Archive | August 2012

Brief Chemo & Fundraiser Update

Thought it would be a good idea to give an update on yesterday’s chemotherapy appointment & Tuesday’s Fundraiser. Hmm. Which one first? Let’s do chronological…

Tuesday’s Fundraiser: I don’t have any official word yet, but we had a really good turnout and a lot of fun at the fundraiser. The food was great and visiting with people was even better.  My dad’s cousin Denise even came all the way from Portland!  We should have a final count by Monday & then I can update all y’all. 🙂

Thursday’s Chemo: I had a great visit with Dr. Sharman before my chemo appointment.  I shared some of my concerns with him about my breathing and we went over my Pulmonary Function test.  Due to results from that, and the symptoms that I’m currently having with my cough and difficulty breathing deeply, he has decided to “jettison” (his words, not mine) my Bleomycin.  So now I’m down to only 3 chemotherapy drugs, the anti-nausea meds, steriods and hydration fluids (saline solution) for my infusions.  I think it took a little longer to do the chemo this time because since my port was removed, they can’t pump the meds in as fast as they were before.  Now it actually hurts a little to get my infusions – not bad, but with the port there was no pain at all, and now there is definitely some discomfort.  But it’s nothing like some of the people I know are going through.

I got some bad news today about a couple of my cancer “buddies”.  Unfortunately it’s the youngest ones I know.  Brandon, a 7th grader at my kids’ school, had surgery this week and instead of the doctors finding the bony cancer pieces they expected when they “looked” (read felt) in his right lung, they found mushy tissue and many more lesions than they expected.  He has an extremely aggressive cancer and truly needs a miracle.  The other one is Hannah, who is also in middle school, about the same age as my kiddos.  She has Hodgkin’s Lymphoma like me, and was in remission, but they just did some more tests on her – the normal check-up kind that we cancer patients get to have for, oh, forever it seems after our cancer is “gone”.  Anyway, they found more cancer and so now she will need to have a longer & more aggressive chemotherapy.  Please be praying for these two kids especially, they need as much prayer as we can give.

 

Denise & me (I’m the bald one – as if you had to guess…) 🙂

 

 

The Grillmasters: Scott Schuler & Dan Herbst

 

 

KW people & friends

 

Carol Trueba & one of the silent auction tables

Fundraiser TOMORROW!

I am so blessed to have such an awesome group of people to work for and with!  Tomorrow my fantastic company, Keller Williams Realty Mid-Willamette, is coordinating a huge fundraiser at the Albany Boys & Girls Club.  It’s going to be a BBQ lunch, dinner & silent auctions during both events.  You might have heard something about it on 99.9 KRKT even!

Some of the silent auction items include:  State Fair tickets, Autographed country music memorabilia including a Montgomery Gentry Hat (worn in a concert), a guitar signed by all 2012 Oregon Jamboree artists & Autographed & Numbered Show Prints.  Gift Cards/Certificates, an overnight stay at The Mill Hotel/Casino, Gift Baskets of all types, OSU Tailgating supplies & Fan Gear, Original Artwork, Homemade Pies, Roses for a Year, 3 month Snap Fitness membership, 2 nights at the Embarcadero Resort, Home Inspection, Nintendo Wii, and much MUCH more!

They are requesting a minimum $5 donation for the meal and it’s going to be yummy!   I’m planning to be there during the event and I’d love to see you all.  Hope you can make it!

A Different Kind of Radiant

Thursday’s appointment with the radiologist went really well. We met with Dr. Wendland at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute and she gave us some great information on the whole radiology protocol. As she went through what some of the benefits of radiation could be, I was thinking that it was something that I should probably do.

Then she went through some of the reasons I might not want to go forward with it. As I understood, with radiation, the drawbacks are relatively site related. She said that because of the degree of advancement of my Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, there was no way that they could focus the radiation on each area that had shown having cancerous activity, so they would just have to focus on the mass. Because my mass is in my chest, there are a lot more major organs that could be affected by the radiation. The major concerns that they have are for the lungs, heart & breasts. There are side effects that I could have that would show up right away, but it’s the long-term side effects that concern them the most.

With the lungs, I could have reduced function in the future, and with the breasts, it would raise my chances of getting breast cancer. But she said that it was what could happen with my heart that concerned her the most. Since the location of my mass was so very close to my heart, there would be no way to treat the mass with radiation without also treating the heart. She said that if I were 79 years old, complications in 30 years wouldn’t be an issue, but in her opinion, the risks to me outweigh the benefits of radiation. She had called Dr. Sharman and talked to him about my case to see what his thoughts were about my treatment.

