Gotta Love Good News and Awesome Doctors!

Here I am … waiting on my treatment drugs to be prepared. For those who don’t know,  it takes about an hour, barring no problems,  for the pharmacy to prepare the drugs. For my treatments,  it also takes an hour to drip.

So, here’s the process:

  1. arrive at the hospital, preferably 15 minutes or so before 1st appointment. The first appointment is for blood draw. This is where my port is accessed and three or 4 vials of blood are drawn. 
  2. Go back to the waiting room for 45 minutes or an hour. During this time, the lab analyzes the blood. 
  3. Go in to see the doctor. This visit usually doesn’t last too long because I am fortunate enough to always have perfect blood test results. This is also when vitals are taken: blood pressure (like a teenager’s), oxygen (97 up to 100), temperature  (97 to 98), weight (way too high).
  4. After seeing the doctor, we return to the waiting room until we are called for the infusion. 
  5. We are set up in a room, saline drip is started, we wait on the pharmacy to get my drugs ready, and we play some more on our electronics. 
  6. Finally, the drug is ready and the count-down begins. One more hour before we get to go home!
I told my husband today that i am tired of coming to get treatments every 2 weeks. He understood.  I feel like it takes too much of my time. Then, i have to remember,  without this treatment,  i would likely not still be alive. So this day we give every two weeks is like dues. The price I pay to be alive. Small price to pay. Never mind my poor attitude.

Good News

So, i had another CT scan on Monday. With the trial i am on, CT scans have to be done every six weeks. Way more often than i would like. But, at least i don’t have to worry about how i am doing. Some people wait three to six months between scans, even when they are in active treatment. 
There is something called scanxiety. It is the fear cancer patients have about the results of their scans. I never have had it. Not even when i was getting regular chemo and didn’t get so many scans. I am not a worrier. God has control. When He is ready to take me home, my scans will go south. Until then, i expect they will be fine.
Which brings me to … my scans remain fabulous. Dr. Gerber said he wouldn’t pretend everyone has such good results, because they don’t. But, for me, immunotherapy has been, quite literally,  a Godsend.  My tumors don’t go away, unfortunately, but they have neither grown nor spread since the first treatment i had back in July 2013. Before i started on this clinical trial,  i was given very little hope.

Fabulous Doctor

I love my doctor! I am so very fortunate.  Dr. Gerber is the best! I really loved the oncologist i had before, too, though my memories are growing dimmer as time passes on since i last saw him. And, my PCP … oh my gosh … i can’t even say enough good about her. Like i said, i am one extremely lucky lady.
I love UTSW. The entire facility. Based on my personal experiences,  every member of the staff, from the ladies who check us in, to the aides who bring us to our rooms, to the nurses, to the doctors is excellent. Upbeat. Smiling. Friendly. Fabulous. (Anyone have a thesaurus? I think i need a different word … i keep using this one)
Anyway, back to today’s story… 
We go in to see the doctor. He calls me a superstar. It’s because my scans were so good again (the only way they would be better is if the tumors would go away. There are some radiologists who do believe the tumors are only scars, but we don’t know. I personally tend to agree. I don’t feel sick or look sick or act sick…) I know an oncologist loves having a patient like me. I am all but healthy. I am hope.
My wonderful,  personable doctor asks me about my dogs. Anyone who knows me knows how important my dogs are to me. Dr. Gerber is a very busy doctor, but he has taken time to watch and enjoy my agility videos. And, today, he proudly told us about his new dog! He has rescued a 6 year Australian shepherd and he is very obviously quite taken by his Maggie! It was so much fun listening to him telling us how smart she is and what a good catcher she is! 
It leaves me feeling happy and fulfilled to have medical personnel with whom we can chat. Not just about health, but about other interests as well. It sure makes these every 2 week visits a lot more palatable!

Angel doctor

Robert went for a physical yesterday. He saw the doctor who first discovered my cancer, Dr. Donna Casey. I went along, partly because i wanted to hear what was said about his health and partly because I wanted to see Dr Casey again. The last time i had seen her, i had just been told i needed to get into a clinical trial because traditional treatments were not working any longer. That was in July 2013.

