Thursday, August 13, 2020

Active Treatment Complete!

We didn't get a picture of me ringing the bell, but I like this one, too. ;)

My active treatment for breast cancer is complete! Such a great sentence to be able to say. When my oncologist first discussed my course of treatment the finish line seemed so far off. Even after chemo and surgery, the 25 rounds of radiation seemed far off. But last week Friday I completed my 25th round and got to ring the Cancer Center bell to signify the end.

Great words to read on my medical papers.

The next step is a five year plan of hormone therapy. My tumor was estrogen and progesterone positive, which means it was feeding off of these two hormones that our bodies produce. To help prevent re-occurrence I will be receiving a medicine to prevent my ovaries from making estrogen and another one to block any other estrogen occurring in my body. Today I went to the Cancer center and received a short infusion of a drug that helps prevent bone lose due to the lack of estrogen. I also received my first shot of the ovary suppression drug and started my oral pill to block further estrogen. (I had one of my favorite chemo nurses for my infusion and she was training in a new nurse. We figured out that the new nurse had been one of my nurses for my surgery. Maybe a sign that I have been hanging around the hospital a bit too much.)

His mercies are new every morning!

There are of course some possible side-effects that can come from these drugs, but the fact that they are available to help in my cancer fight is a blessing that I will try not to take for granted. Throughout this journey the Lord has provided me with such good results, I will pray that they continue for the years to come.

A sweet friend blessed these kiddos with all of these wonderful Usborne books.

I can't imagine going through this journey without the wonderful support that I have received. The constant prayers that were offered on my behalf were truly answered in such positive ways. My body's amazing response to all that was thrown at it this year can only be from a divine source. While many days brought challenges, my days were also filled with blessings.

While our times continue to be uncertain on this side of heaven, rest assured, dear ones, that God is busy preparing a perfect home for each one of us in heaven. These words from Psalm 73 have been and remain a wonderful reminder.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Radiation Begins

All gowned up and ready for the treatment table.
Friends, I have been a bit quiet over the last few months. I didn’t feel that sharing the details of my little story were all that important with everything else that is going on in the world right now.  It truly felt like being over dramatic and egocentric. Then I realized that my story really isn’t about me at all. Really none of our stories are, are they? Instead our lives are being orchestrated for a divine purpose that is so much greater than our little blip on the eternal map. And while that may sound demeaning, it is actually the opposite. God is crafting our story to fit into His story. That doesn’t seem so unimportant anymore. Maybe in sharing this chapter in my life I am allowing the Lord to work through me.
Out for a daytime adventure with the kids.
I am almost completely recovered from my surgery. I still have a bit of restricted motion on that side due to something called cording. I am super thankful that through occupational therapy I was able to really improve the comfort and mobility in my right arm. Another thing to be thankful for is no sign of lymphedema at this point.
My screening sticker collection. Every morning on my way into the Cancer Center I receive a sticker to show that I have been screened. I decided that I would keep all of my stickers from radiation as a countdown of sorts.
For two weeks now I have been going in for radiation therapy. I go every weekday morning for a quick appointment. I am grateful that we live so close to the cancer center! I am also thankful that Matt continues to work from home and can be with the kids every morning. God is truly in all of the details! So far radiation is going well. I haven’t noticed any side effects yet and still have my normal energy levels and no skin irritation.
We are still streaming our church from home and this is what happened the other morning during the service.
Moving forward I will continue radiation for another 3 weeks. After I have completed radiation I meet with my medical oncologist to begin hormone therapy. I will either be on a daily pill or a combination of injection and infusion for the next five years. Either way, these treatments will block my body from making estrogen one of the things my tumor was growing from. This therapy should help me to have less of a chance of recurrence.
I go for a walk/jog everyday. This was the scene that greeted me on a path one morning. They were a little too brave in my opinion, but it was very neat to see.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020


