Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The storm

At a time when I couldn't possibly articulate what the past few weeks have been like- I stumbled across this video and feel it delivers, powerfully, what living with stage iv cancer feels like.  It's two minutes of a poem, read by a man, with images that marry the words well.





Type, delete.  Try again.  These words?  No.  Definitely not.  Try again.  And again... and...

So many times the past few weeks I've sat here trying to figure out something to say.  To me, there is no clear answer to how I am doing.  I have figured out in a way, how to look ok when I'm in public, or with friends, visitors, etc., for short durations of time.  I can muster something, from somewhere, that has a semblance of "oh, she is doing just fine."

But am I?  I don't know.

I saw Dr. Panwalkar about two weeks ago.  He noticed the sound of more fluid in my lungs, but not to the point of needing to drain them yet.  He also said my blood counts had really bottomed out, so he was going to try something I haven't done in 6 years- ever.  He wanted me to have a Neulasta shot, a week after chemo.  I was told the scale they use for the bone pain you may feel from the shot, goes from "general aches in the bones"- all the way up to "bone-crushing pain."  Oh my!

But, Neulasta has the power to regenerate those healthy blood cells that you need to restore your immune system and keep your counts high enough to do the next chemo treatment.

So last week, I dragged myself into the clinic for my shot.  I could feel my counts were low already, after that first week of treatment.  Plus, we increased my dose of Doxil.  So I was chronically battling taking a deep breath.  That dry, hacking, cough I had years ago when my lung tumors were growing, is back in full force.  My heart races- despite the Metoprolol I take for it.  Thankfully, the shot slipped into the muscle in the back of my arm, and truly was a breeze.  A bit of aching, and some tenderness in the small of my back, but really, not too bad overall.

And I'm learning to just live with the constant ache in my side.  Morphine takes the edge off enough, and we'll bump it up if need be- but then my already foggy head, may not really work much at all.  For now?  I'll just be ok with where I am.  Um, mostly ok.

Because some days?  I truly wonder how I'll manage whatever lies ahead.  I have those days where I can just "go" and "do" and "be."   Yet, other days?  On Father's Day, just hours after getting out of bed- I went back.  I was nauseous and hungry.  I couldn't breathe, but boy could I cough.  I was tired, but couldn't sleep.  I was miserable.  And I was mentally just done.  I sent the men off for a Father's day lunch at the lake and some time for fishing.  Surely, I could muster a few hours alone?

Uff da.  I just couldn't, after all.  Between the dog demands,  and trying to find some food, and little everyday things, I was gassed- back to bed, every time.  Shortly after they returned home, and I requested some food- when I couldn't even form the words to tell them what I could eat?  I burst into tears... and then sobbed.  And sobbed.  It had been a very long time.  And Superman, held me again, and let me- let go.

I had earnestly prayed on and off all day.  I simply needed Him to know, I'd go if he asked.  Was this what He has been leading me too?   But I'd stay and live out His way for me- I just needed a little something.  Anything- to help me through.  I was deeply surrendered.

 We were all spent that night, and tumbled into bed early.  My sleep meds kicked in and I slept well.

It was the early morning sun bursting through my window that awakened me yesterday.  I moved over into the recliner in our bedroom, and was struck by how my breath stayed with me.  I took my meds, and moments later, also noticed my heart slowing down for the first time in a long time.

And then that smell tickled my nose.  Freshly.  Brewed.  Coffee.  It smelled wonderful for the first time in a long time!  Thank you, God!   I sipped and sipped, most of it, and enjoyed it. The light, that seemed to be flickering off in the distance, was starting to steady itself.

"This"- whatever you call it- "this" is exactly what I've yearned for- longed for.  Just a little bit of me, returning to me.


This Thursday I will have a Pet scan at 3 pm at Roger Maris.  Next Monday,  I will have a Brain MRI at 2pm.

How can I pray for you?  I will bring lists with me to the clinic in the hours of wait time, and sedation time I will have.  Focusing on YOU, truly helps me.

My gratitude continues to fill and spill, when the distant hum of life beats at my front door.

My love and blessings to you all.

Thank you for even just showing up here!











46 comments:

  1. You came to mind in the early hours this morning and I lifted you in prayer. The gift of His presence is beyond measure. I am taking my own journey into the "C" world this year and would appreciate being on your prayer list. Each day, each moment, a gift. Your steadfastness in the midst of all you have gone through is a beautiful testimony.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Susan, I'm both sad, and honored, to add you to my list and will pray often for you. I've sent a more detailed reply in email as well. Sending love, hugs and many prayers to you!

