Wednesday, March 16, 2016

5 years

It started with the shivering.   Last Monday, shortly after I'd gone in for my port draw for lab work, I came home and couldn't wrap myself in enough blankets to warm up.  I had so much to blog!

But I crawled into bed and threw big blankets on me, instead.  I slept until noon.  And awoke, just as cold.  I finally found the thermometer.  101.  I crawled back in bed, shivering, trying to warm myself.  An hour later, my fever was at 102.  Time to call the doctor's office.

Dr. Panwalkar's nurse is always so helpful.  The concern registers in her voice and she assures me she'll track down Dr. P right away.  She calls me back as my temperature rises to 103. But other than general malaise, and the discomfort of fever and chills?  I have no symptoms.  So we agree I'll get the fever down with tylenol and if it stays down, I have an appointment the next morning with the PA, Annie.

Annie, has already introduced herself to me earlier in the year, having read my blog and recognizing me in the waiting room.  We quickly discovered we have a love of Golden Retrievers and we've both named ours after Pro hockey players.

It's the next morning that Annie sees the white spots on my now scratchy and sore throat and feels the swollen lymph nodes around my neck.  We conclude its likely strep, and either way I'll be given two antibiotics to fight infection.  And no chemo for the day.  Annie even calls me the next day, just to check on me, and I'm so touched by her follow through, and her compassion.

Last week became a blur of sleep, fatigue, and general yuckiness.  The antibiotics are doing their job with the infection, but my body doesn't take kindly to them either.

Through long days of bed rest and quiet, I find that my reflective voice and so many of my prayers center on the same theme... strength.  Both physical, and mental strength too.  Weekly chemo is taking its toll.  I barely start to feel well, when its time to begin the whole process again.

I'm foggy, groggy and the grey and gloomy loom overhead, with hints of light streaming through, but they're too elusive to pin down and make them stay for awhile.

So I see Dr. Panwalkar yesterday.  I've been preparing to have my 3 drug cocktail after I visit with him.  We volley our questions back and forth.  I see he is contemplative.  And even though I have chronic diarrhea, and fatigue gnawing at me, he feels we should continue on with treatment.

I'm fine with this, as long as he'll give me a date in the future when I can have my next break.  And then I say the words that change everything, "because mentally, I am struggling with weekly chemo."

And without hesitation, he simply says, "Well then, why don't we stop the taxol?"  We'll just continue on with the two other drugs, once every three weeks."

"Really?  I say.  You think that would be okay?"  "Yes," he says with assurance and confidence, and a big smile on his face.

Relief starts to flood over me instantly...

And then I bring up the piece I've been clinging to, for so long now.

"Dr. Panwalkar, tomorrow, is 5 years from the day of diagnosis for me."

He turns and breaks into a really big smile, now.  "5 years?"  And as it registers shaking his head, he says it again, "5 years..."  And we don't need to say anything, because those two words say a lot already.

As he finishes up typing orders he also mentions he wants to check into an antibody study for me since I'm NED and we can discuss it more my next visit with him in 3 weeks.  I'm beyond excited to hear what he may come up with!  

So I ask for a photo with him, as I prepare to leave.  

Later I come back for infusion.  I'm grateful they squeezed me in.

I'm taken to my room, and then Joyal comes in to say she'll be my nurse.  As she heads off to gather supplies to get started, I'm surprised tears spring to my eyes.

Joyal (with the beautiful name) hasn't been my nurse for a really long time.  She is the one who grew up in my Dad's hometown.  Its such a small town in North Dakota, with the famous big cow on the hill that you can see from the highway.

And my teary eyes?  Because without knowing it, Joyal brings my Dad to me.  He died, just 8 months before I was diagnosed.  Oh the memories of my cousins, and the farm, and trips to see Grandma, and the fun we had.  And somehow, I feel Dad there with me, in that infusion room.  And all of those prayers for strength?  Somehow, I feel HIM there with me, too.  

Plus all of you.  You've sent me cards- with meaningful words, or beautifully colored, and some hand made.  And plates of food, and bags of doughnuts from Grace church, and visits from friends.  I managed a full morning of writing belated thank you's and I delight in that so.  More to come- soon friends.  Soon.


  1. FIVE YEARS. You believed, you Chose, you still find Joy, you see the Light always, even in darkness, you keep Embracing... That's why.. five years.. and counting!.. .you go girl. You just keep going....

  2. Five years of faith, hope, love ... and sharing the journey with others. You strengthen US with your story, and we share the blessing. In turn, we have the privilege of lifting you up to the Father.

    I pray that you feel stronger each day. My heart is touched by how your dad, his memory, became a part of your day, yesterday. What a gift.

    1. As I pushed "publish", I contemplated the struggle, pain, and sadness that you have surely experienced in these 5 years. You are amazing. Truly. God bless you and your family.

  3. Five years of sharing this journey with you. And, here's to five more filled with our love and prayers.

    I've heard some good things about the antibody study. I am excited for you to learn more! I believe I heard about it when Jimmy Carter took it for his brain cancer.

