Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Moving Forward

Yesterday felt like a bit of a disaster from start to finish. I woke up with a feeling of dread that has not been present in recent weeks. It certainly didn’t go away when I realized my oncologist and nurse had not really communicated about why I was visiting them at 8:00 on a Monday. They called this meeting; not me.

(Did I even mention that I had an unexpected meeting with my oncologist? They called me late Thursday and asked me to come in and discuss treatment/clinical trial options.)

Dr. C’s approach is to present the facts and then the patient makes the decision as to what treatment option to go with. And it’s not what I’m used to. I’m accustomed to visiting my primary care doctor with a cold, high blood pressure, stiff knee, etc. and he tells me how we’ll fix it. I take Camden and Rory to their pediatrician because they’re running a fever and Dr. H makes them all better.

Cancer is different. You don’t get “all better.” You try to make an informed choice and hope it’s the right one. When I asked Dr. C for her recommendation yesterday, she wouldn’t give me a recommendation . . . just presented the facts again and waited for me to make a choice. I’m not really a fan of that. I'm not really a fan of cancer.

For now we’ve decided to proceed with the already-scheduled course of action and to ignore (for now) some of the riskier drugs. I am having an echocardiogram this afternoon to make sure my heart is healthy enough for chemo and then I will receive my first infusion Tuesday, December 2. Dr. C is also going to refer me to local hospitals who have clinical trials that might be helpful.

I may have had my first crying fit and ungrateful feelings yesterday, but this morning I woke up in a much better frame of mind and am able to remember a few things.
  • The valet at the cancer clinic who whispered “may Christ be with you today” as he handed me my keys.
  • The receptionist who always says, “Well, hello, Gorgeous!”
  • That even though Brian wasn’t able to attend the appointment, Becky was able to video conference and be present.
  • I might have taken a major fall at work yesterday, but NO ONE SAW!
  • The kids had a great day with a family from our church yesterday.
  • I got to snuggle with a newborn for an hour after work. There’s not much better therapy than that.
  • The phone call with Becky last night to debrief the doctor’s appointment. While I felt very discouraged, she saw things differently and that’s always good.
  • I was the weak one last night while Brian was strong. Funny how that always happens – we’re never weak at the same time.

    Today I’m trying to fit in 6.5 hours of work into 4 from home (with 2 very hyped up kids I might add), and then I’ll head to Nashville for another doctor’s appointment. Getting back into cancer mode feels hard, like an uphill battle. But I think I can do it if I can just remember to take it one step at a time.


    Friday, November 21, 2014


    You know what's good for a case of the blah's? The Pentatonix Holiday Pandora station.

    Also, scrapping.


    And pretty pictures.



    Lunch with friends (coming later today) also helps. Plus just a tad bit of Christmas shopping.

    And then a photo shoot this afternoon with a group of very cute siblings.

    Today is one of the days that I'm needing to keep the good things right in front of me in order to not worry about the hard things.

    "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." John 1:5

    Thursday, November 20, 2014

    Our Saturday

    Saturday was the first day in about 9 weeks that our family did not have plans. I would go over how busy we’ve been, but that could be seen as complaining, and I just cannot complain about how much fun I’ve had over the last 1-2 months. The fact still remains that I am an introvert and even though there have been lots of fun times, my homebody self was craving a day just to stay home.

    That day was Saturday. I still had laundry to do, meals to prepare, etc., but I stayed in my comfy clothes, pulled out my warm slippers, caught up on some TV, and generally had a fabulous day.

    Addison came over to spend part of the day with us, and I pulled out the camera briefly for a snapshot of what life looks like when she visits. It is loud. The kids are crazy. But there's a lot of joy!

    Waving goodbye to Uncle Michael and Aunt Liz




    She's wearing a pair of Rory's old sunglasses. Upside down.


    Taking a reading break in the midst of the chaos. My house seems to get trashed immediately.


    Showing the world her belly.


