Misplaced Hope

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Last week, a friend of mine (who also is battling cancer) experienced some disappointment over her lab numbers, and she reached out to let a few of us know.  In her text she mentioned that in revealing her sadness to us, she was exposing that her hope had been misplaced.

Misplaced hope.

For whatever reason, that phrase stuck in my head and I’ve been replaying what that means over and over again for days.  What my friend meant was that she had put so much hope into having the right lab numbers for chemo (as a patient, your labs must reach a certain number in order for you to have chemotherapy), that when hers came back as less than desirable she was disappointed.  Well, I said to myself, ‘Who wouldn’t be?!’.

But then it got me thinking about hope.  I dare say that all of us put our hope into things that are unpredictable, ever changing, and not secure.  Whether that be our house, our belongings, our health, our careers, our kid’s success, our appearance, our finances, etc.  All of these things are so temporary and can be compromised in a split second.  Just look at the news.  My heart is broken for those in Houston, Port Arthur & Beaumont who have just felt the wrath of Hurricane Harvey (click here for ways to help).  And for those (specifically my sister in law and her family from Tampa) who are bracing for Irma.  The devastation alone is almost too much for our human minds to process.

But last week, LAST WEEK, my heart was broken into even more pieces.  My husband’s cousin lost his precious wife in a car accident.  Emily was just 37 years old and an incredible mother to SIX incredible children (two of whom were adopted at birth).  And just like that, so many lives were changed forever.  Trevor and I went to Kansas this weekend to be with the family.  Just sitting in the midst of such sadness made me wrestle even more with the concept of hope.  Trying to comprehend the pain her husband, mother, father and brother are feeling is next to impossible.  But Emily knew Jesus, and that definitely acts as a salve to the wounds of everyone she loved and left here on earth.  Her husband, Matt, knows that she is in heaven with the Lord, all the while HE IS GRIEVING.  But he is not grieving like the rest of mankind who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).  His hope is in something predictable, unchanging and totally secure.  His hope is in the Lord, REGARDLESS of circumstances.  (“But now, Lord, where do I put my hope?  My only hope is in you.” Psalm 39:7).

I say all of this not to depress you.  (I realize this post is very different from my others and I might should insert a pic of me in the cold cap for levity about now.)  On the contrary, I say this to encourage you that there is someone out there worthy of our hope.  Living with cancer and all of its ugly has changed the way I feel about bad things.  Bad things (and sometimes very bad things), hurtful things, and painful things happen.  Life is hard.  That is a fact and something that is mentioned in the Bible several times (Psalm 34:17-19; 2 Corinthians 12:10; 2 Corinthians 4:8-9; I Peter 5:10; Romans 8:35-39; John 14:27; 2 Corinthians 6:3-5; 2 Timothy 2:3; James 1:2-4).  But if I continue to place my hope in circumstances that are beyond my control or things of this world, I will be disappointed a lot.

We are not promised a beautiful life filled with only good things.  But we ARE promised a relationship with the God of hope if we choose. Isaiah 40:31 says, “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on the wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  How amazing is that?!  This same God of hope is the one using YOU to send me cards to let me know you are praying for me.  He is using YOU to give me hugs and send me funny texts.  He is using YOU to drive my kids all over town.  He is using YOU to deliver hope to me on a daily basis.  The kind of hope that is unexplainable during difficult times.

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Words fail me at a time like this when I feel engulfed in bad news.  I wish I could just put my heart on this paper (screen) instead.  My heart, even in the midst of sadness, is full.  It is hopeful in spite of my diagnosis.  It is filled with compassion for others who are brokenhearted.  It sees life differently after walking this journey.  It yearns for others to know the God I know.  Because when bad things happen, God still provides indescribable hope.  He is preparing us for something even greater than life here on earth.

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Tomorrow I will be heading to Baylor to have my blood work drawn and to see the doctor in preparation for chemo #3 on Tuesday morning (September 12th).  I shared in a previous post that I was concerned about a spot on my leg.  Well, it was confirmed to be a squamous cell carcinoma (a fancy way of saying skin cancer).  Since then, a few more spots have popped up and I had another biopsy done of one spot that was only an inch away from the first.  This one was also a squamous cell carcinoma.  I have cried and cried about these crazy spots and what chemo might or might not be doing to wreak even more havoc on my already weak body (I will try to get more answers tomorrow during my appointment).  But I am confident that the Lord will continue to remind me to not misplace my hope in my health improving or my body getting stronger, but instead to fix my eyes on Him no matter what comes my way.

“For my eyes are toward you, O God, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless.”  Psalm 141:8

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  2 Corinthians 4:18

Thank YOU for helping me remember that as well.

Please join me in praying for all of those affected by the hurricanes, for my fellow cancer fighters (Amy, Heather, Stephanie, Susan, Kay, Angela, Ed, Sterling, Leslie, Beverly, Louise, Patrick and so many others) and especially for Emily’s family.  We ALL need hope.  Pray that we have the courage to place that hope in something everlasting.

