Thursday, February 22, 2018

Scans and surgery and Dream. State.

It's days after I had my stent replaced and that is me in the photo above, late the first night.  I was actually allowed to go home from the hospital by early afternoon.  Around every corner that day, it seemed a small gift awaited me. 

I've learned through time, to try and not have too many expectations.  I had been told to arrive at 6 am and that surgery would be at 8 am.  I had been barely settled into my pre-surgery room when Dr. Williams arrived to see me.  He had already concluded his first surgery of the day and it was only a little after 7.  He assured me I'd be going down soon.  We had very little to say as this was my 4th procedure by him and we're pretty well versed in how things go.  He was full of an understated ease, that mimicked my own calm at the time.  While everything is truly very straightforward, you still know you're presenting yourself for something quite serious.  I have a large mass in the area where the stent goes, and it's proper placement is key to helping my bladder and kidney work smoothly together.  But we don't elaborate those details.  He simply says he'll see me in a bit and off he goes.  

The operating rooms are on the second floor, just a short trip down through the elevator and down some long hall-ways.  Somehow I was so relaxed I didn't need any pre-meds to calm my nerves before going to the OR.  I was chatty with everyone as they began getting me ready for my procedure.  But as soon as a little "versed cocktail," was added to my port, I knew the "party" was about to begin.  The last little bit I recall is that they were going to cancel my need to go to the PACU unit since I was such a light weight and wouldn't require high doses of drugs.   I would go directly back to my room after the procedure if it went well.

Sure enough, an hour or so later I awoke to being back in a regular hospital room.  At the mention of food I agreed to some jelly toast and was soon sipping some coffee and munching away.  Rick had managed to go down to the cafeteria and was surprised to receive a call that I was back in my room just as he was getting his food.  He finished eating and came back to sit with me.  He shared that Dr. Williams was pleased with how the procedure went and also happy with how the stent looked when he took the old one out.  He also shared with Rick that he feels bad that I have such difficulties to face, and yet he admires how I remain so positive. Based on everything being in such good shape Dr. Williams has decided to move me to a 4 month rotation so that I can have more time in between procedures as long as I continue to do well.  

It wasn't long and I managed to get up and walk on my own.  As soon as that was checked off the list, I was told I could dress and prepare to go home!  At every juncture that day, it went far more smoothly than I had ever experienced.  I felt at ease for so much of it, despite some discomfort and side effects of the anesthesia, I still felt it was all manageable.  At home I managed to sit with my phone and finally see the outpouring of love and prayers on facebook from so many friends and family.  I was thoroughly touched and moved beyond words.  The multitude of prayers and well wishes truly were answered and blessed me so.  How else can you explain how well it all went?  My tiniest concerns were met and taken care of- truly I was in the best hands.  His hands.

My scan results even showed me the stent the week before last.  Its such a tiny piece, but its surrounded by a mass of breast cancer tumors in my pelvic region.  Fortunately?  The mass was actually less pronounced in the most recent scan, and overall looked smaller.  In fact, the entire scan showed less prominence of cancer in many areas.  Dr. Panwalkar was pleasantly surprised at how good the scan looked in most areas- a couple of areas were the same and some a bit worse maybe, but overall good.  He hesitated in how we should proceed with treatment, but ultimately decided that since I was handling the side effects pretty well, we'd stick with the current regimen.  So for the next 3 months I will continue on with the combination of 4 drugs infused every 3 weeks.  I'll continue to do 3 booster shots and I promised Dr. P I'd call if I had the slightest change in how I was feeling. He had looked so serious when he arrived at our appointment, but was more cheerful and pleased overall, when he left that day.  

I've managed a few photos of some of the blessings that have come our way.  Beautiful plants with just the right words displayed on the crate- so uplifting the day it arrived.  Plus the box of cookies that came all the way from Georgia!  They were delicious and I was so touched someone took the time to mail them off to me.  The flowers that arrived one day,  gave me such a lift.  I remember how bright the sunshine was and how "springy" it felt that day.  The gift of the blanket just topped everything off.    

I was groggy and recovering from surgery, and the best possible way to rest is when you have a blanket made that is called "covered in prayer," by a woman who was a survivor of cancer herself.  I'm definitely living proof, that blankets can cover our physical needs, but it can also help cover our emotional and spiritual needs as well.  A few days later another beautiful hand knit blanket arrived- ti is equally as warm, and done in some bright beautiful spring colors, I love wrapping in it early in the morning.  Thank you to all who have blessed me in so many ways.  It helps me feel like there is a continued purpose to my life, and that is the best gift of all.

