Thursday, February 21, 2013

I Attended A "Look Good... Feel Better" Workshop

God has provided me with a neat little blessing that I wanted to share... A few days ago, I was able to attend a "Look Good... Feel Better" workshop - a program for cancer patients that helps them "cope with the appearance related side-effects of treatment." It is offered FREE OF CHARGE through a partnership with the American Cancer Society, the Professional Beauty Association/National Cosmetology Association, and the Personal Care Products Council Foundation.

Licensed Cosmetologists came to show me and other women how to apply cosmetics in a way that helps cover the effects of chemotherapy, radiation, or other forms of cancer treatments. They also showed us different ways to wear a scarf on our heads, aside from just tying it in the back. It was a helpful and fun experience.

Here are some of the products I received - FREE! (I totalled all of it up and believe it came to over $250 worth of name-brand products! I would have never paid that much just for makeup!)

Clarins Super Restorative Foundation - DiorShow Mascara - Elizabeth Arden Color Intrigue Eye Shadow - Clinique Moisture Surge - Clinique All About Eyes - Revlon Pressed Powder - Revlon Eye Liner - Neutrogena Bronzer - L’Oreal Infallible 6 Hour Lipgloss - Avon Healthy Makeup Concealer - Mary Kay Lip Liner - Chanel Lipstick - And more....
The next day, I tried my own hand at applying some of the products, and came up with a before and after picture of myself. (NOTE:  I used as little makeup as possible to achieve a natural look that hopefully brings out the best of my features. The makeup is not "caked on" but you can see a subtle difference, especially in the eyes.)

If you, or any of the ladies in your life, are undergoing treatments for cancer, please contact your local American Cancer Society for more information about this program. Remember, its FREE! So, you have nothing to lose!

Final Picture

(Oh, and thanks to my sister-in-law, Julee, for the knitted hat you see in the picture! She is selling these hats and other great products so, if interested in knowing more, contact me and I'll put you in touch with her!)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Cancer Journey - Part 12: Side Effects From Chemo

A week ago today, I underwent my second round of chemo treatment. It was the first time for me to be able to see and comprehend all that took place during treatment (due to my grogginess from the power port surgery on the same day as my first treatment). Things went well. My husband went with me to the appointment. We first had blood levels drawn, then waited to see the doctor. He said my blood counts look good, so we proceeded to the clinic for the treatment.

The treatment itself took about 2 hours to be administered. David and I watched a DVD on our portable DVD player, and I remember dozing off a few times. After the treatment was over, I stood up and remember feeling a bit weak in the knees and light-headed. We asked the nurses what it could be from, and they said they had given me Ativan to pre-medicate for nausea. Ativan is also a relaxant. So, I am glad David went with me to the appointment, as it may have been hard for me to safely drive home.

Wednesday morning, my fatigue was more intense, but I was still able to function. Worse than the fatigue was the heartburn I was experiencing. I will be sure to have some Tums on hand before the next treatment begins.

Nausea has not been a huge issue, thankfully! For three days after treatment, I take two (and sometimes three) different medications to help control nausea. So, instead of being sick to my stomach, the meds have reduced it to where I experience only some queasiness off and on - just an uneasy type of feeling that reduces my appetite.

Unfortunately, a side effect of the nausea meds is insomnia. Each night, I would go to bed at 11:00 p.m., then be wide awake at 3:00 a.m. and not able to get back to sleep. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights were the worst for this.

On Thursday, my fatigue increased and, along with it, I also had:
  • A fullness or ringing sound in my ears
  • Bloating & Constipation
  • Fluid retention
  • A change in my tastebuds
  • A general feeling of just being uncomfortable

SIDE NOTE:  I am so grateful to our church family and friends who have provided meals for us during treatment weeks! What an awesome ministry! I may end up writing a post later on, specifically about meal ministries and how they are such a blessing to others.

By Sunday morning, I was feeling good enough to get out and go to church; but, by that evening, I was having new symptoms of heart palpitations, weakness, and shakiness. I recognize some of my symptoms as the same as when I had hyperthyroid problems, so I called my doctor’s office on Monday and they drew blood work on me. This morning, the bloodwork showed my thyroid levels are fine. So, for some reason, the chemo is still affecting me this week in a way it did not affect me after the first round. I’m sure I will be discussing this with the doctor at next Tuesday’s appointment.

