Monday, September 28, 2015

a little hitch...

I've got a new little hitch in my giddy-up...

Wednesday I awoke with my arm, hand, and fingers, nearly double their size.  I've had lymphedema before, just never to this extent.  

I was so fortunate to get in to see Linda, a physical therapist who specializes in lymphedema.  She wrapped me right away.

I have about 7 different layers of differing wraps, from my fingers all the way up to my armpit, which only comes off so I can shower.

Its awkward and uncomfortable and typing/texting are big challenges! 

It makes me clumsy- the wrap, the swelling, the aching in my joints.  

But, underneath all of that?  My energy level has improved.  I feel better overall.  

That silver lining is always within sight when we just open our eyes wide enough to see it...

Plus... look who came to visit? 

This is my Aunt Elizabeth.  My Dad was her older brother.  And Crosby treated her just like family, jumping up and wiggling his way right next to her, somehow knowing she is family.  She came with friends, driving 3 hours each way, just to spend an afternoon with me.  Thank you Elizabeth!

I will continue with PT for 3 weeks in the hopes we can get the swelling down.  

Despite how I look, despite the limited use of my arm and hand,  I'm actively using this "second" wind and bit of stamina to keep moving forward.  

Its a big week with our embracing life breast cancer retreat on Thursday and Friday, along with Moorhead's Homecoming this week.  

I'm leaning in, awkwardly perhaps, but leaning in none the less.

What are you leaning into this week?  

Monday, September 21, 2015


“But grace can be the experience of a second wind, when even though what you want is clarity and resolution, what you get is stamina and poignancy and the strength to hang on.” 

― Anne LamottHelp Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers

The beautiful basket of flowers my friend, Linda, sent to me.

Rick says he gets asked all the time, "Great news about Vicky's scans,  is she out enjoying herself?"  And he smiles and shakes his head, "no, not quite."  

Even though this week will mark my second week past chemo- I haven't fully come back into feeling well.  I tire so easily.  I walked across the street yesterday, sat in the sun a bit with my friend, and came home with the gift of a pie plate full of delicious apple crisp.

But I was struggling to breathe just from coming across the street.  The sun had zapped any energy I had and I tumbled into bed exhausted.  Again.  Just like the day before.  Which reminds me of Friday, and most of the days before that...  as I experience a myriad of chemo side effects.  

In truth?  I barely leave the house.  My world feels very small.  My mind quiet.  My voice hushed.

But October has some big dates circled on the calendar.  The "embracing life," breast cancer retreat will be October 1st and 2nd.  I will be doing part of the "Using technology to promote healing, panel."  And our stage iv, fourward, group has a special presentation we are working on.  And Dr. Panwalkar will be part of a panel of experts answering all of our questions.  I can't believe its the 3rd retreat already and I've been given the honor of being a part of all 3. 

It's also Moorhead High School's Homecoming Weekend, and Nolan went to great lengths to surprise a sweet girl with an invitation to attend the Homecoming Dance with him... and she said yes.  Of course, that is about all I know, but am hopeful more will be disclosed when he is ready to share with me.  Oh to be 15 again. 

In the meantime my prayers include asking for the very kind of grace that Anne Lamott speaks of- a second wind ripe with stamina and strength to hang on and just keep going- living out His will for my life.  

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The results...

Good Shepherd, our lovely church was the last stop we made before heading home Monday night.  It was another glorious sunset and it left me with such peace in my heart.

Earlier I had taken a few pics of something else that spoke to me.  My hydrangea plant has been barren all spring and summer.  It had so many blooms last year, and I longed to have them again this summer.  It had started to green up early, filling me with hope, and then we plunged into below freezing temps a few days, late this spring.  It seemed the flowers were not going to bloom this year at all.  But we never stopped watering the plant somehow, nurturing it, loving it, while we waited.

Until one day late in August, out of the blue, I stooped down as I watered, and look what I saw?  One single blossoming flower- in a lovely purplish bluish hue.  