I've been reading the book, "Option B, Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy," by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant.  She says "resilience comes from deep within us and from support outside us.  It comes from gratitude for what's good in our lives and from leaning in to the suck.  It comes from analyzing how we process grief and from simply accepting that grief.  Sometimes we have less control than we think.  Other times we have more.  But when life pulls you under, you can kick against the bottom, break the surface, and breathe again."  

This is how I live my days, with the support of all of you.  I'm kicking and breaking the surface, and breathing yet again.  Thanks for coming along with me! 

The first episode of the show Dream. State. aired last week.  We had decided to watch as a family and as the boys arrived home, the show began.  We were all glued to the television when suddenly it stopped after just a minute or so had aired!  And it didn't come back.  We were so perplexed and disappointed.  But luckily, Nolan discovered a link for the episode on Youtube and we were able to stream it to our tv.  Wow!  The first episode was so well done!  We watched twice that night, pausing and remembering as we went.  There were so many special moments with Nolan in it throughout the episode- over a dozen times we saw him or one of his goals, or an interview he had done with his friend Ethan, when they were really young- so many great moments.  

Here is a link to the first episode on Youtube:  Dream. State. 

The second episode is scheduled to run on FSN tonight, right after the Wild game.  We have been told our story will not be in the second episode, but has been moved to the 4th episode to run at a future time.  All of the shows should be able to be viewed on Youtube after they've aired on tv, if you don't have access to the tv show.  

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Dream. State.

Dream. State.  It's the name of the television show that is following our boy's hockey team this year.  We've seen their production crew both on and off the ice at the Sports Center.  One of the young men met with Rick to talk about using some of his photos from over the years as part of the show.

But then he received another email request.  Would we consider doing some interviews with the crew about our family story?  They expressed not only talking to me about my journey with cancer, but also wanted to talk to our boys, and to Rick.  

Through a series of messages we picked a Sunday for the crew to come to our house.  The boys had been traveling for hockey and had arrived home late the day before.  So we let them sleep in a bit and didn't get started until 11 am.   We truly didn't know what to expect.  We anticipated it'd last an hour or so.  

I had just had chemo the Tuesday before, and was just starting to feel better.  I prayed long and hard that I could feel up to the task of being on camera and sound ok in the interview I would do with them.  I was fully prepared to live up to the honor of sharing my humble story once again.  I felt like I had so much to give.  I'm always awe-struck that He seems to find a way to help me live with purpose, by sending these huge opportunities to me time and again.  As confining as it can become to physically live within your 4 walls, its amazing how much your spirit can grow past those very walls.  I was ready to give... 

But I had no idea just how much I'd receive instead.  

The crew spent a good hour or so just setting up all of their gear.  I forget how many cameras there were.  At least 3 were running most of the time.  And their lights were strewn about.  Each one of us was given a microphone that we taped to ourselves.  Then the questions began.  

I got to go first, with the other 3 watching on.  I know we talked for almost an hour.  But the focus of our talk?  Certainly wasn't about cancer.  Its funny how much hockey has been more pervasive in our every day lives, and how easy it was to lead the talks back to hockey throughout everything.  Its so clear that hockey is more than a game, more than a season- its definitely a way of life that is lived both on and off the ice.  

And so many of the people that you started this journey with, are the very people that are still present in your life all these years later.  I was both drained and exhausted when my part was finished.  But I was filled up with joy and good memories, and pure satisfaction of just how fully we've lived our moments throughout all of these years.  But that's when the biggest gift started to unfold before my eyes.  The boys were starting their interviews.  And part of what they were asked to share was about how Rick and I had contributed to their hockey life.  I won't forget the magnitude of those moments.  The raw emotion they spoke with.  The words that every parent longs to hear.  We laughed and laughed at all the fun stories the boys remembered.  And relished the good memories that prevail to this day.  I know parts of this could be used for the show.  While the tears streamed as I stood just outside the doorway listening in, the gift of hearing my boys speak these words was simply priceless.

