Monthly Archives: December 2013

Merry Christmas

It is nearly time to turn in for the night and prepare for a big day tomorrow! My mom, my brother with his Boxer Bo, my three grandsons, and my daughter-in-law (ex) will be descending on us at various times tomorrow morning. The cooking (lasagna and spaghetti) is mostly done, the house is partly cleaned, the presents are wrapped!! I’m going to get up bright and early in the morning to finish cleaning (as much as I plan to clean, anyway) … I was just too tired tonight to finish it up.

While I relish the idea of spending the blessed day with my family, I am also excited to see Christmas come and go. I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ with all of my heart and I am pleased that we have a day to celebrate His birth … but I am afraid it has become so commercialized that I am not really sure how much celebrating of His birth we do anymore. It has been constant work here for the past several days – shopping, cooking, cleaning, decorating, wrapping … other than going to the orthopedic surgeon one last time on 12/26 so he can release me, I plan to relax, relax, relax!!! Except that I will probably want to take down the tree. I don’t like leaving it up much past Christmas…

I just read a blog written by an acquaintance who is battling colon cancer. She has a humorous outlook on life and she mentioned in her blog today that she is actually grateful for cancer in some ways. I agree with her. I know it sounds silly. But, sometimes it takes something really major to make you realize that sweating the small stuff is really pretty silly.

I think I probably smile more and laugh harder and enjoy life far more now than I ever did before. Standing in lines, facing crowds, crazy traffic – all things that used to send me over the edge – generally are accepted much more readily now. (Not always. I am still ME!) Those are small things compared to battling for your life ๐Ÿ™‚ Cancer helps you put things into perspective.

Well … it is nearly 11 PM and I have vowed I will get up at 5 to finish my cleaning chores before the family arrives. I guess I should go to sleep and dream of ol’ Saint Nick coming tomorrow.

From my family to yours: Merry Christmas! May your holiday be filled with joy, peace, and love … and health!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Latest Medical Report

The voice on the other end of the line asked if I had a few minutes to discuss my upcoming CT scan. Well, yes, I could talk about it while I was driving home from work.

“Your appointment is at 2. You’ll need to arrive by 1 PM so that you can drink the barium before your test. You should not eat or drink anything for 4 hours, which translates to 9 AM.”

“9 AM?” I had already prepared myself mentally (sort of) to begin fasting at 10 … and I wasn’t happy about even that. I am one of those people who sip on a drink constantly. And I often have a piece of butterscotch hard candy in my mouth. Plus, the minute you tell me I can’t eat or drink … I begin to starve … and die of thirst … I was really distressed to think that I would have to go without anything for 5 hours instead of the four I had prepared myself for.

The person who called me could apparently tell that I was really, REALLY not enthused with the fasting news so she told me I didn’t have to do without all liquids. I could sip water if I wished. That news appeased me greatly!

I love going to this particular place for the test because I only have to drink one bottle of that barium. When I was going to radiology at Presbyterian, I had to drink two bottles. I can choke down one bottle; two is a lot more difficult.

While we are on the subject of barium … it comes in four flavors: banana (oh my … can you just imagine fake banana combined with chalk????), berry (I am not a fan of fake berry flavors), vanilla (said to be the most popular flavor, but one that totally makes me gag), and mocha. Mocha is the only flavor I think I can drink. Honestly, the only two flavors I have actually tried are mocha and vanilla. Of those, mocha is by far my favorite. If that is, you can have a favorite flavor of barium!! ๐Ÿ™‚

If you’ve never had a CT scan, you might be interested to know that they only take a few minutes. Mine always consists of two tests – the one that I drink the barium for and one that requires an IV of iodine contrast. You lie on a skinny table that slides in and out of a donut shape. A voice tells you to “breathe in” and “hold your breath.” Just about the time you think you can’t hold your breath any longer, the voice says, “breathe.” I do this four times – twice without the contrast and twice with the contrast.

Usually, the results of the CT scans are posted online where I can see them before I go see my oncologist. I like that fact; he does not. I go over the results with a fine-toothed comb and look up on google any words I don’t recognize (there are LOTS of those). Then I make up a list of questions to ask the doctor. I was told recently by my Physician’s Assistant that he – the doctor – just hates for you to come in with that list based on the radiologist’s report. He prefers to base his opinions on his own interpretation of the scans.

Well, the results of my full body scan were posted within a couple of hours, but the lung cans had still not shown up, even when I saw the doctor two days later. That’s highly unusual and had me scared that the report was really bad and that they didn’t want me to know it until I could talk to the doctor.

In fact, the report did say that one tumor had grown an insignificant amount. I’m not sure if the doctor put a hold on the report being posted until after he had seen me or if it just so happened that it took awhile. I suspect the former. At any rate, he wanted us to see the scans with our own eyes so that we could make our own determination about whether or not the tumors had grown.

