This is Me!

This is Me! The good, the bad, and the bald. You get it all! But I have hair now. This spring I'll be rockin the pixie.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

We Need a Couple More Pictures...

These are not the words you want to hear when you're back for the first mammogram since the big C was discovered.  And yet they are the words I would hear yesterday morning.  I'm sure you can imagine what kinds of ideas are sprouting in the mind at this point.  

"Let me show you the area we are looking at. There's just a small spot here we need to get a better image of."  Says the sweet nurse. "Hopefully it's just scar tissue from your incision."  

My mind wants to run wild down a dark alley and get lost amidst the dumpsters filled with anguish and fear... But I won't let it. 

This is the day that the Lord has made and I will choose to rejoice and be glad in it.

Yah, hopefully that's all it is...  But what if it's not.   I've been going through chemo for the past 9 months, had seven weeks of radiation and have started the hormone blockers (Tamoxifen ).  My body is not my own and feels anything but normal. It's a constant adjustment for the mind to wrap around the new warped version of reality.  It seems each day something new or different hurts and really?  Was it all for nothing?  
I'm dieing, it's true. But then again, so are you.  None of us will escape this blatant fact.  The question then is, am I choosing to live?  Have I allowed this to define me? Or is this yet another opportunity to have my character refined?  I think it is precisely that. 

You see, I believe my life clock was set even before I would take a single breath. This has not changed the amount of days, months, or years that my clock holds.  But hopefully this has opened my eyes again to the simple fact that there will be an end at some point.  I am not immortal.  What I do while that clock is still tickin is entirely up to me.  So, (cue the Mission Impossible theme music here) my mission, should I choose to accept it, is to live and to live out loud!   

We took three more pictures yesterday morning.  All three were clear.  The spots are scar tissue and I am thankful. After relaxing over a cup or two of coffee and chatting with a friend, I went to art class. We were working on incorporating the style of an artist named Britton.  He himself, was inspired by Picasso.  I must have had a song in my heart as this was what came out as I painted my own interpretation of the assignment. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Always A Mom

Several months ago I was set upon an unexpected path.  A path with dark corners, unexpected information and surprisingly still waters.  But I was not asked to do this journey alone.  My children of course had no choice, but my mom did.  She came out before the first surgery and has been here ever since.  She has done the dishes, our laundry ( which is a boat load), and dug up my gardens faithfully. She has gleaned when I couldn't, cleaned when I didn't feel like it and massaged many a tense muscle.   She has shown us 30-50 something moms that the job doesn't end just cause your kids are grown.  She has become "gramma Jan" to all the teens, preteens and post teens that bless this home increasing her legacy once again.  And all the while faithfully prayed for ALL of us... You pre, post and current teens included. 
She has occasionally bleached our darks, soaked my counters and burnt our food and for these memories we are eternally grateful!  Your laughter on game night will be missed. Your generosity of time, money and love will always be appreciated and hopefully paid forward because of the example you displayed. Your ability to find the thrift store bargain will be carried on and we will make you proud. We know you'll be back, (because now you are leaving 2 cars behind instead of 1), but for now we say goodbye and thank you. There aren't enough words to express my gratitude.  I am so thankful for you... All 11 days of November worth and then some.

  I love you mom!

Comment if you want to add in your fun, funny or great memories with gramma Jan!



Friday, November 8, 2013

I've Officially Lost My Marbles

 
5, 4, 3, 2.....
 
In the past 7 weeks I've logged a minimum of 1,750 miles back and forth just for treatment and Dr appts, burning up roughly 85 gallons of gas.  I have gone through 5 different hydrating lotions, two hydro cortisone creams, a bottle of sun screen, a bottle of Tylenol and a bottle of wine.   I have left the poor sisters unsupported for weeks because the bras hurt with the burns. And then I marveled at the unexpected healing while still being treated.  My hair has grown an inch while my faith has increased by a mile.  Today is day 35 and the last marble goes.  I'm tempted to keep it as a stone of remembrance for this leg of the race.  While I shared with you the struggles I deal with at night when I'm alone, the laughter I shared during the days was where I found my strength and encouragement.

Through this uncomfortable phase of treatment I have felt one thing confirmed in me for sure.  We read in the scriptures of the saints saying "Here am I.  Send me".  They are ready to be used.  And I like to think I prayed that through.. in the past.  Africa? Yes. I would go.  Mexico, yes. Send me. Thailand?  I will certainly pray about it.  But the cancer center????  Hmmm, no, not so much.  I don't think I ever raised my hand to volunteer to be sent there and yet that is precisely where I find myself. And much to my surprise, even though it has meant walking through the fire to gain that experience, I have found so much joy in encouraging others who are unfortunately following behind me in a cancer walk of their own. If I can help them smile, I will.  If there's a question I can answer, I'm happy to help.  And if someone just needs to have their fears about this nasty thing called cancer validated and be listened to, I am able to do this.  

Part of my next phase will include me volunteering at the cancer center.  There was a time not too long ago when I was afraid of this place and the people in it.  I would turn my head and eyes away as I drove by, as if I would some how catch it just by acknowledging it.  Now, I feel comfortable at the center. There is no more fear associated with the people who enter those doors, as I am one of them.  I have a sense of belonging and I desire to help others walk this path.  I plan to be back weekly sitting with others as they endure their nasty beginning infusions and hopefully making some people smile.  It seems to be one of the things I am good at.

In terms of treatment I have Herceptin infusions every three weeks until sometime next June, and then surgeries and pills will follow.  And in case anyone was wondering because several have asked and I have never posted it, I had stage 3a breast cancer.  They never told me at the beginning and so I never asked, at least not until after I had my last Taxol treatment.  I didn't want a number associated with my process. 

Thank you all for your continued prayer and support.  I know it has been a long road and so many of you have been such a faithful part of this journey.  I am truly grateful.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

I have the best radiation techs workin on me.  They even know how to have a little fun with it.  My kinda group!

And this is sweet Lori.  My angel.  

That's all for today.  

6 marbles and counting.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Final Phase of Radiation Begins

"That's amazing!  It looks better than last week."  These were the words from my shocked radiologist today when he examined my burns.  He couldn't believe what he saw. He fully expected one or two areas to be blistered and weeping. And yet they are looking so much better.  I told him about the salve I have been using and he was quite interested.  I BET he is!      Another sweet friend made me another mixture very similar to the other so I am set and healing bound.  I practically bathe in this stuff right now.  Who knows what else it will help with.

Today was the last treatment to the lymph node areas!  YAY!   Tomorrow starts what they call a boost.  It is a concentrated burst of electrons to the former tumor site.  This will take a little extra time to set up tomorrow and then 7 treatments and I am done!  

Now I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Thank you for your faithful prayer as I continue on this crazy detour.  

I would love to share a list of names of the women I have met along the way as well as friends who have had cancer in the past.  I realize it is just a long list of names, but each has an amazing story. Some are survivors praying for no re-occur, but most are currently fighting and some fight for their lives!  Please join me in lifting them up in prayer as you read through.  It does make a difference.  Prayer is a powerful gift.  Thank you.  

Holly,    Julia,    Stephanie,    Michelle, Lori,    Linda,    Alice,    Erica,    Patty, Claris,    Mel,    Vonnie,    Donna,    Maria, Gwen,    Denise,    Kim,    Laurel,    Phyllis,    Wendy,    Rhonda,    Carol,  and Nancy

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Gift Fit For A Princess

Today I received a gift from an angel.  I was a minute or two late for my 2:30 treatment time which turned out to be fine as they were running uncharacteristically behind schedule.  I sat down in the empty waiting area and began to read.  Then the sweet face of a woman I have gotten acquainted with came around the corner.  Her name is Lori.  We share a very similar diagnosis. We went through identical chemo treatments and are at the same place with our radiation days.  In fact, the radiation techs often confuse us because we are similar in our builds and quite similar in our hairstyles, color and even hair length.  And we both usually have a big smiles on our faces.  Today when the tech came to get me, he looked between us a few times and we laughed and joked with him saying you're not sure which one of us you need are you?  He smiled. Looked between us again and said questioningly, "Tami?"  I made it easy on the poor guy and stood to go with him.  