When a patient has a “bulky” mass (10 cm and larger), they feel (and evidence shows) that it’s important to do the radiation. My mass originally was measured at 10.0 cm, but later, in the PET scan that was done, both she & Dr. Sharman measured my mass to be right around 8.2 cm. Both doctors felt that because it was more of a “gray” area, they wanted my input on whether I wanted to do the radiation or not. Talk about pressure! 🙂

Finally, after discussing everything at length, and finding out that both she & Dr. Sharman feel that there are not enough benefits to outweigh the risks of radiation, I have decided to go with their professional opinions and not have radiation treatments. This means that once I have my last chemotherapy treatment on October 4th, I can begin the long road of recovery. I’m not even sure what that will entail, so I guess we’ll all find out together. What I do know is that I am claiming my Psalm 118:17 verse more & more every day.

Surprise Surgery? Um, yeah…tomorrow!

So yesterday I had my hydration therapy.  Usually I have no problems or issues with hydration, but the standing joke is if someone other than mom takes me, there will be some kind of issue come up and yesterday was no exception.

My sister-in-law, Teresa, took me to the clinic and everything went ok until about 10-15 minutes from the end of the bag of fluids my neck started hurting.  I put my hand up to rub the area and I found a lump on the side of my neck about the size of a walnut.  Apparently what happened is that even though the nurse was able to ensure the port was “in” the right place, it has a sheath growing over the end of it, and the fluids were backing up in the vein.  It’s actually pretty fortunate that it happened this week because if it had happened during a chemo treatment it could have really been bad.

They discovered the sheath by doing a “port study” – basically a scan with iodine where they inject a little bit into my port and “see” where it goes.  Well, it didn’t go where it was supposed to.  It backed up towards the top of my neck and pooled in the vein.  Later they did an ultrasound just to make sure that it was only liquids pooling.

Anyway, long story short, tomorrow they are removing my port.  This means that for the rest of my treatments (through October 4th) they will be giving me my chemo with IVs.  I don’t know what all that will entail, but I think it means that it will take longer for the infusions because they can’t pump it in as fast.

Please be praying for me as I’m really struggling with nausea.  Usually the fluids make a HUGE difference, but I think because it didn’t all go where it was supposed to, I am not getting the benefits of it.  Thanks for the prayers.

Psalm 118:17 – My Declarations

I don’t feel like I’ve been doing enough “declaring” lately (as my Psalm 118:17 verse talks about).  So I thought that today, I’m going to declare 10 things that I am thankful for through all this:

10. Friends that take my kids places.  This week the Nace family was so kind to come and pick up Blaine & Sharolyn for some fun times in Seattle.  Between going up the Space Needle, riding the Duck (ask them about it) & going to Wild Waves, I don’t think we will ever be able to compare to the fun they’ve had with them.

9.  My sister-in-law, Teresa.  She was able to take me to the chemo lounge for my fluids today with such  short notice.  That was a huge blessing.

8.  My church family.  Pastor Scott Miller had a great message yesterday on 2 Peter 2:9-10 and even worked my Psalm 118 bracelets into the sermon.  If you’re interested in listening to it, you can hear it online.  I brought a bunch of the bracelets along and was able to give a bunch of them away after the service.  It was fun seeing all those lime green bracelets on so many arms, and hearing all the encouragement from so many people.

7.  The Albany Fire Department.  After a scary incident with our fuse box on Saturday, they made sure that there weren’t any hidden flames or hot spots that were going to smolder and start a fire after they left.

6.  Tom’s cousin Dick McLain.  Kinda tied in with number 7, it’s nice to have an electrician in the family that we can call on to give us the extra peace of mind about the fuse box.  It turned out to be probably something like a motor or something under the house that hasn’t been used in years, and when Tom put some fuses in, it just gave “juice” to something that didn’t need it, causing the smoke.

5.  Applesauce.  Lots and lots of applesauce.  Mom, Andrea, all the kids, and I (though I don’t think I was that much help) worked up a bunch of applesauce last week.  It was so much fun.  I told my mom, I felt like I was in a Karen Kingsbury book the way we were all working together with the kids and each other.

