Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Refiners Fire

22 radiation treatments done!  Woohoo!!!, right???  More like OUCH!
Well on a positive note only 3 more, unless my doctor decides to do another 5 after that.  Crossing my fingers and hoping not.
I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting to happen.  The slight irritation I got after week 3 was pretty bad and I honestly thought it wouldn’t get much worse, even though my doctor said it would.  Now my skin is coming off in places (mostly under my arm) and I really can’t imagine anything worse than this.  But then again my doctor says it will get worse.  Not very encouraging.  In fact I just want to go to my room and cry.  I gave my boss the word yesterday that I need the next several weeks off so I am now home.  Just hoping he can find a sub for all that time.

Other than the pain from radiation and the side effects from Steven’s last surgery, both of us are doing okay.  My hair is growing more and more every day.  I have a whole half inch now!  More exciting than that is I now have some eyebrows and eyelashes.  I have once again gotten out the mascara.  I'm very happy about that.  Steven's incision is healing very well and he is starting to get more feeling back.  The feeling returning to his arm is not all good at this point though.  He has a lot of pain in his left shoulder and arm.  He is currently undergoing physical therapy for it.  Hopefully it begins to feel better soon.

With all that our family has been going through the last couple of months I have noticed a gradual change in our marriage and in our family.  We have had to learn to rely on the Lord for everything.  Because of this Steven and I are closer than we have ever been, and I feel more qualified to teach things of the spirit to my girls.  I have noticed my relationship with my Father in Heaven and my Savior to be more profound.  I can feel myself being humbled and taught.  This has been a great blessing for me as well as our family.  Although I don't care for cancer, I am grateful for what I have learned and continue to learn because of the trials we are going through.  I am coming to understand the atonement better each day, though I still have much to learn.  I have such a great love for Jesus and my Heavenly Father.  I know that they love me and are aware of what my family and I are going through.  I feel as though I am being put through the refiners fire.  I know that in the end this will be for my good and my learning.  What a great blessing it is to have the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the blessings of eternal families.  The knowledge I have brings such peace to my soul.  

I again want to express my gratitude to everyone for their support, love and prayers.  Most of all I want to say thank you for the many acts of service by so many.  I am surrounded by angels.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Ready For The Next Step

Since I have finished chemo my family and I have taken a much needed vacation.  We were able to go on our own church history tour finished off by spending time with family in Utah.  First we went to Palmyra, New York to see the Cumorah Pagent, then to Niagra Falls (not really church history), then to Kirtland, Ohio, and finally to Nauvoo, where the Nauvoo Pagent was going on.  It was neat to see all these places and to be able to feel the Spirit.  To finish off the vacation at Bear Lake was perfect.  Now that we are home I am slowly recovering from our vacation.

Steven and I both have been busy getting ready for our next step in our treatments.  Steven went and met with his surgeon as well as his new endocrinologist.  We are both so glad he has switched doctors.  This new doctor has gained our confidence that he knows what he is doing.  Steven is scheduled for surgery to have a total lymph node removal on the left side of his neck on the 21st of this month.  Hopefully that will be all the cancer.  If there is still cancer they will do the radiation therapy again.  The one he had before was way too low of a dose for his cancer is what we have been told.  With all the bad doctoring by his last endocrinologist there is no way of knowing if the cancer was there before or if it is a recurrence.  Unfortunately the last doctor is not a part of UPMC so the current doctor does not have access to all her notes.  So we are pressing forward best we can.

I was able to do my simulation on Thursday for my radiation.  The position they had me in is very uncomfortable.  I have to hold that position for about 20 minutes every time I go in.  I start the actual radiation tomorrow morning and it will go for just under 6 weeks Monday through Friday.  I am told by the 3rd or 4th week it will begin to be painful.  I'm not looking forward to it.

Things are beginning to take their toll on both Steven and I.  It is getting harder to put on a brave face with all that is happening.  But we continue to try and do our best.  I think we are both just tired emotionally more than anything.  Sometimes it is hard to see the good things when we are in the midst of our trials.  I do have faith that this is for our learning and our good, but it is not always easy to have that frame of mind.  I'm grateful for the gospel and the scriptures that remind me of a loving Father in Heaven who knows us and has a plan for each of us.  I appreciate the prayers that have been given in our behalf and ask that you please continue them.

On a more positive note, my hair is growing.  I even went without my head scarf for most of church today.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Last Day of Chemo and Cancer Recurrence

For the last 9 months it seems as though Steven and I have been on a roller coaster.  With both of us being diagnosed with cancer only weeks apart we have been overwhelmed with what was to come.  I was diagnosed with breast cancer and soon had a very real plan of attack to beat this cancer.  It was taken very seriously by all.  No one told me I was lucky to have this type of cancer.  No one down graded my feelings and worries.  