Last week she was beginning to experience the burning around the same areas as I was. But today as she rounded the corner she took one look at me and blurted out "I am so happy to see you!  I have something for you."  She proceeded to pull a small mason jar from her purse and handed it eagerly to me. She then explained how a friend had made this special salve for her and within 4 days her skin, although still getting radiated shows no signs of burn.  Not even redness.   She continued to tell me that after she realized how much it was helping her skin, she wanted me to have some too.  She remembered that we had talked last week and she had seen how burnt I was.  She called her friend and went over to her house and made some for me.  They call it Jesus Salves.  Fitting don't you think?  As I read the list of ingredients, I felt as if I were receiving a gift fit for a princess. The first two ingredients were Frankincense and Myrrh, the same gifts once given to a King.  I was very touched by the thoughtfulness of her gift and knew that God had indeed had a hand in this.  You see both Lori and I started our appointments 5 weeks ago with an 11:00 time. Then I bounced to a 1:50 for a few weeks and then 2:45 for a week. This week I am at 2:30. And so is Lori.  Gods sweet and perfect timing of such a precious gift was indeed a treasure.  He knows when his children need a little something extra, and I love that he chooses to use regular everyday people to be the angels who deliver it.  I've used my gift twice today already and it is very soothing.  

 

                   9 marbles left 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Wrestling In the Darkness

Lest you think this journey is easy for me because I often write of my small everyday victories, today I write from the darkness that hovers and threatens to steal my peace.   I think anyone who has battled cancer of any kind will attest to the fact that, there are times when the outlook seems bleak and your prognosis feels grim. It's with certainty that you acknowledge the dwindling number of your days.  Every twitch, pinch or pain is most likely an incurable tumor full of the cancerous monster. It doesn't matter that this line of thinking is in sharp contrast to what the doctors say or that it will not benefit me in anyway.  It is my now. The possibilities haunt me at night when I lay down. They rush in to cover me like a dark suffocating blanket. Stifling the oxygen that I need. I attempt to bury my fear deep in the comforting warmth of my pillow.  Here I find safety, familiarity, and rest... At least some nights.  On the other nights I anxiously wrestle.  I wrestle with my emotions and fears. I toss and turn with doubts and what ifs.  I get easily distracted down rabbit trails of pure deception.  And for that moment, I am lost. It is dark. It is cold.  And it is very lonely.  I am at my very core afraid.  Afraid "it" will come back and "it" will be worse.  Afraid I'm not doing enough. Afraid of what I would miss out on if...

At the end of every detour, along side every rabbit trail there are constant reminders that I don't have to tread this ground again.  I already know this. So why am I here again?  Why do I continue to join this wrestling match? Because cancer is scary and ugly.  It doesn't select only unhealthy people who "deserve" it.  It has no scale by which to gage worthy or unworthy.  It is no respecter of social class or political party.  And it certainly didn't care that I am a mother of 4+  who cooks almost all of our meals from scratch thank you very much.  Cancer doesn't care!  It simply hits, shatters worlds, and changes lives, forever.

In that darkest part of my nights, when the tears have come and gone and I have exhausted my list of mental gymnastics jumping through loop hole after loop hole looking for the way out, I sit quietly in stillness and realize once again, that I am still not alone.  He is here with me in this nightmare called cancer.  The scriptures begin to come to mind one at a time.  Some nights I have a friend who sends me reminders of the promises.  And my peace returns as slowly I retrace my steps back.

The journey is far from over, but I am 5 marbles closer to being done with this leg of the trip.  Tomorrow I turn in #10.  I have three more radiation treatments that will directly hit my lymph nodes.  The area at my collar bone is raw.  They anticipate it will blister this week and begin weeping.  This will then require it to be covered.   The final 7 treatments are called a Boost.  They will use special settings to concentrate the rays directly over the lumpectomy site.  Then they said to expect that all areas will continue to burn for roughly 5 more days.  So while the end is in site and I am close enough to say that I will be done next week, these next few weeks will be hard.  I keep my reminders close at hand and know that like everything we experience in life, both the good and the bad, This Too Shall Pass. 

This week it has been Psalm 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside still waters.  He restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Marble #20

Today I put marble #20 back in the jar. That leaves 15 more to go.  I wish I could tell you that it's actually going by quickly, but I think the everyday factor makes it feel like it's dragging on.  And that "sunburn" you may have heard about from others who have been there, well it's all true. Here's the kicker. When I get a real sunburn, I'm smart enough not to go back out into the sun!  With this I just keep headin back in for more.  And after the last two days, I am red!  I'll tell you what though... Going in with a smile is well worth it.  I continue to meet amazing people.  And that aspect I truly cherish. 

I had that crazy Sunday doctors appointment with my surgeon at the beginning of this last week.  I confess, I was convinced it was on Sunday because he wanted to tell me in person that my Braca gene test came back positive and that it was highly probably that all of my children would end up with cancer.  I was even more certain of this as I was driving past the hospital and several other medical facilities all with EMPTY parking lots.  Actually, the only other car I saw was Dr Kaughmans.  Perfect!   It took a while, but I did manage to reign in my free falling mind and bring my wandering thoughts captive.  I took a deep breath and surrendered the results of the testing to God. With that task completed, I went inside.  

He reviewed the treatments I have already received and covered the ones still to come. He reminded me how fortunate I was to have the triple positive cancer type as it responds very well to the drugs I have received.  He also told me what to expect from both myself and those around me coming into this next phase. I was actually very grateful for this insight, as it was confirmation of what a friend had warned me of so it was a good reminder. But I was wondering why the big delay for "the news" I was anticipating to hear. Then, after roughly 30 minutes worth of an appointment, he flipped the page up in my rapidly growing file and said "Well I guess that's it. You got your Braca results from your oncologist, right?"   

What? No!  Isn't that why I am here, on Sunday, alone with you?  So you can break the bad news to me?  

Then, Without fanfare or ceremony he says simply as if in passing "Oh, I thought she told you. It's fine"
He was doing a kindness to see me (and a few others) to catch up on where I was at, knowing he would be traveling and was booked out til November.   I was convinced he wanted to quickly deliver the bad news.  I know it's for situations much like this and others that you can easily relate to that the Bible advises us to not worry about tomorrow.  Today has enough of its' own stuff to keep us fully occupied. We don't need to borrow future concerns, especially ones that are woven from the same cloth as the Emperors New Clothes. Easier said than done. Believe me I know.  I also know it is possible.  It can be a simple matter of relinquishing your ticket to the spinning merry go round of your thought life.  What does this look like?  Maybe turning the radio up a little louder until you can't help but humm or sing along.  It might mean quoting a favorite scripture that has brought you peace.  It could be finding a quiet place to sit and silently process the situation.  For me it's drawing on the strength of the promise in my anchor verse, and following the sage advise of the author.  
He will keep in perfect peace him who's mind is steadfast because he trusts in The Lord.   Isaiah 26:3


15 marbles left.  One day at a time. One marble each day. And enough grace given simply to handle today. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Becoming Elastagirl

Flexible - 1: capable of being flexed : Pliant  2: yielding to influence : Tractable  3: characterized by a ready capability to adapt to new, different, or changing requirements,  syn see ELASTIC       -       as defined by Webster
As defined by me - 4: a character quality one must fully possess to function and survive with any measure of sanity after receiving a cancer diagnosis.  ex.  oh, sorry, the Dr is running late. Are you able to be flexible? (translation, he will be another hour, or more)   we just need a couple of films,  (translation, umm your gonna have to lay here a bit longer while we figure this out)    We'll see you again next week  (translation, oops, we forgot to tell you they changed your schedule to weekly treatments)  We were able to get you in with the Dr at 9:00, that should give you plenty of time to get home and back for you 1:30 appointment.  I hope you can be flexible.  Your appointment time is Sunday at 11:00   (translation ...... not sure, I am just thankful God doesn't take attendance)   You know, if you did some more stretching and strengthening, you would become more flexible.  Ugh!