The young men then sat down with all of us and we continued to share stories with them.  As they slowly began to wrap up and pack their things, I glanced at the clock.  They'd been with us for 6 hours!  For 6 hours we had talked non-stop about our hockey life, and we felt like we barely scratched the surface.  We re-told the past 15 years of our life, and it was such an honor to have it all captured on camera. The whole afternoon was a wonderful culmination of the journey we've been on ever since the boys were in diapers.  

I was literally spent for days to come.  I have no idea how I got through the taping as well as I did.  Its clear that He saw me through.  Those prayers were answered.  The grace rained down in abundance on me that day.  

The show, Dream. State., will air February 13th on Fox Sports North.  Its a 6 week, 6 episode show that follows the Moorhead boy's hockey team.  We were told our family footage would be aired on the second episode.  We can't wait to see it!  

A lot has been happening as far as my cancer treatment goes.  Dr. Panwalkar has been very busy in researching and finding another treatment for me, despite the fact I haven't physically seen him in awhile.  I've gone in twice to fill out paperwork to help me secure access to a new drug should I need it.  I've both had to qualify for the drug medically, and financially so its been no easy process.

I will have a PET scan on Monday, and see Dr. Panwalkar on Tuesday of next week.   If my scan is stable or shows tumors shrinking I'll just stay on my current treatment.  If I show progression than I would start taking a pill called Keytruda.  You may see advertisements for it on tv.  It's a new immunotherapy drug on the market that shows promise in heavily treated patients like myself.  I'm so grateful to have qualified to have this drug when the time comes.  

The very next week, on Valentine's Day I will have another stent replacement surgery.  I have so much happening over the course of the next two weeks.  I will be at the clinic or hospital nearly every day those two weeks.  Between all the booster shots, the pre-surgery labs and exams, infusion and PET scan- I'll be stretched to handle it all.

So I'm still leaning in to all the uncertain and scary times ahead.  Each day is different.  Will I have break through pain, or not?  Will I need the wheelchair or can I walk?  Can I keep my oxygen saturation high enough, or not?  Will I be nauseous?  Tired?  Weak?  Worried?  Likely all of the above.  

Still- my days fill in between with support in all kinds of ways.  Meals arrive on a weekly basis.  Treats and goodies are left by our front door.  Cards and letters with encouragement arrive all the time.  I feel blessed despite the hard things we continue to face daily.

So to get through the next couple of weeks, I'm turning to the best coping method I know.  Taking myself out of the center of it all as much as I can.  I'd love to focus on you!  Will you share your prayer request with me for Monday?  How can I pray for you?  Please leave your requests in the comments below and I'll make a list to carry with me the next couple of weeks.  

~all shall be well~

Monday, January 1, 2018

My one word for 2018

 My word for 2017 is love.  I've been reflecting quite a bit on all that I learned about love this past year.  I think the biggest lesson to shine through was simply that being open to love, allowed me to fully see it and feel it in all encompassing ways.  In the everyday, the ordinary, tiniest moments, love can be found.

When I was growing up, we didn't express love to each other by saying, "I love you."  Whether its our Scandinavian heritage, or just old family traditions, love was shown, but not overtly expressed other than on a momentous occasion... and often privately.  Oh how I longed to feel it at times.  But maybe it was there more than I saw?  

I really tried this year, to express my love in ways that reached far beyond the boundaries I grew up with.  You so often have to give away the very thing you desire.  So, I said it, and tried to show it, to all those around me.  It was far easier than I anticipated and seemed to be reciprocated on such a grand scale.  I realized, I had been able to express it for so long, I just had to lean into it, and honor it, and it was such a staple to my every day existence.  My own boys have no trouble at all expressing their love towards me and others. The "I love you's" roll off their tongues and hugs go right along with saying it.  It touched me so to see it lived out in this way.  I hope that its me, living my legacy- not just leaving one- but truly showing my boys how I want them to go on.

But now I'm pondering my 2018 word.  What word could possibly be the same as "love?"  I've just had to stay with my practice of paying attention to what comes to me and consider the deeper message often shown in our day to day activities.

And the word that shows up over and over again lately?  Is hope.  I even received a journal, in perfect timing, as my old one is closing in on another 1,000 gifts I've counted and I need some more pages.  And there it is, "Hope anchors the soul..."   Hebrews 6:19

And then this quote I stumbled across while reading really resonated deeply with me...

Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today. 
Thich Nhat Hanh

So often you all ask how I'm doing...