    You'll notice I didn't bother getting up from my spot to give you some variety - all taken from my seat. :)

    Wednesday, November 19, 2014

    My New Favorite Toy

    So. The camera story. I've had lots of people emailing me asking about my new camera so I guess I should just spill it.

    Ironically enough, the decision to purchase this full-frame camera (it's the Nikon D610, by the way) came from a place of feeling content in this new phase of our life. You know, the one in which I've been out of treatment for 2 years, working a job, starting to have a little extra money, etc. etc. etc. So I saved my pennies (thank you, job!) and 4 days before my CT scan that would reveal my cancer is active again, I pressed "buy" on a very expensive toy.

    Hello, irony.

    Anyway, I'm not sorry I bought it. This camera helps me take beautiful pictures and will bring me much joy. These photos are from the first little outing with the camera (and before I really had it all figured out). It was the Monday after my appointment/scan. Over the years, we've started picking the kids up from school after those appointments and heading to a local park for a hike. It keeps us distracted from waiting on the phone to ring.


    Completely out of focus, but the only evidence I was on this trip. And I like Brian's photobomb.






    Check out this shoe/sock combo.



    Why, yes, they *are* in a difficult stage when it comes to taking their picture. Maybe that's why I still haven't taken Christmas card photos. I didn't do it last year either, so I feel big pressure to actually do it this year.


    More evidence as to why there has been no official photo shoot.





    Tuesday, November 18, 2014

    Tuesday Tidbits

    Camden is trying out for a solo part in the Christmas program at school today, and he could not be more excited. It's been at the top of his "best part of the day" list for WEEKS.

    Rory climbed into the van yesterday after school and asked if she could clean up after supper. With no help. Well, of course! She took a solid 45 minutes doing it all, but she told me she "had the best time ever" when she was finished.

    Snow? In November? Yes, it happened. Brian even had a 2 hour delay at his school, although in this county teachers are still expected to show up. And it was 19 degrees this morning - this is sooooooo not typical for Tennessee!

    They've been studying Asian countries in Camden's class and his teacher offered him the option of teaching the section about Korea. Camden jumped right on it and made up this display (he wrote all his classmate's names in Korean) along with some facts. He also took everything Korean that we own and left it set up at school for a week.

    I took senior portraits for the first time ever a couple of weeks ago.

    We had some great pumpkins this year.

    This girl is too much.

    Oh, look - I scrapped it!
    110114_unstoppable copy

    Because I don't want to forget it, my friend Andrea stopped by this past Wednesday on my birthday. She brought me coffee, but her real purpose was to pray with me. When people ask what they can do to help? That's it. Pray with me. Coffee isn't necessary, but it doesn't hurt either. :)

    I'm working from home the rest of this week, and I'm going to enjoy it.

    Monday, November 17, 2014

    We Have a Plan

    I’ve put off writing this update mostly because I’ve been too busy to sit down and focus on it.

    Also, it’s kind of fun to ignore reality while I have the chance.

    Brian and I met with Dr. C, my oncologist at Vanderbilt Monday morning, and she confirmed what we had suspected – not only do I have several new spots, but the old spots are growing. These spots are widespread throughout my abdominal cavity, including bladder and liver. A lymph node is also a little suspect. She was quick to reassure us that I do not have liver cancer, bladder cancer, etc. etc. My ovarian cancer has simply spread to the lining of these areas.

    Obviously, still not good news.

    We initially thought I would wait to start my new treatment plan until the new year. I really, really wanted to get past the holidays. I could tell that although waiting probably wasn't her first choice for me, Dr. C told us many times this was a reasonable request. But as we talked throughout the day, Brian and I both acknowledged that the main reasons for waiting until January were (1) we did not want to give up the Thanksgiving and Christmas trips we have planned and (2) work and church were both very busy during the first couple weeks of December.