      Delete
  2. Your posts are always so touching. Please pray for Kirsten Johnson as she tackles pancreatic cancer. She is doing well but fighting just like you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Peggy- I smile whenever I see your name- such fond memories of time spent helping in your classroom with my "little" boy and all the others. Yes- I was so sorry to hear about Kirsten, and will gladly pray over her. Hope you are enjoying these summer months with your beautiful kiddos!

      Delete
  3. My heart is full, as I read this from afar - currently far north in Anchorage. Vicky, I can't express, fully, my respect for you, and my long-distance support. Praying, believing and sending love.

    You expressed yourself beautifully, by the way, as always. I appreciate you taking the time to update us, as your life is full of so many important things.

    Here's hoping for a good week, light pouring in, and good smelling coffee! I'm having some myself, right now :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Susan, you are so steadfast and loyal in showing up here, and your words always lift and encourage me so. Thank you- that is gift right there- and expresses much to me. Cheers to the eternal love of a good cup of coffee!

      Delete
  4. Thank you for the update! It feels strange to ask you, who are going through so much, for prayers for others. I think you are the perfect person to ask this, though. A friend of mine is recovering from surgery for cancer in her jaw. Please pray for her. I am wondering what I can do for her and her family (besides pray) so if you have any tips or names of books that would be good reading for them, please let me know. Thinking of you and wishing you pain free days and restful nights!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Robin. It helps me not focus on me- my thoughts are calmed when I pray for others and since I can't read, or watch tv, or do anything- what better use of my quiet time? Can you give me the first name of your friend? I will add her to my list and pray for her.

      I am going to try and attach a list of books I sent to someone else that helped me: "There's no place like Hope by Vickie Girard. Its short and concise, but full of useful tips and inspiring insight. My favorite book, is Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts. She dares anyone going through a hard time to start journaling their gifts to 1,000- and what begins to happen is you see everything as a gift all of a sudden. You realize you already have so much around you to be grateful for. Ann is a gifted writer- its deep and moving. My friend's book, Sara Frankl who lived with a chronic illness, then died in 2011, shares great stories about "Choosing Joy." She also shares personal stories of the hard, but gives great advice on how to go on despite the hard stuff. The book, "The Red Devil," also chronicles the journey of a woman going through cancer- it includes her experiences of having a bone marrow transplant- and how she manages to live almost 20 years with cancer. She is more gritty- but its real and hopeful at the same time. I also loved the book written by the doctor who died from cancer- When breath becomes air."

      Glad my list worked- those are all great reads. If you just go see your friend- visit her. Call her. Send her a pretty card. Make a meal and bring it. Bring flowers or a plant. Anything you do- will cheer her up a bit, and make her feel special. But don't ask what? She will likely say- no I'm ok- thanks. So just go ahead and do something. She is lucky to have you as a friend!

      Delete
    2. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Her name is Kim and she is such a giving person and accepting help from others will likely be difficult for her so I will plan to just do, rather than ask. Thank you again for thinking of others. You are an amazing person!

      Delete
  5. OH, Vicky - to have the words that would give you respite. More of it, and more and more.

    A friend of mine, Chris, just lost her husband to lung and bone cancer. Please pray for her to find peace of mind and strength to move on, as she is having a very difficult time with her loss. Another friend, Lara, is about to begin Chemo treatment for breast cancer, having just gone through double mastectomy surgery. She is frightened - pray for what you know she will need to get through.

    Thank you so much for thinking of others, always- you are a gift to all, you are a light in the dark. May the scans reveal success with your recent treatments.

    Love to you and yours - K

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Karen, you encourage me so- and I always feel we could meet face to face and jump into conversation like we've always been great friends. I will add both Chris and Lara to my list- so sorry to hear about the truly hard things they are each going through! Love right back to you.

      Delete
    2. Indeed, we are great friends through this blog world we have embraced - and will always be. You have no idea how you have inspired me and will continue to do so, always. xo

      Delete
  6. Vicky....
    I know that you are God strong. That is THE strongest. Ever.
    I also know that you are in pain and are suffering. Breaks my heart beyond words.
    I love you. Thank you for your prayers for others.
    It's who you are. And, it shows "Whose" you are.
    J.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jackie, my goodness friend, we go so far back together in blog land and I'm forever thankful we've been friends throughout. Your words are a balm to my weary soul- and I'll say a special prayer for Mama and Papa, as they frequently come to my mind. Love you.

