week, I had mouth sores that reduced me to using a dry-erase white board to communicate with my family.  Luckily, the cowboys thought that was a great game!  I also had the skin affliction in full swing, meaning that standing under a shower felt like being pelted with bullets.  My yoga pants were the only fabric that could comfortably touch me, and big chunks of skin were peeling off of my feet and toes.  Horrible, stupid side effects.

The other thing I had last week was appointments.  After 3 treatments, I am at the halfway point with chemo.  I had an appointment to have an echocardiogram done to check for any damage that Doxil may be doing to my heart.  I also had an appointment for a CT scan, which would provide a picture for my medical team to look for complications, and ultimately, recurrent cancer.

The echo came back clear.  My heart is still pumping perfectly.  The scan, however, was a different story.  The radiologist who read the scan saw spots that have the appearance of recurrent carcinomas.  This news was delivered to me by a solemn-faced Dr. F.  I could tell that he was concerned.  Frankly, I think that he has a terrible job.  Why anyone would want to be an oncologist (or a dentist) is beyond me. 

Anyway, there was a decision to be made.  I could assume that the spots are scar tissue (or some other medical thing that I don't understand) and carry on with the Doxil treatments as planned.  OR I could take a more proactive approach and have a biopsy done.  Although the idea of yet another procedure was less than appealing, I feel strongly that I have to know what I'm up against.  If I have cancer growing in my body in spite of active chemo treatment, I have a bigger problem than I thought and I need to make big decisions.  The implications of that scenario are overwhelming.  If it is not cancer, I can breathe a little easier and keep fighting.  I opted for the biopsy.

The procedure, although uncomfortable, went fine.  I was told that my doctor's office would contact me with results.  As of this morning, the results are still not in.  So I wait.

Waiting is really, really hard.  It means that I have a lot of time on my hands and I have to fill it, or else I'll go crazy.  I went to a spelling bee (Goliath won his class bee, then placed 5th in the school bee.  Proud mom!).  I went Christmas shopping with my mom.  I'm catching up on some reading and some crafting.  I've done FaceTime with Reese the Niece.  I'm taking Little Middle to the dentist tomorrow (although he doesn't know it yet).  And through all of that, I pretend that I am a normal girl with an "normal" life.  Just looking at me, you wouldn't know that I'm desperately afraid, and that my entire life hinges on a phone call that has yet to come.

"When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You."  Psalm 56:3

Trusting God means that I believe that He has the best for me.  Always.  No matter what.  I don't see how cancer can be the best thing for me, or for the people I love.  I can't fathom how this blow is to my benefit.  I'm not sure how to not waiver while waiting.  But I want to trust.  I DO trust.  Lord, I am scared.  I am tired.  I am uncertain.  But I love you and I know that you are good.  My hope is in you alone.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Heaven Is Only a Dream Away

I had a dream.  My dream was intense and very realistic.  Most importantly, it has brought me peace.

In my dream....

I went to heaven.  When I got there, there was no huge gate with Saint Peter sitting behind a big desk.  There were no angels with wings floating around.  When I got there, there was only one person:  my Grandad.  He was waiting for me.  He knew I was coming.  He looked exactly the same as he did most of my life:  he was strong with big hands, a big smile, and very little hair.  He was wearing his standard "uniform":  a golf shirt and slacks.  Only, in heaven, his shirt was white.  Bright white, like Gran had washed it with Clorox.  As soon as Grandad saw me, he smile grew wide and he said, "I've been waiting for you, girl.  Come on in."

He put his strong arm around me and we walked into heaven.  Grandad took me into a section that looked like a suburban neighborhood with big, beautiful houses on both sides of the street.  The street was white with a fog rising up off of it, almost like someone had a dry ice machine.  Where there might have been yards in front of each house, there was instead shimmery white light--sort of like a tub full of bubbles.  There were no trees, no grass, but it was very, very beautiful.  There were no other beings in sight, or even signs of life.  The only movement was from me and my Grandad, walking side by side. 

Finally he stopped in front of the biggest house.  He said, "This is it.  I want to show you around."

I wasn't sure at all what to expect, but I was not afraid.  He opened the door, and I immediately felt warmth and coziness.  It was the feeling of home.  I get a similar feeling when I sit in front of our Christmas tree, loving the lights.  Or after the boys go to bed and the house is still and quiet.  It is a feeling of contentment and belonging.

We stepped in to the house.  Grandad said, "I've been getting things ready for you."

Before I explain what he meant, I should let you know a little something about my Grandad.  When he lived here on earth, he was a builder.  Not for his job, but after he retired, he spent a lot of time here:

He made treasure boxes and bookshelves and tea trays.  All of us have some precious keepsake in our homes that was fashioned by Grandad's hands. 