    Hang in there, dear friend. Praying that you will now feel your strength return. Sending love and hugs.

  4. NED. Every time I read that it brings joy to my heart! I hope the change in your meds brings relief. And five years… you made me tear up! I love that your dad was with you in such physical way today. You continue to be in my prayers, my dear. So much love to you and all of your boys.

  5. You are amazing friend! Truly. Looking forward to seeing you in a few days!

  6. Five years. It's so good to pass that milestone. The memories if your dad are so touching.

  7. Five years. It's so good to pass that milestone. The memories if your dad are so touching.

  8. FIVE YEARS! Just think of all the love that has gone out into the world in that time, and even better, all the love and courage you have given to others. You are an inspiring and loving woman like no other. Thank you......Hope you are feeling better from the strep. That is not fun for anyone!!

  9. Oh sweet friend...
    FIVE YEARS!! Thank you God that you are here. You have been on my mind and heart even more than usual. My heart just aches to think of you having chemo each week and hearing how sick you were. I am grateful beyond words that you spoke up and told Dr. P what was on your heart...and he listened!! (oh that Dr. P is a bit of a hero to all of us who love you so. His kindness and caring have been so comforting to you, dear friend.) Love the picture of you with him.

    And feeling your Dad's presence so strongly and God's presence too. I'll be praying non-stop about that antibody study. And dear heart, thank you for being so honest and transparent about these challenges. You inspire me, inspire all of us, to live life to the fullest, every day, and to choose gratitude for all our days and years.

    Love you so, soul Sis. Always. To the moon and back!! Linda

  10. I'm so proud of you Vicky....five years? After all these years of blogging, I have learned so much from you. You are a beautiful person and you certainly don't deserve all the challenges you've been through.

    I LOVE the photo of you and Dr. P! Just know I am always thinking of you Vicky.

  11. Five years ago... I didn't know you, but I heard about an SGR parent who had just been diagnosed with Stage 3 BC. My heart lurched, as it always does when I hear of anyone being diagnosed with any stage of BC. Then I heard that it was actually a Stage IV diagnosis. I remember sending you a note, in the care of your sweet Nolan. Even though we didn't know each other then, we were bonded in the sisterhood of BC.

    I cannot believe it has been 5 years! You have defied the odds, and have impacted the lives of hundreds, and probably thousands, with your peaceful, sweet, thoughtful, and impactful writing. I feel so blessed to know you, to have shared our hockey boys/lives, and look forward to many, many more memories together. Your amazing ability to keep going, when things are so hard to bear, is more than unbelievable. I am amazed by you and your incredible perspective that you share in such a beautiful way. I hope and pray you get a break from the effects of chemo, and can enjoy some better days!

    Love you, sweet friend!!! <3

  12. Vicky, I came across some old emails we exchanged six or seven years ago before all of this and I think of what an encouragement you have been to me. I remember falling in love with what a great dad your dad was and seeing the lake house and all the fun you had there. We've known each other through our beginning days of blogging and finding Gitz. Now, it's immensely meaningful to celebrate five years with you and all that means on so many levels.

    So grateful for Dr. P and the upcoming antibody study you get to be part of, and though I'm so sorry you were sick and have to take the antibiotics that cause you bad side effects, I'm glad you are carefully watched and loved and that you are recovering and that it lead to the conversation about stopping the Taxol. I long for that break with you. And I long for the break through even more. Love you, Honey.

  13. I always panic with I hear the word antibiotic! I'm thinking about you and still praying every.single.night.

  14. Vicky... 5 years... you are one of the bravest ladies I know. On a lighter note... after hearing you talk about Dr. P, I pictured somebody much younger! He looks like he could be on Grey's Anatomy!! I continue to keep you in my prayers.

  15. Praying that God will bless you with five more and plus years.

  16. Hoping, praying, trusting 5x5x5 more years!!!
    Love you sweet wonderful Vicky!!

  17. I just keep whispering 5 years and smiling. Such a tender post. FIVE YEARS! :) :)

    I love you.

  18. You know that when you mentioned your Dad that my heart did react.
    I know that you miss him, and I know that he is there in your heart through every good and every difficult time in your life. That's what a Daddy is to a Daddy's girl....and you and I both know what that is like. Nothing like it.
    I hold you ever so close in my thoughts and prayers. I love you, my blogging sister.
    Always will....

  19. I have been so hoping you would blog about this day; I knew it had to be coming soon. Five years feels so momentous, and I love how Dr. P acknowledged it. Glad to know you're going to be taking a break. Praying that you will regain much-needed strength (both mentally and physically). We are all better for your words and beautiful spirit, friend.

  20. Dear sweet Soul Sis,
    Just keeping you, and your dear family, in my thoughts and prayers today as Easter is tomorrow. I am so grateful for your loyal and caring friendship and for how real and transparent we are with each other. May this time of resurrection be a time of renewed strength for you, dear friend. May you feel His presence and know He holds you in the palm of His Almighty hand!

    Love you to the moon and back, always!


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