Of course, hair loss is still an issue - The hair loss has slowed down and I still have some "fuzz" on top, but I expect it will all disappear within the next couple of weeks. I am in the process of trying to figure out what feels most comfortable to me. On some days, my head is cold and I need to wear something to keep it warm. Some days, I can’t stand the feel of anything on my head at all. I have a mixture of different things to choose from - hats, turbans, scarves, and even a wig. The problem is that I’m just not a "hat person" and would rather be free from wearing any head gear at all. But, sometimes, that isn’t really an option. So, I'm trying different things, and here are a few of my new looks...

Two treatments down, 14 more to come.  We are pressing onward...

Philippians 3:14 - I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (NASB)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

VIDEO REVIEW: Awesome Science Season 2

I was given the opportunity to review Season 2 (episodes 4, 5, and 6) of the Awesome Science DVD series. Each video is 30-40 minutes long, and a study guide is available that includes extra information, vocabulary words, and quizzes.

The series is brought to us by Kyle Justice; and his 14 year old son, Noah, is the host.

These DVD's are fast-paced and interesting. Although, the vocabulary is a bit advanced for the younger audience, they are sure to be a pleaser for the Jr. High and High School age groups, and even adults. Younger students can also benefit just from watching and seeing the beauty of these fabulous locations on our earth.

For those who have never had a chance to see these parks up close and personal, this is a great alternative. I recommend them for anyone who wants to share how Creation Science and the truth of the Bible can be explained in the formations of these wondrous creations.

Here is a trailor from epsiode 4: 
Here is the trailor for
Mt. St. Helens... 

The trailor for
John Day Fossil Beds...
These DVD's are published by Master Books, a division of New Leaf Publishing Group. I received the products FREE of charge for review purposes.

Friday, February 15, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Upside-Down Prayers for Parents

Lisa T. Bergren is a well-known author of many books. I have enjoyed her children's books, so decided to choose this new one she wrote for parents called Upside-Down Prayers for Parents.

The book includes 31 devotions to help parents entrust their children to God’s love and care, in way that you would not normally expect. Each devotion has a Scripture verse, thoughts from the author about a specific area to pray about for children, a suggested prayer, and an area to answer a question or reflect on what you have learned. It also includes a discussion starter to use with your children such as, in devotion #11 which speaks about loneliness and finding intimacy with the Lord, "Have you ever been lonely?" and "How do you see God around you?"

The devotions are good and thought-provoking. They are not too long and give good insights to various ways we need to have a deeper trust in the Lord. However, on a scale of 1-5 (5 being excellent), I would only give this book a 3. The reason is because I don’t care for the way the book words its introductory titles/prayers (at the beginning of each chapter). For example:
  • I pray you’ll get caught doing things wrong - and find the good and true path.
  • I pray you’ll fail in things that don’t matter - and learn to seek what matters to God.
  • I pray you’ll get lost - and discover you'll find the Compass within...
  • I pray you’ll experience unanswered prayers - and you'll find a deeper trust in Him.
  • I pray you’ll know fear - and find courage in living with God beside you.
While I understand where the author is coming from, I don’t agree with praying for my children (or anyone) to have "bad" things happen to them. It is a fact that things WILL happen to them without our need to specifically pray for them that way. So, instead, I would say:
  • WHEN you do things wrong, I pray you will get caught.
  • WHEN you fail...
  • WHEN you get lost...
  • WHEN you experience unanswered prayers...
  • WHEN you are fearful...
I would not say to forego this book all-together, as it does have a lot of good thoughts. But, just wanted to mention this one area I didn’t agree with. If anything, it wouldn't hurt to pick it up just for the conversation starters to have with your children.

NOTE: I received this book free of charge from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Set to be released on February 19th.



Saturday, February 9, 2013

20 Songs That Encourage Me

Here is a list of 20 various songs (in no particular order) that you can watch on You Tube. These have been a great encouragement to me in the past and present. I wanted to share them with you. On the days when you are weary or discouraged, take some time to watch one, two, or several of these (or, if you don't like these, pick a few of your own favorites). It is amazing how much music can say just what you are feeling, and can be such a blessing to your spirit and/or a prayer from you to the Lord...