As with so many other things in life, I am becoming acutely aware of how important it is to remain flexible and relinquish control.  Of course I had a plan, things I wanted to do this year.  Ideas for getting fit and running another half, but for now, my body is not my own.  It doesn't always do what I want it to and is often crying out for its' own attention.   "my joints always hurt",  "I'm so tired" or "my arm is tingly and it hurts"  "ouch!  That's not right."      Be quiet! I scold.  Your fine!         This is when discouragement drifts in on a dark cloud bringing with it a shadow of the things that I could do before.  I don't want this to be my new normal and I am not feeling flexible on this point.  I want my old normal back.  The one where I felt stronger and not so limited.  The one where cancer wasn't a thorn prickin at the back of my mind with all of it's ugly friends, doubt, discouragement, and fear.

This newly encouraged flexibility has caused me to look around more closely at people in the different offices where I find myself.   I know at least  6 others facing extremely life threatening medical situations and that's just in my own personal circle.  How many others that I pass each day are struggling with the desire for the pre diagnosis time.  You know, the old normal.  How many would give anything to go back to the way it used to be and yet, here they are facing the challenge to be flexible in their current treatments or flat out choosing not to.   I find I am challenged to look beyond the physical and find the greater purpose.

Change.    We are not always big fans of change, are we?  And yet some of our greatest strides forward in life are after a major life shift or trial.  We don't always recognize it at the time.  Sometimes it even takes years before we can step back and see the benefit of situations which required so much flexibility on our part.   And if we knew what the outcome would be... if we could see how it would affect others and benefit so many, including ourselves, would we have the wisdom to choose to continue down that road?  Or would we opt out choosing instead the instant gratification of not having to go through the trial?  Tough questions   -   hard answers. 

I am learning that the illusion of control is not all that gratifying, and yet loosening the grasp goes against my natural tendencies.  But each day I let a little bit go and embrace the changes and exercise my flexibility.

This week I have been reaching out to some of the women around me purposing to make them smile.  I sat in the chemo area with a very lovely lady in her 70's.  She is on the same track I am on and is just about a month behind.  We were sitting there visiting. I had already been hooked up to my drip, she was still waiting.  The nurse came around the corner with her meds too hook her up and she got a little flustered and said "Oh, I'm sorry.  I'll come back"  She meant so he could hook up her drip.  He told her she was fine.  I explained  "This is the new Starbucks.  We come here for an infusion that costs $?? and get to sit with our friends and enjoy free coffee.  Who wouldn't want to be us?"  She giggled and stayed to visit.   Then yesterday, I went back to the radiation area for treatment number 12 and noticed two other ladies with similar sporty hairstyles.  I said "So this is where all the cool kids come to hang out!"  They both started laughing and we started a conversation.  One of the women was almost done with her radiation plan, the other was exactly at the same spot with the same treatment plan as mine.  Somehow this commonality makes us feel better.  We understand each other.  We get the long year it has been and the flexibility that has been asked of us.  And it is so nice to share that, but then be able to laugh together too.  So far, I would have to say the mission was successful as both days  I left smiling and feeling better for having put myself out there.  Today is Wednesday.  Let's both see if we can make someone around us smile!

Hope is the power of being cheerful in circumstances we know to be desperate
G.K. Chesterton

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Counting Marbles

Well, I have had four treatments so far and I have to say it isn't really what I expected it to be.  The final prep appointment was annoyingly uncomfortable.  As I was laying there on my custom made mold, with my right arm above my head and my left arm pasted to my side a terrible thing occurred.  One of the lasers was hitting me directly in the left eye.  Don't panic!  It wasn't that kind of laser.  It was a light beam for measuring.  Anyway, this bright green light caused a small tear to form in my eye.  I willed it not to leak out.  I even snuck in a silly prayer that it would stay in place.  But it kept growing until it could no longer fit in the corner of my eye and it began a slow trickle down the side of my face.  Normally this wouldn't be that big of a deal, right?  I would just reach up and wipe it away and be done with it.  Today however, I am to lay completely still while they take images, scans, and measurements of the area to be radiated.  At first, I wasn't too worried.  I figured it would fall and that would be it.  What I failed to realize was that there was a light breeze blowing through the room.  It was causing my poor salty drop to itch as it tried to make its' way.  I determined to not think about it.  I would think about something else like the cramp forming in my leg muscles.  OH GREAT!  That wasn't helpful.  I realized I was starting to twitch.  Concentrate!  I thought.  I just need to concentrate.  I can do this.  Wait!  Shoot.  Is that another one?  A second drop was beginning to follow.  I am not going to make it.  Relax.  If I can just relax... okay that's not working either and now there are two itchy drops.  The twitching was getting worse.  They are going to notice I need to just ask permission to ITCH!  I know this may seem silly, but I was so uncomfortable after an hour of not moving.  My muscles were cramped up and I had to have help getting up and off the table.  Nice! 

The radiation process is not much more than laying completely still, in a very specific position while they turn on the big guns and fire em.  I don't feel anything from the radiation itself. I can hear the different tones and see the machine rotating around me, but that's about it.   I will also say that the radiation chamber is a place were the term modesty is fond memory. To compensate, they provide nice toasty warm blankets to cover all the already covered parts.  The techs are great though and I am quickly getting accustomed to walking in and rippin of my shirt to get er done. 

Another thing I am learning is how ridiculously mathematical this whole process is.  It made my little bean counting heart very happy when they started talking about central axis, peripheral diameters and so many other different numerical measurements.  I almost forgot it was because they wanted to get the exact angles and measurements before they shot me with very specifically measured amounts of radiation.  It is a very precise science that I am so thankful for.  I have met not only the techs who set me up each day for exact depth, angle and locations, I have also met the physicist who determines my radiation  and measures it with diodes to make sure it is accurate and the dosimeter (not sure I am completely accurate on that word, he said it so quickly)  who calculates the exact details of my whole plan.  And then of course there is my radiologist who came up with the plan in the first place.   All of these people have been great, but I will tell you that the physicist and the radiologist are too smart and serious for their own good.  They don't get my CFP jokes.  I layed there on Monday while they were adjusting and measuring and re aligning.  It seemed so serious and intense.  What better time for a good ol wise crack.  I asked "So, are ya ready to nuke me?"  and the answer came back in a very serious tone, "This is a very precise and specifically targeted treatment."   Well duh!  Like I would voluntarily lie here if you were just gonna willy nilly aim that big gun and FIRE it at me!!!  Poor man.  I am gonna have to work on him a bit more I can see. 