Hardship has entered my world on a daily basis.  Just sitting here to type is somewhat daunting.  Words don't flow out of me like they once did, and the chemo brain stifles what I truly would like to convey.  How do you walk that fine line between saying you're essentially doing ok, but also being real about parts that aren't ok?  And that the next day, it all flips and new things aren't ok, but other parts are now better.  It just depends on the day.  Some days I eat, others I can't.  Often I sleep, but then days go by without a single nap.  Pain is managed, but then suddenly it's not.  I seem to shift in and out of these states often throughout my days.  And yet, every time something new is lobbed my way, so many of you show up with answers.

My blanket with heat has seen me through so many hockey games.  I can fit my heated coat, under my down coat, and the blanket can fit on top.  And then when my feet went cold?  Rick's Dad, Jim, bought me socks with batteries and now my feet can stay warm too!  Hope just keeps showing up seeing me through hockey game after game, I feel so blessed.

Our Christmas was a mix of both of these things.  We had a wonderful cousin's gathering and I managed to go for a couple of hours.  We laughed and talked and shared good food. But then I was spent, and needed a day or two to recover.  I wouldn't trade it for anything, but its hard to gauge where best to spend my energy day to day.  We managed a wonderful night of Christmas Eve at home in front of the fire, but I couldn't go to church.  The boys hadn't asked for very much and we had a simple gift opening and we were all surprised by how well Rick did with being the main Santa Claus this year.  My one big task?  Was to mail out Christmas cards and I enjoyed each moment of it.  I wrote notes with some and delighted on reading letters from others.  I cut way back and didn't get one out to all, but I was so happy to devote my time and energy to the ones I could do.   But that was all I could muster energy for this year.  And despite what we couldn't do?  Nolan whispered in my ear, "Mom, was your Christmas a good one?"  His big heart on display for me, was gift right there.

What really blessed us was all the wonderful gifts we received at our doorstep, or in the mailbox!   The letters some of you wrote that touched me through and through.  The gifts that were so thoughtfully delivered to us- from plants and fruit baskets, to baskets with Christmas goodies and books, and music and kindness all wrapped up in a big bow.  And when our washing machine needed to be replaced?  Gifts of money showed up and helped us do that very thing we so badly needed.  Our hopes were met yet again.

Its one more gift that choosing "love" has taught me.  Family can come to you by means of genes, and by means of community that grows up around you when you have hardships.  I not only have a family, but I have a hockey family, and a neighborhood family, and so many others with people that I can sit and chat with, and commiserate with, and laugh with- and it doesn't matter the origins of the relationship. It all feels like family to me!  If it can happen to me, I know it can happen to all of us when we have a great need for community.  We all just need to be there for each other in whatever ways we can.

I had chemo on the 26th, and am trying to fully recover.  I get pretty worn out and nauseous for a few days, but then slowly start to rebound and am pretty stable after that.  And I just try to stay in these moments, in the here and now, taking in what I can, and giving what I can.

Theres still purpose in my days.  The boys come to me daily, sharing with me their own troubles, and kindnesses that others have shown them.  They don't hide their feelings, and let me see how happy they can be, yet how sad it can feel to them as well.  They're both going through some tough things, outside of me and my sickness, that I can't do anything about. Its pulled us all closer tougher and we're searching for ways to make sense out of what they are enduring- but it hasn't been and won't be easy.  Hope is all I have to offer them as well.

 It was a somewhat teary good bye as they loaded up for a 3 day holiday hockey tourney a few days back.  I wouldn't be able to attend.   I just try to assure them I'd be here when they return, and they should go off and Nolan should play hard and Colton should manage the team well.  Then, I anchor myself in hope. Its what I have right now and its something that I'll hang on to as long as I can!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

living my moments

Each time I log in here, I'm at a different point in my life it seems.  I have so many posts started, and not completed because the news is ever changing, every day.  And it seems lately, I shift from having a good day, to a not so good day, rather quickly.  Or a not so great stream of days, turns into a run of better days.  I just never really know, day to day, how I'm doing.  Its easiest to say "I'm fine," because there isn't any other suitable response it seems. 

