Wednesday, October 30, 2013

4 Months Post Chemo - All is Well

Where are we now?

1.  Last month - I didn't post about this - but I went in for my yearly mammogram. It was my first one post diagnosis of breast cancer. Quite honestly, I was nervous about getting it done, but knew it was necessary. So, I went. A few days later, I received a pink slip in the mail. A beautiful, wonderful, pink slip with the words, "We are pleased to inform you that the results of your breast imaging procedure are normal." (BIG SIGH OF RELIEF!)

2.  Last week, I had another Doppler done to check the status of the small blood clot in my jugular vein. The technician said she still saw a small sliver, but it was not causing any problems with blood flow, and there were no new clots to be seen. (THANK YOU, LORD!)

3.  Today, I had a follow-up appointment with my Oncologist. All my bloodwork is within normal range... AND... he cleared me from taking Xarelto, the blood thinner I was taking in order to combat the blood clots. He said the sliver they are seeing looks like a shadow that is only there because there WAS a blood clot. It is not causing a blockage of any kind and is no longer of any major concern. (PRAISE GOD!)

Where do we go from here?

1.  I will continue to take Tamoxifen, the med that blocks estrogen. So far, it seems to be working well for me. I am having the expected hot flashes and other symptoms that confirm it is working. Unfortunately, one of the negative side effects is joint pain. It feels like arthritis, and is at its worst in the morning. But, after getting busy and moving around, the pain subsides. It is not bad enough for me to need any pain killers, so we will continue with the Tamoxifen. I much prefer a little joint pain over the alternative.

2.  We will keep an eye on my neck and arm for any new pain or swelling. If any occurs, I am to call my doctor's office ASAP, as this could be a sign of a clot forming again. Hopefully, that will not happen.

3.  If all goes as planned, I do not need to return for another check-up until 3 months from now. Thankfully, I'm no longer being seen on a weekly, or even a monthly, basis anymore.

All is well.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Breast Cancer Awareness - Guest Blogger Jen Vandermyde

Please don't think breast cancer won't happen to you just because you are young, or because you don't have a family history of it. I was 43 when I was diagnosed (which I consider to be fairly young), and I don't have any known history of it in my family. My grandmother had a lump removed when she was young, but we are not certain what the diagnosis was. So, when my lump was removed, it was tested for any possible genetic links (like the BRCA gene) and it turned up negative.

I have a friend, Jen, whose history is similar to mine, but she was even younger than me when she was diagnosed. She was 37.

And, MEN, you are not exempt from getting it either! It is more rare in men, but it does happen. Check out this article from The American Cancer SocietyWHAT IS BREAST CANCER IN MEN?

So, in light of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I want to share what my friend, Jen, posted recently on her blog TO SOAR ON EAGLE WINGS. I hope it encourages all who are reading this to keep a watchful eye on yourselves. Early detection is a key to survival.

Thanks for allowing me to share this, Jen...
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. It’s kind of hard to not know that with all the pink around isn’t it? And I’ll admit that I’m not a big one for huge advertising promotions. So often the original good cause gets lost in all the rush to brand every product to show that the companies care. I’m not even really a pink-loving girl. But I do feel strongly that young women – all women - should take this disease seriously. And because of that I thought I’d write a little bit about it this month.
I went to my ob/gyn yesterday to discuss my upcoming surgery. I’ll write more on that later when I have it all figured out. While I was there though, she told me that she uses my case with her young patients. She of course does not use my name, and I’m glad she tells other women what has happened to me. You see I didn’t fit into a high-risk category. I don’t have anyone in my family who has had breast cancer except for a great aunt and my cousin. It is true that my cousin was also young when she got breast cancer but both of us have had genetic testing and both of us do not carry the BRCA gene. That means that with today’s knowledge of breast cancer our cancers are not known to be caused by a faulty gene that we inherited. I think a lot of women think that the genetic factor is bigger than it is. I know I hid behind that fact. I thought that the young women that got cancer were mostly women that had huge family histories of the disease so they would know to be concerned. But that simply is not true.
I also used some of the research findings to justify why I didn’t need to worry about breast cancer. Research has shown that having your first baby before 30 and breastfeeding helps with your risk. I had both of those areas covered. According to studies I should have been in an average risk group for breast cancer. But I still got it. At the age of 37.
I’m not saying this to scare everyone. I do not believe that God wants us to live our lives in a state of constant fear that something bad might happen. He tells us to trust Him and not to worry. We know that if we are His children then nothing can happen to us that He does not allow. I fully believe all this is true.
No, the reason I tell you about my story is to remind you that even though what happened to me is rare it can happen –only 5-7 percent of women that get breast cancer are under the age of 40. I don’t want you to be fearful of it. But I do want you to be aware. I had had a baseline mammogram done at age 35. It did not show anything of concern. I also went yearly to my doctor. But I was not doing monthly self checks. And I wish that I had been. I am now for sure! I do not still beat myself up about it though. God in His wonderful mercy allowed me to find my cancer anyway. I found it while putting on my bra. 
I just want to encourage all of you women to make sure that you are taking care of yourself in this regard. Go get that first mammogram that you have been putting off. It won’t be your favorite part of the day, but it isn’t the end of the world either. Do those self checks. Make sure you are getting a yearly physical. Do your part and then trust God with the rest. Trust Him that He loves you more than anyone else does. Trust Him that He will help you through anything that might come your way!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Six Questions About Me