I worried a bit about whether she would remember me or not. It had been over a year and a half since i had seen her. I count her my angel doctor,  but she sees many, many patients every week. There was not as much incentive for her to remember me as for me to remember her. I will never forget her! And will forever be in her debt!

Dr. Casey walked into the room, spoke to Robert, and then turned to introduce herself to me. When she saw who was sitting there, she broke into such a big smile. She was so excited. “I know YOU,” she exclaimed.

She started asking a volley of questions and then remembered that Robert was the patient this time, not me. She asked him if he cares if she spent just a few minutes catching up with me before getting to business with him.

While we discussed my treatments and how well they were going,  she had to reach for a tissue. She was so overwhelmed with joy that big alligator tears had formed in her eyes. She kept assuring us that she was crying happy tears.  Of that, there was no doubt.

I have always requested for her to receive copies of my CT scans, which happen every six weeks. I often wondered if she (or her office staff) considered them irrelevant. it is a lot of paperwork to keep up with for a patient you rarely see. I was shocked and humbled when she said she reads every report.  From her conversation,  it was apparent that she does!

All of this might not be so hard to believe if Dr. Casey had treated me for years prior to her discovering the knot on my collarbone that set the whole fight against stage IV cancer in motion. But, that isn’t the case at all. She discovered that knot on my very first visit.

Immediately,  she scheduled me for CT scans … that day. I heard from her just a few days later, with the information that there could be a problem and that her office was going to work with my insurance company to verify that they would pay for a PET scan.

I felt great. I went to see Dr. Casey at the very end of October 2012 primarily because i hadn’t been to the doctor for about 10 years for a physical. The main thing that drove me was weight gain. I kept packing on pounds and couldn’t lose them after going through  menopause and quitting smoking at about the same time. I assumed i had thyroid issues. I never, ever dreamt that i had cancer issues!

I had never heard of a PET scan so i immediately got on Google to see exactly what kind of scan it was. That was my first hint that i might have some kind of cancer. PET scans are used to diagnose cancer cell activity, heart disease, and dementia. I was confident i didn’t have problems with the latter two.

Dr. Casey’s office made the appointment for the PET scan as soon as approval for the test was received. She is amazing in her ability to get things done, so we didn’t have to wait long for the appointment.

By now, i surmised i had some kind of cancer. Since i had watched my dad die very quickly from lung cancer, i was praying it was any kind but lung cancer.

The only time we ever had to wait for what seemed like a lot of time to get a response from Dr. Casey was to hear what the results of the PET scan were. It took a week or so before we got the call that I had cancer … lung cancer. It was a call she hated to make, but she had already done everything for me. We had an appointment with an oncologist the very next morning.

Dr. Casey asked us to come by her office to report after the visit to the oncologist, Dr. Lalan Wilfong. He reported that the cancer was extensive. Because of its location, it was inoperable and radiation wasn’t an option either. Chemo was my only hope. He ordered a biopsy so we would know exactly what kind of lung cancer we were fighting.

By this point in time, we were nearing the Thanksgiving holidays. The date for the biopsy was set for after the holidays. Dr. Casey asked usmif we couldn’t have the biopsy done that day, rather than waiting. “Well, sure, but can we get in to have it done?” It was already nearing noon and, if memory serves me, it was Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

The amazing Dr. Casey pulled her magic strings and in just a few minutes,  we were headed to Presbyterian Hospital to get a biopsy. There was never a moment to sit and worry. She was about action and we were so grateful.

Because she made things happen so quickly, it was only barely over a month between the time i had my first appointment with Dr. Casey and when i was in the chemo room getting my first chemo treatment on December 5, 2012.

By May or June 2013, i had reached the end of the road for traditional chemo. The tumors responded as long as the poison was infused into my veins. But, as soon as treatments ended, the tumors took off again. Dr. Wilfong told us that there was another chemo drug we could try , but he wasn’t optimistic about it. It didn’t work as well and it made patients sicker than the previous drugs i had received.  The idea didn’t appeal to me at all.

