Hope and faith

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On my last day of work before surgery, one of my office mates handed me a cross. Her husband hand made it and thought I would like it. This brought tears to my eyes for many reasons. One of those reasons is my recent visits to church. Another reason is that I do not own a cross. Our house was robbed a few years ago and most of my jewelry was taken. I had yet to replace my cross. This kind, thoughtful gift meant a lot for a lot of reasons.

I mentioned the other day that my anxiety is kicking in with my upcoming surgery. I was feeling really good about it until about a week and a half ago, when the pain in my lymph nodes and tumor started to intensify. There has been pain on and off for months, mostly around chemo days. The oncologist has assured me that, while it doesn’t always happen, it typically means the tumor is dieing.

Despite knowing this, the recent pain has unnerved me. I can feel it in my arm when I reach for something or pick up Jacob. It has created a fear in me, a fear that I have fought hard to keep at bay throughout this journey. What if the cancer is fighting harder than me? What if, despite all I have been through since August, it is spreading? What if I am losing this battle?

I have been hesitant to share this fear because I don’t want it to be true. I am hoping and praying that when my surgeon opens me up, she will find nothing but dead tissue and dead cells. I have been praying hard for this, yet the fear has remained.

At church today, there was a lot of discussion about revelation and the coming of days. It wasn’t quite the sermon I was hoping to hear, but God likes to throw a curveball sometimes. At the end of the sermon, the pastor mentioned that we need to pass our sins, our worries and our fears up to the Lord. Have I heard this dozens of times before? Yes. Is this new information?  No.  Is it what I needed to hear today? Absolutely.

So, today, I am letting go of this fear. There is, quite literally, nothing more that I can do prior to surgery.  I am letting go of my fear and my anxiety and handing it off. I feel better already.

Oh, and I am once again reminded that I truly am too blessed to complain.

Happy Sunday, folks. May your day be filled with sunshine and happiness, just like mine.

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The coming days

As my surgery quickly approaches, the reality of what is about to happen is sinking in.  I am confident in my decision and feel that it is the right thing to do for me and my body.  I am as ready as I am going to be.  My house is clean, the laundry is almost done, the insurance calls are mostly done…now it’s time to wait.

Waiting is hard. Every snuggle, every hug, every time I pick up my sweet boy, a small part of me hurts for all of the weeks that I won’t be able to do just that. Each time I wash a dish or toss clothes in the washer, I feel bad that I won’t be able to help around the house while recovering.  It’s hard to think about just resting during recovery and not being able to contribute to the every day activities in our home.

I worry about the emotional impact surgery will have on me. It’s hard to know exactly how I will feel when I wake up.

Then I remind myself that I am doing this so that I can continue to live a long, healthy and cancer free life.  It will be a long few days but my life after will be longer. And that’s what’s important.

The next few days will be filled with family time. Snuggles, hugs, maybe a few belly laughs and beach…a little time together to soothe the soul before this next phase. Here’s to a great weekend, everyone!

Too blessed to complain

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Yesterday, Joe & I were invited to a meet and greet at work with senior leadership. We had the opportunity to chat with some of the people that we interact with regularly but are located in different states.  It was a nice evening and we had a lot of laughs.

Towards the end, we were chatting with one particular leader and he shared something personal that he does. Every morning, as soon as he wakes up, he writes down 3 things that he is grateful for from the day before. He uses the first 3 things that pop in his head and they are typically everyday things like being blessed with the ability to heat his home or putting his child to bed at night.  The purpose for him was to start his day with a reminder of how blessed he is and not start his day with a negative thought, or complaint, about the day ahead. He called this his “Too blessed to complain” journal. He showed us his phone and scrolled through the dozens of journal entries he has.

This reminded me of the 5 year journal that I was gifted recently, that I use to track one thing each day that made me smile.  I shared this with the leader and also indicated that his habit fits perfectly into my life currently.

When we arrived home after dark last night, our entire yard was lit up with trucks and power company workers…yet our house was completely dark. Our road has been closed for construction since before Thanksgiving and yesterday afternoon, a truck moving dirt backed into a telephone pole. The pole snapped, pulling the wires tight. Those wires then snapped the two poles in our back yard. The power company was working hard to replace those poles and restore power to our house and two others.

Frustrating? Yes. But thankfully we had enjoyed an evening at work that brought us home late, just in time for little man to go to bed, and we had snacked already.  We scavenged the house for candles and flashlights, snuggled up in our bed and had a slumber party. I read my book to Jacob until he fell alseep.  The hard working power company outside didn’t leave until after 1030pm last night, our power restored.

If that happened a year ago, I may have been angry and reacted differently. Instead, I chose to embrace the moment and enjoy it the best I could. This statement from my leadership summarizes my thoughts.  Not just last night, but throughout this journey since diagnosis.  I am too blessed to complain.

The 100th

When diagnosed with cancer, it’s hard to ignore the thought in the back of your mind that continuously asks Am I going to die?

In the middle of the night and when I feel the worst is usually when that dreaded thought creeps in and tries to wrap its tentacles around my happiness. I fight hard to keep those tentacles subdued but the reality is that I think about cancer for the majority of the day. Whether I’m dealing with appointments or phone calls or that forever painful lump or the medicine I take in the morning or before bed…cancer is always in my mind in some way.

I’ve mentioned before that I have dreamed of being a writer for as long as I can remember. I have always had an excuse as to why I didn’t have time to make that dream become a reality. My decision to start a blog came easily. I knew it was the right thing at the right time for me. It just made sense. Cancer put everything into perspective. It was the push that I needed to follow my dream.

