Saturday, September 19, 2009

All or Nothing? I choose ALL...

So yesterday afternoon, I got the call that I have been waiting for. We've know what the majority of my treatment plan was going to be for some time. I was always getting 6 rounds of Taxotere and Carboplatin. They're common breast cancer chemos often used in combination. I affectionately call them the Barf/Bald combo...They bring my recurrence risk down to 15%. We were also going to add a full year of Herceptin every 3 weeks since I happen to have the scary HER2+ super-aggressive type of cancer. That wonderful drug brings me down to 5-7% recurrence. It has heart risks, but they are NOT common and as I have now found out occur most commonly when in combination with a different chemo regimen than mine. So, I'm not going to worry about that. It's all in God's hands anyway. So why worry? Matt 6:27 tells us, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" That'd be none of us! Yet in our broken humanity we spend an awful lot of time doing it. I should probably have that one tattooed on my hand so I'd always see it. I'm certainly guilty of worrying. (Just figurative speech, Mom/ need for a "tattoo intervention".)

I also mentioned many posts ago that I had signed up for a clinical trial for an additional drug called Avastin. This drug has been very successful for stage 3 and 4 cancers, but hasn't been tested on those of us that have stages 1 or 2. The idea is that it might make recurrence even less likely. Knowing my all or nothing personality, how could I not sign up? So, I did and decided that it was up to God to either give it to me, or not. If it can help me or some other woman down the line, then I am ready to give it a go. If not, and someone else needs it more, I asked that He give it to them.

So My clinical trial nurse who's taking care of me at the oncologist office called to say that my info was randomized yesterday and I'm getting the drug! So, we're 6 days away from getting things going with all 4 drugs at once. I can't help but be thrilled about that. That's great! There's nothing else in the arsenal that I'm not throwing at this thing. All or nothing? I choose ALL, every time. So, now I'm pumped up for the fight. Hurry up and wait is over in a few days and between now and then, I'm so busy that I can't even think about it.

Sick or no sick, bald, whatever. Now we're making progress. This is the beginning of getting this all behind me. A year from now, treatment will be over. I can have my last surgery, and will be new and improved from where I started. I don't just mean that physically either. I can't wait to see where God's going to take me through this in my dependence on Him. I've already changed in a couple short months. How much more will I learn about surrender over the next 12-13? I've spent a couple years praying dangerous prayers like, "Use me any way you wish...". I don't know how this figures in exactly, but I'm sure it does. So, I can't wait to see where it takes me. I have a suspicion, it just might be better that I could have imagined. And for that, I am already so thankful.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

OK, here we go...

What a couple of days! I am officially recovered from one of the worst bouts of food poisoning that I have ever experienced. One bad hamburger and I was down for the count for 2 days. I'm not quite sure that I've ever experienced that level of violence in sickness, and that's saying a lot! It turned out to be a good thing in retrospect. I figured some things out in the process. First of all, my doctors assure me that if chemo makes me as sick as I have been this week, then they aren't doing their jobs. After what's happened the last couple of days, I am accepting that on faith. Surely they are right about that. Either way we're about to find out. Even if it's not true, I survived that. So, I should survive this as well.

Today was a busy day in the doctor visit department. I went to the plastic surgeon's office to get my first tissue expansion since surgery the first thing this morning. It was truly weird. He took out this magnet, ran it across my skin to find the valve in the expander and made a mark. Then I watched he and the nurse pump an additional 150 cc's of saline into each of them. The strangest part was how casual it is to them and bizarre it was to me. I'm lying there watching my chest grow while my doc is talking about moving furniture. So, I walked in wearing my falsies and walked out without them. Yeah!! No more stuffed boobs! I don't need them anymore. I am so excited about that. I'm not back to normal just yet, but this is a big step. I'm headed back in a couple of weeks to do it all over again and take one more step toward being fixed. Slow and steady...

After that I ran off to the Cardiologist office and had the EKG. No big deal there. Then it was off to the Oncologist for my echo. All thing look normal as I approach the big day of chemo #1. We're a week away at this point. The closer I get, the better I feel about it. I think "hurry up and wait" and letting your imagination run wild on all of the possibilities is worse than the actual treatment. I'll know for sure a week from tomorrow. I've come to terms with the fact that it could go either way. Since everyone is different, I may actually handle the treatment well or I might not. It's completely in His hands. I'm done worrying about it.

I'm not to happy about the prescription that I filled this afternoon. I now have a steroid that I have to take the night before and the morning of chemo. I'm still not clear on how this is going to go down. Steroids make me eat like an entire football team, and chemo makes you sick...that just doesn't conjure up any good images at all. The crazy thing is the list of side effects. I'm not quite sure how you're supposed to know if you're having them. There's so many and they're so varied. Combine that with all of the other medications and you have no idea if you're actually having a side effect or not. Half of the side effects are the reason you're taking one of the others! If not, the rest are completely contradictory. Not sure how the same drug can have drowsiness and sleeplessness at the same time. But I am sure that if I throw up what appears to be coffee grounds, something has gone terribly wrong. I don't think I needed them to tell me that...