He recommended that i consider getting into a clinical trial at the Mary Crowley  Center. I had never heard of that organization, but was willing to see what it offered. However,  i was really hoping to go to UTSW. I had heard good things about them.

When Mary Crowley was not at all responsive, we went back to see my angel doctor, Dr. Casey. We told her what was going on (or not) with Mary Crowley and asked what she thought about us going to UTSW. In minutes, she had called Dr. David Gerber and set us up an appointment.

The rest is history. I signed up to participate in an immunotherapy trial. My first treatment was in July 2013. The results have been awesome. I am the only patient still on the trial, at least at UTSW, but it is working great for me. My tumors have sat stable since i started the trial. Sometimes,  the radiologist classifies them as scars, though Dr Gerber scoffs at that. He said there’s no way to tell from a CT scan.

As long as they sit dormant,  i am okay with them being there. I wish they would go away entirely,  but this is the next best thing!

And, for all of this, i owe Dr. Donna Casey. She is my angel, if ever there was one!

Blessings

You have to look for your blessings where you can … and I know you guys will think I am weird, but this lung cancer made it possible for me to retire. I can’t even tell you how wonderful it is not to have to go to work any longer. I have had to work one or two jobs since I turned 20. I am loving every second of not having to do that any longer!

Another HUGE blessing is that the treatment I am on (clinical trial for immunotherapy drug) is wonderful. Here I am … Stage IV non-small-cell lung cancer patient … nearly 1-1/2 years after diagnosis … still doing fantastic!!! The tumors are still there, but they are just sitting in the same spot as they were when we discovered them. They haven’t grown or multiplied or spread. Hallelujah and Praise God!

The immunotherapy is the best thing since sliced bread. It doesn’t make you sick or tired and before I started getting it I was sick and tired of being sick and tired!! The hardest part of getting it is spending a long half day at the hospital getting an infusion every two weeks. Lucky me and lucky cancer patients everywhere … the company is or will soon be seeking FDA approval. From what I know, none of the patients who are participating at the clinic where I go has had terribly adverse side effects and I think everyone is doing quite well in the fight against their cancer.

I am so glad that I found UT Southwestern. Some people told me that they felt like it was a huge and cold institution that didn’t care about patients except as numbers in science experiments. Well, that’s far from true. The girls behind the desk know you, the aides who take you from place to place know you, the nurses, physician’s assistants, researchers, and doctors all know you as a person. I always feel like I am seeing friends when I go. Which is a good thing since treatments occur every two weeks.

My life is so full. Every single day is packed with things that I love to do. In the past, my days were full, but they were full of work-type activities. I worked at my 8-5 job and then I came home and took care of SchoolGrants, the business that God blessed me with since 1999. I let it go a couple of years ago and that was quite a liberating feeling! It still is. It was my passion for a long, long time but I burned myself completely out.

Once you receive a cancer diagnosis, I don’t think the fact that you have cancer (or had cancer if you are fortunate enough to beat it) ever leaves your mind. I never go through a day that I do not remember quite well that I have cancer. It impacts my thought processes. On the other hand, some days I can’t believe the diagnosis is correct. How can I be so sick when I’m so healthy??!!!

Which brings to mind more praises! Week after week, month after month, my blood tests come back perfect. We do thorough blood analyses before every single treatment and every time, my tests are perfect. My doctor is amazed. He said that less than 1% of cancer patients are as fortunate. It isn’t just my blood tests that come back perfect, so do my blood pressure, oxygen, and temperature readings! How can I not call myself lucky? LUCKY!! or, more appropriately, BLESSED. Totally.

Here’s another way I am blessed. Insurance. Oh my gosh. Fighting cancer is expensive. Ridiculously so. What do people who don’t have insurance do? I really don’t know. I’m glad I don’t have to find out.

I have been on some cancer sites lately that are sort of like support groups or something. I have never felt the need for a support group but I like to go to these online groups and offer support to those just learning they have cancer. I want them to know that a horrible diagnosis that scares the living daylights out of you may truly not be the end of the world at all.