Me and My "baby"
After completing my last round of chemo it was time to let my body heal for surgery. I was a little concerned with the COVID precautions that my surgery would be postponed, but it all went according to our original timeline. About 2 weeks following my final chemo I had another MRI to map out the tumor and nodes following treatment. After that I had a virtual appointment with my surgeon to go over surgery options and formulate a plan.
Love this family of mine!
Together we decided to go with a lumpectomy verses a mastectomy and to begin with a targeted lymph node biopsy verses a complete dissection. (The targeted approach would involve removing the sentinel (front running) lymph nodes and biopsy them in surgery. If they were cancer free we wouldn't remove any more lymph nodes. If they did contain cancer we would remove all of the axillary (underarm) lymph nodes.) My surgery would be able to take place in an area of the hospital that they were taking extra precautions to minimize the chances of being exposed to COVID while being hospitalized.
The week before surgery we were able to do a donut drive through at the school!
I had several pre-op appointments including an ultrasound to ensure that the clip placed in December with the biopsy could still be located in the lymph node. I also would go in a few days prior to the procedure to be tested for COVID. The clip was located, the test was negative, and I had a date for surgery.
The morning of surgery Matt dropped me off and I began my day at the hospital. After getting checked in and gowned up I was taken to the breast cancer center and wires were placed to help locate both the tumor and biopsied lymph node in surgery. After a mammogram I was back in my pre-op room where I received some tracer injections to help in locating the sentinel lymph nodes. Once the OR was ready I was wheeled in and put under.
All dressed up and waiting to go in.
Upon awaking I was informed that cancer was found in the sentinel nodes and a complete dissection had been performed. Not what I had hoped for, but I am happy that we started with that and were certain it was what needed to be done. I recovered at the hospital for a few hours and then Matt was able to come and pick me up. It was a long day at the hospital, but it was nice to be able to return home the same day.
The next day I heard from my surgeon who had received the pathology report. The targeted lymph node biopsy found 3 of 4 nodes to contain cancer and another node was found to be cancerous with axillary dissection. She said that the tumor itself was not super defined thanks to receiving preoperative chemotherapy. They did however report clean margins. (This means that there were healthy cells around any cancerous cells that they removed.)
I have been taking it easy in order to let my body recover. I have two incisions, one for each location, as well as a drain. I will most likely go in this week sometime to have the drain removed. (It will feel good to get that out!) Physically I am feeling pretty well. My arm is a bit sore and I am limiting what I do with it. Emotionally I am a feeling it. I think it is a combination of my body healing and the effects of anesthesia.
Next week I meet again with my oncologist to map out the rest of our plan. I am thinking that it will involve radiation to ensure that all of the cancer cells are gone.
Again, I am so grateful for the peace that God has granted me in all of this. Going into surgery I felt calm and ready for the next step. We are also thankful for excellent medical care just down the road from our house. It was a blessing for Matt to be able to zip down to drop me off and pick me up. We are also so blessed through everyone's kind thoughts, prayers, and actions! We continue to feel our Savior's love through his people.
While this is not the road that we pictured walking, it is the road that God had planned for our family. His constant care and provision has been such a welcome blessing to us all!

Friday, April 10, 2020

Last Chemo Treatment in the Books!