My blogging friend, Sylvia, tagged me in the "Six questions about me" blog game. Here are the 6 questions I chose to answer:

Is this how you imagined your life would be?
Yes and No. When I was young and single, I imagined I would be married someday and would have at least a couple of children to raise. I knew I wanted to be a homemaker and a stay-at-home mom, like my mother was. These things were fulfilled in my life. However, I did not imagine being a mother of a special needs child, or being a homeschool mom, or being diagnosed with cancer. These were "surprises" in my life that I didn't really expect. But, life is like that.

What’s your drink of choice when out with girlfriends?
When I get a chance to have a girls night out, I will choose something like a smoothie or vanilla flavored decaf coffee, or sometimes just water with lemon, depending on where we are going and what we are doing.

How did your blog come about?
I was looking for a way to help promote my self-published book "What is Communion?" Then, it just turned into a creative outlet for me, as well as a way to be an encouragement to others.

What hobbies do you have that you don’t mention on your blog?
Aside from writing, I collect pennies and State quarters. I also enjoy Genealogy research when I get the chance.

What do you love about yourself?
Positive thinking.

If money were no question, I’d purchase… 
A cruise vacation for our entire family - maybe something like a Disney cruise.


The rules of this game state that I must choose three bloggers to tag so they can also choose six questions to answer. I choose:

Carie @ Living, Loving, and Learning with the Lord
The "Queen" @ Queen of My Country Castle
Jen @ To Soar on Eagle Wings

If you choose to participate please pick six of the following questions to answer!
1. Is this how you imagined your life would be?
2. Name one good deed you did that went unseen.
3. What’s your drink of choice when out with girlfriends?
4. How did your blog come about?
5. Name something you’ve learned about yourself that has surprised you.
6. What hobbies do you have that you don’t mention on your blog?
7. What do you love about yourself?
8. If money were no question, I’d purchase…… 
9. What’s your biggest struggle in life?

Friday, October 4, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: Hopelifter by Kathe Wunnenberg

What is a "hope-lifter?" It is someone who spreads hope to those who are feeling hopeless. He/she "lifts up" the hurting person when they are down by providing love and support where needed.

How do we become hope-lifters? That's what the book HOPELIFTER, by Kathe Wunnenberg, is all about.

There are three main parts to this book: 
(1) Discovering Hope
(2) Embracing Hope
(3) Giving Hope

Then, the book also includes a discussion guide for group study, verses of hope to share with others, and helpful websites about hope/caring to look up.

I like part three the best, as it has 100 different personal stories from those who have "been there" - those with infertility, those who have lost loved ones, those who are sick, those who are caregivers, those who are single, those with marriage difficulties, those who are undergoing transitions of some sort. The list goes on...

In a world where there is so much discouragement and hope seems to be lost, we all need to be thinking of ways to strengthen and encourage each other. This book CAN inspire you in this area.