Until next time…much love to you all & make every day count,

Jamie

PS: Gosh, that post was SO SERIOUS.  Sometimes I just get on a roll.  I couldn’t let you go without a laugh, however, so I’ll leave you with this…IMG_6721.JPG

Bring it, #3!

A Shed Above the Rest

Round #2 of chemotherapy is complete, and I could not be more grateful!!  This means I am halfway through treatment and the expression below pretty much sums up how I feel about that.

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Actually, that may have been the Ativan talking.  But you get the picture.

God has given me everything I need to be able to sustain this challenging journey (Philippians 4:19), and a huge part of that is your continued prayers.  Thank you so very much for your calls, texts, cards, comments, food, errand running, carpools, love, support and encouragement.  You literally are the conduit through which the Lord provides peace and endurance to me on a daily basis.  I hope you know that even if I don’t respond, I read every single thing that pops up on my phone.  Your words are life-giving.

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Round two was similar to round one in that it sucked (sorry, mom, I know that’s not lady like).  The actual chemo portion is not bad at all – it’s mainly just the cold capping that bites the big one (to which I have to remind myself that I SIGNED UP FOR THAT).  To have a frozen head for 7-8 hours in one day is something I pray you all never have to experience.  Sandy, my cold capping angel, swaps out these frosty caps every 20-25 minutes for up to 8 hours on the day of treatment.  And every single time a new cap is placed upon my head, it stings/burns for approximately 2 minutes until my head freezes and goes numb.  Never have I ever related so much to a Disney character as I do to poor Elsa. #frozen

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Oh how I wish I could LET IT GO.

Thankfully, my amazing gaggle of friends and family rallied around me again at the hospital and provided much needed comic relief and distraction throughout this process.    Molly, my dear friend from College Station (and the one who accompanied me to MD Anderson) drove in to hang with me for awhile which I greatly appreciated.

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It’s so hard to explain how all of this works, so unless you are there in person I don’t feel like you really appreciate my complaining!!!  😉

My other sweet friends and family floated in and out throughout the day and brought new conversation and life to the ‘party’ each hour (steph and Jen I’m sorry we didn’t get a pic!).  What a blessing these people are in my life.

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And then there are people like YOU.  The ones not pictured above, but bringing me meals or running my kids to and from school and practices.  The one leaving me precious gifts on my doorstep or sending heartfelt cards or texts.  It takes EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU to get me through this and I want you to know that you are just as appreciated even if you aren’t pictured!!!!!

The side effects of this round have been much better but also much different.  Sweet Dr. O’Shaughnessy had so much compassion for my horrendous bone pain last time that she allowed me to only receive 1/2 dose of the Neulasta this time around.  That has significantly decreased my bone pain and there has only been one night that it has awakened me thus far which is a HUGE improvement from last time.  Thank you Jesus!  I might actually feel like snuggling Trevor on the couch in a day or two.

Other side effects are numbness and tingling of my toes (neuropathy), weakness, insomnia (I NEVER EVER thought I’d be wide awake watching Mayweather and Mcgregor duke it out until 1am with no yawning like a boss), and hair loss.  Yes, my hair continues to fall out (again, still to be expected even with the crazy cold cap) every single minute of the day.  This, for some reason, has been the hardest on me.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m working so hard the day of chemo to prevent this and it doesn’t feel like it’s working, or if I’m just really vain and I didn’t know it!!!  I have to wear a hat everywhere, and fear that if the Royals saw me these days they might label me a “try hard”.FullSizeRender.jpg-3.jpeg

 

But I assure you I am not.  So please give me grace if you see me around in my fedora…I’m NOT trying to be fancy.  I’m just trying to conceal the nappiness that atops my head at present moment.  You are WELCOME.

And even though I make jokes about this in my blog, I am in tears as I type.  We reached an all time low this morning when, before church, my middle son announced that he had found my hair in his cinnamon rolls (SO GROSS).  He didn’t stop there, however.  He suggested I get a hairnet when making breakfast from now on.  And he wasn’t kidding.  I don’t know about you, but I think even Kate Middleton might have a hard time pulling this off.

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The emotional toll (due in part to the physical toll) of cancer related things is brutal.  And today is one of those days.  I dare say that Golden Retrievers would even be jealous of my shedding.  Supposedly this slows down (please dear LORD), but please pray for me (and the cinnamon rolls) to tolerate this nasty side effect.

On a positive note, I felt good enough to participate in some school activities last week (pep rally, first day of school for my oldest, football scrimmage, meet the teacher, etc.).  I do not take those things for granted anymore and have a new appreciation for the privilege to be involved.  I have some great pics of these events, but my teenagers have put the kibosh on me posting pictures of them so I will refrain (for now at least).  (Don’t they know their mom posts pics of herself in a COLD CAP for crying out loud?!).