Thursday, February 7, 2013

My Cancer Journey - Part 11: Losing My Hair

A few weeks ago, before my first chemo treatment, I decided to get my hair cut a lot shorter than usual. I wanted to start getting used to the fact that some changes were about to take place, and I would most likely lose my hair. It was a hard day for me, as I did not like the new look. I think it was actually harder for me to get the short haircut than it was for me to have the mastectomy! I guess its because hair is such an identifying factor in women. I also knew my husband prefers my hair to be longer, so it was just very difficult all around. But, David was great with me and told me it did not look horrible in the way I perceived it to be. He was so comforting and supportive, and he reassured me that this would only be a temporary thing. I thank God for a husband who loves me, and has chosen to stick by me for better or worse, in sickness and in health.  

After my first chemo treatment, I was told, if my hair is going to fall out, it would happen within 2-3 weeks. Several friends who have been through this said their scalp began to feel really sore before their hair fell out and, a couple of days ago, I noticed mine getting really sore to the touch. I knew this was a sign that my hair was loosening up. 

In today's mail, I received a hat I had ordered, so I went to the bathroom to try it on. While doing so, I noticed several strands of hair falling out. I, then, pulled lightly on my hair and ended up with quite a few strands between my fingers. It had begun. I called my 10-year-old son into the room because I figured he would be interested in seeing it. He was sympathetic for me, yet very curious. I, then, allowed him to help me gently pull the hair out, and we ended up with a large pile. Its not completely gone yet, but is very very thin. I know it won't take long for the rest to come out.

Life is certainly interesting, but I continue to thank the Lord for his presence in my life. Because of Him, and because of the support of my family, I am doing okay with the hair loss. I know its all just part of the process.

By the way, Chemo session #2 did not happen this week as planned. The doctor sees patients before each chemo session to see how they are doing and, after seeing me on Tuesday, he decided it would be best to postpone treatment for another week. I am still recovering from a cold/sinus infection, and he didn't want to take the chance of the chemo making things worse. But, since I was there, and since he said I looked a bit dehydrated, I was given a bag of fluids before being sent home. I will go back again next Tuesday for the treatment.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

My Cancer Journey - Part 10: First Chemo Treatment

On January 22nd, I had minor surgery to install a POWER PORT that sits under the left collar bone. The port is beneficial so that I won’t end up getting repeated vein sticks during chemo treatments, and also so the drugs they use will not burn my skin.

After the surgery, I had my first treatment that same day. I was still a bit groggy from surgery, so I slept through most the treatment, but all went well. One down and 15 more to go! (NOTE: The first 4 treatments are spaced every 2 weeks apart. Then, after a short break, there will be a change in medication and I will have a treatments once per week for 12 weeks. If all goes well, I will be finished by the end of July.) The only major drawback was that my immune system was weakened and I ended up with a terrible head cold that I couldn't shake, which then turned into a sinus infection.

My second treatment is coming up this Tuesday, as long as I'm well enough.

So, as you can see, this "journey" is far from over but, since I have you caught up on what has happened this far, I am done posting on a daily basis for now. As I am able, I will post updates on how things are going. In the meantime, I ask for your prayers for me and for my family.

Let me leave you with this quote from Cynthia Heald, the author of my favorite devotional "Becoming a Woman Who Walks with God." 

"The Scriptures do not guarantee that 'all will be well' according to our human perspective. They do, however, promise that God will work all things for our good. As we learn to trust Him 'no matter what,' He develops within us a deeply rooted confidence in Him. This confidence enables us to lean on HIS understanding and HIS ways of working in our lives."

Saturday, February 2, 2013

My Cancer Journey - Part 9: Why Me??

Humanly speaking, I want to ask why this has happened to me. I've been a mostly "healthy" person for most of my life. I try to eat well, take my vitamins, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise (even if that exercise only consists of walking around the block or doing housework). I also try to live my life in a way that is pleasing to God. So, from a human standpoint, it doesn’t make much sense. I have two children and a husband to take care of. One of our children has autism, and the other has had some "special needs" of his own to contend with. My husband has a heart condition and is already under enough stress without him needing to take care of me and the rest of the family. So, why? Why would God allow this to happen to ME? Quite honestly, it has been hard to come to grips with that at times.

After my mastectomy surgery, I received several cards in the mail. I have kept the cards to look at every once in awhile because of the encouragement they bring. It is nice to be reminded that people care; and many of the messages in them have spoken to me, at various times, as messages coming directly from the Lord.