So it really was no surprise in heaven that Grandad had a workshop.  It looked just like his red-roof shop that stands silently now, except that the roof, the walls, even the sign--were white.

Grandad had been working hard.  His restored body had added on to the place that God had ready for him when he left us in 2008.  As he walked me through the home, he proudly showed me each room.  Each was large, and the furniture was gleaming white.  There were rooms for each member of our family.  God and Grandad had made sure that our family would be together for eternity.  Each aunt and uncle had a room.  Every cousin (plus their significant other and their children) had a space of their own.  There was a room for Buck and Grandmama, my other grandparents.  In his own room, Grandad showed me the "pretty things" that he knew Gran would love.  There was a table covered in white porcelain figurines and tea cups--girly trinkets, if you will.  He was ready for her to join him.

The last room was mine.  Grandad pushed open the door, and I entered in amazement.  The room was cavernous.  There was a toolbox (white, of course) on the floor that looked just like the one Hubby's Papa gave him.  Grandad picked it up quickly and explained that he had been making some last-minute adjustments because he knew I was coming. I remember that the rooms had beds, but the unspoken  understanding was that they would never need to be used for sleeping or nursing a sickness, in the sense that I use my bed now.  They were simply for comfort.

There was space in my room for Hubby and my little cowboys.  Grandad knew they would be coming later.  I was not fearful or sad to be separated from them.  I, too, knew that they were coming.

After the house tour was over, Grandad led me back out the front door.  The house had a massive front porch with white railings, much like the one I've "pinned" onto my "Dreams" board on Pinterest.  Grandad had built two Cracker Barrel-like rocking chairs.  He sat in one, I sat in the other.  He took my hand in his, and we began to rock back and forth in perfect rhythm.  My grandfather said, "Now, girl, all we have to do is wait for the others." 

I woke up with a smile on my face.  It was more than a dream to was an experience.  I felt--and still feel--an intense peace that I haven't known for as long as I've had The Sickness.  I don't know what the outcome of The Sickness will be, but I am certain that ultimately, my dream will become my reality.  This old body betrays me.  But when it gives out, I WILL GO HOME.  And what a glorious home is waiting for me!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Happy Birthday, Baby!

Dear Baby,
Seven years ago today, I was a young mom with two babies at home.  As I maneuvered my enormous belly through the front doors of the hospital in the pre-dawn darkness, I wondered for about the millionth time what God could possibly be thinking.  How would I manage three babies?  What did I know about raising little boys?  How could I be the right person for this job?
At the end of that long day, there was you.  There was love at first sight.  The questions and doubts faded when I looked into your blue eyes.  On that day, I could not have fathomed what this day--your seventh birthday--would be like!
I would not have guessed that you, at Age Seven, would ask for a strawberry donut for your birthday breakfast.  I never would have thought that you would love to draw and color.  I couldn't have known that you would be a video game-playin' fool.  You are super-good at any game on any system.  In fact, I've pretty much stopped trying to keep up with which bad guy must be conquered in whatever world, because you leave me in the dust. 
You are a reader!  You like to read, although you prefer to read aloud to me (or better yet, have me read to you!).  You are learning to be fluent and you make great use of the punctuation marks (!! and ??) in your tone.  It makes me laugh out loud.  Our evenings reading together are some of the sweetest times!
Speaking of reading, you really like school.  I could barely stand to deliver you to first grade a few months ago, but of course, you never blinked an eye.  You just sat down and got to it.  You have what I think are crazy-hard spelling words for first grade, but you learn them and excel.  Your teacher adores you.  You are branching out and making new friends this year--I am so proud of you! 
You still have that funny little speech impediment that has plagued you since you learned to talk.  When you recently had pneumonia, Nana took you to the doctor's office.  The nurse gave you a breathing treatment, and then asked, "Do you feel better now?"  You scrunched up your muppet-face and replied, "Not weawwy."  As your mother, I will probably always find your misuse of sounds endearing, but I know that it will become a bigger problem as you get older.  We are working with the powers that be at school to correct you.  (There's a big difference, son, in "correction" and "change."  I wouldn't want to change you for the world!)
At home, you are probably the most stable of the five of us.  I find it simply delightful how you just go with the flow.  No matter what is going on, you remain happy and easy-going.  It doesn't matter to you if someone is grumpy or sick; you stay the same.  Our family has been, figuratively speaking, swimming uphill for a good part of this year.  On days when I simply didn't think I could stay in the water one minute longer, you gave me the strength and incentive I needed to keep on.
You worship your brothers.  After months of being separated, you and Little Middle jumped on the chance to go back to sharing a room.  You guys are the best of friends.  There are many nights that I have to poke my head into your room and "remind" you that there is no talking--or laughing!--after lights out, but I'll tell you a secret:  I don't really care.  I love it that the two of you are in there together making brother-memories.  You love Goliath, too, although his new pre-adolescent hormone thing can be hard to take sometimes.  Still, you know that he would do anything to protect his baby brother.  He can talk you into being on his "team" for anything, from a simple game of keep-away to dropping forbidden items out of the second story window onto the front lawn.  You boys!
Although you aren't as die-hard as Little Middle, your favorite toys are Legos.  Well, that and guns.  How many Nerf bullets am I going to pick up in your lifetime?!?  You aren't scared of much, and you are getting pretty good at catching creepy-crawly things.  You are fascinated with bug-watching, trampoline-jumping, and bike-riding.  Even with all these normal little-boy activities, though, you still have such a tender heart!  As you were getting dressed for school one morning, you asked me what we were going to do that evening.  I told you that we didn't have any special plans, and you said, "Good!  Then can we snuggle up together and watch a movie in your big bed?"  How I hope that you never get too big to snuggle with me!
As is always the case, God knew just what he was doing when He made you for me.  See, Baby, you and I have something special.  I love your brothers, no question about it.  But you...oh, wonderful little you!  I didn't think I could handle you.  I didn't think I deserved you.  I didn't think I could do right by you.  And sometimes, I still revisit those old fears.  But you have loved me from Day 1 in spite of myself with the purest, most beautiful love I could have imagined.  We go together, you and me.  Yes, you're growing up.  But my mommy-instinct tells me that you will always need me and want me.  You are my Baby, after all!
Happy Birthday, Baby boy.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Doxil 2/6