So now we wait.  In a few days, I will feel back to normal Lord willing and will have 2 good weeks of that.  My next treatment is September 12th, which happens to be a few days before my awesome husband’s birthday.  And I think I have the perfect gift for him.

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Until next time…much love to you all & make every day count,

Jamie

 

Gearing Up for Chemo Round #2

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I’ve joked a lot about how most of my significant cancer related events have fallen on or around a special occasion whether that be a birthday, anniversary or holiday.  If we count the much hyped solar eclipse that happened today (which I still can’t figure out if I thought it was cool or if I feel like a SUCH A SUCKER for purchasing the $12 eclipse glasses for approximately 10-20 seconds of viewing pleasure) as one of those, then the tradition continues.

 

Tomorrow (August 22) I will undergo round #2 of chemotherapy.  With the anniversary of Jen’s death earlier this month (thank you ALL for your sweet comments and texts), I didn’t feel up to writing about the side effects of round #1.  But I will tell you that it was not fun.  My oncologist told me that a possible side effect of the type of chemo I am undergoing is bone pain.  To which I thought in my head, ‘What is bone pain?!’.  Ladies and gentlemen, now I know.  It was truly excruciating and lasted for a good 5-7 days.  At one point, I considered going to the ER because I couldn’t get it under control (the disclaimer being I wasn’t willing to try narcotics because they make me nauseous).  But then I had a conversation with the nurse and she told me it was normal.  NORMAL. Super. (I say with complete and utter sarcasm.)  This bone pain is due to a shot they give me called ‘Neulasta‘.

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It’s sole purpose is to have my bone marrow work overtime to create healthy white blood cells to fight off infection.  I kept telling myself that at least the shot must be working if I felt so badly.   That worked for about the first minute then I would start complaining again.  I was waiting for the moment when Trevor and I would cozy up on the couch and interlock arms like the couple above but it never happened.  And you know why?!  Cause these people are ACTORS and I can guarantee this lady never received an actual shot.  If she did, her man would be doing this instead:

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Thankfully after chemo, I never got full out nauseated, but was conflicted all the time about whether food would settle my stomach or make everything worse.  I never figured that one out. And there were a few other expected side effects like fatigue, but it’s hard to tell if that’s chemo or just being in my 40’s and raising 3 kids in the dead of August.

A full week after treatment, I was definitely inching my way closer to MY normal and feeling great. I exercised, got some house chores done that I’d put off for months, grocery shopped and watched two of my boys scrimmage in football.  But these last few days, I have started losing my hair.  This is to be expected – even with cold capping – but it is still very unsettling.  The hardest part is that it’s a visual reminder of what I’m dealing with even though I’ve felt so good the past 2 weeks.  Ugh.  Please pray for me to be patient with this aspect.  With a mastectomy, I’ve already had to cross an emotional hurdle and in some ways this feels like another one.  I REALLY like being a girl but feel like some parts of that are being stripped away during this process.  I guess the good news is that in this day and age I can use any bathroom I please regardless of my physical appearance.

Today, I went for another inflation.  The reason being that the days immediately preceding chemo is when I’m at my healthiest and at the least risk of infection.  My friend Jenny drove Stephanie and I to Dr. Potter’s office this morning and boy, were my sweet friends in for a big surprise.  As we say in Texas, bless their hearts.  This process is not for the faint of heart, as mentioned in previous blog posts, but they handled it like champs.

FullSizeRender.jpg-4.jpeg And I’m just gonna say, what happens in Dr. Potter’s office, stays in Dr. Potter’s office.

Lastly, for the record, I noticed a crazy spot on my leg yesterday and then today realized it had changed in color.  I went to the dermatologist to be safe and they decided to take a biopsy because of the way it looked.  I should know those results in about 7 business days.  If ever I felt vibrant, feminine and healthy, this is NOT the time.  The Lord is working on patience in my life and on trusting Him at every turn.

So tomorrow, I start the cycle all over again.  I know this is THE place to ask for your prayers.  I felt them last time and am looking forward to having them carry me through again this go round.  It will be a long day and I’m grateful for a team of friends and family who are rallying around me and keeping me company.  I loved receiving all of your texts and comments last time and appreciate your encouragement more than you know.

And to my precious cancer friends, Lezley and Alyson, who have been through this, thank you for your thoughtful gifts today!!!  I could not do this without you!

IMG_6934.JPG.jpegIMG_6938.JPG.jpegUntil next time…much love to you all & make every day count,

Jamie

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  Romans 12:12

PS: Is it sad that this makes me feel like I didn’t waste $12?  #totallyworthit #sorrydodger

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A Life That Saved Mine

One year ago today, I lost a huge piece of my heart.  My friend, Jennifer Clouse, went to be with our Lord and Savior after a long battle with breast cancer on the morning of August 9, 2016.