The doctor and his colleagues all felt that the tumors had stayed the same size. Looked like it to me, too! And, there was no spreading! And there has been no spreading since the cancer was found a year ago! God is so good to me!! I often wonder why He has chosen to leave me on this earth. There is obviously something I have not yet done that He has planned for me.

It is always a little scary to get the CT scan … even though I feel great, you never know what those little monsters residing in my lungs might decide to do. Or when. I breathe a big sigh of relief after I get the results … since, so far, the results have usually been pretty good. (Back in the summer there was some growth after we quit the chemo. That’s why I got into the research study. Since I have been in the study, the tumors have just stagnated, which is a GREAT thing!!!)

I’m lucky, too, in that my bloodwork always comes back nearly perfect. We get a complete blood workup every single visit – every two weeks – and every single time, every one of my numbers is within the normal range. The doctors and nurses marvel at that and really can’t explain why … but we all rejoice that it is the case!

A Year Later

I had chemo yesterday. Today I cleaned house … or started. It has really gotten terrible in the year since I was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. Even on weekends when I felt like cleaning, I was too busy. Getting that unreal news changed my way of doing things. I fill every spare moment with activity – fun activity!! Cleaning house does not qualify! ๐Ÿ™‚

This was me a year ago (early January 2013):

I believe I had just had my second chemo treatment when this picture was taken. I was very, very sick. So sick that I sometimes wondered if “the cure” was worth it. It was because I would feel just awful for several days and then I would have two weeks or so where I felt pretty darn good (not overly energetic, but certainly good enough to be glad I was alive!).

While I was pushing the steam cleaner today for the first time since I learned I had cancer, I marveled at what a difference a year can make. Now, I have rarely let this disease really get the best of me, but how I feel today compared to how I felt when the picture above was taken has no similarity! Thank you, Jesus, for that!! Literally.

The following picture was taken of my little Barney dog and me at the Run as One agility trial last weekend. I had already participated in several runs (Cotton went with us on Sunday and she participated in two events; Barney in three … all five runs took place within a 4-hour time span) when it was taken.

A lot of people have no clue what I’m referencing when I talk about agility. The YouTube videos here were taken several months ago. I don’t have any videos from the last few trials. Nevertheless, these let you see what agility even is … and perhaps give you a new appreciation for the fact that I ran six runs on Saturday with Barney (and worked the ring throughout the day as well) and came back on Sunday for the five additional runs.

Anyway, if you had told me in January when that first photograph above was taken that I would be running in agility trials a year later, I would have humored you and said I hoped so, but I truly wouldn’t have actually believed it. I watched my dad die of lung cancer in only 6 months after diagnosis … a common fate for those with late-stage lung cancer. Why should mine be different?

I surely do not have the answer to WHY my fate has been different, but I praise God that it has been. It isn’t that I am afraid to die – I am not – and I sometimes even wonder why I don’t wish to rush it – Heaven is … well … Heaven!!! It is going to be so much better than life on earth. Nevertheless, I’m human and there’s lots of stuff I still want to do so I want the time for me to leave here and go on to my next life to wait awhile!

God is good. All the time! That is all.

Ice Storm

Oh boy! It was starting to sleet a bit when we left the hospital after my treatment last Thursday. Work for Friday was canceled fairly early. So, we all knew we would get to sleep in! I always miss the day after chemo anyway so what the “ice day” meant to me is that I didn’t have to take a sick day.

I woke up during the night and it was pouring rain. Pouring. I thought to myself that school was canceled prematurely. If it was raining, we were not likely to have icy streets. Right? Wrong.

Even though our electrical wires are buried, our power went off not too long after I looked outside and saw it raining so hard. We were alerted to the fact that we had no power by the screeching of not one, but two, fire alarms. Robert had to find the ladder and drag it downstairs in the complete dark so that he could disarm those ear-splitting alarms. There must be another way to alert residents that their power was out than to burst their ear drums! And, what would be wrong with having a reset button on the alarm that could be pressed so that the whole thing didn’t have to be disarmed? Now, one of these days, we’ll have to figure out how to put the darn things back together.

Once the alarms were quiet again, we all went back to sleep. I was hoping we would have power again when we woke up later on Friday morning. That was not to be.

When I got up, I looked outside to see if the predicted ice storm had arrived. Indeed. Everything was covered in ice. Beautiful, but destructive and dangerous ice.

 

 

 

 

 

I love, love, love snow. Ice, not so much. I hate having no control over whether or not I am about to fall! Cotton, on the other hand, loved it. She likes nothing better than to run and slide on our kitchen tile. Now, the whole backyard qualified as her slip and slide!