Today as I sat in the radiation waiting area, I noticed a small bowl of glass marbles.  I had seen them before, but hadn't sat there long enough to read the sign beside it and see the small gauze bags.  The sign said to take as many marbles as you had days of treatment and then each day put one back to count down.  I happen to be the person that not only loves to do lists, I am the person that will write in the item I just did if it wasn't on the list just so I could cross it off.  Yes, I am one of them.  You might be able to relate.  I am also the person who loves count downs so as you can imagine the idea of decreasing my bag of marbles as I knock another one off was very appealing.  So today, I collected 31 marbles.  Tomorrow I get to put one back and that will feel good.

PS - My oncologist called me herself with the results from the echo I had on Monday.  Ejection valve output is back up to 55%.  Let the infusions resume.  Thank you Lord!

Psalms 57:5
Be exalted, O God, above the highest heavens!  May your glory shine over all the earth.

Friday, September 20, 2013

CFP's

It is time to unveil the mystery behind the initials CFP.  You have heard me toss it out into conversation with out any explanation, leaving it to hang there like the lone pepper in an Olive Garden salad. Oh sure, you know it's there, but why?  Is anyone going to eat it? What is its' purpose I mean after all, it is Olive Garden.  At least that explains the 3-4 olives lingering at the bottom of your salad bowl.  And whatever happened to the giant olives they used to put in there?  Anyway...  It has been a funny little side joke between my sister-in-law and myself.  Actually, she coined the phrase.  It came about as a result of my insensitive or tacky comments about cancer, namely, my own cancer.  CFP stand for Cancer Faux Pas and it might look something like this:

Tami :  (Oh look!  M & M's)  grabbing a handful

Concerned Friend : (You aren't going to eat those are you?)

Tami : (Why? What are they going to do?  Give me Caner?)

Concerned Friend : (                         ) Shocked and speechless

Here is another example that I am sure my kids will attest to.

Mom:  (Hey, would you guys help me clean up the backyard and oh by the way I think there are rats in the greenhouse we need to get out.  Thanks)

Kids:  (Really?  Are you kidding?  Rats?  What are we supposed to do?)

Mom: (come on guys. I have cancer and could really use your help.  I am still really tired and my joints ache.  Can't you just help me by getting this cleaned out.  The garden could use weeding too btw.)

How about the one I shared at the beginning of this journey.  It came from a great kid who is notorious for CFP's and other FP's and I love this about him. 

I think it was right before my first surgery, the kids all had a party to show their support.  Several of the teens from my running class were there and they had all pitched in to raise money and get these Team Tami bracelets.  One of the kids shouted out into the big group of people "Who needs breasts when you have friends?"  Good point    With the left over money, they purchased Zaycon Chicken breasts.  Not to be outdone, I felt it fitting to add "And look I have plenty of spare breasts now anyway!"

This one I didn't do, but we thought about it and I actually told the poor border patrol that I was going to do it.

Tami: approaching the border with kids and mom in the car.  The suggestion comes in to wait until the middle of the questions and then casually pull off the wig as he is looking at my passport. 

After we told the very kind border patrol of our plot he said (oh no, I can't deal with that one.  I am retiring in one year)   ??? 


Please understand this is not intended to poke fun at anyone else with cancer.  This has been strictly directed at myself and my cancer experiences.  I think most of you already know this about me, but just in case I wanted to make this very clear.  I am in no way minimizing the cancer journey that others are on.  I am simply choosing to pepper mine with cayenne and keep it spicy.

I know there are a lot of other incidents where I am guilty of the CFP, but I would rather hear from you....  please commenet back or message me your favorite CFP that you heard me engage in.  And please don't be shy. 
 



 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Radiation Prep

Last week began the "planning" phase of my radiation treatments.  I guess this is good.  Not like I want them nuking unnecessary parts.  I have to say it is an interesting process.  You have probably heard about the tattoos?  This is that part.  I went in Friday to talk with my radiology Dr. and he re confirmed the plan.  7 weeks, 35 days, every weekday.  

In order to make sure they are hitting the same spot every time they do a few things.  First order of business... to make a body mold.  I realize this sounds a bit intriguing and maybe oddly fun, but I assure you it is not that exciting.   They have you lay down on a rock hard bean bag that has had all of the air sucked out.  They position your body the way they want it for during the actual radiation and then they pump the bag full of air.  This loosens up all the beans and allows them to continue to form it around you.  So with my hand on my head and arm resting to the side they push and shove the form until it looks like what they want.  Then they suck all the air back out and it begins to tightly form around you.  "OOPS!  We forgot that we are doing your lymph nodes too.  I need you to turn your head to the left.  Sorry.  I can't fill it back up and let your head shape form because then I would have to do it all over again."   Oh dang it.  So I get to lay there with a bump in the side of my head every time I go in.  Oh well.  It's just a little uncomfortable.  I can live with it.  After all it's not like they are pumping me full of toxins or anything crazy like that.

After the body forming portion of the appointment, we come to the mapping session.  This involves red permanent markers, wires with tape on them, and small lead bb's being placed in strange and unmentionable places.   By the time I was done, I looked like the night sky in late summer.  I had at least the Big Dipper happening and after they tattooed the two dots on, I think one could argue Cassiopeia could be seen.   Yes, I now can say I have my first and second tattoos.  Not fun or daring.  Not permanently displaying a symbol of hope, rebellion, or even religion, but tiny little permanent reminders.  Reminders for the radiation techs to pay attention and keep the red beam on the little black dots so I don't loose anything else.   With all of my red markings, my special bbs and the wiring along the scar lines I am ready for my photo shoot.  Yes, I did say photo shoot.  And yes, with a camera.  Ugh.  Really?  More pictures of my sisters?  To my real sisters, I only wish it was with you all. Clearly I made it through all of the run way blitz.  Then they ran me through the scanner with all my hardware in place.   I tell you what... this is gonna be some kind of plan.

I have another planning appointment this Friday.  I guess they wanna get it right when they are lightin you up.  They said it was another longer appointment.  Then the real fun begins.  Actually, I have heard from multiple sources the actual treatments themselves aren't bad at all. 

Monday will be a busy day.  I will have my first treatment of radiation and my echo cardio gram to check on my heart.  I have been faithfully walking and trying to strengthen it back up.  I would be lying if I said I wasn't a little worried about it.  My radiologist has the same issue with his heart and it meant no more running.  Okay.  I guess if that is the worst of it, I will adjust, but I really don't like how it feels.  I can actually feel the difference, especially at certain times like during running or if I get too hot.  Nor do I like the idea of being 41 with heart issues as well as already having had cancer once.  Since neither of these things are issues I can control, I will do my best to let them go.  I was describing how I envision entertaining the what if's to my friend the other night.  I see it as trying to tie a boat anchor around my neck and call it jewelry.  No one does that.  It's not helpful, it wouldn't look good, it's not useful and everyone knows it would work better as a belt, Right?!?  No.  But seriously.  It's just the next step in the plan.  And check it out!  I have HAIR!

Hebrews 4:16

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Team Julia

I met another amazing woman at the cancer center.  The nurses really wanted us to meet and attempted to connect us without giving away patient information.  We are similar age, similar family size, shared faith, similar cancers, and very similar sassy, "What? You mean I am bald?" kinda attitudes.  We missed each other a few times, but on one of my appointments I thought I would go back and see if she was around or at least find out when she would be in.  Of course the nurses couldn't tell me if she would be in on Monday when I would, but they suggested I look for a younger patient, usually with long brown hair, and an attitude.  I left the center and was in my car ready to pull out when I see two people from the center running around the parking lot.  I paused for a moment and sure enough they came running up to me.  "She's here!  Julia is here!"  We were going to get to meet after all.  