Those people who get the diagnosis and decide right away that they’ll just go with palliative care distress me. No one thought I had a lot of time left but I was determined to make the best of what time I did have. My life has slowly evolved to something that it wasn’t when I was diagnosed. For instance, I do not participate in all of the same events, like agility training and competing, that I was consumed with prior to learning I was battling lung cancer. But my life is full. Every single minute of it! I am as happy as can be. Each day ends with me thinking that I needed more hours to get everything done that I wanted to get done that day. Amazing.

Those who just give up are missing out on so much. None of us have tomorrow promised to us, so we should all appreciate each and every hour that we are given. I just wish that those who choose not to fight their cancer would reconsider. At least I wish they would try to get into a test study so that the doctors can research the effects of more treatments. It might or might not help them but it surely might help someone else down the road. I’ve never been a hand-wringer. I don’t guess I understand  those who are.

Well, I planned to post a lot of pictures here and discuss some of my recent activities, but I’m really beat. Today was treatment day and it was a long day. I’ll come back before too long and post some lovely pictures I’ve had the opportunity to capture over the last few weeks and months.

Until then, take care and thank God for another day!

I’ll leave you with two of my most favorite blessings:

My lovely Cotton. She’s doing some birdwatching here. I’ll be posting pictures from our bird watching in the near future.

Barney. My heart and soul. 

From Where I Sit

I am thinking of starting a new blog called “From Where I Sit.” I planned to post pictures and thoughts that  occur “from where I sit.” Somehow, some of what I do on  a day to day basis didn’t seem like it fit on a blog about Facing Lung Cancer.

But then I thought … every single day of my journey is part of facing lung cancer. So maybe there is really no need for a separate blog at all. The whole point is that most days have nothing to do with lung cancer and everything to do with living. What a waste it would be to dwell on the cancer instead of seeing all of the beauty that surrounds us.

So, for now, I think “From Where I Sit” is just going to stay right here as part of Facing Lung Cancer. The reason I started the blog in the beginning was to help people in the future who receive a similar diagnosis. I wanted to let them see what the journey was all about. I planned to chronicle what it was like to be fighting cancer.

I wanted everyone to know what it was like to get chemo. To be deathly ill from the poisons we voluntarily drip into our bodies. To be so tired that walking to the refrigerator is a major accomplishment. Since it was all new to me as well, I just planned to take others along with me as we navigated a new world. The end goal was to make it less scary for those who follow me with their own diagnoses.

Well, surprise, surprise!!! It is about so much more than being sick. That, in fact, is just a small part of what facing lung cancer is all about. In fact, facing lung cancer is about making the most of every single solitary day. We don’t know when we’ll draw our last breath. None of us do. So we all ought to be enjoying the time we have here on this earth. And not sweating the small stuff.

So, for tonight, I will leave you with some pictures that I find inspirational in their own way. The majesty of the sky and the trees … and a shot of the moon!

Last night was the first in a series of 4 times that we had a blood red moon. I practiced getting a shot of the moon before the event last night.

I stayed up to watch the eclipse. And the moon was gorgeous. Unfortunately, my photography skills were less than adequate. I got a picture (or 10) that I will share, but they are not good. I learned that I have a lot to learn!

I thought the trees that are just budding out looked awesome against the blue sky filled with fluffy white clouds.

 

Depending on where you looked in the sky, there were either big, white, fluffy clouds or stormy clouds.
For me, gazing at this picture brings a peacefulness. I hope it affects you similarly.
Here, I was experimenting to see if I could even get a shot of the moon that wasn’t just a big blur. Success!

 

The eclipse has begun!!

 

Nearly half of the moon is covered. Where is the red?

 

Only a sliver of the moon hasn’t been eclipsed.

 

Wait???? I’m seeing a beautiful red ball in the sky and my camera is seeing this? Really???

