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!

Surviving Lung Cancer

I recently had the rather odd opportunity to participate in a market research study that was directed at stage III and IV lung cancer patients. In all, the company was trying to find 9 of us to help them develop a marketing campaign for a new immunotherapy drug that will be coming out. There were three time slots and three people were needed for each time slot. We were paid $200 to participate. If our names were provided to the market research company, the referee received $100. I can only imagine how difficult it must be to locate stage III or IV lung cancer patients; especially patients who are willing and able to participate in the study.

I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to do it either. Sometimes I don’t mind talking and answering questions and sometimes I do. I woke up not sure I wanted to talk about lung cancer or my thoughts about it.

But, since I had agreed to participate, I got ready and made the trip into Dallas. Finally talked myself into trying out LBJ Freeway which has been under construction for the last several years. Wow! It is nice! 🙂

I was very curious to see who the other two participants would be. Would they be sickly? How long had they been sick? I felt certain that I would look far healthier and feel far better than my colleagues. In fact, I was a little smug in my belief that I am doing so much better than most would be a year after being diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer.

I arrived first. Next, a nice looking lady about my age came in. She sat next to me and we had a wonderful time. She didn’t look unhealthy either. And despite her saying that she is depressed and worries constantly about her diagnosis, she had a fabulous sense of humor. I believe she had been diagnosed about 7 months previously. Her cancer was different than mine and she was able to have a lung removed. Nevertheless, she is currently undergoing chemo that is making her really sick. Ugh. I know the feeling. I referred her to UTSW. Maybe they can get her into a study with a drug like mine that doesn’t make you sick. I hope so.

The last person to arrive was  Lydia. She looked a little worse – she wore a hat, perhaps because she has no hair and perhaps because she prefers a hat. I’m not certain. Looking at her, I assumed she had had the cancer the least amount of time and that she was suffering the most. Wrong. As it turns out, she has been battling the disease for five years. Tumors have popped up all over her body. And the doctors have managed to treat them and get rid of them. Lydia is on a maintenance drug and is doing quite well.

Interestingly, Lydia never smoked a day in her life. When she developed a dry cough, nobody tested her for lung cancer. It took months for a doctor to decide to rule out cancer … and find it instead. Makes you wonder if she’d have been better off if she had smoked previously. At least, if that was the case, the doctors would have nearly immediately tested for lung cancer.

The other lady had smoked, but she quit 23 years previous. Her lung cancer was discovered as a result of her having a skin cancer examined. For some reason, they decided to do a lung x-ray, too. Like me, she had no symptoms whatsoever.

I, too, smoked, but I had quit five or six years before my cancer was discovered. When I agreed to have a CT scan just to be sure I didn’t have cancer, I was certain that I would get a clean report. Wrong!

So … here are some lessons! Lung cancer doesn’t attack only smokers – current or former. It certainly increases the odds of getting it if you do smoke, but that is not a criteria.

Even though the cancer is spreading through your body and advancing to stage III or IV, it is entirely possible that you will have no symptoms at all. By the time you have symptoms, you may well be way too sickly to ever recover. Scary stuff!

The purpose of this blog, though, is not to scare anyone. Rather, it is my hope that it will be encouraging. The statistics say that only 41.2% of people diagnosed with lung cancer survive the first year. Only 26% survive the second year. Scary statistics.

But, of the three of us who were in that room, one has had the cancer for a little less than a year, but it seems likely she will still be living after a year. One of us has beat the odds for over 5 years. And I am well into the second year of my battle. A lung cancer diagnosis is scary, but it is not an automatic death sentence. That’s what I want people to understand and believe.

 

Facts and Statistics – Please Help Support Lung Cancer Research

Lung cancer has a stigma associated with it that most other cancers do not. It seems that people almost think that those who get lung cancer deserve it. The first questions you ask when you hear of that diagnosis are, “Do you smoke? Did you smoke? For how long and how much?” And, if ever in their life the person smoked, subconsciously you think, “Well, you should have known better. You should not have smoked and you would not be sick now.” Probably as a result of this thinking, fundraising for lung cancer lags far behind that of breast cancer and some other cancers.

Below are some facts and statistics about lung cancer. If you ever decide to donate toward cancer research, I hope you will consider earmarking your contribution to lung cancer.