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I met Jennifer in the 6th grade at First Baptist Academy and we remained thick as thieves for 33 years.  Even as I write that, I feel like it was more like 80 years.  The depth of our friendship truly encompassed real, raw, unedited versions of our selves.  She knew everything about me, and I knew everything about her.  Jen was loud and boisterous and a BLAST to be around.  There was never a dull moment in her presence.  She could make me laugh so hard that it would take me hours to recover.  And even up until her final days, she could shock me with her unfiltered commentary.  Jen and I had the type of friendship that resembled sisters, in that we didn’t have to pretend to be nice when we didn’t feel like it.  We were completely comfortable sharing our opinions with one another even if they were at odds.  The beautiful thing about that, however, was that we ALWAYS, and I mean ALWAYS, knew that our love for each other was unconditional.  We were tender with one another’s emotions and fiercely protected each other when hurt came our way.  We laughed and cried so much together on our journey that I think those emotions eventually melded into one.  Last July (18th to be exact), my friends Amy, Angela and I celebrated Amy’s birthday with Jen in the hospital.  (We have all been friends since junior high.)  It was one of the last times that Jen was really Jen.  We visited for 2 hours and had the best time, which was not unusual for us.

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Shortly after this, Jen slowed down quite a bit and became very lethargic.  I had one or two more good conversations with her after this day, but this one is the one that is permanently imprinted on my heart.

It seemed only fitting that one of her last best days was spent surrounded by the peeps that had been there since the days of overindulgent hair spray and hideously bad bangs.

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I’m so thankful for the memories we made along the way, and cherish every single one.

Because of Jen’s journey, lives are being changed.  Not only spiritually (that’s another post for another time), but also physically.  After Jen died, I became extremely diligent about self breast exams.  Something I had never done in the past.  And when I found a lump in April 2017, I didn’t sit around wondering if I should or shouldn’t go see a doctor.  I went immediately, knowing what a cruel and unpredictable enemy we might be dealing with.  Sure enough, I was diagnosed shortly afterwards with breast cancer.  And since my diagnosis, at least two other women I know were prompted to have mammograms and have since been diagnosed.  I feel that because of Jennifer and her story, my cancer was found early and I will most likely live a long and normal life.  As will these other brave women.  It may be a leap to you, but I know that the dynamic and enthusiastic girl I met when I was just eleven years old not only saved my life, but the lives of so many others as well.

So many of you have been tenderhearted enough to grasp the surreal nature of this experience, and you ask how I am doing.  Honestly, I can’t help but question what the Lord’s plan is for all of this.  I can’t wrap my brain around it.  Since February 2012 when Jen was originally diagnosed, I have walked this cancer journey with her.   That’s five long years for those of you who are not good at math.  I’m tired of doctor’s visits.  I’m really not equipped to endure these awful side effects of chemo.  And I don’t understand why, so soon on the heels of Jennifer’s death, I still have a daily reminder of how vicious cancer can be.

Thankfully, however, I know the Lord.  And while I may be baffled by my own life’s circumstances, I do rest in the fact that He is faithful (2 Thessalonians 3:3).  He sees infinitely more than I could ever see (Isaiah 55:8).  He calls me to trust in Him and not in my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).  He already knows how this story will bring HIM glory (I Corinthians 10:31), and I’m confident in His ways despite my endless confusion.

My friend, Catherine, sent me this verse the other day and I felt like it conveyed all that I am feeling.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but NOT CRUSHED; perplexed, but NOT IN DESPAIR; persecuted, but NOT ABANDONED; struck down, but NOT DESTROYED.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the LIFE of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.”  2 Corinthians 4:7-10

NOT CRUSHED, NOT IN DESPAIR, NOT ABANDONED, and NOT DESTROYED.

These are not only powerful words, but they are the TRUTH.  Jennifer knew it and preached it all the time.  And now it is my turn to rely on that truth amidst these crazy circumstances.

I miss my friend every single day.  I’m sad that she’s not here to cheer me on and lift me up with her bald bitmoji she would so frequently text.

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I wish so badly I could let her know that now I ‘get’ so many of the things she said and did over the last few years.  I have such a newfound respect for everything she endured now that I’m the one sitting in the chemo chair.  In short, my cancer journey has only made me appreciate even more what I believed to be true about Jen – she was a strong, vibrant, tough, sensitive, passionate soul.  And I’m thankful for the promise that I will get to see her in heaven again one day.  What a glorious reunion that will be.

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So TODAY I celebrate the life of a girl well lived.  A life punctuated by all things Jesus.  And a life that saved mine.

Until next time…much love to you all & make every single day count,

Jamie (aka B)

How Great Thou Art 

“We grieve, but not in the same way as those who have no hope…” I Thessalonians 4:13

 

Ice, Ice Baby

Well, I completed my first round of chemo yesterday and it went a lot better than I expected.   Thank you so much for all of your prayers, calls, texts, etc.  It brings such a sense of comfort to know so many people are thinking of me during such a crucial and scary time.