 

Well … it is after the fact … but at least I finally “found” the red moon on my camera! The quality of the picture (and all of the rest of the pictures I got of the red moon) leaves much to be desired, unfortunately.

 

While the picture quality is poor, the beauty of what I saw should be apparent.

 

 

From where I sit, the world and the heavens are beautiful (even when the quality of the photography is not)! I hope the same is true from where you sit!

Happy Birthday, Barney Boy!

Four years ago today, my little Sheltie made his way into this world. A little less than seven weeks later, he came home to live with Robert, Cotton, and me. He is my heart and soul!

 

 

Cotton was a big white fluffy puppy – just gorgeous. Don’t shoot me, but I personally don’t think Sheltie pups are some of the cutest around. They are a breed, in my own opinion, that are much more gorgeous after they become adults. All pups are cute, but Barney and other Shelties are not beautiful as puppies. In my opinion!

My mother came over shortly after I got Barney. By that time, his little looks had grown on me and I was thinking he was cuter than I did initially. His sweet, silly personality made you love and adore him and see a different puppy.

Mom, on the other hand, rounded the corner and saw him for the first time. She immediately declared that he was the ugliest little puppy she believed she’d ever seen. Poor little Barney! She was expecting a big fluffy ball of fur like Cotton, an American Eskimo Dog, was.

I saw a picture of Barney from his puppy days on Facebook this morning. I hope I can find it to post here because the poor boy was really gangly! The angle of the camera doesn’t help! Little Man looks like he’s all head and only a little bitty body! I just want to grab that little puppy up and give him a big hug now!!! A lot of my friends have new pups this year. Seeing them hasn’t really made me want a puppy all that badly. Seeing pictures of my own Barney Boy from a few years back, though, is really giving me puppy fever!!! And lots of big, big smiles!

Barney has been through so much with me. I had only had him for three weeks when we learned that our three grandkids, aged 10 months, 3 years, and 8 years at that time, were coming to live with us. CPS had removed them from their home and, at least at first, it seemed Robert and I were going to become parents again until the kids were full grown. I only had one child when I was young … getting three all of a sudden and under such circumstances was traumatic, to say the least. Poor little Barney didn’t get nearly as much attention as he would have under different conditions.

Well, that’s not entirely true. He got attention from the kids and from me … but it was different attention than I envisioned when I got him. The good news is that he loves kids, especially the three grandsons, unequivocally. I’m sure that growing up with the kids influenced that love greatly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But we missed some early training opportunities that I see my friends offer to their young pups. I’m not sure it really stunted him much though. He’s well-behaved and a fine little agility dog.

The kids lived with us for 5-1/2 months before the judge allowed them to go back home. So much of my time and effort was focused on taking care of them that I feel like I missed Barney’s puppyhood. I barely remember it. Those months are a daze in so many ways!

As soon as the kids got to go back home, Barney and I threw ourselves into training. Little Man was fabulous. If you asked it of him, he gave it. He still does. What a dog!

We started training every chance we got. We went out to the DAWG (Dallas Agility Working Group) field twice a week and one time a week, Barney was in pre-agility and then beginner agility classes. We both love agility and spending the time together. Cotton was along for the DAWG training. She loves agility, too. Sometimes. When it suits her!

As soon as he turned 18 months, Barney started competing in several different agility venues: USDAA, ASCA, and NADAC. We were gone nearly every weekend and, no matter the venue, the little guy turned in a stunning performance. He qualified in nearly every run he ran. We had so much fun. So.Much.Fun! We added AKC to our list of venues because there were a few weekends when we couldn’t compete in our favored venues. Addicted to agility! That was me, for sure. And Barney loved every minute of it, too!

 

 

 

Then, in October 2012, the bottom fell out of my world. Forget the fact that I was competing in agility every weekend and going to class, by then, four times a week. Forget that I was happier and in better shape than I can remember being (other than being slightly overweight from having quit smoking and going through menopause without the benefits of hormone treatments). Cancer didn’t care.

Barney, Cotton and I continued to go to class and trials while I underwent all sorts of tests and we waited to hear the final diagnosis. We even continued to go to class and trials after the word came that I had Stage IV lung cancer. But, once I started chemo, all bets were off.