I want to preface this post by saying that I take back everything nice I said about Doxil before.  So there.
I was originally scheduled to have my second Doxil treatment on Thursday, October 4.  The pre-treatment visit with Dr. F made it clear that the staff would be unable to administer chemo that day due to mouth sores and a crazy skin thing, both caused by the Doxil itself.  It seems a little weird to me that the drug is responsible for these outrageous side effects, but the side effects have to be completely cleared up in order for me to safely accept the drug.  Whatever.
I left the hospital more than a little discouraged, armed with instructions to come back the following Tuesday so we could "try again."
Mom and I followed directions and were there before the appointed time on Tuesday the 9th.  This time I passed inspection and we were sent down to the chemo room.  We immediately picked up on an invisible power struggle going on between the two chemo nurses.  One definitely seems much more competent and patient-friendly than the other (to me, anyway), but does it really matter whose side of the room has more heating pads?  I felt especially sorry for Keith, the new guy, whose job it is to collect patients' vital signs, document medications, and otherwise be at the nurses' beck and call while learning the ropes. 
I had some apprehension about my port.  The last time I had treatment, I had just come straight from surgery and the surgeon had just left the port accessed for chemo.  Today I would find out what "accessing the port" really means.  Bottom line:  IT HURTS.  As I write this one week later, the area around the port is still tender and sore.  I would much prefer to have IV lines started each time.  I fail to see what the big advantage is!
My pre-meds went down with no problems.  Just when I was getting comfy with my pink hoodie and my zebra blanket, the nurse had a new fun surprise.  She started the Doxil, and then she brought over two huge ice packs.  One went on the floor and I was made to rest my feet on top of it; the other was for my hands.  Additionally, I was given a cup of crushed ice.  The presumption is that ice slows the circulation of blood to the extremities during treatment, which in turn lessens the chances of sores popping up in the weeks after.  I am in favor, of course, of avoiding painful sores on my hands and feet and inside my mouth, but I was freezing.  I had to keep the ice on me the entire hour that it took for the Doxil bag to drip.  It seems hard to believe that in the year 2012, we don't have any more sophisticated method of preventing chemo-related sores!
We made it home with plenty of time to spare before the cowboys got home from school.  I went straight to bed, not feeling terrible, but not feeling great, either.  And so it has gone for most of the last week.  While I have had some bouts of nausea, I haven't felt terribly sick.  Mostly, I feel tired.  Fatigued.  Exhausted.  I can be working my way through a day, and suddenly I just have the overwhelming urge to lie down.  That usually results in a "nap" that lasts 3-4 hours!  These naps have been defined by nonsensically vivid dreams.  One day I dreamt that I lived in a 2-bedroom apartment in the ghetto.  My friend Rachel, aka Moldy, brought over a random baby boy for me to take care of, but he was dressed in girl clothes.  My neighbor loaned me her double stroller for this babysitting bout, which was chrome and outfitted in the latest "hooptie" styles.  Another neighbor insisted that I join her in a field and fly kites with her because we were running out of wind energy.  Strange.  Another dream had me dressed up in Little House on the Prairie-ish clothes, running through an old Indian village.  As I ran in and out of teepees I shouted, "Sanctuary!  Sanctuary!"  I finally found safety in a nearby saloon, only to be discovered by a little boy I used to teach who I suppose grew up to be a bad guy.  A dream over the weekend involved a wartime airplane.  I was decked out in goggles and a scarf, and I expertly landed my plane in the desert.  I had nothing to eat but cactus, which was lucky because somehow I knew how to cut a cactus just right so as to get the grape jelly out of it.  People I went to high school with were there, but their cacti did not have any grape jelly.  I guess they weren't properly trained.
So, one week in to the 2nd cycle, I am tired.  The good news is that I seem to have finally turned a corner with my new and not-so-large-intestine.  I am still very cautious with what I eat, but I have been pleasantly surprised to find that I am finally able to eat some meat, a few finely-chopped fruits and veggies, and even one slice of pizza the other day!  I still have not worked up the courage to test another baked potato, though.  It will be a while before I feel that brave.
I continue to ask God for protection from illness, germs, and sores.  I thank Him when I wake up and realize that I am not really Laura Ingalls or Amelia Earheart, and that I have enough sense to find those crazy sleep scenarios comical.  I am glad when I stay up later than my kids, and I am thankful when my Hubby sends me to bed, even if it is a ridiculously early time.  I plead with God that Doxil, with all of its quirks, would be THE drug that I need it to be.  I know that so many friends, family, and even strangers are pleading with me and for me.  Thank you.  He is good, and He does good. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Birthday Blessings