    I think mid-day we both realized that we need to get back in Fight Cancer mode and refocus our energy on doing whatever necessary to ensure that I stick around on this earth to serve and love on my little family as long as possible. Everything else is secondary. So right now I am tentatively scheduled to resume treatment Tuesday, Dec. 2. This gives us our Thanksgiving trip to visit Brian’s family and then I will hopefully feel well enough by Christmas to travel to Illinois to spend the holidays with my family.

    Doxil is Dr. C’s drug of choice, which is a once-a-month chemotherapy and many patients tolerate it very well. This should most definitely not be a repeat of some of my earlier, tougher treatments. Crossing our fingers anyway. I am also pursuing clinical trials.

    Oh, and I get to keep my hair, which is clearly the most important thing.

    My boss and co-workers have been incredibly supportive, and I am hopeful that I will be able to continue working. We’re going to approach these next few months with cautious optimism regarding my ability to function, continue working, loving on my family, pushing cancer out of my body.

    I have never wanted to sound like a little Pollyanna or a sunshine and rainbows kind of girl. Mostly, because I am not that girl. But I have to say, I feel good. I feel positive. I feel grateful for options. The shakiness and tears that were close to the surface for several days after the initial news from Vanderbilt 11 days ago has very easily been replaced by simply gratitude for all the good things going on in my life along with an inner strength that is helping me focus on here and now.

    Because Jen Hatmaker (who I love) can pretty much always say something in a more more profound (and generally funnier way) than anyone else, I am pasting below her recent Facebook status regarding her mom’s cancer diagnosis.

    I always wondered how I would feel about God if one of my main people got really sick. What would I think about Him if, say, my mom gets cancer? I am here to tell you that this isn't the conundrum I thought it might be: God is still good and He still loves us. I just know that. I suspected I would know it but you can't be sure about your beliefs when all is well.

    I got up early today and sat with God awhile to see how I felt about Him.

    I determined after a bit that I loved Him, mainly because He loves me so well, but even the Bible said we love God because He first loved us, so I think He'll take it.

    Isn't it good to know? That okay, here we are, we have cancer, we have surgeons and oncologists and this is OUR BEST AND ONLY MOM and we don't know how this is going to go, but God feels as true and good as He ever did when no one was sick. It doesn't all disintegrate. The anchor holds like we hoped it would.

    Don't be too terribly afraid of life, dear ones. God loves us and is for us in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, as long as we all shall live.

     My anchor is holding. The truth that God loves me and is with me is the same now as it was 11 days ago. 

    Saturday, November 15, 2014

    Birthday Weekend Top 10

    In no particular order:

    1. coffee, coffee, more coffee


    2. Flying alone. There's a sense of freedom when traveling alone, not having to worry about what the kids are doing, if everyone else is comfortable. Just take care of yourself. Take the best seat.

    3. Friends who show up at 9:30 at night with a tiramisu cake (I so want to be that kind of friend, the kind who shows up on your birthday late at night - yes, 9:30 is late for me - and then sits down and chats. I am so not that person)



    4. Taking pictures at the tree farm with Becky, William, Xavier, and Traci (another friend)

    Thank you, Traci, for these two pictures!


    5. Becky's friends who turn into my friends too


    6. Seriously delicious Mediterranean food as well as Pho for the first time


    7. Pie night at Antoinettes, although the anticipation was better than the actual event since the person right in front of us in line took the last piece of Mile High Chocolate Pie


    8. The fact that Camden and Rory thought I was traveling to OK to play with William and Xavier and that William and Xavier thought I was there to spend time with them - they even suggested using their Wii time to play Just Dance so that "mommy and Aunt Melissa can play with us." So cute, right?






    9. Shopping without buying a thing - the kind of shopping you can't do with kids (Anthropologie, West Elm, boutiques, etc.)

    10. The knowledge that God knew months ago when Becky and I planned this trip (after talking about planning the trip for the last 3 years) that this would be the exact weekend I would need some serious distraction and sister time