Its fitting for the kind of summer I've had.  These minuscule moments of joy, hidden in a landscape of   hard and heavy.  But the light seems to always find a way to shine through, doesn't it? 

Dr. Panwalkar strode into the exam room yesterday morning right on time.  But stopped right at the door and...

maybe, for one of the first times I've seen in a long time...

He looked right into my eyes, and he was beaming.

He shook hands heartily with Rick, then with me, smiling as he greeted us pleasantly, and sat right down.

He fired up the computer, and we sat waiting for the images of the scans to load.  

"Oh come on..." he said impatiently.

For whatever reason, I was really calm.  

Slowly the images began to load.  

PET scan first.  He orients me to the direction, and puts the oldest and newest side by side.

He syncs them together, so that slice by slice, we can see the differences.

And let me just say, friends, oh my!  They were SO different!!

The old one, glowed yellow.  That disgusting, gut wrenching, glowing cancer activity that seemed to inhabit every slice we worked our way through.

But that isn't where we focused...

my eyes were glued to the spots, not even showing up on the other side.

Smallish splashes, mere hints of yellow, here and there.

But nothing in comparison to what it had been!

From my lungs, to my uterus, my bowels, my colon, my pelvis, etc., minimal signs of disease.  

Then we looked at the CT scan in black and white where its easier to see the cancer spots in white.  Side by side, we watched as some spots on one scan would completely not show on the other- some were gone!  Others, were definitely smaller.

But we still had one scan to go- my brain MRI.

Slowly they loaded, side by side- old and new.

I had a rather hard time with the scan on Tuesday.  They couldn't find a vein in my arm, to inject the contrast dye.  I quit counting the pokes, at 7 or 8.  Two techs, and no sweet spot on the only arm they can use.  Its so covered in black and blues spots... but I'd do it all over again... because...

For whatever reason... my two brain spots?


Even though, chemo is not supposed to cross the blood-brain barrier?

Somehow, it must have!  

Dr. Panwalkar said, sometimes chemos do cross the barrier, but its such a small percentage that they don't taut chemo as a good treatment option, especially when radiation has such a high rate of success.  

I'm smiling and nodding, and really, I'm thinking... it isn't just the chemo or the radiation- I think 

it's prayer that gets through.  It's prayer that passes muster.  

I think of my prayer list, that I gripped all the way through my MRI scan.  Over and over I prayed for all those who asked.  And for those who didn't?  I prayed gratitude for all you've done for me.  Over and over again.  

“Eucharisteo—thanksgiving—always precedes the miracle.” 
― Ann VoskampOne Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

So Dr. Panwalkar suggests we simply keep going on with the 3 chemo drugs- but he will somewhat reduce the Taxotere.  

Big sigh...

With the laundry list of symptoms I have in my hands, knowing I will have to keep enduring all of them, is overwhelming.  Plus knowing, that living with metastatic disease, I am not likely to ever go into remission.  But knocking the cancer back, squelching its ability to grow for awhile, is truly a God given gift- more time. 

Plain and simple- it's working.  Amen! 

And so Dr. Panwalkar asks, "Any other questions for me?"

And I smile big.

"Could I give you a hug?"

And he is quickly standing,  as I rise up to meet him, and he hearty laughs while saying "of course," as his arms encircle me all the way around.  He hugs me tight, and I manage to whisper, "I'm so grateful for all you do for me, Dr. Panwalkar. Thank you." And he answers back, "you're welcome."

We slip out the door, and he ushers me into the waiting room chairs, but like always, he rubs my back as he then turns to saunter off into the depths of the infusion center.  