37 Reasons I Am Thankful On This Birthday

1.  A Little Debbie snack cake makes a beautiful birthday cake if your son sticks a candle in it.

2.  Chips and quesadillas are delicious.  Chips and quesadillas shared with great friends while the kids are at school are even better.
3.  Birthday money = retail therapy.
4.  Watching a congregation of neighborhood children playing with my cowboys out my kitchen window means smiles all around.  (Until the boys "kidnap" one of the little girls, duck tape her legs together, and tie her to a chair.  You know, to "force the criminal to talk."  Then some of us were not smiling.)
5.  New cowgirl boots.  They are sassy, they are pretty.  I stomped all around the town in them.
6.  The softest throw blanket you ever did have the pleasure of touching is now draped over my sofa.
7.  Once upon a time I made Little Middle go into Charming Charlie with me as a punishment for bad behavior.  Guess where Little Middle went shopping for Mommy's birthday present?
8.  Baby picked out a cookie recipe that he wants me to try for him from the new cookbook he gave me.  I will do it asap.
9.  Dinner at one of my fave restaurants with my four guys.  We went around the table and everyone said what was the best part of their day.  Hubby said, "right now," and I agreed.
10.  Hundreds of well wishes via text, Facebook, and email.  Literally hundreds.  Mind-blowing.
11.  Pretty jewelry from friends that care.
12.  Two different friends brought their daughters by my house to deliver notes that they had written me.  They are not birthday-related; they are of the "I care about you" variety.  Those are treasures.
13.  I have a two-year-old friend who, when asked what a walrus says, replies, "goo goo g'joob."
14.  Snail mail from my grandparents with the classic $20 bill inside.  It still gives me warm fuzzies.
15.  My Goliath took his buddy to Target to help him do "woman shopping."  Together, they picked out a dress that I adore.
16.  Both my brother and my sister called me.  I love it that we are important to each other.
17.  This is the birthday verse my mom gave me:  "She is clothed in strength and dignity.  She can smile at the days to come."  Proverbs 31:25  May it be so.
18.  Sweet knowledge that I am prayed for by so many, so often.
19.  My husband, with a little help from a knowledgeable friend, purchased the most amazing new purse for me.  What a fun surprise!
20.  I got a birthday card from Reese the Niece.
 21.  As we left the restaurant after dinner, Little Middle said, "Thanks for dinner, Mr. Dad.  And thanks for being born, Ms. Mom."
22.  My dog-nephew also called me.  Yep.
23.  I found so much to laugh about today.
24.  There is a new worship CD in my car.
25.  I felt like a normal person today.  That's huge.
26.  My man has a special group of friends who help him, love him, and partner with him.  We are both immensely blessed by them.
27.  I am looking forward to a fun outing with the Tuesday Sisters tomorrow night.
28.  Abby Dog ate a used cupcake liner this afternoon and seems to be no worse for the wear.
29.  Bedtime prayers were extra-sweet with my little cowboys tonight.
30.  Medically, this birthday is a miracle.  I just can't help but think about how blessed I am to be here.
31.  I texted with my aunt and got to say something important:  that I want to be the kind of aunt to Reese that she has been to me.
32.  I am scheduling a day away this week.  Away from the walls of the house, away from The Sickness....away.  It's a good thing.
33.  Every time the boys and I listen to the Cookie Monster "Share It Maybe" spoof, we all crack up.  Especially on the "Me look at you and me see, you like an elf in a tree" line.
34.  I consumed more food on this one day than I have in the last week put together, and my stomach seemed to be OK.  Grateful doesn't begin to describe it.
35.  My Goliath made everyone's lunches for school tomorrow.  That is one of my most hated chores.
36.  Tomorrow the cleaning lady is coming.
37.  I have hope. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

NOCC 2012 5K

 September 22, 2012
The Ballpark at Arlington, Texas
Team Allyson

Ready to run!