However, the book wasn't exactly what I was expecting. If you are looking for a book that gives specific ideas/examples of how to encourage others undergoing difficult situations, this book is probably not it. It seems to focus more on "stories" and on the author's personal experiences than it does on giving practical "how-to" advice. Still, not a bad book! It just wasn't what I was expecting.

Disclosure: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review, and the opinions I have expressed are my own.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Another Trip to St. Louis Brought Good News

Yesterday, we took another trip to St. Louis for EL. This time, we had a consultation with a Neuro-Oncologist. When I first heard that title, it scared me a bit, because I automatically think of an Oncologist as someone who treats cancer. However, when the nurse practitioner set up the appointment with us, she told us this type of doctor treats ALL kinds of lesions in the brain, whether they are cancerous or not. So, because of EL's enlarged pituitary gland, we were referred to him, and he will most likely be our main contact from here on out regarding any future treatments.

The doctor and his assistant shared with us that all of EL's blood work from two weeks ago came back good. So, praise the Lord for this great news!

They also showed us the pictures of the enlarged pituitary gland and said it is not acting like a fast-growing tumor. Again, that is great news!

We still do not know exactly what the lesion is. So, for now, we will just wait and watch.

In about a month, we will return for another MRI to check and see if there is any enlargement. The last one we had done was in August, so that will make them 3 months apart. Until then, we carry on as usual.

It was such a beautiful day so, after the appointment, we took a quick visit to the St. Louis Arch. The Visitor's Center was closed, but we enjoyed getting a close-up look at this "gateway to the West."

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Ideas to Encourage a Cancer Patient

How do you encourage someone who is undergoing treatments for cancer? I can't speak for everyone, as we are all different, and what encourages one person may not be the best idea for someone else. But, I want to at least share some of the things that encouraged ME when I took foot on my cancer journey. That way, if you are looking for ways to bless someone else diagnosed with cancer (or for anyone who is experiencing a long-term illness of some sort), maybe this will help spark some ideas...

ENCOURAGING CARDS - Sending a card is quick and easy. I received many cards in the mail, and it brought great encouragement to know someone was thinking of me and praying for me. Some cards had inspirational verses or poems in them, and some were humorous or light-hearted. They all have a special place in my heart.

NOTES OF ENCOURAGEMENT - If you don't send a card, at least consider sending a note in an e-mail, a text message, or on Facebook. These are not always as personal as a card in the mail, but can still bring encouragement when its needed.

MEALS - I wrote a post awhile back about BLESSING OTHERS THROUGH MEAL MINISTRIES. Meals of any kind (homemade and hot, frozen, or gift cards to local fast-food restaurants) were a great help to me and my family when I wasn't feeling well.

FLOWERS - Several times, I received some pretty flowers or a nice green plant to help bring some color and cheer to the room. Flowers are always a nice way to say you care.

CHILDCARE - I could not have made it without the support of friends and family who took care of the kids on treatment days or during doctor's appointments.

REMEMBERING THE KIDS - A friend sent the kids a box of DVD's and activity books especially for them, to help keep them occupied on days when I was laying on the couch. It was so sweet of her to think of them, and made them feel special too.

THINKING OF YOU GIFTS - These can be anything, but here are some of the things that were a blessing to me:

1.  Reading material - Magazines, Devotional books, and other books that brought encouragement.

2.  Cozy blankets, afghans, or quilts - I received several, and most of them were homemade, but a store-bought one is nice too.

3.  Slippers/slipper socks to keep my feet warm.

4.  Scarves and hats to keep my head covered after losing my hair.

5.  Crossword puzzle books

6.  DVD's of good movies or TV shows to watch.

7.  Cookies and/or other snacks. I loved getting things like muffins, quick breads, and oatmeal cookies that could be eaten for a quick breakfast or for snacks.

8.  A "goodie bag" or box of several needed items such as gum, mints, sour candy, tissues, bath salts, lotion, hand sanitizer, pen and journal, water bottle, puzzle books, etc.

PERSONAL CONTACT - As long as I wasn't feeling too sick, a visit from a friend was a nice change of pace. Even just stopping by for a 10-minute chat helped to lighten my mood.

PRAYER - If you can't do any of the above, you CAN commit to praying for someone. I had several who said they were praying for me and my family daily. I know these prayers helped to get us through the difficult days.

Isaiah 35:3 - Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the feeble.