4.  Nurses that care.  I am so blessed to have nurses that don’t look at their job as just a job.  The gals at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute are so kind and compassionate.

3.  Mom.  How can I even begin to list the many ways my mom has been helpful?  She’s been the one to take me to almost all my appointments.  I selfishly actually enjoy having this time with her.

2.  Tom.  Having a husband that is willing to put up with my mood swings, and crazy feelings is so helpful.  Many times I feel as though I truly don’t deserve it.  I pray for the courage and strength to push through all this yucky stuff so that we can have some good memories this year!

1.  God.  By far, I couldn’t make it through all this without Him.  I am so glad that no matter what I’m doing whether it’s chemo or a PET scan, I’m not alone.  That makes things so much more bearable.  I honestly don’t know how someone can make it through a cancer journey without having God alongside. But you don’t need to have cancer to be blessed by Him, or have Him feel close.  For me, it’s just that it seems more “real” when I’m faced with something like this.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t WANT to have something wrong with me, but I will trust Him with whatever I have going on.

I shall not die but live, and declare the works of the LORD.  Psalm 118:17

Lazy Summer Days

When I think of lazy summer days, it doesn’t usually include me lying in a bed, but that’s exactly where I was on Monday this week.  I didn’t hardly get out of it.  Sometimes I think that isn’t a good thing, but other times I know it’s exactly what my body needs.

Chemo this time took it out of me – well for a few days at least.  Sharolyn came with mom & I for this session.  It didn’t feel like it was that hard, but when I left the “lounge”, I could tell my balance was off and I was definitely not the spritely person that walked into there hours earlier.  In fact, for the first time ever, one of the nurses asked me to make sure I wasn’t driving.  No chance of that right then.

My visit with Dr. Sharman went really well.  It was nice getting to chat with him again since he’s been gone most of my last appointments.  I discussed the whole “remission” thing with him, because I wanted to hear HIS take on all of it.  He said that he hesitates to use the word remission because that tends to imply that even though we can’t see it, the cancer is still there.  In his professional experience, he’s found that when we can get a PET negative (cancer not showing up) scan, he said that’s more of a sign that it’s a CURE, not just remission.  I’m GOOD with that!!!  (I sure hope I remembered what he said correctly.  If you’re reading this Dr. Sharman, feel free to correct me. 🙂 )  I’ve also linked his blog to my sidebar so if you’re interested in the scientific side of this he does a good job of explaining stuff.

After chemo we went to take a look at a flute that Sharolyn found on Craigslist (one of the reasons she went along).  It didn’t turn out to be what we were wanting, but while I was sitting in the chemo chair, we did find a nicer one (just like the one she’s been borrowing for the past year).  We made some calls on it Friday night & it turns out it was only played for about 4 hours total!  I’m so blessed to have a mom that’s willing to be my wheels when I need it.  She ended up driving us to Beaverton on Saturday morning to take a look at this one, and it was perfect!  It even still had the plastic around the flute from when the lady had gotten it, and the original price tag on it as well!  Sharolyn got a GOOD deal, we’ll just say that. 🙂

On Tuesday, Mom took me back to Eugene to get some more fluids.  You know, I didn’t necessarily feel like I NEEDED them at the time, but by yesterday evening, I was feeling so much better.

I’ve felt lately like I haven’t been able to smile as much.  I don’t know why.  One of the nurses said it isn’t uncommon for a cancer patient to struggle a bit with depression after they get through chemo.  I wonder if that’s the same for when you get a remission-type diagnosis.  It wouldn’t surprise me.  It seems like I’ve been fighting & swimming upstream for so long, and now I can relax a bit more, maybe that’s it.  I found an interesting verse in Job today.  I don’t usually like to hang out in Job, he seems to be depressed a lot, but on a search of the word “smile” this verse seemed a bit appropriate:

“If I say, ‘I will forget my complaint, I will change my expression, and smile, I still dread all my sufferings…'”  ~ Job 9:27-28a

I think that could sum it up a bit.  I’ve been practicing though.  Did you know, that just by smiling (even when you don’t feel like doing it inside) it can make you feel better?  I guess David knew what he was talking about when he wrote:

“A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but a heartache crushes the spirit.” ~ Proverbs 15:13

So do me a favor today and when you don’t feel like it, try to just stretch out those cheeks and smile.  You never know, it might be the start to a better day.  In fact, I feel a smile coming on right now!