      Delete
  7. Vicky: thank you for the update. I find myself with little to say and wishing I could extend a hand to hold. Like you, I was changed by 1000 Gifts. My mindset changed in a way that I consider one of the biggest gifts I have ever received.
    I have two prayer requests. One is for my sweet friend, Donna , battling stage iv pancreatic cancer. She is doing remarkably well right now but longs for a medical community that will offer HOPE despite her diagnosis. She is traveling to Baltimore for more testing and to see if she qualifies for a medical trial.
    My other request is for my boy, Ben . He is 12 and will be going to church camp for the first time in a few weeks. He has never spent the night away from family before and that has me a little worried as mom. I just want him to have a ball and experience God's love for him personally.
    Praying for you, for the upcoming tests and scans. Praying for the comfort of coffee, the thanksgiving of relief and the strong presence of the Father with you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jenny, your gracious words always say more to me than you could ever know. I will add both Donna, and Ben to my prayer list. That first time away from home is definitely a hard one on us, isn't it? We know the potential is there for them to have an eye-opening, fun, and spirit-filled experience- if they can just handle being away from home. I also hope Donna can maybe find a stage iv support group like our treatment center has. We're so grateful for our "FOURward" group that allows those who are stage iv to meet as a group with a therapist and process our feelings, and help the staff develop ways to help us- and so much more. Thank you for your prayers- they see me through- always. Love to you!

      Delete
    2. Jenny, I live not far from Baltimore, and if your friend would like a friendly face when she is here, please message me and let me know. I would consider it a privilege to do whatever I can. Vicky, you are on my calendar to pray for.

      Delete
  8. thanks for taking the time to form thoughts and share from your heart. your deeply surrendered living is a testimony to God's sovereignty and your trust in Him. that poem is by one of my favorite poets, Shane Koyczan of Canada. powerful, powerful...helps me understand in some small way.

    i started a part-time job today as a copy editor. my prayer request is that i would believe the truth about my experience and my skill set instead of entertaining--even for a second--the lie of the enemy that i'm a poser. there's SOOOOOO much to know about rules of grammar and punctuation that i find myself questioning even the stuff i do know.

    love you. praying for you. you're never far from my mind.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Gut punched in a way we should all be gut punched by that video. It brings into sharp relief what it means to walk through Stage IV cancer and how so many can assume so much about our state of health because one day we can write, one day we can shop, one weekend we can travel, one time we can cook, one moment we can show up to a game. But it's in the intervals, the long-drawn-out-nobody-knows-or-sees moments that so much of your life happens. Thank you for showing us that clearly and bringing it to our awareness so that those who see only the moments can, hopefully, see the whole clock.

    And yet.....you write to us and for us so poignantly and with such grace through the journey. And we all ache for you and pray and hope and embrace our own insufficiency when we want so much for this to be something you lived through - the very, VERY past tense - and not something you're living through in the all-too-palpable present tense. May those scientific wonders that truly are changing lives and outcomes change yours as well. One friend of mine is being treated for a breast cancer, and is in infusion as I write, that had no hope attached to it ten years ago. Her oncologist says she will die of old age because of that break through. And absolutely nothing existed for it ten years ago. There ARE break throughs and we are holding on for one for you as well, dearest Vicky. And I am grateful to God that in that most desperate and surrendered moment, He showed you to yourself, brought you back to yourself, and encouraged you yet one more time.

    How can you pray for us? We who want nothing on your lips but prayers for yourself? And yet......I fully understand that sometimes we need to focus outward more than anything else so I will include a list. Pray for my mom and that the place we have selected for assisted living will have a spot for her. The waiting list is currently long but God is able. Pray for my friend, Diane, who is undergoing treatment now. Pray for my friends Jeannette and Tiffany and Cheryl who just completed treatment and are hoping for continued clean bills of health. Pray that my other friends/family - Nancy, Lori, Crystal, and Pam will continue to remain cancer free after their successful treatments a few years back. All of these women had or have had breast cancer. It's nearly unbelievable. They say one in 8 will develop it but in my experience it's nearly 1 in 2.

    We must find a cure for this stealer of health and life and that video makes that crystal clear, and offers hope. Thank you for sharing it and thank you for your love and heart and willingness to fight on though you are intensely battered. I love you, Vicky.

    ReplyDelete
  10. You never cease to amaze me, Vicky. You are an inspiration to me and you have touched my life forever. Your continuous faith reminds me to be thankful for every moment and every blessing,especially in the midst of the storms.

    Your written words have been a blessing to me, as you graciously share your thoughts and feelings. Only a few others in my life have touched me so deeply and encouraged me to reflect on my own life, in the same way. You remind me time and time again to choose joy, even when it is not the first choice that comes to my mind.

    Your strength, your love, and your vulnerability are always present in your writing which makes it possible for me to feel as if I am with you on this journey. Something amazing happened when I read your post today.