My guys

Tuesday Sisters
Bethany and Kelly

Karen and Rachel

 Shannon and Janice
Me and my Melissas

Friday, October 5, 2012

Light in the Darkness

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9
This is the verse that I posted yesterday morning on Facebook as I prepared to leave for the hospital.  I was up against Chemo #2, and I was feeling anything but strong and courageous.  I needed the reminder that Jesus was going with me.
Four hours later, I was more terrified and more discouraged than ever before.  After a lengthy wait (what is it with doctors' offices, anyway?!?), I was not able to take the chemo treatment.  Dr. F determined that I was still not recovered enough from #1 for my body to accept the Doxil.  The stubborn and horrific mouth sores and a new skin issue were enough reason for him to pause and re-think.  He decided that the dosage of chemo should be reduced, and we will try again on Tuesday.  If the reduced dosage is still problematic, I may need to make a decision about continuing treatment.
Talk about discouraged.  Discouraged barely scrapes the surface of what my heart feels.  I wrote this to a friend who is traveling her own cancer road:  "...this SUCKS. I am so sick of cancer dictating everything about my life, even down to what I write on (and cross off) my calendar. I hate it that I feel like I'm free-falling and that this old world is taking huge chunks from energy, my body, my family--ugh. I want so much to be a light, but the darkness is so DARK."
She described back to me that I'm right (love you, H!), and she feels as if she is in a dark house, just looking for slits of light.  Yeah.  Just a crack here and there, Lord, would be enough to help me plant my feet.  A tiny flashlight to navigate my way out of this.  That's all I need.  And you promised to go with me.  WHERE ARE YOU?!?!?
Ding-dong.  I didn't move to answer the door because I was busy feeling sorry for myself, and I was sure it was just one of the neighborhood kids who seem to flock to my house every day after school.
"Mommy?  Somebody's here.  It's for you."
Standing in my entryway was an old teacher friend of mine (by old, you must know I mean "from way back," not "aged").  We feel tender toward each other, but we don't have much opportunity to run in the same circles much anymore.  She said, "I don't know what's going on, but I felt like I was supposed to stop at your house and bring you dinner."
Friends have faithfully been bringing food while I've been ill, but yesterday was our "off" day.  It hadn't occurred to me that I needed to conjure up a meal to feed my family.  I burst into tears.
And just like that, the light re-appeared through the crevices of my darkness.  With two carry-out pizzas and a plate of brownies, God proved--again--that He is faithful.  That he is real.  That he cares.  That he uses ordinary people to do his work.  And that I never, ever, have to feel terrified or discouraged.
I may go on Tuesday and be turned away again.  I may receive treatment and go back to being isolated with my crazy red skin and wretched mouth sores.  I may be forced to make the terrible choice of giving up the one drug that could save my life in exchange for valuable, quality time.  I don't know what my future holds, but I know who holds my future:  Jesus, the Father of Light.
"Suddenly, God, your light floods my path; God drives out the darkness."  2 Samuel 22:29
P.S.  Because I couldn't have chemo, I could go to a high school football game with my trio of cowboys.  How 'bout this guy?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What I Want

“You may be at odds with God right now. You're not happy with the way your life is turning out. You may be praying and pleading with God. But is it possible you don't really want God? Is it possible you just want what you think God can give you? One of the things I believe God is teaching me in my life these days is that at times we want our dreams more than we want God. We want what God does for us instead of just God.” Pete Wilson, Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn't Show Up the Way You Thought He Would?

I'm not happy with the way my life is turning out.  Right now, I have cancer.  I have no job.  I have a car, but nowhere  really to go.  I have mouth sores from the chemo that have forced me to eat applesauce and oatmeal for every meal for two weeks.  I have dreams that are dashed.  I have a 5th grader who suddenly thinks I am the most uncool person on the planet and a 3rd grader with hurt feelings.  I have someone close to me who is facing a giant mountain, and we are climbing it together.  Nope, this life is not at all what I had pictured.