As I mentioned yesterday, Kim flew in from Boston to be with me for my first treatment and I could not be more grateful.  Kim has FOUR boys at home, and we can all appreciate how difficult it is to leave your kids during the summer to spend a few days away from home.  A big shout out to her husband, Bob, for holding down the fort (and for sending us JD’s Chippery cookies!), as well as Kim’s friends (hey Jenn!) in Boston for carrying her load so she can carry mine.  I’m so grateful for my friends.

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My posse also included Trevor, my mom & sisters, Amy & Angela, Casey, Courtney, Stephanie and sweet Jane.  Overkill?!  YOU BET.  And I loved every minute of it.

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We arrived at the hospital around 10:30am where I immediately went to get my blood drawn and saw Freda, Dr. O’ Shaughnessy’s physician’s assistant.  We also had the bonus of seeing Jen‘s nurse, Christina, and her oncologist, Dr. Osborne.  They came out to the waiting room for a visit, which was bittersweet at best.  Lots of tears ensued, but thankfully we had our JD’s Chippery cookies to dry us up.

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None of this process has been easy emotionally given the constant reminders from Jen’s days at Baylor.  But there is a sweetness to it all in the way that it almost feels like she’s there with us in spirit, as we sit in all the same chairs, say hi to all the same nurses, and laugh at all the same jokes.  Oh how we miss our Jen.

After the blood draw and doctor’s visit, I went down to floor 3 to sign in for chemo.  We were met there by Sandy from Chemo Cold Caps.  Sandy is what I like to call my “cap concierge”.  She was an angel and got every ready for me as soon as I arrived.  Sandy is a cancer survivor and had actually been a customer of CCC prior to being hired by them.  She has the most beautiful long blonde healthy hair now and served as a great motivator for me throughout the day to keep that stinking cap on!

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As soon as I was called back, Sandy began to work her magic and put the first cap on when I sat down in my chemo chair.  She put on a clear shower cap first, then the actual cold cap, then this HUGE silver lame insulated chef hat on top of all of that.  It was just as attractive and comfortable as it sounds.

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And no, you aren’t the first person to reference the character, Toad, on Mario Kart as my doppelgänger.

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Now to appreciate just how cold this sucker was, this is how the caps were packed in dry ice before being placed on my head.

IMG_6685.JPG.jpegThis picture was taken before we actually filled the remaining void spaces with dry ice pellets and added the second rack of caps numbers 4, 5 & 6.

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I kept thinking this song would come on every single time we opened that cooler…

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To which I would reply, ‘Too Cold, Too Cold’.

To add insult to injury, the nurse suggested that I also put my fingers and toes in ice while I was given the drug, Taxotere, to combat the possibility of neuropathy.  It was all I could do to not bust out with ‘Cool it Now-ow’, New Edition style (thanks for the GIF, Chris Bone!).  Seriously????? More ice?

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Thank goodness I only had to do that part for an hour.  The caps, however, lasted from 1pm until 9pm – getting swapped out every 15-25 minutes.  Sandy mentioned that the first 2-3 minutes of the cap were the worst.  Naively, I thought she meant just the first cap.  But, alas, it was the first 2-3 minutes of EVERY SINGLE CAP.  20 of them.  Nice.  It was only through YOUR prayers that I made it through.  Thank you so much!!!!

Today, I’m not feeling so great and honestly I feel like a wimp.  I thought I’d at least make it to day 3 or 4 before feeling crummy.  I guess you could say I’m an overachiever.  But I was happy when Courtney texted me this morning and asked if she could take me up to the hospital to see Stephanie before her surgery.  I knew I couldn’t drive myself because of the drugs I’m on, so this was a treat for sure.

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Steph is now out of surgery and we are praising the Lord it was a success!!  I envision that by Friday we will be having a pajama party and watching movies all day together.  The perks of having a cancer buddy.

To express my gratitude to all of you in words seem impossible.  The best way I know how is to say thanks for being so ‘Nice, Nice, Baby’.  You have shown me love that I’ve never experienced before, and I pray that I will be able to pay that forward someday.  The Lord is GOOD even in the midst of difficulty, sorrow, confusion, pain and sadness.  I have experienced it first hand and hope that through this blog you might be able to as well.

Until next time…much love to you all & make every day count!!

Jamie

PS: A HUGE thank you to Kathy for keeping Hayes this week, Catherine, Laura, Erin, and Courtney for getting Hunter to and from Drivers Ed, and Casey and Michelle for making sure Hudson gets to his 2 a days for football.  I’m SO SO SO grateful for all of your help!!!