    When you asked how you could pray for us during your scans and treatments, I was overcome with emotion. God's love was shining through you and I felt the warmth of His love and promises in my heart.

    The simple words of a song that I love filled my mind."Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, amazing love, now flowing down. From hands and feet that were nailed to the tree. As grace falls down, it covers me. It covers me, it covers me, it covers me and covers me."

    We have never met, but you have been a wonderful friend to me and I want to thank you. I will continue to pray for you and hope that you feel me being a friend to you. I pray that His grace and His love cover you every single day.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Vicky, I think of you often and pray for you often. I am nearly half-way through my chemo treatments - I know you prayed for me before, and I welcome prayers again. You are truly an inspiration - a wonderful person and an even more wonderful mom. Thank you for being you and for sharing your story with all of us.
    -- Kristi Engelstad

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kristi! Today is your big day! Sometimes the positioning and the amount of time I lay on my back for the PET scan is painful, so as much as I hope to come to the benefit tonight, I will have to see how I am doing. I started typing this yesterday and your last name sure jumped out to my UND loving, hockey playing boys! You've come to mind frequently- I often wonder how you are doing? I continue to pray for you.

      Delete
  12. I pray for you often Vicky. First time commenting, as I wanted to tell you how much you've come to mean to me over these hard years. Your grace continues to astound me. I've come to love, appreciate and be mentored by you. My husband of 30 years went to be with Jesus 22 months ago, rather unexpectedly. I have experienced God's faithfulness and love ever since but I miss my beloved more than I can ever express. I'm trying to be a mom and a dad for my young adult children (one with special needs)and I am often overwhelmed. Your situation helps me to have perspective... Thank you for praying for others as you go through such hard things yourselves. I too, will be praying for you. Love, Nancy

    ReplyDelete
  13. My friend, Carolyn, is having surgery July 7 to remove part of her lung due to cancer.Thanks in advance for your prayers. Isn't coffee wonderful? I am so glad you were able to enjoy it. Praying for good days ahead for you.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Your perspective is awe inspiring as is your faith and strength. I would ask you simply pray for blessings over my family as we get together for the upcoming holiday...you know, safe travels, happy times together, all that jazz...but more specifically for Mary-my beloved sister-in-law who is a warrior in the pan-can battle. Thanks and love to you!!

    ReplyDelete
  15. My darling friend and soul sis,
    As I read these precious words, straight from your heart, tears gather in my eyes. They brim over and flow down my face. I am just so unbelievably proud of you, proud to know you,
    proud of your courage to share the video and to put your heartache on paper. You remind me
    (and us) to cherish every easily-taken breath. You remind me to be authentic in how I share my story. Your faith-based walk, your calling out to Him in such an hour of deep devastation,
    telling Him you would go if He asked. Oh my..dear, sweet Vicky, those words touch every part of me. I am grateful for you, my dear soul sis...more than words can ever express. I want you here, WELL and breathing easily. I will never stop praying. You, my dear one, have prayers warriors all over the world who are beseeching God on your behalf. May you know He is there, beside you, holding you in every moment, in the palm of His almighty hand. He is there for the blessed moments, the hard moments, and especially the very hard moments.

    And for you, in such generosity, to ask what you might pray for? You know my heart, sweet friend. Please pray for my daughter Amy, after her neck surgery, and my beloved grand baby, Annora and sweet Jenna. Oh, what a hard year she has had. This week some issues need resolving. Thank you for praying!

    I love you Vicky Held Westra...always, to the moon and back.
    Linda

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm just coming through here today to make sure I've got each and every name on my list- and then I get caught up reading each and every word left here so graciously for me. Love to you today!

      Delete
  16. Oh Vicky, my heart breaks in two when I know you are going thru these really hard days...I pray for you daily and know you are dealing with lots of trying days.
    Yet as you go thru these days you ask how you can pray for us. I humbly admit there are days I envy your strong faith as I struggle with issues in my life dealing with not only how I feel but with Bud's health issues. Praying I can be the wife and witness I need to be to those around me. With each game of words with friends we pray I am reminded, I need to spend more time in prayer for you and others.
    Love you too the moon and back my friend!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Verna, you've just told me how I can pray for you. I think of you and Bud so often and those adorable grands of yours. I always feel the "love" when you play the word game with me- I'm humbled at how you let me keep my brain sharp and rack up a score with whatever big words I can cobble together- you're a trooper! Love you!

      Delete
  17. Once again, your writing moves me. Your rugged honesty. Your tenderness. You give us your whole heart.