It's official!
On Wednesday I went in for my last chemo infusion! What a wonderful sentence to be able to say. When I was staring down 16 weeks of unknown chemo this point seemed so far away. But, as with so many big journeys, bit by bit, week by week, the time slowly chipped away. And now it is hard to believe that I am here right now. I have been saying that I will count it as officially done in about a week when I am no longer feeling the side effects. What a blessed day that will be!
I know I have said it before, but I am so thankful that chemo went so well for me. When you hear of all of the possible side effects and when you hear of what others experience while they are receiving chemo, it is daunting. Thankfully my body was able to tolerate my medicines with very minimal lasting effects. However, it also appears that my chemo was very successful in shrinking my tumor. Another wonderful reason to praise the Lord.
The amazing quilt some dear friends made for me.
The Lord has also blessed me and our family with so much love and support over the last 4 months. I cannot believe the outpouring we have received! From cards and messages, to prayers and gifts, we are so humbled by it all. Here is one small example. When I was driving home from the cancer center on Wednesday, I noticed extra cars on our street. As I pulled in to our driveway I saw that the cars were for me. Some dear friends had come to decorate the yard and driveway and shower me with socially distant love. So, so amazing! I only pray that we can reflect all of this love back to others.
My socially distant welcome home!
The next step will be to get imaging of the effected areas and see what we are looking at now. Then I meet (virtually) with my surgeon to discuss the surgery plan. I don't have a surgery date at this time, but I am thinking it will be at the end of the month. (God willing as so many things are uncertain with healthcare at this time. I am reminding myself that it will all be in his perfect timing.)
Some of the awesome chalk art in our driveway,
I am thinking of you all and praying you are all doing well in this uncertain time. Remember that the Lord is still on his throne. The same loving God who gave up his Son that we might be redeemed is walking beside us. He is going before us and directing our paths however crazy they feel to us at this time. Stay safe friends. Stay strong. Be the light in this darker time.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

So Close! (Second to last chemo is done!)

Yesterday I went in for round 7 of 8 of my chemo infusions! I was a bit anxious to see if for some reason it would get postponed, but nope. Our state may be on a shelter at home order, but chemo must go on! In some ways it was a bit of a different experience from two weeks ago due to the Covid outbreak, and in some ways it was the same.

To begin with, I drive right by a drive through testing site to get to the Cancer Center. Thankfully our area hasn't been hit too hard yet, so it has been quiet the times I have driven past. However, they are ready with lots of traffic control and staff ready to go. In some ways it is comforting to know they are ready for it and in others it really makes this all seem more real. When I got to the center there was a nurse at the door to perform a Clovid screening before you could check in. It involved a temperature check and some questions. Once you pass you are given a sticker for the day to let everyone know that you have been screened.The waiting area has also changed with spaced out chairs and no reading materials. There were less people waiting as they have gone to selected care and in person visits. Also, they are no longer allowing visitors. After being called back to the treatment area, nothing much had changed. There were fewer patients, and again, no visitors. The nurses also were all wearing masks the entire time.
Even Hulu had to remind me about Covid!

Since I was there by myself I brought along plenty to occupy my time in the chair. I did some reading, talked on the phone, and watched a little Hulu on my laptop. My infusions are taking about 4 hours these rounds and really the time went fairly quickly. Since we aren't going anywhere these days and since all six of us are at home, it actually was a nice quiet break. (The chairs have heaters and massagers and I get to order a meal. It is almost like a spa day. 😂) I had a nurse that I have had one other time and it was good to talk to her about everything that is going on.
I was able to sit in my favorite bay, #6. I think I have had four of my seven infusions here.

Everything went very well. All of my labs still look great. I take this as a huge blessing. I get to see many other cancer patients while I am at the center and it really makes me so thankful that my treatment is going so smoothly for me. Cancer and its treatment can cause so many different side effects and complications. The Lord has blessed me with such a smooth and uncomplicated treatment path.
I always ask the nurse to turn my chair to face the window. It is such a great view of the lake. This time I could watch ducks flying and fog rolling in.

After treatment I felt a bit worn out, but otherwise well. If this round follows my previous two with Taxol, I should be feeling pretty well with some body aches setting in around day four and five. I am so thankful that this drug has given me less down days.
My "spa" chair.

I was able to schedule all of the appointments for my last round of chemo while I was there! I can't believe that is where I am already. At the beginning it seems like such a long time, but as with many things in life, when you get in the routine it doesn't seem to take so long. After my last round of chemo the plan is to have surgery and then radiation. I am praying that all continues to go as planned and that Covid doesn't interrupt any of these plans, but I know that God has it all figured out. I am also praying for continued health for our family. Two of the kids had fevers and coughs last week. I have never washed my hands so much! I hope they don't have PTSD from me telling them to stay away from me!
I pray that you are all doing well and hanging in there! What a crazy time we are all living through right now. I hope that looking back this is just a small blip in our lives. I continue to remember that like my cancer diagnoses, this is not a surprise to our Lord. He continues to hold us all and carry us through this.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Cast off the Weight

When I was a child I loved rocks. If we were out for a family hike, the rock collecting would commence within one hundred yards from the where we started. Each unique rock I found I would pick up and put in one of my pockets. The problem was that as a young child many rocks were deemed worthy of being added to my collection. Pretty soon my pockets were full. The weight of each addition added up and eventually my rocks grew too heavy for me. I had to let some go just so I could continue walking. I would carefully look through my stash and determine which were worthy of bringing along for the remainder of the hike.