Today, this very post, is my 100th blog post. If you had told me a year ago that I would have 100 blog posts, I probably would have laughed and been silently hopeful that it were true.

Cancer is scary. It is a reminder that life is short and that life is precious. It forces me to embrace each day and be grateful for it – for a fresh start and another chance to accomplish my dreams.

Tomorrow is not guaranteed. This is what I remind myself in the moments of darkness. We do not know what the future holds for us. Cancer is a reminder of that. But it is also the push that I needed in my life to pursue my passions. It is also a reminder that some things can wait until tomorrow (dishes, anyone?). What’s important is that today we enjoy the moment, embrace the day and love the people that make our life whole.

Here’s to 100 posts so far…and hundreds more to come!

Bald…again?

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Finishing my first 6 treatments was exciting for many reasons. One of those reasons is that my hair will start to grow back!

Since shaving my head in September  (ironically my busiest blog visitor day!), my hair has slowly been growing in. It’s not the typical hair growth though. It’s been patchy, with a few completely bald spots right next to patches where hair was growing at a pretty good pace.  My head has had a mixture of baldness, peach fuzz and 1 inch strands for a while now. The day of my last treatment I could even feel pieces of hair blowing in the wind when I moved my head around.

While the hair growth I’ve had has been welcomed, I have learned that it is best to shave your head again about a month after the last (aggressive) treatment. This is mainly because the hair that’s been growing is contaminated with the treatment drugs and can grow in a little crazy and a bit wirey.

So, it was time for a fresh start! Joe shaved my head again today.  There was actually more to shave than I realized.  The red strands clumped together on the floor created a bigger pile than I anticipated. I’ve heard post-treatment hair can grow in differently than the hair that came before it, so I’m curious to see what the weeks will bring in.

It was a good feeling to see my freshly shaved head today.  I’ve seen the patchy strands for so long that I just assumed my head would look like that for a while. Imagine my surprise when the shave revealed that my hair has filled in almost every where and is actually quite even across my head now!  My dream of rocking a pixie cut at my baby sister’s wedding this summer may become a reality after all.

Happy Saturday, friends! Enjoy this beautiful day.

The lonely Herceptin

It was odd going to treatment today. I didn’t need to bring a bag of fun with me to occupy my time, just a book to read. My appointment was a little later in the day, unlike the usual 745am that we need to be there. I was able to check a few things off my pre-surgery to-do list while trying to drink enough water to hydrate myself in preparation for treatment.

The infusion center was running a little behind today, which I didn’t mind much. One of my fellow warriors, a woman I look up to for her strength, courage and kind heart, was also at the treatment center today for an infusion. It was great to see her and give her a nice big hug while waiting to be called.

Joe was with me today, as he always is. My biggest supporter and the man who gives me strength daily throughout this journey. I don’t know how I ever got so lucky to have him by my side for life.

My blood work looked great, which was good to hear. Thankfully, I was lucky that my blood work remained in the good “low” range throughout the first 6 treatments. I received a little hydration while waiting for the blood work results and then for the pharmacy to fill the Herceptin request. Herceptin is the drug that is blocking the HER2 receptors in my body, therefore prohibiting the cancer from growing.  I will continue to receive it every 3 weeks through September.

I was excited that my Herceptin was given in just 30 minutes today!! The first treatment it was given over 90 minutes and the subsequent 5 treatments it was given over 60 minutes, so I was anticipating the 60 minutes again. The gradual decrease in time is done to ensure my body doesn’t react negatively to the Herceptin. What a difference that 30 minutes made, the time flew by once the Herceptin was started.

I feel pretty good so far. It’s a nice feeling to not be dreading the next few days and how I would feel if it were a full round of treatment. I’m quite tired and took a nap as soon as I arrived at home. I felt a little nauseous but took medicine to help. I’m curious to see if I have any noticeable side effects over the next few days but either way I know it will be easier compared to what I’ve been through so far.

Since today was my first Herceptin only treatment, I thought I’d share a few photos from my last treatment – when I was able to ring the bell. I was blessed to have my husband, my baby sister and my friend by my side that day – not to mention all of the incredible nurses at the infusion center. These pictures are a nice reminder of how far I’ve come on this journey.

Oh sweet pedicure…

How I’ve missed this!  One recommendation while undergoing treatment is to avoid pedicures.  Since my immune system is down, there is a greater risk of infection.  I can’t recall the last pedicure I had, so it must have been a while.  With this chilly weather and the dry skin I have from treatment, my feet have seen better days.  After my last round of treatment, I asked when I could get a pedicure again.  Just a few weeks after treatment – yay!

I met my friend Cara years ago when she was my peer at work. We became fast friends and one of our favorite girl days has always been heading to the nail spa to enjoy a pedicure (and typically a little shopping too)!  Cara and her family have been huge supporters throughout this journey.  Her kind heart and listening ear have been priceless during this time.

So when my sweet friend asked if I wanted to join her for a little foot spa treatment, I jumped at the chance!  Our tootsies enjoyed a long soak and scrub while we chatted away, catching up on life, work and everything in between.  It was a great way to enjoy a Thursday before treatment day (thankfully not an aggressive one anymore!).

Cara and I always tend to lean towards the bolder nail colors, with me choosing a beachy blue (to remind me of my happy place while recovering) and her choosing a bright green (Team Red Phoenix!).  What’s your favorite nail color?