I parked my car and followed the nurse in.  They weren't sure where she was, but they knew she had recently come in.  We searched all of the chemo nooks, but came up empty handed.  I felt like I had seen someone in the lab area that kinda matched her description so we rushed back that direction hoping not to miss her.  Low and behold, there she was... waiting for a shot. 

I introduced myself and we began to chat.  An hour and a half later... I realized we did have a lot in common, but it was more than that.  I felt encouraged and inspired after talking with her.  I want to be like her when I grow up... NO, I want to be like her now.  I sat talking to this young woman who has been in chemo for 4 years.  No, that is not a typo.  Four years of toxic drugs being pumped into her body.  She has grown and lost her hair multiple times.  She has had to have a pace maker put in and she can't have radiation because it will fry her bones and that's not good.  And she was smiling and joyful.  She wasn't fearful or angry.  She isn't dying from cancer, she is living with it, her words.  And when I say living with it, I mean just that.  Her chemo infusions are a part of her routine, but they don't dictate her attitude.  They may affect how much she can do, but don't prevent her from living her life. 

I was so excited to visit with her and had no idea how much it would affect me.   I feel stronger having met her.  She fights for herself and for her family.  She oozes life from her very being.  You aren't even tempted to feel sorry for her because she isn't feeling sorry for herself.  She also fights for women around her in need of help.  Her family has put together a team.  "Team Julia".  And they fight and fund raise to help other women going through breast cancer.  It is an expensive undertaking to say the least and her family and extended family race, run, bike, triathlon, and Ragner to raise awareness of the disease and to financially help others in our community who are struggling to afford life with breast cancer.   Click on this link to read more about Julia and her journey. 
 
 
 
Add Julia and her family to your prayers.  I know from experience that there are days...  The mental game is a tough one and even the strongest of warriors need support and encouragement. 
 
 
Thanks everyone.  I really wanted to share a little of her story with you.     Don't worry.... the CFP explanation is coming soon.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

ECHO, Echo, echo....

I used to think this term, echo, was just the cool sound that came bouncing back and blew past your face after yelling into a deep ravine.  I have learned in the past 6 months that it is more than just that cool scientific bouncing of sound in air.  It is in fact, a special test used to measure the function of your heart and all its' valves and ventricles.  This brilliant test is also probably something that escaped my knowledge due to the fact that I am a young (hey don't knock it, in cancer terms I am young), active, healthy person who doesn't have heart issues.   Well.... fast forward to now.  I am so grateful that they are so cautious about everything cancer related.  Not that they have a huge choice when they are pumping my body full of chemicals that are completely TOXIC!  

As many of you know, I had an echo a few weeks back.  Yesterday, I met with my oncologist to have some blood work done and to go over the echo results.  It's not that it was horrible scary news, but it wasn't normal good news.  I have mildly impaired left ventricle systolic function.  A lot of words to say that the blood going in works fine, it's the pumping out that is not working as efficiently.  It is a side effect of the drug, Herceptin, that I will be on for the next year.  With this knowledge, they have postponed my Monday infusion and scheduled another echo.  What my oncologist is hoping to see is that the function level is not decreasing.  Stabilized is okay, increasing is even better, and pumping like a seasoned marathon runner is what I am voting for.  I am not limited in what I can do, in fact the opposite is true.  Exercise is helpful to strengthen the muscle.  I had been hesitant to do any running cause I could feel my heart was pounding differently when I ran, but I have been walking a ton.  Boy do I hate starting over, but I am a highly motivated individual!

While I am not overly concerned about this set back, I would ask for your specific prayer for this.  It will be an ongoing issue that they pay close attention to for the next year while I am receiving the infusions.  You can bet I won't be waiting around to hear what they say.  I'll be proactively moving and working towards a stronger healthier me.

INFUSION COMPLETE

These were the two words I was looking for last Monday, August 19th, when I completed the last of my 16 treatments.  It was a great day!  A good friend picked me up.  We stopped at Woods to grab a coffee and the girls recognized me and gave us our drinks and scone for free.  Then I had great visitors while we were there.  And to finish it off, my mom and the kids brought in cake and balloons.  It was really quite a day and an even better way to finish off chemo.  That evening, even though I had the worst chemo buzz ever, with my legs shaking and my mind humming, some amazing people came and helped me celebrate the finish line of this portion of the race.  Funny thing is... I never did see those two words.  Instead I got an "air in line" message.  We'll take it!

Being done with that part is so nice.   I opted to take the week off from writing.  I figured if I did, I might have some of my brain back.  The days following my last treatment were pretty exhausting.  Especially Tuesday.  Monday night was a great way to celebrate being done, but I only slept two hours.  Dang steroid buzz.  Tuesday was mostly a blurr.  By Thursday and Friday I was pickin up steam.  This week has been even better.  I am beginning to remember things more, not everything, so don't quiz me.  I have noticed there are some lingering side effects that I am hoping will slowly disappear, but nothing I can't live with if they don't.

One thing I have noticed is that I didn't realize how feminine eyelashes and eye brows make me feel.  While I was fortunate to keep some sparse eye lashes for the duration, my poor bottom eye lid has a scant 2-3 on each side.  Yes, I am able to girl em up to look feminine, (sparkling teenager eye shadow is an amazing tool), but it has felt very weird to not have these two eye accouterments.   I didn't realize how attached to them I was.  In some ways I almost feel like they truly make me feel and look like a woman cause you should see me in the morning with out them.  It's very odd.

So many have asked me how I am now that it is over or have asked other family members if I am glad to be done.  And while yes, the nastiness of chemo is over, I would covet your continued prayers.  I have til next May or June with infusions every 3 weeks and daily radiation coming up in a couple of weeks.   I realized that during this season, I have rarely prayed for healing.  I mostly have focused on asking God to use me where I am at and to give me peace, wisdom, and direction.  I am grateful for the things I have learned.  I would have never had the desire to help others with this nasty critter.  Nor would I have had the empathy for those who are there.  I may have felt badly for them, but now I realize, that for me at least, that was not the emotion I wanted for people to feel when they looked at me.  I wanted them to join the team fight with enthusiasm, not sadness and pity.  I look at these fighters differently now.  I never realized how strong this group of people have to be.  So now, when I see a fellow fighter, I set aside any thoughts of the pitiful "awwhhhhh" sigh, and dive in with compassion, interest, and a tad bit of sassiness, peppered with the occasional and appropriate CFP.

I have recently been asked by a few people for specific prayer and I wanted to share these requests with you. 

A friends grandma is experiencing a re-occurrence of ovarian cancer and it is "floating" around in her.  The prayer request is that she would stay solid and find strength in her faith.  I would add prayer that she experiences a tangible peace.

I ran into an old friend at the fair only to learn that he had a massive stroke last year.  I pray God would be ever present with him, bringing peace to his mind and that he would continue to get stronger and regain ground that was lost.

My grandpa is attempting to say some good byes as his time is coming to an end, and along the way, he experienced a medical emergency.  I pray he gets to see who he is supposed to see and say what ever he needs to say before he goes home.





Sunday, September 1, 2013

Raspberry Gleaning

 Can I just say that gleaning as a distraction is incredible.  Two weeks ago, I received a call that we were going to be able to glean raspberries.  I strongly encouraged the crew that picking free raspberries was a good idea.  Ok, I may have used the "C" card to get my way, but hey, we're talking raspberries here!  We drove out, found the field and grabbed our boxes.  We went two to a row and got to it.  The pickin is much slower on a glean, but as you can see, we did pretty darn good.   Terin busted out two more batches of raspberry jam, Gavin froze enough for a raspberry sorbet, and I got 3 gallon size bags of frozen berries for everything else.  Not bad. 