Yes, I pray and I plead.  Lately, my prayers go something like this:  "Lord, I am begging you for healing.  Please take this awful disease and kick it where the sun don't shine.  Please be Jehovah-Rapha, the Healer God, and prove your power through me."  OR  "God, why did you make tweenagers to be so ornery?  Why doesn't this kid remember that I went down through the valley of the shadow of death to get him into this world?  Please help him realize that I deserve his best moods and affections every day."  OR "God, I can't talk to you today because my mouth hurts TOO MUCH!!!  Please fix these sores so we can try again tomorrow."  Amen and amen.

I want things from God.  I want for God to zap the kid at school who is being unkind to my Little Middle.  I want my body to be whole and healthy.  I want a big fat bank account.  I want a long life with my husband and a house in the country with two rocking chairs on the front porch.  I want to eat hamburgers again.  I want to dance with my sons at their weddings, and then be Super-Grandma when their babies come along.  I want normal.  I want, I want, I want....

But the Christian life isn't about my plan.  It's not my way or my wants.  When I accepted Christ some 30 yeas ago, I accepted his ways.  I realized that things might not always go the way I wanted them to, and I said that as long as I had Jesus, I would be OK with that.  Have I really gotten so caught up in what's wrong that I bypass Who is right?

The truth is, I don't want to be that shallow or that selfish.  At age six, I didn't know much, but I knew that I was a sinner.  I needed a Savior, and I still need Him as much today as I did then.  It's time for a reality check.  It's time to re-read the old promises and claim them as my own.  It's time for refreshment and renewal.  It's time to be still and focus on what I need.

I need Jesus.

My new prayer might sound a little something like this:  "Less of me, more of You, no matter what may come.  I want all of You, and only You, Jesus."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Nightmare of the Baked Potato

Once upon a time there was a silly little woman who had some of her body parts cut out and then was sewn back together.  In spite of previous experience, the silly little woman believed that recovery should be short and easy, because, after all, she had better things to do than sit around the house and nurse her wounds.
So one day, just a few weeks after the procedure, the woman made plans to meet a favorite friend for lunch.  The woman planned carefully, because she knew that her body was not fully adjusted to her usual culinary delights.  She thought it would be smart to meet at a casual deli where she could order a simple baked potato and her friend could enjoy the best iced tea in town. 
The appointed day arrived, and the woman with the scar on her belly was excited!  Not only would she get to leave her house, but she was going to drive a car!  And have girl talk!  And wear makeup!  The birds chirped happily outside her window while she lovingly bid her three small cowboys farewell.  She felt a moment of sadness that they couldn't share in her big day, but alas, they had to go out into the world and conquer elementary school.
The woman with the scar on her belly was finally satisfied that she looked presentable.  She cheerfully drove to the restaurant and greeted her friend with a big hug.  They went inside the restaurant, and the woman marveled at how light and bright everything looked.  After weeks within the four walls of her own home, the outside world appeared bigger and more beautiful than ever!  When it was time to order, she was tempted by the best sweet tea the town had to offer, but took the high road and stuck to her plan: a baked potato and a glass of water.
Well, the two friends had a marvelous time.  They laughed and swapped stories and cried, and then laughed a whole lot more.  As the woman believed the simple baked potato was nourishing her broken body, the fellowship was also nourishing her soul.  As she talked with her friend, the woman felt satisfied--even a little proud--that she had accomplished their little luncheon.  "Take THAT, you $%&*! cancer!", she thought.
The thought had just popped into her head when it was interrupted by strange noises.  The noises started soft and slow, but they quickly grew louder and more intense.  The woman didn't even have time to look around the restaurant before she knew that those noises were coming from her.  It was her post-operative stomach, expressing its apparent distaste for the lunch the little woman had so proudly fed it.
The woman with the scar on her belly suspected that her day was about to take a downhill turn.  She quickly hugged her friend, promised a "next time", and jumped in her car.  Thankfully, she was not too far from home, but each rumble from her stomach seemed to stretch the route.  She came to a screeching halt in her driveway, and made it inside in just enough time for the baked potato to be disposed of.  More than once.  And then the toast she'd had for breakfast.  And all of the food she had consumed in the previous days and weeks.  All gone.
After more than an hour, the woman lay on her empty, scarred-up belly, spent.  Every part of her ached.  She silently cursed the humble potato for acting so innocent when really it was setting a trap for hungry people with digestive issues.  She cursed herself for foolishly believing in the potato. 
Suddenly, the woman heard a noise!  It seemed to echo throughout the too-quiet house.  Could it be...?  YES!  It was the sound of a door opening.  And footsteps.  Someone was in the house with her!  Before the woman could think what to do, a pair of shoes met her at eye-level.  The woman looked up and was relieved to see that the legs in those (cute) shoes belonged to her mother.  She was saved!  As her little mother sank to the floor next to her, the woman with the scar on her belly managed to croak, "It's not as bad as it looks."  Even though it was.
From that day on, the woman was terrified of food and only ate white rice.
The End