    I'm praying for a few friends who are where you are. Reading "your heart" helps me know how to pray.

    I love you, Vicky. Praying daily~

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can offer prayers for all those going through what I am- it's truly something so many are living through. Always thankful for your prayers!!

      Love you sweet Julie!

      Delete
  18. My dear Vicky, I was just going to check your blog for an update and there was the email. You are often in my thoughts and daily in my prayers. As I approach 19 years out of my first diagnosis and 10 years out of my second, the C word is never far from my mind. Thank you Lord, that You have numbered our days...no one else, nothing else. I pray for peace and comfort and endurance and courage and grace and mercy and so many other things, all of this for you and your family😘😘😘

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your smile lights up your whole profile pic and has me smiling in an instant. So thankful to be blanketed in your far-reaching prayers, always!! You are the epitome of a warrior woman- having survived this twice!! Keep going, friend, just keep going!!

      Delete
  19. Vicky, Seeing a note in my inbox that you have written always has me rushing through everything else so I can sit in prayer and thanksgiving as I read your words, feel your current challenges and always, always feel the deep faith that pours out through you and your writing.
    My heart has been heavy for a large family on the Hoopa Indian Reservation where I ran a library for 12 years...a beautiful, talented young woman's life ended as she was so strong in her recovery process. A family of deep faith they are devastated and she leaves two beautiful children who always came to my programs at the library. Sarah is surely with the angels, and prayers for all who mourn her sad departure would bless them.
    May all of the tests give good information - and may you continue to smell the morning coffee and feel the deep love of all who surround you with our hearts and our prayers.
    Kristin

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kristin, I absolutely will pray for all who mourn the loss of Sarah. Your words are ever so gracious and kind and they bless me so- thankful for you!

      Delete
  20. Dearest Vicky,
    Just a quick note as I once again, in the morning light, see the video and, again, read
    your powerful words. In the video a phrase keeps coming back to me..."Chasing HOPE."
    Hope is my word for 2017. So on this Wednesday morning, my dear sweet friend, you have been in my prayers. I have been asking God to keep your HOPE alive, to give you peace, and deep breaths at every turn. I have been asking God to be with your beloved Dr. P as he ministers to you with words and medicine. I just know that he loves you like we do and is looking at every single option to keep you here with a quality of life. I have been asking God to be with your beloved Rick, your supporter, knowing how hard this must be for him. And of course your two growing babies, your special young men, the boys of your heart...dear Nolan and Colton. May He give all of you a dose of HOPE in this journey you share together. May He heal all of your hearts each day.

    Sending you love and prayers, my dear soul sis.
    Always, no matter what, I am on that old battered truck with you!
    Linda

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Soul-Sis,

      Your prayers cover my needs just beautifully- they are far reaching- blanketing my family, myself and our needs and yes, our HOPES right now. Please be assured you are in my prayers, along with your girls, and our dear Bert! Sending love and prayers right back to you!! Thanks for riding along with me, always!!

      Delete
  21. From El Salvador... love love love!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maddy- sending so much love right back to you in El Salvador!!

      Delete
    2. Will tuck your sweet family into my prayers as well!! Safe travels!!

      Delete
  22. From the depths of despair, you manage to lift up everyone who loves you......and that includes me.........I pray for you from northeast NY......my heart hurts for you........and yet you inspire me still. What a beautiful mystery life is, eh?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hilary- I think that is the best description- the beautiful mystery of life- yes indeed. So happy for your prayers and am happy to return some for you. Thankful for you grace-filled words always.

      Delete
  23. Oh, that video expresses this experience so beautifully. I have been wondering about you and hoping your silence didn't mean you have been struggling more than usual. I am incredibly grateful for your morning with coffee - what a gift just when you needed it. Continued prayers for you, especially these days as you have your scans and wait for results.

    And if you want to pray for me - we are lucky (and I do not mean that lightly) to take a road trip out west. I do have some anxiety over fatigue over the 2 weeks and I have just been praying that it will be a great adventure for my kids and that I will be fully present for it.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Hi Vicky -- it's so good to hear from you! I check daily to see if you have posted anything. My heart is sad -- I pray for you daily -- I'm so sorry to see you go thru so much. Thank you for keeping us all updated. Again, you and your family are always in my prayers!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Sending you good thoughts from Ohio! (Found your blog from Karen/This Old House.) Will check back in on you often.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Just met you and already love you.

    ReplyDelete

I welcome what you have to say. Thanks for taking the time to grace me with your thoughts and words!

When you get lucky

When you get lucky

Popular Posts

Minnesota.com

Minnesota.com - MN Weather, Map, Businesses and Blogs