I didn’t have the stamina to go to class at night after working all day even when I wasn’t sick, deathly sick, from the chemo treatments. If I wasn’t nauseous, I was still so exhausted that asking my legs to carry me very short distances (like from the 15 feet or so from the couch to the refrigerator) was an accomplishment. As badly as I wanted to keep playing, it was physically and mentally impossible.

Well, nearly. Ed Scharringhausen holds Run As One NADAC agility trials in this area once a month except during the hottest months of the summer. He and his other half, Cathy, are as supportive of me and the challenges I face with this disease as any two people I know have been. Despite not going to class, Barney and I have managed to go, at least for a few hours, to quite a few Run as One trials since I was diagnosed with cancer. And little Barney just keeps on keeping on! We’ve reached a point on one of the events, Chances, where the dog has to work a great distance from you, that we are not going to qualify without more training. Otherwise, though, Barney is at least as likely to earn a qualifying score as not. He gives his all each and every time we step to the line.

But, Barney is more, so much more, than just my little agility teammate. I’ve posted this picture a time or two before, but in my mind’s eye, it is how I see my little boy much of the time. I was so sick after one of my first chemo treatments. My boy was right there with me … he has never before or since been so willing to stay with me (on me) for so long as he was during the time that I was the absolute sickest … such a comforter!!!

I dearly love my Cotton Girl. One of these days, I’ll give her a post! To go on and on about Barney doesn’t diminish how much I adore Cotton, but she’s a totally different dog than Barney. Barney is my caregiver and my little shadow. My sensitive, loving little man. I am, every single solitary day, so very grateful that Mr. Barney was brought into this world on February 7, 2010 and that he came home with me a few weeks later!

Happy birthday, Little Man!!! I hope we get to share many, many, MANY more together!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today is World Cancer Day

Did you see the Super Bowl Commercial that Chevrolet ran? They will donate $1 to the American Cancer Society for every person who goes purple on Facebook or Twitter today. Do it, please!!! It will only take a moment of your time and your dollar combined with those of thousands of others can really make a difference. http://www.chevrolet.com/purple-roads-world-cancer-day.html

The Chevy commercial really touched me. This woman is facing a cancer diagnosis … and her husband is sharing in the pain. There are lots of diagnoses that would be heartbreaking to receive. The one I identify with is cancer. I think I will never forget the moment I learned I had lung cancer.

I was fairly certain by that point that I had cancer, though no one but me had ever uttered such a word in connection with the tests I was having. I was so hopeful that it would be nearly any kind of cancer but lung cancer. My dad died of lung cancer only six months of being diagnosed, despite a valiant effort to fight it. The stats for surviving lung cancer are just not good.

Of course, anyone who knows me or who follows this blog knows I didn’t get my wish granted. I not only had lung cancer, I had Stage IV lung cancer that was inoperable. Radiation also wasn’t an option. Chemotherapy was the only hope I was given. And the doctor wasn’t all that confident it would prolong my life appreciably.

How do you describe the emotions you go through when you learn that your life may be nearly over? Just when life was kind of coming together. I was so involved. I had so many more friends and activities to pursue than I had for most of my adult life. I was having fun … no … F-U-N!!! Literally, the time of my life!

Cancer wasn’t in the plans. At all. I had quit smoking five or six years previously. I was physically active. I ate decent. Cancer was for someone else, not me.

Things move quickly after you’re diagnosed with cancer. You face it bravely, but you’re still scared. And once you get that diagnosis, the fact that you have cancer sort of defines who you are from then on. Or, that’s the case with me. It never leaves the forefront of my mind that I have cancer. I don’t mean to say that it especially limits what I do because I try hard to make sure that isn’t the case, but I still never really forget that I am in the fight of my life against a mighty foe. And I never forget that God is Good and He is Powerful. And by His grace, I’m still here and I still feel good and I am still able to do a whole lot of what I was able to do prior to that terrible day that I learned I had lung cancer.