“It is in the dark that God is passing by. The bridge and our lives shake not because God has abandoned, but the exact opposite: God is passing by. God is in the tremors. Dark is the holiest ground, the glory passing by. In the blackest, God is closest, at work, forging His perfect and right will. Though it is black and we can't see and our world seems to be free-falling and we feel utterly alone, Christ is most present to us...” 
― Ann VoskampOne Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are

Monday, September 7, 2015


“When I lost my sight, Werner, people said I was brave. When my father left, people said I was brave. But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don't you do the same?” 

I've been stretched in all the usual ways I would want to "wake up and live my life," as Marie-Laure, so aptly states in the book, "All the Light We Cannot See."   

While I've regained some of my strength, and some energy, it's a minefield of uncertainty as to when I'll run out, each day. When my breathing becomes labored, when my energy packs up and leaves with little notice, when my legs go stiff and stop working, where will I be?  

Feeling confident and energetic one night, Rick and I went for a short walk.  I made it all the way down to the end of our street.  But the way back?  My breath starts shortening, and my lungs hurting, I get so light headed, the edges around me start to fade.  Thank goodness I could intertwine my hand in his, and use his stability to propel me forward.  I'm learning about "strength," in brand new ways.      That some days its leaning, and some day its face-planting in bed, just getting by.  And some days, its just about getting up, and trying again. The biggest lessons, seem to arrive in the tiniest moments.  

As Ann Voskamp so aptly writes, “Who would ever know the greater graces of comfort and perserverance, mercy and forgiveness, patience and courage, if no shadows fell over a life?” 

So I spend my weekend, chemo-nesting.  Preparing once again for the upcoming week of appointments, scans and doctor visits.  I washed the sheets, the pillows, the tattered comforter, trying to refresh my bed, my place of retreat and refuge.  My days get so long, so quiet.  I need ways to pass the hours.  To quiet my mind as it races forward wondering, how long?  How much?  And sometimes just, how? 

It's Sunday afternoon, and the rain gushes down, shoving our plans to go to the lake on the back burner.  The boys are restless, longing for something to do.  So we decide to go to dinner.  Despite how carefully I've chosen my foods and cut back on calories, I continue to expand with fluid retention, and underneath it all I am deeply craving comfort food.  

So I just decide we should go.  And even though we're driving on the highway, Nolan should drive- his first time on the highway.  We talk about merging, and how to navigate road construction, and I marvel at how he exudes such confidence.  He admits to feeling nervous, but does not let it get in his way of performance.  We're all being stretched in new ways.

We eat a delicious meal.  I'm savoring each bite, as my taste is finally close to normal again for a few days. And we tell funny family stories.   Like how Grandpa Jim accidentally fed Colton a big slice of "okra," he thought, except it was a jalapeƱo pepper and Colton's eyes leaked tears all night long.   How the only time I've ever gotten a phone call from Nolan's teacher, was when he was in preschool. He was hugging a cute girl named Ivy- and through my suppressed laughter I agreed to adhere to the new rule, "No, no, no, hugging Ivy." As soon as I laid eyes on Ivy?  Well, who wouldn't want to hug that sweet girlie!  

We ended our evening with one more spontaneous move.  As we headed back towards home, the sun was rapidly going down.  Rick swiftly maneuvered our way out of town.  It's one of only a few sunsets I've witnessed this summer.  

But this is where I find the most life.  This is where I live my moments most full.  Surrounded by my boys, our arms firmly entrenched around each other, love at the center of it all.

These moments have been much harder for me to cobble together this summer.  But I long to keep trying, to find these moments, and live them full.  

Tomorrow I have a brain MRI with sedation, after we get the boys off to their first day of school. 
Wednesday, I see Dr. Panwalkar, and go over both my PET scan results from last week, and my MRI results from tomorrow.  Then off to infusion to round out my day.

I will have ample quiet time again- and so- how can I pray for you?  

Will you send me a message?  An email?  Or leave your request in the comments below?  

I covet your prayers in receiving my scan results- please pray for strength in handling whatever is to come our way.  

~all shall be well~ 


When you get lucky

When you get lucky

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