What does your collection look like these days? Are you being weighed down by the troubles in the world around us? Are you feeling weary and burdened? Don't worry, friend. You don't have to bring every burden along with you on this earthly walk. In fact there is one who is able to carry it all for you! The same God that created the world with mere words is walking alongside you and ready to take on your troubles. He is there to take up our collection of earthly troubles and exchange it for perfect peace!

Isaiah 40:28-31 (EHV)
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The LORD is the eternal God.
He is the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired, and he will not become weary.
No one can find a limit to his understanding.
He is the one who gives strength to the weak,
and he increases the strength of those who lack power.
Young men grow tired and become weary.
Even strong men stumble and fall.
But those who wait for the LORD will receive new strength.
They will lift up their wings and soar like eagles.
They will run and not become weary.
They will walk and not become tired.

We are all being called upon to wait on the Lord. It isn't an easy task to sit back and wait, but look at what happens when we do. We will receive new strength. We will soar. And look what doesn't happen. We will not become weary. We will not become tired. Cast your burdens to him who alone has the strength to carry us all through this trouble.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Where Do You Look for Help?

Psalm 121 (EHV)
I lift my eyes to the mountains.
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot stumble.
He who watches over you will not slumber.
Yes, he who watches over Israel will not slumber.
He will not sleep.
The LORD watches over you.
The LORD is your shade at your right hand.
The sun will not strike you by day,
nor the moon at night.
The LORD will watch to keep you from harm.
He will watch over your life.
The LORD will watch over your going and coming
from now to eternity.

There is no denying it. We are living through an unprecedented time right now. The virus that has taken over the world is taking over our daily lives too. In America we are bracing for the impact this sickness could have on our country. We are watching the countries that have gone before us and using their information to try and lessen the impact COVID-19 has on our population. The unknown of all of this can be very scary.
Where do you find yourself going to get the answers to the unknowns? In the beginning I found myself looking at the news stories that were being fired off constantly by the media. What major event was being canceled now? How many cases were we looking at in our area? But really all these stories are telling us is what people think is happening now, not what the future holds.
Do you find yourself endlessly scrolling social media to see how others are responding? Are you looking to your peers to help direct your decisions in this time of seeming disaster? Yet the feeds of other people are merely a reflection of our society at the moment not a clear cut answer to what the future holds.
Perhaps you find yourself looking to the government for answers and direction. It is no doubt the government's job to help lead us as a nation. To set in place policies that will hopefully help guide its people through these uncharted waters. Our elected officials are trying to do their best, but they don't have the all of the answers or control.
The psalm tells us exactly where we should be looking for help. We can look to the LORD, the Maker of the universe, for our help. Our heavenly Father not only knows what we are experiencing right now, he also knows how all of this will end. He has the answers that we are searching for. Our loving LORD will boldly protect us in all circumstances including this time of sickness and instability.
I have found that in difficult times the devil doesn't have to work very hard to get me to look for answers in all of the wrong places. To combat this temptation, I like to surround myself with God's promises. Think of the words of Deuteronomy 6:6-9 (EHV) "These words that I am commanding you today are to be on your heart. Teach them diligently to your children, and speak about them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as a sign on your wrists, and they will serve as symbols on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates." Hang scripture around your home. Read Christian books and publications. Listen to Christian music. Share God's promises with those around you. Look to the LORD and not to your fears.
Let's place our hope in the almighty God who is strong to save. Let's point others to the one who does have all of the answers!