One card, in particular, was made by DaySpring and, on the back, it had a section of a Tommy Walker worship song typed out. The name of the song is LORD I RUN TO YOU. I looked it up on You Tube and, as I paid attention to the lyrics, these words in the song caught my attention:

Lord, You said we’d face
trouble pain and fears
but to be of good cheer
to be of good cheer
for You have overcome
overcome the world

I recognized these words as being part of a Bible verse:

John 16:33 - "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." (NKJV) 

Right there was the answer to my "Why?" Question. It is simple, really: In the world you will have tribulation. Its not a MAYBE you will have trials; its not a MAYBE you will experience difficulties; it’s a DEFINITE statement: In the world you WILL have tribulation! It doesn’t matter who you are, where you live, or what you do. NONE of us are exempt from hardship. One person’s hardship may be work related, another has lost a family member or close friend, others are dealing with financial difficulties, others are having marriage problems, some are caretakers of those with disabilities, and many more are in pain and/or are dealing with chronic illness. The list goes on. The fact of the matter is that hardship is IN THIS WORLD, and we are living IN THIS WORLD.

BUT, there is hope....

The verse doesn’t stop there. It says, to BE OF GOOD CHEER (or in the New American Standard version, it says TAKE COURAGE). Why? Because our Savior, Jesus Christ, has OVERCOME THE WORLD!

What exactly does that mean for us? It means the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ gives us hope in this world of trouble. It means we may have struggles for awhile, but they won’t last forever. It means, those who believe in and trust in Him for their salvation will one day live eternally with our heavenly Father and will no longer be experiencing any sickness, pain, or death. It means the Lord LOVES us with unfailing love, and HE HAS NOT FORSAKEN US. 

He never forsakes those who love Him. 

Deuteronomy 31:8 - The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. 

Am I still scared at times? Yes. Do I still get discouraged? Yes. But, I know, without a doubt, the Lord is there for me and my family as we go through this. And, with the continued support of family and friends, I believe we can make it through this. It won’t be easy, but we will make it.

Thank You, Lord.

Friday, February 1, 2013

My Cancer Journey - Part 8: Further Treatments Needed

The mastectomy surgery on December 11th went as expected, and, one week later, we saw the surgeon for follow-up. He removed my drain tube and the dressing, causing much more comfort for me at that time; but, more important, was the pathology report, which revealed clear lymph nodes! Oh, what wonderful words to hear. However, when David said to the surgeon that clear lymph nodes meant no further treatments, the surgeon said, "No, I’m sorry, but I can’t guarantee that." He wanted us to discuss it with our Oncologist in January. But, with all the clear reports, we assumed the only treatment needed would be to start taking a medication that blocks the estrogen in my body and would keep any new cancer cells from growing.

Our assumptions were wrong...
David and I sat in the doctor’s office, waiting to hear his recommendation for further treatments. He entered the room with a friendly greeting, then moved directly to the conversation of my cancer. He spent a lot of time sitting and talking with us, explaining my situation. He said the cancer is Stage 2 (So, thankfully, we caught it early, removed it surgically, and it had not spread to other organs.) However, it seems the surgery was not enough to give us the best possible chances for no recurrence. The doctor explained that there was a test done on my tumor called Ki-67 which determines the aggressiveness of it, and how likely it is to return. Anything above 20% is considered high, and my numbers came in at 99%. This means, without additional treatment, there is a very high chance of recurrence within the next 2 years. He then said, his recommendation is for chemotherapy, in order to kill any remaining cancer cells.

The utterance of the word "chemo" produced a surge of adrenaline in me, and my heart began to pound. That was the one word I was hoping not to hear. I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. I wanted all of this to just be a bad dream and I would wake up and everything would be normal again. But, as my husband placed his arm around me for comfort, I was reminded of how much I love him and our children. I didn’t like hearing this news but I realized I only want what is best for a full and complete recovery. The Lord had brought us to a good doctor with a lot of experience, so I chose to trust his wisdom, and to trust in a God who has already gone before us. So, with that said, another minor surgery was scheduled to have a power port installed, followed by the beginning of 6 months of chemo treatment.

In my humanness, I have often asked, WHY has all of this been happening to me?? And, one day, as I tried to make sense of it all, I read one of the cards a friend sent to me for encouragement. It helped put some things in perspective, and I’ll talk more about that in my next post.

Life has certainly been interesting for the past 4 months, and I guess it will never be the same from here on out. But, God is faithful, and always will be...