 

  • Lung cancer (both small cell and non-small cell) is the second most common cancer in both men and women
  • Lung cancer accounts for about 14% of all new cancers
  • In 2013, there were 228,190 new cases of lung cancer (118,080 in men; 110,110 in women)
  • In 2013, there were an estimated 159,480 deaths from lung cancer; accounting for about 27% of all cancer deaths
  • Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined
  • Overall, the chance that a man will develop lung cancer in his lifetime is about 1 in 13; for a woman, the risk is about 1 in 16
  • Only 15.6% of people diagnosed with lung cancer will still be alive five years after diagnosis.
http://www.cancer.org/cancer/lungcancer-non-smallcell/detailedguide/non-small-cell-lung-cancer-key-statistics
http://seer.cancer.gov/faststats/selections.php?#Output
 

Gratitude

Gratitude is good! And I’m filled with it!

I have only one son and we’ve been estranged for awhile. It was really hard on him when he learned I had lung cancer. I’ve been his rock for most of his life and the thought that he might lose that freaked him out. Things got even more difficult for him when his wife left him and took his three boys with her only a month or so after I learned I was sick.

For nearly a year, we had little contact and what little we had, was not great. He asked me if we couldn’t let bygones be bygones … so there’s no real need to converse about the particulars. But, I want to set the stage for why I am grateful today.

My son has had a lot of trauma and drama in his life. For many years he chose to look at the negatives rather than the positives. He remembered the bad things that happened to him but could not recall the good times. Despite the fact that I live my life looking at the bright side most of the time, I could never convince him that doing so would make him a much happier person. He went through many years drugged on legal drugs obtained through the Veteran’s Administration. They were the only way he could cope with life.

I was not particularly excited when I learned that he and his girlfriend would be coming to town last week. In fact, it took lots of prayer and remembering the Biblical story of the Prodigal Son to even agree to see them, much less allow them to come to my home. As I said, there was lots of water under the bridge and letting those bygones be bygones is not as easily done as requested.

After I was diagnosed with cancer, I decided that life was way too short to spend it in the middle of dramatic situations. I explained to him that I now avoid drama like the plague and could not put up with him bringing any when he arrived here. He agreed, but I wasn’t wholly convinced we could avoid it.

I am delighted to say that I was wrong. Way wrong. My son is as happy as I can remember seeing him for years and years. His girlfriend has done what I was unable to do – taught him to examine a situation and look for the good in it. For the first time in 20 years or more, he is contented. Confident. Happy from the inside out. Do you know what joy that brings a mom? A dad? Gratitude.

Divorced

 

The reason my son came home was to go to court to finalize his divorce. The divorce went pretty much like he wanted, giving him liberal visitation rights. The boys have always been his reason for being … they make him whole. The knowledge that he can legally see them every other weekend, holidays, and school breaks fills him with joy.

Needless to say, he wanted to see the boys the first weekend after the divorce finalized. Unfortunately, that weekend was their Mom’s weekend. She didn’t have to allow him to see the kids if she chose not to. That would mean he would either not get to see the kids at all while he was in town or that he would have to stay an entire week longer so that he could see them on “his” weekend.

Fortunately, his ex-wife agreed to let the kids come over on that weekend. She drove them all the way to our house – a trip clear across Dallas. And allowed them to stay from Friday night until Sunday afternoon. Gratitude.

Reunion


My son had not seen his boys for 13 months. The way they had been torn apart left us apprehensive about what their reaction to their dad would be when they finally reunited. Their last memories of their dad were not good ones. We expected that they might be reticent or worse, especially the baby, who was only 3 when they were separated. 

Imagine how happy we all were when the boys arrived and ran yelling and screaming into their dad’s arms – excited beyond words to see him again. There was not one second needed to warm up. While they had never once brought him up to me during the time he was gone, it was obvious they missed him terribly. Far more than we could realize.

Gratitude.

The boys noticed the change in their dad. They could see and sense the contentment. The entire weekend passed without him raising his voice a single time. He laughed with them and played with them and hugged them close. And loved them. Oh so much.

When the time came for their mom to take them back home, it was very emotional. It was doubly hard because my son and his girlfriend were leaving for their home out of state the following day. No one knows when the next reunion will occur. One thing we do know though is this: God willing, there WILL be another reunion and it won’t take another 13 months to occur.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 




Gratitude.

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.

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 🙂 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!! 🙂

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! 🙂

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!

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! 🙂 I just hope that I’m adequately fulfilling whatever purpose He has for leaving me here.

Time to go!