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Doxil 1/6

Today was my first day of Doxil chemotherapy.  All things considered, it went fairly well.  Mom and I stayed in a hotel close to the hospital last night because of the ungodly hour I had to be there this morning.  In spite of the massive construction project on 635, we got there on time.  It's funny how the surgery protocol is old hat to me.  The first time I had surgery at MCD, we got lost in the hospital and I remember well feeling like I would throw up from anxiety.  This morning, I knew exactly where to go, what to expect, and even knew a few surgery nurses by name.  My favorite nurse, Cynthia, was my pre-admit nurse when I had my major procedure 2 years ago.  She said, "It's back?  Well, CRAP."
That just about says it all.
I opted to do the surgery with minimal anesthesia.  I did not want to feel very groggy or have to spend time in the recovery room.  The anesthesiologist gave me a "margarita" of drugs and they injected numbing meds around the site.  It's a very odd feeling to be aware of someone cutting you open.  I am in more pain now than I was during the surgery, although I remember saying "ouch" a few times.
I was wheeled straight from surgery to chemo.  My chemotherapy is administered in a large room that can fit 10 patients at a time.  There are partition walls between each recliner chair, giving the false sense of privacy.  At least I don't have to look at everyone, or worse, endure them looking at me.  Pre-meds were minimal, only fluids and an anti-nausea drug.  The Doxil itself is red.  Kool-Aid red, homemade Valentines red.  The shade of red that made me think of happy celebrations instead of a wretched bag of life-saving poison.  I was wishing so much that I had a bouquet of balloons and a cake with delicious butter cream frosting instead of bruised skin and an unshakable headache!
Mom and I tried to watch a movie together on the TV screen that was provided, but a very unhappy patient across the room dragged her IV pole over and asked us to keep it down.  Humph.  The woman at the station next to me asked the nurse if her friend could grab a snack from the stash they keep for patients.  Although the nurse made it clear that the food was for chemo patients only, the friend went ahead and gave the nurse her order:  peanut butter crackers and cranberry juice.  If they didn't have cranberry, she would settle for grape juice, but was obviously displeased.  They then carried on an in-depth theological discussion for the remainder of the afternoon that was just loud enough for the rest of us to hear.
The good news is that there is a fish tank in the room.  Worst case scenario, I can watch the fish.
Even with all of that, we still made it home before the cowboys got off the school bus.  I feel...well, I don't feel crummy.  I feel very tired and sore and a little bit sad.  But my cowboys--they came in like nothing was wrong.  They talked to their Nana and hugged their mom and I knew.  I KNEW that I am doing the right thing, even though it is hard.  I would have rather been a hundred other places today than at that hospital, but at the end of the day, I am their mom.  I laughed at Goliath's story that he told about his friends, I helped Little Middle study for his spelling test tomorrow (who knew that "unusual" would give him so much trouble?!?), and I listened to Baby read Green Eggs and Ham to me.  It's his favorite.  Those three little boys are all my favorites.
As this day comes to an end, I realize that I have experienced God's mercy, grace, and kindness in a thousand different ways.  Hundreds--literally hundreds--of people prayed for me and my family today.  Knowing that simply blows my mind.  I came in contact with helpful and compassionate doctors, nurses, and staff who made a hard day easier for me.  My sons are healthy and happy. 
"He told me, 'My grace is enough; it's all you need.  My strength comes into its own in your weakness.'" (2 Corinthians 12:9)
My Jesus is all I need...yesterday, today, and forever

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


--I had an echocardiogram last week to set a baseline for chemo treatments.  The tech told me that my aorta is "pretty."

--I went to a chemo teaching session.  Doxil is a strong drug, but not as toxic as the Taxol/Cisplatin regimen that I did 2 years ago.  I am on high alert for hand-foot syndrome, symptoms of anemia, fever, and mouth sores.  It is anticipated that my hair will thin, but will not all fall out as before.

--Chemo starts on  Thursday.

--Before the chemo infusion begins, I will have surgery to put a port in place.  Yes, on the same day.  I have to check in with day surgery at 5:45 a.m.

--Today is the first day of preschool.  I just can't believe I'm not there with my little friends!  In spite of my best efforts, I feel very sad that I am missing out.

