Sunday, October 31, 2010

Starting Up Again

I finally got the last drain tube out last Tuesday. What a miserable experience! I'm glad to be done with it. I still don't have complete range-of-motion in my arms. I start physical therapy tomorrow. I'm very excited about it. Nothing frustrates me as much as physical limitations and not being functional.

My surgeon was so optimistic at my last visit. It encouraged me. I never ask about the prognosis. I just assume I'm going to survive. But it is encouraging when my doctors are optimistic. I get pretty emotional whenever someone talks about my future.

Chemo starts back up on Tuesday. I'll have four treatments, one every other week. As I reviewed all the possible side effects, I was reminded how few side effects I had from the first chemo drugs. I'm so very thankful, and hopeful that I'll have few side effects on these new drugs.

Please continue to pray for me...
1. Minimal side-effects
2. Blood counts stay normal
3. That I don't get sick (cold/flu/infections).
4. For those helping me, that they don't grow weary (particularly my mom and my husband).
5. Endurance, for me.

A Generous Heart

I've received so many gifts and help from people. I've been wanting to blog about it for a while. It's an overwhelming task, because I have been blessed by so many people, in so many ways. I tried to write it all down once, but after almost two hours, my husband gently reminded me that I have a family to tend to. I will figure out a way to tell you, because it's worth writing about. I pray that God will bless you all abundantly, as you have blessed me!

So today, the sweetest thing happened and I couldn't wait to write about it.
Some dear friends came over after church. They have the sweetest little girl. She's six, and has been close to my heart since I met her about two years ago. During our visit, she came up to me and handed me some money.
Confused, I asked her, "What is this for?"
She said, "To help pay for your medicine."
I was touched.
Knowing her parents don't just give her money, I asked, "Is this money you earned?"
"Yes." she replied. "I earned five dollars and I gave you two."
I was speechless, but knew I had to say something.
I gave her a big hug, then told her, "This will be a huge help! Thank you so much. You have a very generous heart, and God loves a generous heart." Then I gave her another hug.
She smiled at me.
I looked up at her mom, with tears in my eyes, and saw that she had tears in hers too.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Letting Go

I held my baby girl last night. She nestled in, which is unusual for her. I think she's missed me as much as I have missed her. I cried silently in the stillness of the moment. I haven't been able to hold her for four weeks.
The last few weeks have been difficult. Heart wrenching.
I have in my mind the image of the kind of parent I want to be. It's above and beyond anything I could ever attain, even on my best day. I've had to surrender all of those expectations of myself.
But there is this other part of being a parent that is different from ideals or even good intentions. It is that desire I have for my children. The longing in my heart to care for them, to provide for and nurture. The part of me that can pick their voice out of a crowd of noisy children. The part of me that wants to comfort them when they are hurt, to run to them. It's that desire to impart my values, to teach them, to keep them safe, to be close to them.
This is what I've been forced to surrender. And I do so unwillingly. Although I do trust that God will work this out for good, my heart aches. A deeper ache than I've ever experienced. It's my inability to take care of my children.
My children.
My children.
Maybe that's the problem.
They aren't mine.
They don't belong to me.
Surrender.
Surrender the things that are closest to my heart?
What does it mean to really surrender?
To really lay it all down. All of my desires. My will.
When I think I've given all, when I think I've completely yielded, I realize I've only scratched the surface.
There is still so much "mine" and "I want" in my heart.
I cannot imagine the amount of selflessness it took for Jesus to willingly suffer torture and crucifixion. He had to yield his will, every day, every minute, leading up to that moment when he gave all.
He resisted every desire, every good thing life has to offer.
So that we could be free.
Free from sin. Free from bondage. Free from death.
So that we could choose.
God's will or my will.
I'm learning to choose God's will. And to trust Him with the things that are closest to my heart. Things that are the hardest to let go.

"Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor." ~John 12:24-26

Friday, October 15, 2010

Numb

i look down and there is nothing there its so flat, board flat
and i can see my post-baby belly and it looks so much bigger than before
breasts gone and there is nothing there; no more nurturing
pale smooth skin and two lines, scars where my breasts used to be
it doesn't look that bad, not as deformed as i expected, just so flat so bony
i stand before my husband and i ask if he is sad, it is his loss too
he looks at me sadly and says no
he is sad because i don't feel sexy anymore and he is right, i don't
sometimes i feel pretty but never sexy, he still thinks i am
but i don't understand, how can i be
i'm numb, my entire chest, so many nerves damaged, no feeling
and that is how i feel sexually numb paralyzed damaged

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Breast Cancer Awareness

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Since this is a blog about breast cancer, I feel like I should say something. I greatly appreciate all of the fund raising endeavors. It is amazing how many resources are available for people struggling with breast cancer. However, I get a bit irritated by the vast number of products with pink labels that fail to eliminate the known cancer-causing ingredients in their products. If you are interested in learning more about this topic, google "pinkwashing."
Putting that aside, the news is filled with breast cancer awareness articles. I've been reading many of them. The ones that draw my interest are regarding prevention and risk factors. I'm trying to find anything that puts me in an "at risk" category. I'd like to discover if there is anything more I could have done to prevent this disease. So far, I've found very few things.