I had decided before going to our weekly Saturday glean that I wasn't going to take any "extra" food.  I was too tired to process it and had plenty of other things to be doing right now.  WRONG!  Can you blame me?  There was a full box of perfect canning tomatoes.  I am certainly not going to let those go to the pigs if no one else wants them.    12 beautiful quarts later.... not to mention the salsa, and cucumber n tomato salad.   And these were yummy tomatoes.  Not the usual store bought with no flavor.  The tasted like they were fresh from the garden. 

So while I may have invoked my right to use a CFP to get my team to help pick berries, in the end it was so worth it.  Not sure what a CFP is???  Stick around... I'll tell you later.

 
 
I will leave you with this amazing recipe...
 
FRESH RASPBERRY CAKE
 
1/2 c butter softened
1 egg, room temp
1 c sugar
1c milk, room temp
1 t vanilla
2 c flour1 T baking powder
1 t salt
3-4 c berries
 
Combine all ingredients except for the berries and mix well.  Pour into a 9x13 pan and top with the berries.  They should almost fill the surface.   Bake at 350 for 35 mins.
 
Cool and then glaze with the following
 
1 1/2 c powdered sugar
1 t vanilla
2 T butter
2 T milk
 
This recipe is also delicious with blackberries.  I have tried it with frozen berries and don't like it as well, but you be the judge.  The combination of the homemade white cake and the fresh berries is pretty ridiculous.  Enjoy!!! 
 
 
 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Last One!

Phase two just about done!  One chemo treatment left!  It is almost hard to believe that I have already completed 15 infusions and yet at the same time it's been a very long process.  This weeks treatment wiped me out. My body is certainly ready for the break.  I had a sweet friend visiting from Colorado who took me to chemo.  That was a special treat to get to spend that time with her.  Not to mention I had two others join me for a while, so again it was a great way to spend that part of my day.  The afternoon was spent with my pillow!  

I got the okay from my Dr. and was feeling well enough to drive over and spend the weekend in Spokane at my second moms house visiting with her, my sister and her husband, and my new nephew, Harvey. I speak with auntie authority when I say he just might be the cutest little stinker around. It was so fun to get to have baby snuggles. I did have to chuckle at the fact that this little guy has more hair than I do, but I think we were equally as soft.




My oncologist suggested that I start seeing if my hair would growing back after 7-8 treatments of the Taxol.   I have been diligently watching.   Around 7-8 it did start showing signs of coming back, but it was pretty splotchy and I am sorry, but I am just not going there.   So I continued to shave it.  Three weeks ago it was lookin pretty full except for the sides so I opted for one more shave and then I would let it grow.  We started to document the regrowth.  Here are a few of the pics to show the regrowth progress.   It is funny because it is so soft.  It really feels like new baby hair and so far it seems darker than before.  It's kinda fun cause who knows what I will look like with the new locks or how long it will take them to fully grow in.  This shows day one, about a week in, a week and a half and then two weeks.  So, I think you get the idea.  It's coming back!!!





 

 
 


I had a very sweet little story to share.   Last week, we had a birthday party at Hovander for Miss Payton. While we were there, a little girl about 9-10 was riding around the park on her bicycle. She rode up to me and said, "I like your hair." I smiled a little suprised and said thank you. She said, "I know you don't have very much, but it looks pretty on you."   I was very touched by her sweet comment and frankness.  People have been very kind about my baldness, but I don't think any comment has touched me as much as this one.   I am not even sure if I can explain why. It may have been the simple fact that it was spoken from her heart.  There was no mortified parent around to correct her and  no one around to coach her on bald woman etiquette.  It made me smile from the inside out.  It was also a great reminder for me to go out of my way to speak kind words to others.  You just never know how much it may impact someone else.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Fighter Worth Celebrating


I am behind in getting this post on here, but wanted to make sure and share this with you. This is my dear friend Holly. I was fortunate to get to meet her the day I went in for my chemo teaching appointment. We got to learn the ropes, the drugs, the ups and the downs and definitely the snack room together. We started around the same time with slightly different treatment plans and we will be finishing up just a few weeks apart. We got to share some very unique and unforgettable experiences that will keep us bonded for life. I am so grateful to have met her. Holly is a fighter and a survivor, and she just knocked out her last round of chemo!!! It was cause for a celebration. We bought the giant chocolate Costco cake that you always hope you have an occasion to buy it for but can never really justify buying it cause it is soooo huge. Oh yah. You know the one. But today there was no question. It had to be the giant chocolate cake. After several long rounds of treatment and recovery days in between, my friend reached the finish line and she did it with great style and class. I am so proud of her.

Gleaning a Distraction

One of the keys to surviving chemo and thriving during this season is to have some really good distractions. Things that allow you and even force your mind in a different direction. Cooking is one of those things for me. This last weekend I went gleaning at the local Gleaners Pantry. It just so happened that it was the right day to go if your someone like me who needed a little distracting. I came away with multiple boxes of some beautiful produce, several bags of bread, and even a red velvet cake for my girls birthday. Now you have to understand, that when I say boxes, I mean large banana box size boxes full. They were loaded with potatoes, onions, leek, peppers in red, yellow, orange, and green, not to mention the hot ones, strawberries, plums, bananas, limes, lemons, brussels, tomatoes, a watermelon, honey dew, cilantro, nectarines, mushrooms, red lettuce, hot dog buns, hamburger buns.... so much food. Now here's the tricky part. It all needs to be used or taken care of cause it certainly won't fit in any fridge that I have. I worked with my mom for the day to chop, mix, cook or freeze all of this goodness. You won't believe what I ended up with.

  2 batches of strawberry freezer jam
3 batches of plum freezer jam
strawberry fruit leather
plum fruit leather
a huge batch of fresh salsa
a batch of hot fresh salsa
a giant potato salad
a giant tomato, cucumber, basil salad
enough bananas for 8 loaves of bread
zucchini muffins 3 loaves of zucchini bread
zucchini and yellow squash with tomato and basil
lime juice for 4 full batches of limeade
sauted mushrooms and onions
frozen onions onions, peppers, and tomatoes for sloppy joes
and still there's a lot of it we are just using fresh.

 It is so fun and amazing to get this surprise amount of food in quantities and varieties unknown before hand and then to be able to take it and turn it into meals for my family. I know it may sound silly, but I love it. It feels so good to turn the boxes of unwanted food into provision and yummy snacks. I thought I would start sharing some of the recipes I use when I get the massive quantities of food.

 For this week it's a very simple one, but by far a favorite of mine. It comes from a friend in California.

 Fresh Squeezed Limeade/Lemonade 

24 oz of freshly squeezed juice in any combination of lime or lemons Limeade is my favorite!!
2 - 2 1/2 c sugar
1-2 c water ice and more water

 Combine the sugar and water in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil to create a simple syrup. Add more sugar if necessary to cut the tartness. Add the syrup to the juice and add water and ice to equal 2 quarts 3 if you like it a little more diluted. It tastes sooo good. We like it tart! Experiment and see what your family likes. If you are fortunate and have an abundance of citrus, juice them and freeze them in 24 oz quantities to use when you need a quick and yummy beverage treat!

Monday, August 12, 2013

So Now What Do I Do? - Tips

The Biopsy results are back and they used the "C" word. Now what?

 There are a few options at this point. The doctors will give you what they feel is the best choice for your situation based on several factors. It may very well involve surgery and then a treatment plan. There are natural options that some people chose. Do some research. Look both routes over unless you already know what you feel is the appropriate course for you. I did some looking into diets and alternative choices. It was not the way to go for me. On the other hand, the day I discussed the full plan with my Dr., I left his office with confidence and complete peace and knew that this was the route I was supposed to take.