“Give Praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done.”  Psalm 105:1

 

Chemo Starts Tomorrow, August 1st

We just returned from an amazing time away with family and I have to thank my incredible husband for making it all happen.  He went above and beyond to create lasting memories for our crew so that over the next few months when I’m hooked up to machines at the hospital I’ll have those to dwell on.  I’m so grateful to have a spouse who is ALL IN and who gets it.

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FullSizeRender.jpgIt’s those sweet smiling faces that will help me get through the next phase of this journey.   Tomorrow, August 1st, begins my chemo journey.  I don’t know how I really feel about it yet because I’m still unpacking and washing clothes from our trip. What a blessed distraction.  But I do know that as soon as Trevor and I got home today (thanks for picking us up at the airport, mom!), we hit the ground running to pick up my ‘cold caps’ and get a tutorial on how to use them.  Now we ALL know that re-entry after family vacation is tough (can I get an amen, moms?), but picking up THIS upon my return to Dallas makes me think I’ve reached an all time low in that department.

 

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Nothing says ‘Welcome Home’ like a cooler filled with cold caps and a goodie bag.  Yippee.  I’m just praying I don’t look in that bag and find a t-shirt that says, ‘I went through chemo and all I got was this lousy shirt.’

My sister, Jennifer, was kind enough to go pick up the dry ice required to fill the chemo cold cap cooler with before we got home today.

IMG_5473.JPG.jpegNo one told her it would be in a warehouse with loads of truckers.  Not even me.  Good thing she fit right in.  Then they told her they were out of pellets and she’d have to go to a different dry ice company. They warned her that it was in a sketchy part of town, however, then gave her the address.  Jen giggled when she figured out it was in the neighborhood where we grew up (shout out to the OC).  If being sketchy is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

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When Jen sent me this pic of the second location, however, I tried not to panic.  Here I am thinking that the whole process I’ve pinned my hopes on to save my hair is in the hands of the BACON EQUIPMENT CO., which apparently also sells Fire Extinguishers.  If worse comes to worse, at least I know I won’t go hungry or suffer from severe burns.

All that to say is that my Chemo Cold Cap cooler now has two new friends (the other one is behind my dog, who has literally not left my side since I got home which is another story for another time) filled with dry ice for tomorrow.

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My house looks like it is one cooler shy of chaperoning a kindergarten field trip to the zoo complete with sack lunches.  IF.ONLY.

The schedule for tomorrow looks like this:

10:30 – blood draw

11:00 – appointment with oncologist

11:30 – chemo process begins (this should last approximately 3-4 hours total)

During chemo, my cap will be changed out appoximately every 20 minutes (each time with a new freezing cap – YIKES).  After I finish chemo, I will need to continue cold capping for 4 hours afterwards.  So tomorrow’s pretty much going to stink, let’s be honest.

But the Lord has been faithful thus far, and I expect nothing less tomorrow.  Just today my friend Aly left this on my front porch in preparation for the next chapter of my story.  IMG_5081.JPG

Yes, it made me bawl like a baby.  But it also just touched my heart in the deepest way possible.  I wish so badly Jen was here to sit with me tomorrow, just as I had done with her so many times.  But just as the blanket says, I WILL fight in her memory and I WILL beat this thing.  And I know 100% the Lord will give me everything I need to do so.  Like friends just like Aly.

I would love for you to pray for me if you think of it tomorrow.  The chemo process is bound to not only be physically difficult, but also emotionally difficult.  Thankfully, my family and a few friends will be going with me to Baylor.  My best friend from Boston, Kim, also flew in just to be here for tomorrow.  I may need a lot more kleenex by the end of the day because I already feel so overwhelmed with loved.  Send me texts, send me emojis, etc.  I will need every ounce of strength just to endure the cold capping process, not to mention this little thing called CHEMO and its fun side effects.

And those that have been following my story will not be surprised that my friend Stephanie will be undergoing her double mastectomy the day after tomorrow (August 2nd).  Not only do we like to dress alike, but apparently we like to cancer alike too.  Please keep her in your prayers as well.  This is such a surreal process, but we both know the Lord is in control and we trust that He will use OUR stories to tell of HIS good news.

We gathered with some of Steph’s friends tonight to pray for her upcoming surgery, and one of them made these amazing pink rice krispy treats.  It’s the little things that sometimes mean the most.

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Until next time…much love to you all & make every day count,

Jamie

“But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you…” 2 Thessalonians 3:3

 

 

 

 

 

 

Normal is Underrated

First of all, I never thought ‘normal’ could feel SO GOOD.  For the past 2 weeks or so I have felt like a normal person, acted like a normal person and actually looked like a normal person.  It has been FABULOUS.  My oncologist allowed me to postpone my chemo start date until after our family takes a vacation, which has afforded me extra time to heal from all of my surgeries.  It’s incredibly thrilling to not be on any type of medication but also to not wake up worried about how I am going to feel each day.  Thank you, Lord, for this gift of time!!!!