When I watch the commercial, I imagine that the woman has learned recently that she has cancer. Maybe they are on their way to her first treatment or to tell her parents or kids that she’s received a deadly diagnosis. So many difficult moments accompany the news that you have become a cancer statistic. You have to figure out the new road you’re going to walk whether you want to or not … and you wonder just exactly what it is going to entail. Talk about fear of the unknown!!

Is it going to hurt? Will I be deathly ill for my remaining days on this earth? What’s going to happen to my family, to my dogs? Will my friends disappear? Will people be too uncomfortable to be around me? Will I be too uncomfortable to be around them? Will I lose my hair? Will I become a skeleton? What’s it going to be like to face a deadly opponent? What does chemo feel like?

Here are some answers to those questions:

  1. Lung cancer doesn’t hurt. That’s a problem with it. You have no clue you have it until it is so far gone that your chances of survival are greatly diminished.
  2. Some of your friends do fall by the wayside, but others are right there for you every step of the way. You mourn the ones you “lost” and celebrate the ones who are strong enough and care enough to stick around.
  3. I was lucky! My hair got thinner, but I didn’t lose it. I purchased a wig and hats and all of the rest but by God’s grace, I didn’t have to use them. I’m really happy I didn’t lose my hair – that would have been difficult. But it surely wouldn’t have been the end of the world. I see some women who wear their bald heads with such pride … my heart just swells with love when I see it.
  4. I surely didn’t become a skeleton. It never has seemed fair that I can go through chemo treatment after chemo treatment and still be bigger than ever before. But, I’d rather be a little chubby than way too thin. I don’t look sick and I don’t feel sick.
  5. Chemo doesn’t hurt or burn or anything. It is boring … the first treatments I got took 3-4 hours to administer. The ones I get now drip for an hour. Ho-hum. The after-effects can be awful though. I can’t describe the fatigue or the nausea that accompanied my first chemo treatments. I think you have to experience them to understand them. I’ve tried to face this battle with good humor, but I have to say that I was starting to get quite depressed when I was on the first two courses of treatment. You would have chemo, be sick-sick-sick, and finally start to feel better just about the same time as it was time to go again for another treatment.

Every single day when I wake up, I praise God that I’m still here! I still feel good. I can still enjoy the activities I did before I was diagnosed with cancer.

Below is a video that was shot yesterday of my Sheltie, Barney, and I trying our luck at a NADAC Chances run. We did not earn a qualifying score (LOL, to say the least!!!), but we WERE successful! We were outside together with friends and we had a ton of fun. A far cry from the video above where the woman is looking out the window with so many fears and so much sadness.

 

I am fully aware that any day my cancer may take off and kill me quickly. I think that knowledge makes me enjoy each and every day far more than I would if my body hadn’t been invaded by “evil cells.” I try hard not to sweat the small stuff … or even the big stuff.
On the other hand, I tend NOT to make plans for too far into the future. There’s a Gaither concert over the Memorial Day weekend that I would love to attend in Tennessee but I have been hesitant to get tickets … it is a lot of money to spend if it turns out I am no longer able to make a trip like that.
Here’s the thing, though. Tomorrow is not promised to any of us. Car wrecks, heart attacks, the flu … none of us know what tomorrow holds for us. A cancer diagnosis might make that fact a little more real, but ALL of us should live life as if tomorrow may not come. Be happy. Be strong. Live!

2014 – Here We Come – Ready or Not!!!

Wow! 2014!! Where have the years gone? They speed by quicker and quicker! It is already the middle of January and it seems like it was only yesterday that we celebrated Christmas!

Retired!

The biggest news for 2014 (so far) is that, as of 1/1/2014, I am retired!!! I never, ever thought I would see the day! I mentioned in an earlier post that there were some advantages to having stage IV lung cancer. I know most of you think I’m crazy (maybe so!!!), but if I didn’t have cancer, I would still be working. For quite a few more years… Instead, I am getting to enjoy me time now while I can still enjoy it. The downside is that we have to go to treatments every two weeks, but the upside is that the treatment is working so I can enjoy being retired! 🙂

I am not sure that it has really sunk in that I don’t have to go to work on this coming Monday. Vacation isn’t going to end in another week! What a liberating feeling. Especially after being pretty miserable for the last few years at my job.