This past Sunday, the infusion nurse bringing me into the room I would use, commented on how I didn't look like my usual self.  The pain I had been enduring for a few days had taken its toll, and with all the resources I have at home, I'd reached the limit of what I could do.  She could see it in my eyes.  So I had called the oncologist on call who had said I should go right into the infusion center and get iv morphine to better manage my intense pain.  I was thankful I didn't have to go to the ER, and managed a short trip to the infusion center.   But by Sunday night?  I was feeling up to having a visitor.  My friend Katy came, with a stash of food, and good cheer and a sweet soul all the way around.  And I was in a groggy haze of meds, but so happy to just sit and chat away with her.  She met me in those moments and helped me feel comforted and loved and I deeply appreciate that special visit.  I went from one extreme, to the other, all in one day.  

But the one constant I can always count on?  Is how all of you, like my friend Katy, show up for me!    Just look at the friends below who came for a night of fun by the fire with good food and drinks, and wonderful conversation. I was definitely feeling well at this time. Our hockey community surprised me yet again with the gift of a stadium blanket, that has a battery attached to it and heats up just like my coat! They brought it to me this night and I was blown away with their generous gift for me.  I used the blanket just last week, and it saw me through a chunk of the game and even with a low battery the warmth was just enough to help me sit comfortably all the way through.  My neighbor, Darla, brought me to the game and we were both feeling great after seeing Nolan line up right in front of us, and score his first goal of the season!  I'm so grateful and feel so blessed by the giving spirit of so many friends and families who show up, time and again, to help us move through this crazy roller-coaster of a life that we're on.  

From cards that arrive in the mail, to visits from people that bring food.  One acquaintance brought a pillow with the words "all will be well," on it.  She had just learned how to make pillows and it's beautiful.  I also received a new journal from a friend visiting from the cities, with many other goodies. I'd love to show pictures of it all, but I'm afraid I'll leave someone, or something out.  I surround myself with all of these things and they are tangible reminders of just how much everyone is supporting not just me, but our whole family.

I snapped this quick photo of the boys heading out on the road for their first hockey trip of the season.  I just wasn't up to traveling and was grateful I could watch the games streamed on my computer.  Colton on the left, a freshman this year, is a team manager for the Spuds hockey team, and Nolan is a junior forward for the team.

After my crazy adventure through the infusion center on Sunday, Dr. Panwalkar showed up at my appointment Tuesday, with concern written all over his face.  We had quite a somber, although thorough visit with him.  He too, can see the difference in me at a deeper level.  He was filled with compassion and concern.  He said after listening to my lungs, that they sounded like I was much more limited in air movement on the left side and wanted an X-ray done before I left the clinic that day.  He'd go ahead and get a procedure lined up for me to have the lung drained of any fluid, if necessary.

I was surprised by how quickly the nurse's aid took me back to the department for the X-ray and then how quickly they took me back to get it done.  Dr. Panwalkar managed to read the film before I left and felt I didn't have too much fluid, so no draining would be necessary.  I just had to be careful not to push myself too far past my limited ability to breathe deep.  Too many tumors on top of old radiation damage is taking its toll.

But I had tolerated the last chemo session pretty well.  My white blood counts were low, but I'll be getting a series of 3 booster shots next week to help them climb back up again.  We also bumped my morphine up a bit more and added in some Advil for inflammation.  All throughout my visit with Dr. P he was very in tune with me and took his time answering each little question I had.  I'd lob a concern out to him, and he'd ponder it carefully and volley back to me with feedback I could use, or suggest something to try.   But Dr. Panwalkar seemed to be able to tell, I didn't need to know more than what was facing me right now in this moment.  Its too tricky to try and look out a ways when day to day everything can change so fast.  Meeting me in the moment seems to be the best way to do this right now.

In one of the first books I read about a woman's journey through cancer, the author, Katherine Russell Rich told of her checklist she used to determine how she was doing.  She would ask herself, "Are you in the hospital?"  "Do you need help with breathing?"  "Do you need help getting up and walking?"  If she could answer no to these questions, then she was doing just fine.  These have stayed with me and helped see me through what I face day to day.  We could all use a daily checklist to help determine how we're doing, couldn't we?  

One of the other new found treasures I've been reading is Oprah Winfrey's book called "The Wisdom of Sundays."  I've often pondered what has shifted my focus to taking in the small moments and treasuring them in a new way.  Why is this such a big presence in my life?