Trees everywhere were broken. I stood on my back patio and listened to the limbs of trees in the neighborhood snapping off under the weight of the ice. Unfortunately, a lot of the trees still had their leaves when the storm came through. Those ice-laden leaves made the frozen limbs so heavy that they broke like toothpicks.

Our beautiful oak tree was a casualty. I am really sad to see it so destroyed.

 

 

 

The limbs that didn’t break on our tree, which was unfortunately not the majority of limbs, have bounced back as the ice melted. Someone came this evening to cut all of the broken limbs out. Poor tree. It is so ill-shaped and ugly now. Heartbreaking.

We went through all of Friday without electricity. I was praising God that we have a gas fireplace. Temperatures were in the teens outside but that fireplace kept us pretty toasty inside.

We were luckier than my mom, who also lost power and who didn’t have any alternative methods for staying warm. Not only did we have a way to stay reasonably warm, we were able to get out of our driveway and venture out to restaurants where we could get something hot to eat and drink. Mom was just stuck at home, cold and with little to eat besides peanut butter sandwiches.

Early Saturday morning found us still without power. I couldn’t get in touch with Mom on her home phone or cell. I was really starting to get a bit concerned. I was afraid she may have frozen. I determined that I was going to have to try to make it over to her house to check on her and to bring her back to my house where we at least had a fireplace to provide warmth.

About the time I was going to get ready to leave, our power resumed. What a happy, happy moment that was!!! I turned on lights just because I could!

I quickly got cleaned up and headed out to Mom’s house. Robert stayed behind in case he had to come save me in his truck if I got stuck on icy roads.

Fortunately, all was well at Mom’s, if very, very cold. She quickly packed and she and her cat Casey came to stay with us until her power came back on. What a relief it was to find her cold, but well!

It is Tuesday night now. And the ice is starting to melt off of trees and shrubs and roads. Things are much better where I am than a little further west or north. We were able to work ย yesterday. And today. Some of my friends and colleagues are still homebound. And stir crazy! It’s not great fun to be off work when you are also stuck inside your home.

Our temperatures are staying in the low 30’s for a high. That’s cold for the Dallas area! For once, it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas around here!

Research Drugs

Wow! Time flies, doesn’t it? I had resolved to be more faithful to my blog … you never know if there might be a person out there who might be helped by getting to know someone else who is facing the same battle they are. But, months have passed and I haven’t written a word.

Today is treatment day again. I praise God on treatment days that this test drug does not make me sick. At all. Such a nice switch from the initial treatments I was given. I have been told the drug company that makes this test drug will soon be asking the FDA for approval. I hope they get it so that lots of cancer patients can be treated with it. I’m not sure if it is just for lung cancer or not, but it is wonderful :).

Which brings me to a subject that is somewhat confusing to me. I saw something recently that said that only 5% of cancer patients go into a research study. Why?

The traditional treatments I received had held the tumors at bay as long as I was getting them. But, as soon as we stopped them, the tumors began to grow again. And, because the treatments I had been getting were so harsh, we couldn’t continue that particular regimen.

So, I didn’t have a lot of options. I could have undergone a different chemo treatment that didn’t work very well and that would have made me even sicker than what I’d been getting did or I could try a research drug. I didn’t spend ANY time trying to decide which route was the right one for me. And, I have never, ever, not for one second, been sorry I decided to go with the research drug.

I’ve been getting the research drug since July. My blood work is still phenomenal. I haven’t lost a pound (though I wish I could lose about 40!!!). We eat before we start our long day at the hospital and we eat again when the day is done – no nausea!! Not right after the treatment and not later either. I am a bit more fatigued the day after a treatment than I am otherwise, but it isn’t significant. I have participated in agility trials on a Saturday after receiving treatments on the previous Thursday. That wouldn’t be happening if I was getting the old “tried and true” chemo drugs. I’d be spending most of my time being sick, I’m afraid.
My last CT scan could not detect the tumors in my lymph nodes in my neck. The tumors in my lungs are just sitting there – not growing, not spreading. 

I think it was one year ago today that I had my very first chemo treatment. None of us had much hope that I would still be here today, blogging away and still getting treatments. But, here I am and I feel great!!! Just last weekend, I took my Barney-dog to Waco for an agility trial. He and I ran in three events on Friday evening, six on Saturday, and another two on Sunday before we headed back home. We didn’t just run, we were competitive!!! Mr. Barney earned himself two elite titles and seven or eight qualifying scores – first or second place each time. Who would have thought?

God isn’t finished with me on this old earth … and even though I know that Heaven is a far better place than here … I’m really glad that He’s left me here for awhile! ๐Ÿ™‚ I just hope that I’m adequately fulfilling whatever purpose He has for leaving me here.

Time to go!