I had surgery (a double mastectomy) right before Christmas.  I then started chemo at the end of January.  Today was my very last chemo treatment which is indeed a great cause for celebration.  I'm not at the end of my journey.  I still have 5 weeks of radiation and maybe reconstruction (not yet decided) in the near future.  But what I think is the worse, is behind me.  

Steven was diagnosed with what all called the "good" cancer.  He has been told how lucky he is to have this type of cancer.  His plan of attack was not a great concern to his doctors.  They figured he waited so long that what was the harm in waiting longer.  It was greatly downplayed by all concerned.  Both of us at first believed the doctors and their jubilant attitude of having the "good" cancer.  We thought this would be easy.  Another surgery to remove the rest of the thyroid then iodine radiation.  Easy Peasy!  Right???  Not so much.  Steven was diagnosed with Stage III Papillary Thyroid Cancer.  He went through the 2 surgeries and the iodine radiation.  His radiation was actually done only a few days before my first chemo treatment.  So he was in isolation while I was sick downstairs.  I got to say that was fun.  Not!!!  Since that time he has been on the roller coaster of ups and downs with his medication.  Getting it regulated has been stressful.  We are still not there.  His physical and emotional health has suffered greatly.  He has very little energy.  He suffers from fatigue and cannot seem to loose weight.  He has joined a support group and has learned quite a bit more about his cancer.  He has learned that there is more to be concerned about then what the doctor has led us to believe.  For the last few months Steven has experienced difficulty swallowing again.  He made the decision to see my oncologist (who is wonderful by the way).  After meeting with my oncologist an ultrasound was ordered where 2 suspicious lymph nodes were discovered and a biopsy ordered.  Today while sitting in the chemo chair for the last time I got the call from my sweet husband that he again has cancer.  What a day!  What frustrates me is his other doctor didn't want to do the biopsy because they rely solely on the blood tests and they looked great.  I'm upset with their lack of concern.  I'm tired of them blowing him off and the constant reminder that he has the "good" cancer.  This is NOT a good cancer.  There is no good cancer.  I wonder if the doctors realize what they are doing when they tell their patients this.  It belittles what is actually a big deal for the person with the cancer.  It also seems to lessen the concern on the medical side point.  It gets swept under the rug so to speak. 

Through our cancers I have been spoiled by those around me while my husband for the most part has been left on the side line.  Mostly his concern is for me.  But the more he learns about his cancer the more concerned he becomes about what is going on with him.  Now that I am beginning to learn more about his cancer I am becoming concerned as well.  My husband is precious to me.  He is my best friend, my confidant, my love.  His welfare is important to me.  I want him with me for a long time.  We have been blessed to be sealed in the LDS Temple in Ogden Utah for time and all eternity.  That is a comfort to me, but I'm not ready to be left here without him for a time.  

The recurrence of cancer is scary.  We don't know for sure how far it has spread and how serious this is going to be.  But I'm hoping that the doctors will wake up and realize that this is real and we are scared.  Don't tell us this is the "good" cancer.  It is far from the "good" cancer.  It has changed our lives.  Our life seems to be all about cancer right now.  It is hard to see past that.  We are effected daily by it.  

Today has been both a good and bad day.  I finished my chemo which is reason to celebrate.  I'm so happy that I don't have to do this again.  I'm ready for the side effects to dissipate.  I'm ready for the full head of hair and eyebrows that don't have to be drawn on.  I'm ready be able to go to bead without my toes driving me crazy from the burning and itching.  I'm ready to be able to walk without getting tired so fast.  

Renea (my sister-n-law) got me a cake to celebrate today and Steven and Katie (my daughter) got me some flowers.  I had a wonderful friend, Christine, take me to my chemo.  I love it when Christine takes me.  She is so upbeat and I feel myself with her.  I have come to love so many in my ward the last 9 months.  I am amazed at their willingness to love and serve.  I have gotten to know many of the Sisters in my ward and they will be my forever friends.  This evening the girls were all excited to celebrate with me by having the yummy cake.  

The news of Steven's cancer recurrence has of coarse damped that experience.  But we will continue to fight.  We are not giving up.  We will beat these cancers!
Although we struggle with the physical aspect of all of this we also have recognized our blessings.  We have been surrounded by angels, both those temporal and spiritual.  I can feel them and their love for us.  I know that in the end all will be well.  But the road is a hard one.  At times it can be overwhelming.  Yesterday was fast and testimony meeting at church.  I felt the desire to go and share my testimony, but let my youngest who was pretending to be asleep in my arms keep my in my seat.  But I want all who read this to know how grateful I am for the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Because of the knowledge I have of the atonement I have peace.  I love my Father in Heaven and want to do all that is right that I may someday return to him.  I hope to exemplify those around me that serve so selflessly.  They are true disciples of Christ.  I love my Savior and older brother, Jesus Christ.  I am so grateful for his love and atoning sacrifice for me.  I hope that I can follow his example and have charity for all.  I am so grateful to be surrounded by spiritual giants.  Your testimonies have strengthened me and your example of love, service and sacrifice astounds me.  Our family has been greatly blessed.  