Page 16.  I just had to turn the page to number 16 and the words resonated so deeply with me.  I've spoken before about how I just want to expand my time and not worry about extending it.  I use all my senses to hear, smell, touch, and taste all that is offered in any given moment.  Gary Zukav wrote about just this experience saying "As people become multisensory they begin to become aware.  Millions of us are acquiring that sense that life has a meaning, that I have a purpose, that I am more than this mind and body...  Multisensory perception does not make us more kind or patient or caring or less angry.  It makes us more aware.  And when you get that sense, the spiritual work begins."  

The more pared down my day to day life becomes, the more I can allow myself to grow spiritually.  I'm working on that.  I have so much to learn just right here in the now.  So I just keep trying to live my moments as fully as I can.  

On the outside I may look fine.  But it won't always reflect how I am physically doing on the inside.  Maybe thats ok.  Maybe I can be ok in some other ways, and not worry too much about the rest.

Thank you for coming along with me!  My gratitude is overflowing for the abundance I truly feel I have.  

Monday, November 6, 2017

answered prayers

My quick cell phone photo doesn't do the cookies justice.  They're bright pink and white and were a complete surprise arriving at our door last night.  Thank you for the sweet treat to the angel who made these- they sure were a day brightener!  And just as yummy as they looked.   So was the meal that arrived ready for us to bake tonight- thank you Bonnie- I was so touched by your thoughtfulness.  I really feel when these things happen, they truly answer some of the prayers so many have said on behalf of our family.

I know I was in search of the things I could count on last week, when so much new was cropping up, so fast.

I met with an OB, Dr. Keup last Wednesday.  She had planned on trying to do the biopsy of my uterus in office that very day.  I was so unprepared for it, but tried to steady my nerves as she prepared me for the procedure.  But I was in discomfort right from the start.  No matter how slight her movements were, it was incredibly painful.  She stopped before she really had a chance to start, saying she just didn't feel she'd get a good sample based on how much atrophy had settled in after my ovaries had been removed.  She needed to have me under anesthesia to get a good amount of tissue.  

So I told her about my scheduled stent replacement the following day,  which I had just found out would be the first surgery of the day at 645 am.  I had to arrive at the new hospital by 5:00 am Thursday morning.

Through a series of phone calls in which Dr. Keup was able to talk with both Dr. Panwalkar and Dr. Williams who was doing the stent procedure, they managed to come up with a plan to do the biopsy right after the stent replacement.  The second surgery pieced itself together in such a seamless fashion, it was hard not to feel as though bigger hands were truly in charge of how this all would go.  But it didn't stop there... the biggest surprise was about to happen the next morning. 

Rick drove me to the hospital early Thursday morning.  I was called back to the pre-surgery room shortly after our arrival.  I had felt like I was walking through a hotel lobby on my way up to the 3rd floor.  Everything had such grandeur to it.  It was a lot to take in and I found myself quiet and reflective.  

As I was being prepped by a nurse, a whole crew of people streamed in and out of my room.  I hadn't been told to take my scheduled morphine and the time had come and gone, so my nurse wanted the anesthesiologist to come in and see if she could help.

Dr. Goswami came in and introduced herself.  But she lingered as she spoke.  "My name often precludes anyone from knowing who I am, she said, coming bedside to speak with me.  There was a warmth she exuded underneath all her scrubs.  She told me she wouldn't be following me to surgery as she had been at work all night and was just concluding her shift.  She continued to speak.  "As I read your history last night, I had an idea of who you might be.  You write a blog that my surgical tech follows.  She even sent me a link to a post you had written that included Amit- Dr. Panwalkar-and it was so kind, I just wanted to thank you.  You see, Amit is my husband, and you spoke so nicely about him ... I just wanted to introduce myself so I could thank you. 

I was flooded with pure joy!  Out of all the doctors I could have been assigned to, Dr. Panwalkar's wife was the one overseeing my care at that time.  I was so awestruck in such a way that I hardly said any words to her.  It truly felt like the presence of God in that moment.  That she took the time and went out of her way to talk to me was so gracious.  She went on to be sure I got a dose of morphine before she left to go home.  She said she doesn't often tell her patients who she is because they tend to turn the conversation onto her or him and she feels the focus should stay on the patient.  

I'm not sure why it had such a big effect on me, but I settled in and felt peaceful waiting to be taken back for the surgeries.  Both procedures went well, and despite a lot of bleeding which is common with the kind of biopsy I had, and some discomfort, I was able to go home late Thursday afternoon.