--Hubby took all of the cowboys out to the lease for the opening weekend of dove season.  In their absence, I got to have a girls' weekend with my sister and Reese the Niece!
We ate warm tortillas from Rosa's, watched girl movies, stayed in our pajamas, and played with the baby.  Goodness, I love that little girl!
--With chemo starting, I have a conundrum.  I have been putting off getting my hair done because I was anticipating losing it again.  Now that I know with a fair amount of certainty that at least some  of it will stay, I need to do something about those roots.  Unfortunately, my nurse advised me to avoid hair coloring.  The reaction of the chemicals in the dye with the poisonous chemicals in the drug may exacerbate the hair thinning.  On the other hand, it's already looking pretty neglected.  I'm hoping that there may be something natural to use in the interim to give me the color that I want without burning up whatever hair I get to keep.
--Last night while he was in the shower, Little Middle said to Hubby, "Can I shave?  It's on my bucket list!"
--Baby has already had more homework than both of his brothers combined.  For one project, he had to make a paper doll of himself.  For another, he had to cut pictures out of magazines and decorate his daily journal cover with them so he can have inspiration for writing.  Um, how much inspiration does a six-year-old need?
--Goliath has an appointment with the eye doctor this afternoon.  He has been complaining about blurred vision, especially now that school has started back up.  I will not be surprised at all if he needs glasses.  He is worried, but I think he would be adorable. 

--Adorable is not cool in the 5th grade.  5th graders also do not "play," they "hang out."  Just sayin'. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Sickness: Chapter 3

Yesterday I met the Top 6 Most Annoying People on the Planet.  They were all in the oncology waiting room at MCD.  I had plenty of time to figure out how annoying they were, because I waited over 2 hours to get to see the doctor.  I seriously doubt that 1) the upcoming presidential election can fix health care, and 2) that the disabled woman really had a hemi engine in her wheelchair like her bumper sticker claimed.
Dr. F said that my incision is healing nicely.  Although I still don't feel great, I am learning more every day about my new-and-not-so-improved insides.  It is a delicate balance of food and meds that will be tolerated.  Anything outside those imaginary boundaries is quickly rejected by my body and I pay the price for days.  Dr. F assures me that I will feel better, but it will take time.  Time as in months, not as in days. 
I was also released to drive a car and climb stairs as I feel that I am able.  That means more freedom, which I have sorely missed!  Last night, I went upstairs and tucked my cowboys into bed for the first time in three weeks.  Smile.
Then we moved on to the "what comes next" phase of the visit.  One of the two chemosensitivity tests have come back.  Dr. F gave me the stack of papers marked "FINAL REPORT" in big, bold letters.  At first, I didn't understand what I was looking at.  But as he began to talk, I began to absorb information.  On one side of the cover page of the report, there is a column that lists 13 different drugs, or families of related drugs, that are labeled "Agents Associated With Potential Lack of Benefit."  It means just what it says--each medicine listed there is ineffective in my body to fight cancer.  The list includes Taxol and Cisplatin, the two chemo drugs that rocked my world less than 2 years ago.  You can not imagine the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.
There is another list on the other side of the page labeled "Agents Associated With Potential Benefit."  There is 1 drug listed there.  ONE.  There is ONE chemotherapy drug that might help me. 
I felt like I'd been punched in the gut.
I had gone in to this office visit believing that I had choices.  I was prepared to accept chemo, but I was also prepared to reject it if this test showed that the compatible chemo drugs were too harsh.  I believed that I was entitled to choose for myself.
It never entered my mind that I wouldn't have options.  And I didn't even need to ask Dr. F what would happen if I don't do the chemo.  I already know.  I went through hell, and it didn't matter.  I can barely wrap my mind around it.
I see now that I have no choices.  I have to do the chemotherapy.  It's one only chance.  This has to work, or......
The drug is Doxil.  It is a cytotoxic drug that is used to treat aggressive forms of ovarian cancer and a specific type of sarcoma that is related to the AIDS virus.  That mental image is sobering.
Doxil is an irritant.  Side effects and their severity depend on how much of the drug is received.  Possible side effects include low blood counts (increased risk for infection), skin rash, hand-foot syndrome, peeling and/or sores on the skin, nausea, vomiting, hair thinning and/or loss, poor appetite, stomach/digestive issues.  Those are the main ones.  There is also a risk of interference with the pumping action of the heart.  My heart will be closely monitored for signs of disease or decreased efficiency at pumping blood.
If everything goes right, I will have my first Doxil infusion next Thursday.  I will do one infusion every four weeks for six cycles, with the last one in February.  We will do a CT scan in November and again in February to check progress.  I have found that past chemotherapy has left my veins in terrible shape, so I will be required to have another port put in.  We are still unsure when that surgery will be.
"My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen on me.  Fear and trembling have beset me; horror has overwhelmed me.  I said, 'Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!  I would fly away and be at rest.  I would flee far away and stay in the desert; I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and the storm.'"  Psalm 55:4-8

Back to School!

First Day of School 2012

Goliath--5th grade

Little Middle--3rd grade

Baby--1st grade

The 3 little cowboys and their proud mama