Prevention...
  • Regular physical activity: Other than during my pregnancies, I've always been active. I love to exercise!
  • Maintain healthy weight: Yep.
  • Moderate to no alcohol consumption: I've never been a big drinker. And I don't drink alcohol at all these days.
  • Eat a healthy diet filled with fruits and veggies: I read cancer-prevention books and implemented cancer-preventing eating habits long before I got breast cancer.
  • Avoid refined sugar: I love sweets! This is my weakness. Although I've tried to eliminate them, I often indulge, probably more than I should.

Risk Factors...
  • Female: Yes, I am a woman. That's one risk factor.
  • Old: No, I'm only 36.
  • No pregnancies: I've had four (one miscarriage).
  • First pregnancy at an older age: Hmmm, is 30 considered an older age? This is a possible risk factor.
  • Not breastfeeding: One study indicated that those who breastfed more than 24 months were 60% less likely to develop breast cancer. I spent many, many months breastfeeding.
  • Recent use of oral contraceptives: No.
  • Menstrual cycle started before age 12: No.
  • Abortions: None. Did you know having an abortion increases your risk of getting breast cancer by 242%?
  • Smoking: Never. Risk increases by 196%
  • Genetic factors: None. No family history. Genetic test came back negative.

My point is that no one is exempt. I don't bring this up to evoke fear. If God is on your side, breast cancer is not something to be feared. Neither is death for that matter. But cancer treatment is unpleasant, and by catching it early, one can prevent much of the unpleasantness. The most important thing is to know your body and to do regular self-exams. If you notice anything irregular, call your doctor!
Prostate cancer is to men as breast cancer is to women. 1 in 6 men will be affected by prostate cancer with almost 30,000 dying each year. Not nearly as much money and publicity goes into prostate cancer research and awareness. So for you men out there, get regular check-ups and PSA tests.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The results are in...

This week has been uncomfortable. I haven't had much pain, just discomfort. I discovered that I am prone to discouragement when I lose control of my life. I am so very thankful for all the help I have received. But I get frustrated when I can't do things myself, my way. I've given up control of EVERYTHING. I've had to yield my rights and my way. I've had to joyfully receive help from others, their way. It's hard. And I don't like needing people the way that I do, and having to depend on others for everything. It's humbling, bordering on humiliating.

I wasn't prepared emotionally for my follow-up doctor's appointment today. I like to face doctor's visits when I feel strong and when I'm not overly emotional - especially when I'm facing possible pain and test results. I was an emotional wreck as Damie and I arrived for the appointment. It was actually more of a discouraged temper-tantrum over not getting my way for the last week. Despite that, God continually gives me peace and comfort, and He's never given me more than I can handle.

My surgeon is very even-tempered. He's sweet, calm and comforting. He examined my scars and said with uncharacteristic enthusiasm that I look fantastic! He was very pleased with how well I'm healing. The nurse removed three of my four drain tubes. It was painful. It felt like I was being stabbed in the side with a knife. I've never been stabbed in the side with a knife, but I imagine what I felt today is very similar. My eyes were closed the entire time, but Damie, who has no problem watching all these horrible procedures, said that he could definitely see why it hurt so badly. I silenced him before he could give me any more details.

While I was getting the drain tubes extracted, the doctor explained the pathology report. It was a "favorable pathology report" that "couldn't get much better." As expected, there was no cancer in the tissue taken from the left side. The tissue removed from the right side still had small traces of cancer but the "sampling of the tumor sites shows >95% tumor kill." And there was no cancer found in the lymph nodes (where there had been cancer originally).
So, I wasn't entirely cancer free, but pretty darn close. And hopefully now that they've removed all the breast tissue, I am cancer free!!

Despite the positive results, I am still facing more chemo and radiation. I will meet with the oncologist soon to get started on my remaining treatment. It is comforting to know that I am responding well to the treatment and that there really will be an end to all this.

I am confident that I'm responding so well and having minimal complications because of all your prayers. Thank you all!!!!