I'm also done with the hair grief. (Disclaimer: That's not to say I won't relapse.) The truth is, it WILL grow back. I'm not going to enjoy it, but millions of women have done, it and I'm nothing special. So like them, I will do it too. I think getting rid of the stuffed falsies helped with that as well. At least I won't have to wear the fake boobs in my shirt at the same time as the fake hair. That's a plus. I'm looking forward to getting this all behind me and the only way to do that is to go through it. So I guess, here we go.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Good Grief...

My very first semester as a Freshman at Texas, both of my paternal Grandparents died within a few weeks of each other. It seems that they just couldn't be separated even by death. I had exams on the day of each of their funerals and wasn't able to make the trip to Houston to attend either service. I cried when I got the news, but I really grieved a full 3 years later. I loved them both so much. I can't even remember what triggered it when it happened. It could have been anything, a smell, a memory, a story...I have no idea. But, I remember the wave of grief when it struck me full force, and I still miss them. I can hear Grandmommy's laughter still. It was so unique...

When we buried my Mamaw in 1995, I was torn between overwhelming sadness and strange relief. You see, she had been so sick for so long that it seemed cruel that she was still here the last couple of years. The Matriarch of our family, the ROCK, the miracle worker who could solve any problem known to man it seemed had lain helpless and incoherent for what seemed like an eternity. She was the greatest example of a godly woman that I have ever known. When she died she didn't know any of us, but the nurses said she died singing hymns. Those she never forgot because Jesus was the center of her universe. Thankfully, I know where she is, but I have never stopped grieving. I don't think I will. The world changed for the worst on the day she left it. And at odd times and with certain memories, Mom and I still cry together.

Grief is a strange animal. It affects everyone differently. For some it's immediate, for others it's delayed. (I think I'm the only woman in my family that falls into the latter category.) I think it's better if you can grieve right away. It seems like it wouldn't be as disorienting...but I don't know because it's never happened for me like that. So, when I was laying on the table waiting for my first sonogram after 9 films at the mammogram machine on June 29th, I can't explain this but I knew. We hadn't even found the tumor, but lying there on that table one solitary thought ran through my head..."Are we ready for this?" And as quick as the question came so did the answer. "Yes." The rest of that appointment kind of seemed like everyone else in the office was just catching up to what I somehow already knew. The Dr. was a little surprised at my reaction when she told me. I thanked her for finding it like I lost my keys or something, dressed, and left without a tear. I did cry for about 20 seconds when I got to the car, but was finished before I was backed out of my parking space.

So for the last 4-5 days I have been walking around in the most fragile state. It's uncharacteristic of me, so also very uncomfortable. I've been looking at nothing but the floor everywhere I go. I haven't wanted anyone to see what's going on. I've kept to myself when at all possible at work, even tried to do the same thing at church Thursday night. Didn't work, but I made it through. I just haven't been able to put a finger on this emotional state that I have been in. In fact I've pegged it wrong for the last few days as guilt. Besides, with all the stinking pharmaceuticals there's really no reason I could figure it should be happening. I've got a pill for just about anything at this point.

But today my dear friend Sharon came to the Plano campus for church to see me instead of going to Grapevine. I was so happy to see her. We're both too busy to get to do that as much as we should. As soon as she got there, we found the secluded restroom where I proceeded to completely crack into a million little pieces. I pulled it together long enough to make it to the worship center where I promptly fell to pieces again. That's OK in church though. People just think you're unusually moved by the music or something. It all fell into place for me though this afternoon. I've not gone mad as I first suspected. I 'm simply grieving. It took 3 months almost, but here it is.

There's not one thing in my life that hasn't changed since this diagnosis. My responsibilities at work have changed. (That's a good thing. I actually love a new challenge in that arena. And it has nothing to do with stupid cancer!) But at the same time, my plans for the next 2 years have gone out the window. Two years without Mexico...No beach for 2 years? Sounds kind of trivial, but for me it's huge. We've chopped up my body. I have started this year long "repair job" with tissue expanders. (I can't even begin to tell you how weird that whole business is.) The trauma over the hair that I've been whining about is just an outward display of the wreckage that's already occurred in less obvious ways.

Then, today I volunteered in the nursery like I have for almost 5 years. I volunteer in the nursery every weekend. It's part of me, part of my identity. There is nothing more important that I do in any given week. For that hour parents trust us to care for their brand new babies so that they can spend an hour in worship. For some of them it might be the only hour that week they get to spend with God. I pray for those children, their families, their futures. It's the most fulfilling thing I do besides being a mother. And it's work. You sweat, even! Every week I go to the service hot and sweaty! But I love it. After next week, I can't do it anymore. Chemo makes the babies dangerous to me. I won't have the immune system to do it. That was the straw that broke the camel's back today. It put me on the floor. Just one more thing...

Tonight though it's different, I'm OK. I'm still grieving, but not in desperation. I owe that to my mom and her favorite scripture. 2 Corinthians 12:9 is where Paul tells us, "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness'." My weakness is necessary. All of the tiny little pieces, a must. His grace IS sufficient, and I'm counting on His strength because I am nothing but weak at this point. Doesn't mean I won't have more days like these, but thankfully it's not my strength that'll put me back together again.

©2009 80% Sporadic | by TNB