I'm not sure why it is that small things continue to speak to me in such big ways.  Its a very simplistic viewpoint that I hold.  But I had to feel it was God's way of showing me that He had this, despite how nervous and afraid we may become when faced with hard things to go through.  I just want to feel like I'll be able to handle things, no matter what comes.  And He hasn't let me down in feeling as though I'm not doing this alone.  

Next Tuesday, I will see Dr. Panwalkar, and then begin the new chemotherapy regimen.  I'm so nervous to begin 3 brand new drugs with a host of new side effects that may or may not show up for me.  I will also hopefully get results from the biopsy and be able to move forward with those.  

In the meantime I've been touched by the outpouring of messages, and prayers and visits by so many. Each little bit helps see me through and I will be eternally grateful to all of you who continue to walk side by side with me through this journey.  

What do answered prayers look like in your life?  

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

the changing seasons

I was recently so honored to be asked to share my cancer story on my friend, Jenna's blog, that she named Grape Tootsie Pop in honor of her mom, Carol.  Carol was part of our Fourward survivor group and we miss her so!  Please feel free to pop on over and read if you'd like to hear how this whole cancer journey began for me...  Vicky's story.  

I've been turning thoughts over and over in my head, wondering how to share with you all.  Its only just past a week since Dr. Panwalkar squeezed me in after he'd been away on vacation, but it feels like a lifetime ago with all the new territory we've covered already.

Dr. Panwalkar strode into the room and was headed straight for his chair when I instantly asked him about his trip.  He smiled big and said it was wonderful- far too short- but good.  But then he switched back to me right away and asked about the boys, as he loaded my scan results on the computer.  I could tell he was all business this day.

He started his report with a summary- "Well the results are not terrible... but they're not good either." He proceeded to show my lungs with a new spot in my right lung now and growing spots in the left,  my ribs on the left with a spot now showing after months of pain indicated something was already there, and my pelvis area, including a growing mass in my uterus.  Click after click with areas lighting up left and right. I find myself drifting off a bit as he measures, and plots, and tries to determine just how much more activity and growth the cancer is showing.  To me?  Its all too much!  What are we going to do?  

I'm trying to just breathe deep and stay focused.  He turns and faces me and says, "I think its time we get a new biopsy and see if the cancer is the same, or has changed in some ways.  It will also match us with any treatments that may be left to try.  I think its best to try to get a sample from your uterus."

"In the meantime, I think we'll try switching to a different chemo... maybe Ibrance, a hormone treatment.  As he talks about my history, he is quiet and reflective.  He is turning things over in his mind too.  I can see how tricky this all is- it certainly matches how I feel.  He finally asks if we've tried any in the 5FU line?  I shake my head no.  We haven't.  As we talk about it, I realize a weight is slowly lifting from me.  He is talking about treatment.  His voice now has some conviction again and then suddenly, he brightens and says- well since you haven't had any from this family than there are two more drugs we can use with it as well. He shares that 5FU is an old breast cancer drug, now used more for colon cancer, but there may still be some benefit from it and I may keep my hair.  He also mentions Methotrexate and Cytoxan that go along with it.  He is proposing a 3 drug combo. 

He goes on about a couple of other drugs and its then I jump in to ask him... "So are you saying theres more treatment options left for me to try?"  We go through many of the ones I've done already, but off the top of his head he still finds another one.  He cautiously says we just need to keep in mind my body isn't recovering very well, or rebounding very quickly from each session of chemo I do.  The trick is to find a therapeutic level of a drug that I can tolerate, and yet still have it do some good.  I find myself shaky all over again.  This isn't going to be easy.  

But then he switches gears again.  What do I think about trying to find a study?  There are so many mechanisms being studied and he rattles off the ones he is most impressed with.  He is downright animated in talking about the proteins, and the types of cells, and the nuances of all the components.  My head is swimming.  A lot of the studies are on the East coast.  They would require a move, and possible hospitalization.  It'd be costly, in many ways.  I'd have a lengthy process to go through just to see if I qualify.  But the idea has merit?  So many ideas with possibilities, but which ones are the ones we should embrace?  For now we will test for the proteins and just start with that to see if I'd even qualify.  

I'm so fraught with emotion by this time, I just need time to process all of this.  So I tell him what is foremost on my mind for right now.  The boys are starting their hockey season.  Its a big part of our lives.  I simply need to feel as though I can do ok, whether I am able to fully be with them or not, can I get by long enough to see them through their hockey season sometime this spring?