My challenge is going to be keeping myself from getting completely lazy. There have been a few days when I woke up and decided to just go back to sleep since I didn’t have anything I really wanted to do. Don’t get me wrong. There is PLENTY to do around here!! Plenty! It’s a matter of “wanna” … and I haven’t had the wanna to get into my closet or the study and tackle the mess that each place holds. Maybe next week.

Before I retired, I envisioned myself spending lots of hours playing with my dogs – mostly hiking and having a great time enjoying the outdoors. Maybe it will still happen. It just so happens that last week was mostly really cold and sort of dreary … my mood reflected the weather, for sure.

I thought I would be out and about with my camera – taking pictures of flowers, birds, insects, squirrels … whatever I could find basically. Again, I hope it was the weather that stymied those plans.

I haven’t had the luxury of not working since I was about 20 years old. Lots of my life was spent working full time, much of the time working full-time as an employee and running my own business. For several years, I added full-time student to the mix … those were interesting times!!! Thinking back on them STILL makes me tired 🙂 Always, there was wife and mom in the equation … and I always tried to be supermom and superwife … Yeah, like I said, looking back on those days makes me tired! And grateful they are in the past!

I guess it will take a little while to decide how to approach retirement. The idea of not having to do anything (except go to chemo every 2 weeks) is almost overwhelming. But, in a mostly good way!

RV

Robert and I have talked seriously about buying an RV and traveling around our great country. Since I’ve always had to work, we haven’t done much traveling. I know a lot of people work and still manage to travel, but I always found that trips were tiring and I chose to use my vacation time to rest and recuperate. So, now that work is no longer an issue, we have really considered purchasing a home on wheels and beginning to explore the United States. Robert wants to be in Arizona when the professional baseball teams are in spring training. And, we (mostly me) have thought it might be fun to travel all around to different agility trials.

Well, we went to a big RV show in Fort Worth this week. I had looked forward to that show for months. I left so confused. I thought I wanted an RV that you drive – so the dogs would have more room as we traveled from place to place. Plus, I thought it would be easier to drive a vehicle that is all one piece!

We looked at so many recreational vehicles it would make your head spin (and your legs feel like they were about to drop off). And, I was left wondering if maybe a fifth wheel RV wouldn’t be the better choice. Huh? Where did that come from?! I hadn’t entertained that thought AT ALL until walking around the show.

Then there is that part of me that wonders if we want an RV at all. They are expensive in every way: to purchase, to drive, to park, and to store. Some of the RV parks that I looked at cost more per night to use than a La Quinta or similar hotel. Maybe we should just buy a nice SUV and drive that across the country and stay at hotels and cabins, etc. along the way. It would be far more economical.

Or shoot. Maybe we should just purchase a lakehouse and forget about traveling. A home on the lake with property where the dogs can run and play sounds pretty relaxing. I’ve gone this long without really seeing America. Is it really all that important that I start now?

So, there you have it! Conundrum!

But, as I sit and reflect on all of the questions and decisions that await us, I am amazed again that I am here and that these questions and decisions are even there to be made! I say it pretty often and it is because I truly believe it – I am so, so, so very lucky. And blessed. A lot of lung cancer patients WISH they could be more concerned with these kinds of questions and a whole lot less concerned with how the chemo makes them feel and what can be done to stop their tumors from spreading and slowly taking over their bodies and killing them.

I remain fully aware that the day may come when the drug I am on quits working. And my tumors will no longer remain dormant. At any time, the cancer may decide it has sat for long enough without movement and spread through my body in weeks or months. Life is not certain. But, the truth is, life is not certain for any of us. Not at all. And each of us should probably strive to keep that thought in the forefront of our minds. It might help us quit sweating the small stuff.

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! 🙂

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  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!