 Time for surgery. Yikes! What's this gonna be like? Honestly, like a really good nap. The procedure itself isn't hard. Do your homework and make sure you feel very, very, VERY comfortable with the surgeon. Get opinions from people you know in the profession or who have first hand experience, but in the end it is your decision. Just keep in mind, you will be spending a lot of time in a small clinical room with someone reviewing scans and images of breasts, and repeatedly using the term breast and when this word is used and theses images are observed, it is very often going to be about you and yours. So make sure you feel comfortable.

 One issue that can arise after surgery is fluid in the surgical site. This is particularly true for the lymph nodes. The trick is to keep ice on the area and limit the movement. The more you move around the more the lymphatic fluids build up. If it does build up it can become uncomfortable. It is a fairly simple and mostly painless procedure to drain the fluid, but keep on top of it so that you don't wind up with an infection. The key at this stage is to relax and allow your body to heal. Let your friends and family help and by all means keep that bag of frozen peas handy. It is the perfect size and molds to fit well.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Choice

I love to walk beside the ocean and breathe in the fresh air, (unless it's low tide and I am near Birch Bay Village... just saying. Sorry Village People) I love to hike and feel like I am going places and enjoying beautiful trees, mountains and looking out over large bodies of sparkling water. And as you know, I love to run. I don't love the training phase so much, but hear me on this. I am not talking about the interval season where I have to start over and feel like I will never be able to just enjoy a good run. I am talking about the kind of run where I can lube up my feet, put on my cool socks and running sneaks, shimmy into my running skirt which helps to make the look official (not to mention I feel faster when I wear it), and to secure by whatever means necessary the unruly sisters so that there is no, I repeat NO movement, and head out to just enjoy the run because it feels good. Recently I have noticed however, that several of my favorite hikes, walks, and runs all start with a lovely downhill slope. This makes me feel strong and active and good. I can totally do this, chemo or not. I am out moving and exercising and it feels great. And yet on the way back, guess what is always waiting for me on the home stretch... the unavoidable incline. It's always there. Some days I am aware it's there and I enjoy the challenge. I can power through with some extra huffing and puffing and get it done. I feel strong. Other days it feels like work and it burns, but I got it. Then there are "those" days. You know, one of those days where the coffee has run out, the toast you just took a bite of is mildewing, you lost your car keys, and you should have stayed in bed or at last on the couch with a good reliable book kinda days. Some days, I head out thinking "This really is so good for me and I really need the exercise and I will feel so much better when I am done." Then I begin to approach the hill. I would rather not have to go up this hill today. I would like to go around this hard spot not up it. Maybe someone will come pick me up and I can pass jail and go directly to "Go" and collect the $200. But I can't. Not if I want to get back to my car. Sometimes I stop and look around to see what my options are. Funny thing... they don't ever change just cause I want them to. Turning my back on the path back home doesn't make it disappear... it's just temporarily out of my field of vision. And while at that moment, it might feel like a relief, it is not reality. So I turn back around, and move forward. I might be moving a bit slower, but I am moving.

 I am a cancer survivor/fighter. And I realized that for me, being a cancer survivor doesn't mean that I am assured that my cancer will never come back and my future health and wellness journey is a weedless path that is guaranteed to be all downhill, beside the ocean, at sunset, with no low tides. It means that as I walk along the path that is my life, the way in front of me may unexpectedly and without warning wash out at the precise moment that I step forward again . This requires another shift in plans. It means I may end up on another detour that I didn't even realize was there and I have a choice. I can become toxic and poison to all those around me with the the negativity of my circumstances or I can live the day that I am given and do it with a smile on my face. I have made the choice to actively move forward regardless of the hill called cancer that looms in front of me. Chemo is cumulative and each week, recovery is harder and takes longer, and each week I have to choose to walk that route or not. That's what makes me a survivor. Choosing to move forward when it seems like such a long road. I make the choice because it is what my medical team feels is best for me and God has given me peace to trust their decisions. I make the choice cause I have 4 incredible kids, (not to mention all the other amazing kids and young adults in my cheering section). I make this choice because I am afraid not to and this feels like the right direction to go. I make this choice because it is part of pressing on and running the race that is set before me to attain the prize. Who knew my race would be more like doing hurdles in a dress with high heels (I hate hurdles btw).

 My weekly trip to the spa was again made special by a dear friend who brought a bag of pedicure supplies. I sat there taking in my chemo, while my girlfriend gave me a great looking pedi. It was so thoughtful and I have gotten lots of compliments. Going to chemo weekly, for several hours at a time is a drag. The after effects of the drugs are exhausting and wearing, and sometimes quite painful. In spite of these mosquito bite like frustrations, my friends have found ways to make these weekly trips not only tolerable but fun! It is precious time with great friends that is sometimes hard to come by. I am down to 4 more chemo treatments. After that I will have daily radiation for the max treatments which is 7 weeks and a Herceptin infusion every 3 weeks for the next year. Yes, I did say the next year. The good news is that the side effects from the Herceptin should be minimal, the unfortunate news is that's not the end. I am still looking at a few surgeries. Some optional, some not. And then there will be several years of another drug which can be a little tricky. But that is not today. Today is sunny. There's a light breeze and I get to enjoy it. My lips are not so ducky, which is great contrary to the facebook craze of duck pose photos. Tomorrow, I get to go sit with a friend while she has her final infusion of chemo. Again, these are not paths I would have voluntarily sought out to walk and yet there is so much unexpected beauty along the way. Thank you to friends and families that have supported us recently through the garage sale and the walk a thon. With all the trips into town for all the different appointments, I feel like I have a new job.... but I sure don't remember applying for this position.


  James 1:2-4 
 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Feeling Blessed

It's hard to describe how I felt throughout the walk. We walked and walked and kept on walking. And I met so many amazing people, Michele, Pam, Kim, Sheridan, and others who are fighting or who are survivors. I had people come to find me to offer encouragement and received some really special gifts. As you know, I was concerned about how I would feel.  Well I have to say, as we approach the end, the overwhelming emotion is thankfulness.  Thankfulness that I am here and able to participate as a survivor and that my journey continues for now. 

Thanks Jim and Chris for letting us join your team.  I'm lookin forward to next year, even if my feet aren't. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Bellingham Relay For Life - We Walk For...

I am a little nervous about the walk tonight... not because I am afraid I won't feel well, or because I think my feet might hurt. And not because I haven't been training or am grossly out of shape. I am nervous about how I will feel. I am afraid I won't be able to control how I feel about this whole ugly word. CANCER! It takes so much from so many. It is no respecter of color, money, status, family, or faith. It doesn't care how far I run, how much broccoli I eat or how healthy I try to stay. And so I am nervous that people may witness my emotions in a raw state and that feels scary. Way too much "feeling" for me I think, and yet there is a time and a place for everything, and I am grateful to be a survivor and so I will walk.



I am also excited! Excited because I am a fighter and I am looking forward to walking with other fighters. I have the strength to put on my comfy socks and tie up my running shoes. I have the courage to put a cap on my newly shaven shiny bald head and go join with the others. I have the endurance to walk along side those who walk with and for me, and for those who are unable. I have a heart that understands how this encourages those who are still in the battle, strengthens those who have lost loved ones to the disease, and gives purpose to those who want to make a difference.

 Tonight I walk for John Knighten, Mike Spooner, Mike Smith and all others who fought until they could fight no longer.

 I walk for the ones who continue to battle and for those who have fought and are now cancer free - Holly, Linda, Cyrus, Mike, Stephanie, Diana, Vonnie, Mel, Wendy, Rachel, Gwen, Denise, Laurel, Pam, Martha, Reese, and Ashley. Cancer reaches out it's ugly hand and touches us all.