Feeling good has allowed me to do so many things that I have missed doing the past few months.  I was able to experience my middle son’s baseball World Series, where his team ended in 2nd place with a final score of 14-13.  It was an exciting series and I absolutely love watching him play.

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Please note the pink laces are still on his shoes (insert lots of heart emojis here).

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Jennifer’s mom, Jane, was able to join us for the final game and it was so fun to experience her signature “sports clap” during Hunter’s game.  Jane never missed one of Jen’s basketball games in high school, and you’d always know she was there because of that enthusiastic clap.  Thanks for being there, Jane!!  You too, mom!

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Not only did I get to watch baseball, but I also got to reunite with my oldest son who returned from 2 weeks at Kanukuk the following weekend!  Two weeks away seemed like an eternity to me, and he looked like he had aged 5 years when I saw him.  I’m so thankful for my friend, Catherine, who offered to bring him home for me so I didn’t have to do the 16 hour round trip drive.  GOD BLESS MY FRIENDS.

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My two oldest kids are not the most talkative kids in the world, but Hudson talked my ear off for 2 straight hours after he got home from camp.  I soaked up every single minute knowing as soon as he got sucked back into social media I might not have another conversation like that with him until he’s 25.

On Monday, I went to Dr. Potter’s office for a follow up visit from my latest surgery.  I actually forgot I had the appointment until the night before, so I didn’t plan ahead on having anyone accompany me.  The day of, I texted my friend Casey and asked her if she would like to join me.  That way we could catch up and I could check yet one more doctor’s appointment off the list.  Efficiency makes my heart sing.  My appointment went well and apparently everything is healing nicely.  So nicely, in fact, that I received another inflation.  Hello, what?!  Thank goodness, these are old hat by now and I was unfazed.  The same could not be said for poor Casey.  (I’m so sorry you had to witness that bizarre exercise, my friend.)

Then Tuesday rolled around and my friend, Melanie, came in town to drop off her daughter at SMU soccer camp.  Thank goodness she didn’t want to go back to San Antonio for the week, so she stayed with me and we’ve had a blast this week.  It was somewhat of an unconventional visit in that we skipped many meals, drove back and forth to SMU, branched off and visited other friends, and shopped at Northpark.  I believe we’ve never done any of these things on our previous visits together, but it proves that friendships over 20 years don’t need traditional entertainment to qualify as a success.

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On this day, we actually had lunch with our friend, Sheaffer, and my sister Jennifer.  It might have been the only time in 72 hours Mel and I weren’t in our workout clothes, pjs or robes.  Let’s just say that laughter truly is the BEST medicine, and these girls know just the right dosage.

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The Lord truly has provided me with so many amazing people in my life, and for that I am eternally grateful.  Being with friends makes my heart so happy, and helps make the road ahead less scary.

Speaking of friends, Trevor and I had the opportunity this week to visit with our friend Kay who is battling stage 4 double hit lymphoma.  Kay currently lives in Arizona, but was in town for a few days visiting her family, so we took advantage.  Trevor and Kay went to high school together (along with her husband, Brandon), and she and I have bonded recently over, well, cancer.  Blah.  This gal is a FIGHTER and such an inspiration to me.  We were able to sit on the couch and talk about life, treatments, God and hope.  It was such a special time for me, even amidst intermittent tears, and I literally could not be more grateful for her presence in my life.

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I have approximately 12 days before starting my chemotherapy journey, and I am looking forward to spending those with my family in the mountains.  I pray that the strength I get from the Lord and from all of these beautiful people in my life will continue to carry me.  And even though I have no idea what to expect in the future, I feel as if my spirit is being renewed daily.  And for now, that is all I need.  Thank you for praying, for caring and for loving me so well.

Until next time…much love to you all & make every day count,

Jamie

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”  Psalm 51:10

MD Anderson Update

Today was the day.  My highly anticipated visit to MD Anderson for a second opinion.  I woke up at 4am this morning in preparation for my 6am flight to Houston only to find this text message on my phone.

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Please note the time this message was sent by Southwest Airlines (2:42am).  I’m sure all the bats, opossums and raccoons were able to reschedule their flights while I slept through this text.

Knowing that my MDA appointment was at 8:30am, Trevor and I scrambled to figure out an alternate plan.  Houston, by car and without traffic, is approximately 4 hours away from Dallas.  In desperation, we were about to load up in the car when thankfully we received another text saying we were rescheduled on the 6:30am flight.  My sweet dad was already at our house and was prepared to either jump in the car or head to the airport with us.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief that it ended up being the latter of these two options.  Trevor has a tendency to view speed limit signs as mere ‘suggestions’, so my stress level would have been elevated had we headed out on the highway under those conditions.