He pauses and mulls it over.  He smiles, cautiously, then says, yes, I think we can try for that.  

We get up to go, but I won't be having infusion for 3 more weeks.  Instead of walking me out, this time,  he goes right, and I go left.  So much new, amidst so much old, and I can only wonder what it all means. 

I have had many tests these past few days, preparing for the stent surgery sometime on Thursday.  I will see an OB on Wednesday to talk about the biopsy process and make a plan.  I will do my best to come back and fill you in, soon.  In the meantime, will you pray for me?  Out of all the change, the one thing that has always seen me through is your prayers.  I'm honored.  And humbled as always.  

Love to you all~ 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Still waiting...

Last week as I was headed out the door to the clinic, I paused just long enough to snap a few photos.  My hydrangea plant was still blooming, right in the midst of fall weather.  In fact we covered the plant hoping to preserve it a bit longer, but alas, the frost crept in that night and the once bright colors were instantly turned brown.  I was so thankful I had stopped and gotten a few images.

As I looked closer, I noticed that the plant was showing every stage- from the green of the newest buds, to the bright pink of a fully blossomed flower.  There was even some rust patches of reds, yellows and browns creeping into the bottom.  Does the plant really know which season it is in? 

The temperatures are low enough at night that we awaken to a layer of glistening frost in the mornings.  Yet by mid-afternoon, the temps turn into a warmth hovering in the mid-seventies.  Different parts of the day have us either pulling on layers for warmth, or quickly shedding them, with thoughts of what was I thinking when I put this on earlier today?  

It's actually a pretty good metaphor for how I feel these days!  

I had my PET scan on Monday.  With Dr. Panwalkar being on vacation, I saw Lori, a nurse practitioner,  for my appointment on Tuesday.  She has helped me often in the infusion center, checking on me when my infusion nurse, or I have had a concern.  

But everything felt out of place for me yesterday.  My appointment had been changed by the infusion center to an afternoon and I couldn't get it changed back to morning this time.  So Rick had to leave half way through my appointment.  But Lori was honest in saying she simply didn't have enough experience in reading PET scans to truly tell me much of anything that day. While some changes in the scan from 3 months ago, are evident in the scan on Monday, just how much change is the biggest question.   Plus, my platelets were too low yesterday  and I wouldn't qualify for any infusion treatment.  

The report by the radiologist had enough questions in it, that nothing was very conclusive and Lori felt it would be best to wait for Dr. Panwalkar to return from his trip next week to see me- hopefully.  He returns to work next Tuesday, and his schedule will likely be daunting.  Yet they said they would try to get me squeezed in.  So much, is simply out of my hands.  I hardly know what to do.

In the meantime we are in the process of getting me set up for a kidney stent replacement again.  Its hard to fathom its been 3 months since the last one and on November 2nd, I'll be having yet another stent replacement day surgery- but this time at the new hospital which I haven't seen as of yet.

So I'm kind of in limbo.  Both physically, and emotionally.  I'm clinging to today and focusing on all that I can do right now,  and trying hard not to focus on what lies ahead, or doesn't.  I simply don't know.  My outside and my inside simply don't match.  

Yet as much as I am in today,  the future calls to me to engage, to plan, to dream.  Plus, having so many of you showing up and sending me such thoughtful responses to my last blog post helps me fill with hope and keep my eyes seeking the future, as uncertain as it is, for all of us really.

A couple of my cousins and their daughters came to visit me last week.  They brought warmth, laughter and a sense of family back to me, which meant so much.  But they also brought the gift of a battery-charged heated coat!  The battery attaches in the back in a small pocket and the buttons shown on the front help you regulate the amount of heat that is generated.  

How cool is that!  Its perfect for the rink and I'm longing to be able to try it!  

Thank you Mary, Jackie, Nichole, and Brook- and the whole Brainerd crew!  

We also have a wonderful neighbor who offered to cook some casseroles for us once a week.  She offered to use my tuna noodle casserole recipe, and Colton is pretty over the moon to know whats coming.  Plus so many who have also brought other meals, and come to visit and have simply helped us feel supported, and valued and loved.  Its those very things that help me yearn for all the tomorrows, knowing that He has this.  He has me.  He has our family in the palm of his hands and he shows us every day that the bottom line is...

"All shall be well."  

When you get lucky

When you get lucky

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