 Smack it back by remembering your loved ones and fellow fighters with me. Please add any name that you know of that should be included into the comments.

 Cancer Sucks!!!, but we FIGHT BACK!!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Six of One, Half Dozen of the Other

Well, it's 6/12, on the 50 yard line, 50%, half a dozen down, glass half full, and running the home stretch time for this gal. I just completed treatment number, yep you guessed it, 6. I guess if you want to get really technical and count the first 4 nasty ones, then this is 10 of 16. That sounds even better. How do I feel? Well, some days I feel good. Some, I can manage if I take it easy, and some days I am very tired and have very little energy. And then there are days like Sunday when I just want to go back to bed and hide my funny lookin cancer fighten self. I woke up with a horrible outbreak of oral herpes. I didn't even realize before this year that there was a type of Herpes you could get with out being really naughty. Sheesh! How embarrassing. Just one of the many fun side effects of chemo and mine seems to be a constant during these treatments. My lips were sooooo swollen. This is where you all chime in and say.... "How swollen were they?" They were so swollen I looked like I had been hit in the mouth repeatedly and then had a 3 year old do my lips stick in bright red, or like I had gotten a bee sting with even swelling all the way around, or I paid way to much for a really bad Botox job to achieve the very popular duck look. It felt like I rubbed Habenaros on my lips instead of chap stick. So I think you get the idea. I was pretty miserable. It was one of those days were I looked in the mirror and for a moment, I saw myself as truly sick. Bald head, thinning eyebrows, missing eye lashes, plumpy cheeks (and everything else) from steroids, and flaming red fat lips. Not very attractive. As badly as I wanted to go into hiding for the day, I chose not to. I had company here and I had some playing to do. So, I picked myself up by the bootstraps, got out the concealer, the eyeliner, and a cute hat and we headed out to the beach. Once I set aside how I was feeling about how I looked and just dealt with the burning skin I had a good day.

 I do have to share a funny story. My 3 nieces came to visit this last weekend. They got here late at night so the youngest pretty much went to bed. The next morning I went in to see all the girls, laying in a heap and watching a movie. The 3 year old looks up and with wide eyes and clear disturbance in her voice she says, "Whoa! You don't have any hair!" The look on her face was to die for. It was so funny. We were all laughing. We proceeded into my closet to look at my "hair" choices. She had me try them all on and then picked the one that had braids attached. It was pretty cute. She still wasn't too sure about me, and that stung a little in all honesty. I didn't want her to be afraid of me, so the fact that she wanted to help pick a head covering was an improvement. The next day I had on a different wig and about half way through the day, she walks up and says, "Aunt Tami, I like your hair." Bingo! We were good the rest of the time. She still seemed confused by how I could have hair one minute and then be bald at night time again. So confusing. And while no Blizzards were enjoyed this weekend, Edaleen's seemed to do an excellent job of filling in. We all got waffle cones smashed full with giant scoop of delicious, cold creamy ice cream. I even shared my ice cream with this spunky little punkin of a niece, who had already devoured her own.

 There is a part of me that thinks yay, only 6 more treatments to go before radiation begins! And really this is great news. But then there is another part of me that realizes that also means summer will be winking goodbye and the warm days of fighting this disease and healing and enjoying the sun with the kids will come to an end. I know that must sound silly, but I hate wishing away this precious time with them for any reason. So I am enjoying this summer in a completely different and unexpected way with an appreciation for each and everyday, including the rainy ones that simply water my garden and ask me to rest inside. The gift we are given each morning to wake up and live is priceless. I don't want to squander it away wishing it would pass me by.

 A dear friend from high school just said good bye to her husband - a hero to his family and community, and a persistent and fierce cancer fighter for the last three years. Please pray for her and their three daughters as they begin to navigate life without their husband/father. I pray God would fill in the gaps and be everything to each of them and that they would feel his presence.

A friend of a friend just lost her son of 24 unexpectedly. Please pray for the family as they grieve this sudden loss and prepare to say a final good bye.

  2 Corinthians 12:9
 "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness. " So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Mammograms, Ultrasounds, Biopsies.... Oh My!

Life, as we all know, is a journey. We have a plethora of choices along the way including how we react to what goes on around us and what is happening to us. No one should make these decisions for us. Friends can give input, spouses offer their suggestions, and loved ones can give advice based on personal experience, but ultimately, it is our job to take all of these offerings, consider them based on our own beliefs and make a decision for ourselves. It doesn't guarantee that all choices will be easy. I find it to be quite the opposite sometimes and yet there are times when I know without a doubt that a specific action is what is required of me. Boy I sure wish there were more of the moments of feeling certain. At this point in my pink journey, I have had a mammogram, ultrasounds, a biopsy, CAT scans, MRI's, bone scans, echocardiograms, an adequate lumpectomy and 9 lymph nodes removed, a port installed, 4 rounds of AC chemo, and 5 infusions of Taxol and Herceptin .... for all my HomeConnection buddies, hear me when I shout, I am now "Highly Qualified" to give a few pointers to anyone who may be chosen to follow in my size 10 footsteps. I will try to keep them shorter and easily identifiable. Always feel free to contact me with questions regarding anything I post. I love me a good question. Any tip or suggestion I post has been run through my oncologist and medical team. These aren't my attempts to discover a new method to treat symptoms rather they are things that have worked for me. 1 I will start with the lecture on getting your mammograms. GET YOUR MAMMOGRAMS! There you have it! Go get your mammogram!!! Need I say more? Yes, I do need to say more, because really you should begin this process even earlier by constantly groping yourself in the shower. Get very familiar with what normal is for you and your breast tissue. Not all tissue is created equally. Believe me I know. I was fortunate to discover the lump myself, called the doctor and then, the whole process began. Self exams are easy and don't have to be official. Just get in there and get squishin! This is a great way to stay on top of things and be proactive. All women should have a mammogram when they turn 40 and if you have a family history, then get yourself in for the boob sandwich even earlier. It is really not nearly as bad as you have heard from your crazy drama queen friends. Yes, I am talking about "her". We all have one. One that describes the common cold as a near death experience. And "if" it is a horrible experience and they find nothing, great! The worst is over and you have gained some peace of mind. "If" they find something then, good, you now know there is an issue that needs a little more of your undivided attention. Now you can deal with it by scheduling the next steps. And as hard as this is to do, try not to worry about things. The waiting can be one of the hardest parts. Find a good distraction to pass the time, like Blizzards. You didn't really think there would be a post where Blizzards didn't get brought up did you? The next step following an abnormal mammogram is often an ultrasound. The best advice I can give here is do NOT attempt to read either the images on the screen or the technicians face. Instead, take some deep breaths and look for your own pictures in the ink blots on the screen. Who knows you might see the Eiffel Tower, the Great Sphinx, or Michael Jackson! Attempting to self diagnose really isn't helpful. Suck it up and wait til the Dr. gets in to tell you what they see. If this comes back abnormal, you may be asked to have a biopsy. This sounded scary to me because I didn't understand the procedure. They use a small needle to numb up the area before entering with a very tiny probe. The end of the probe has a little slice and dice pie cutter and takes a small wedge of tissue. It can be a bit bothersome when you hear the crunch of the little probe, but actually it is fast and minimally painful. I felt more of a pressure than any real pain. They give you a cute little round ice pack. Keep it!. It is a great size for everything. Keep the ice compress on for a little while and you'll be back to business in no time. Again, the most difficult part of these procedures is the waiting. Keep doing the things you enjoy. Process information as it comes and not before. Ask for help when you need it. Gather strength from your friends and family and stay in the game.