I want to shout out to all my sisters in this fight.  Your willingness to share your experience has boosted me.  You are all so amazing!  We are not alone.  I am coming to understand the often seen phrase of fighting cancer.  Before I didn't feel like a fighter, just someone who had to do what I didn't want to have to do.  But today I feel that I am a fighter.  I still have a long road ahead as well as my husband.  But we are fighters.  We will come out the other side better and stronger.  We will come out the other side more compassionate and filled with more love for those around us.  We will come out the other side more Christ like.  And it is because of the examples you have set.  Thank you and may God Bless you all!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Finding My Self Worth

I have 6 more Taxol treatments and I will be done with chemo.  Hopefully for good!

Although the Taxol isn't as harsh as what is known as the reds (Adriamycin & Cytoxan), it has it's own slew of side effects.  Not only are there side effects from the Taxol, but from the pre-meds given me every week.  Some of these side effects are harder on me than others.  I am finding the more treatments I have the more fatigue I have.  My legs and feet ache and I find walking far exhausts me. The temporary menopause with its accompanying hot flashes are awful.  Weight gain is also an unexpected side effect.  This is from the steroids I'm given before the Taxol.  This causes an increased appetite with weight gain.  I can't seem to get full.  I'm constantly hungry.  This is more of a psychological issue for me than anything.  Unfortunately at times this effects how I see myself.  There are times I fail to see my true worth.  I fall under Satan's power much of the time and find myself pitying myself and looking at myself with self-loathing.  My hair has started to grow and it is in a phase where it makes my head look like an old man.  The extra weight, with the mostly bald head and lack of breasts sometimes takes it's tole on me.  I forget at times that these things aren't what's important.

I find myself in constant prayer asking my Heavenly Father to help me not feel this way, I know deep down that I am of great worth and my womanhood is not dependent upon physical things.  I have been blessed beyond measure with a loving husband who finds me beautiful no matter what.  I have wonderful children.  They bring so much joy into my life.  I love being their mother.  Other than a few side effects, I'm handling the chemo well.  I am beating this cancer.  I am surrounded by wonderful people who are constantly there for my family.  I have a testimony of my Savior.  This brings me much peace and comfort.  I am very blessed.

So why do I let the negative aspects effect me so.  I know what truly matters, and it's not the physical.  I know that there are many that struggle with their self image.  This is one of Satan's tools to destroy us.   It is hard not to look back at what used to be when you have lost so much.  It is hard to see the eternal perspective of things.  One day all will be made right.  We will be made whole again because of the atonement of Jesus Christ.  He went through all so we could have the promise of eternal life with our Father in Heaven.  He laid the path for us.  We just need to have faith and accept Him.
What a wonderful plan our Father in Heaven has for us.  He loves each of us so much.  He knows us individually and desires for us to be happy.  He knows that things will not always be easy for us, that we have our sorrows and hardships.  I am so grateful for him providing a Savior for us.  I am so grateful for having the gospel in my life.  What a great blessing!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Walk In The Park

I am so thrilled about how well I am feeling after this new chemo treatment.  The nurses weren't kidding when they said that the Taxol would be a walk in the park compared to the other drugs.  I feel great.  The only side effects I have experienced are from the premeds they gave me.  Of coarse they still had to give me the steroids which I begged the doctor not to.  This always gives me a bad headache.  They gave me Tylenol for that which worked well to take the edge off.  They also gave me an iv bag full of benadryl.  This pretty much knocked me out for the rest of the day.  I drove myself to my appointment so needed to be extra careful driving home with that in my system.  Other than being really tired I haven't had any issues.  NO NAUSEA!!!  How awesome is that that?  That means no nausea pills which comes with their own set of side effects, constipation being the worse of them.

Our home teachers came over Sunday night and helped Steven give me a blessing.  We were concerned about getting chemo due to me being currently ill.  Steven had the flu over the weekend and gave me a taste of it, though not as bad as he had it.  Sunday I was still feeling pretty awful.  It was indeed a miracle to wake up Monday morning with little more than a sniffle.  I could get my chemo and be okay, which means no set backs.  The priesthood is a wonderful thing.  I am so grateful for the worthy priesthood holders in my life.

Monday, April 20, 2015


A few days ago my youngest daughter came up to me pretty upset.  I asked her what was wrong and her answer surprised me.  She does not want to go to second grade.  She does not think she is ready.  Although I believe this to be a pretty common fear among young kids in school, it made me reflect on my year as a mother to my girls.  I had to ask the question, have I been there as I should have for them?  This contemplation has brought me quite a bit of self-reflection.  How often have I been so wrapped up in my own worries that I have neglected to look outside myself and see the bigger picture?

Being a mother is one of the biggest and most rewarding opportunities given me.  I love being a mother.  My children have brought so much joy into my life.  So why have I put my responsibilities to them as a mother on a back burner? 

Yes, I have cancer, but have I let cancer become my life?  Looking back on these last several months since the diagnosis I would have to answer this question with a resounding “YES”.  This makes me sad for all those around me.  I have let cancer take over my life.  I have let it limit me in what I do.  I am ashamed to say that I have been playing the cancer card way too often. 

The truth is, I’m not limited.  I have more good days than bad.  So why have I stopped living my life?  I really can’t answer that question.  I honestly don’t know why.  But due to my neglect in my everyday duties, (being a wife and mother) my children are paying a price.

I neglect to help them with their homework everyday as I should.  I am often sending my older girls to do the reading with Brianna.  I am not as loving with my husband as I should be due to my own insecurities.  I have become a pretty lousy housekeeper, as one can attest just walking into my home.

I keep being told that the experiences I am having due to cancer will help me to bless others.  My thoughts seem to be that yes, this may help me to “someday” be able to bless others.  But then I feel guilty.  Why only someday?  Why not today?  There is so much that I can do to bless others’ lives.  But first I need to dig myself out of this hole that is all about me.

Do others find themselves feeling this way?  I’m sure they do.  When going through trials it is hard to see past that trial.  But I think the blessing are there more fully if we can look past ourselves and do something good for another. 

I can’t help but think of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  He had more trials than any of us.  He was persecuted, spit upon, whipped and scourged.  He suffered immensely in the Garden of Gethsemane and was ultimately crucified.  But his deeds and thoughts were not for himself. They were for you and me.  He loved all unconditionally.  He forgave unconditionally.  He did all for others, not himself.  We could not ask for a better example than him.

I wish to be more like my Savior.  Looking past myself for just a moment to see those who are in need of what I can do for them.  Although I am going through some pretty rough things right now, I am still me.  I still have the capacity to love and serve.  My own personal trial shouldn't be an excuse to not think of others.  If anything my hardships should make me more compassionate, not someday, but today.  I have been blessed by so many in my life.  Others are continually coming to my aid.  I am beyond grateful for that.
Today I start a new round of chemo.  I am nervous about the side effects, but I am told that this next drug will be a walk in the park compared to the last.  So no more excuses.  If anything, I can be there more for my husband and my children.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Can Only Go Downhill From Here.... Right?

The worst is behind me!  I did it.  I finished the Adriamycin and the Cytoxan.  The Adriamycin was pretty potent with lots of bad side effects that I’m ready to have out of my system.  I have a three week recovery period and then I start the Taxol.  This chemo drug will be administered once a week for twelve weeks.  Then happily I will be completely done with my chemo. 
The Taxol I am told will be a “walk in the park” compared to what I have been given.  The only down side is that it’s every week.  I have no idea how I will react to it.  I’m truly hoping that nausea won’t be one of my side effects even though it’s considered to be a possible side effect.  Pray for me that it won’t be.  I can handle the fatigue, especially with all the wonderful sisters in my ward that visit me.
I’m so amazed at the love and service my family has received.  I have found so much comfort in those I am surrounded by.  Stronger friendships have been made and I have come to love all of them.  Thank you for that.  You are an answer to my prayers. 
I got to visit from a friend yesterday shortly after getting home from chemo.  She shared a story with Steven and I of another families trials and the testimony that was shared.  She also shared with us how others view our family at this time as being strong and an inspiration to others.  I then expressed to her my feelings.  I mentioned how most only see that side because I try my best to be positive around others.  There are so many times when I am alone that I become down.  I have those dark times where I see myself in the mirror and see only an ugly mess.  What I always took for granted before is gone.  I see ugly scars on my chest where there used to be breasts.  I feel like a drag queen when I put on my makeup and sometimes wonder “what’s the point”.  I have started losing my eyebrows and eyelashes.  This has been another blow for me.  These feeling bring me down and I know they are not what my Heavenly Father sees, nor wants me to see.  When I am surrounded by others who are filled with love for me, they do not see my lack of chest or lack of hair.  They see me.  And I am uplifted and renewed.
In Young Women’s we recite the Young Women theme every week.  It starts off with this;   “We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him.”  What a great reminder for all of us.  We are all his beloved children.  He looks on the heart, not our scars.  I am extremely blessed to be surrounded by those that exemplify this attribute of our Heavenly Father and of Jesus Christ.  They see my heart not my deformities.  They are all truly angles.

I want to say a big Thank you to everyone for the prayers and words of encouragement.  I could not do this without you.  I love you all and appreciated the continued prayers on both mine and my families account.  Keep them coming.  I need them.