Our flight arrived a few minutes late to Houston where my precious friend Molly met and picked us up.  Contrary to my statement yesterday, Molly was TOTALLY punctual.  It turns out the only one on ‘Watson time’ was Southwest Airlines.  Mol jumped out of the car and let Trevor take the wheel knowing we were in a hurry to make it to the hospital on time.  Trev had the app, Waze, already cued up and pulled away from the curb before my dad even made it in the car.  Or so it seemed.

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Within what seemed like minutes (and miraculously with no speeding ticket), we pulled up to the massive MD Anderson complex.

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Upon arrival, my dad, Molly, Trevor and I were met by the nicest volunteer who escorted us to the exact location of my appointment.  We checked in and were seen soon thereafter by the nurse.  Everything moved very quickly with military like precision, and I was very impressed.  After the nurse left the room, however, we waited and waited and waited for the physician.  Thank goodness Molly is a good entertainer and was the only one in the room that had actually gotten a decent night’s sleep.  She was able to keep the conversation ball rolling while the rest of us fought our yawns.  We even managed to get some pics during our down time.

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Yes, we had LOTS of down time.

The physician finally came in the room and proceeded to go over my case.  I was thrilled to hear that her thought process was exactly like Dr. O’Shaughnessy’s.   She confirmed the diagnosis of Invasive Ductile Carcinoma (those words still make me cringe), while also stressing this is a very treatable type of cancer.  She also mentioned that the pathologists at MDA found lymphovascular invasion of the cancer cells as well (not to be confused with lymph nodes).  This was a little unsettling to me, but she explained that some cells had made their way into the vessels stopping short of reaching my actual lymph nodes.  To which I say, THANK GOD.  This doesn’t change anything we are doing, but just adds a little more information to the equation.  Based on everything she reviewed, she could go either way on recommending chemo at this point.  There is evidence to support that chemotherapy might improve my percentage of not having a recurrence, albeit only by a few small points.  So one would have to weigh whether it was worth going through the process of chemo just to gain 2-3 percentage points.  (To which I say, yes, yes it is.)  In the end, she recommended I do what would give me the most peace of mind at the end of all of this.  And as much as I dislike the prospect of chemo, it is most definitely the treatment plan that will give me the feeling that I have done everything I could possibly do to beat this unwelcome interruption in my life.

I am grateful for the confirmation and clear direction the Lord allowed from this visit.  Many of you prayed for me today to receive just that.  So thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Trevor, my dad and I hopped on the next plane back to Dallas after my appointment was over…

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…and once we got home I changed into my pajamas faster than Trevor drove on Interstate 610 today.

These appointments are emotionally exhausting.  There is always something new to process, and I’ve learned it takes me at least 24 hours to recover.  So please pardon me if this post doesn’t even make sense or if there are lots of typos.  I just wanted to update you as quickly as possible because so many have reached out to find out how it went.

I also want to thank my mom who held down the fort here while we were gone.  She was able to take Hunter to his baseball game today, where his team had another victory.

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And because of that, I get to go tomorrow to cheer on #8 and the rest of the Tigers as they advance in the World Series!!

Hopefully pajamas are acceptable attire.

Until next time…much love to you all & make every day count,

Jamie

PS: Thanks to Marla for taking care of Hayes today and to Catherine for picking up Hudson at camp for me!!  And thank you MOLLY for sacrificing your day to be with me!  I literally could not do this without the help of my friends and family!!

 

Niplash

Good evening, friends.  Thank you so much for your continued prayers and support following my recent surgery on July 6th.  And by support, I mean texts with the following pics saying ‘I’m thinking of you’:

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I’ll never be able to walk through the candy aisle at Walgreens again without being reminded of this glorious season of my life.

The surgery itself was a huge success in that it was fast,  I was in zero pain afterwards, and had no negative side effects from the anesthesia.  PRAISE GOD!!  The only benefit of multiple surgeries is that due to trial and error, we were finally able to successfully customize my anesthesia cocktail.  Think NikeID but with Propofol.  That, plus the Fast Pass actually worked!  I didn’t even sit down in the waiting room because they took me back to my room immediately upon check in.  One might say it was SO fast that I almost got ‘niplash’.  I feel like as far as hospital visits go, this one will end up in the W column.  My family, along with Kim and Amy, were able to come support me, for which I am so grateful.

The past few days have been a little crazy.  I’ve been accompanying my friend Stephanie to her doctor’s appointments, and at last count we were up to 6 appointments in 3 business days.  Efficiency is our strong suit.  To those not in the cancer world, I realize that sounds like overkill.  But when you are choosing a physician to remove cancer from your body (surgical oncologist), as well as choosing a physician to reconstruct your body (plastic surgeon), doing your homework is of utmost importance.  With each appointment, we learned something new and valuable.  I’m pretty sure at this point I know just enough to diagnose someone, but not enough to qualify as a bonafide oncologist.  At one of Stephanie’s appointments with my surgical oncologist, the nurses even asked if I wanted to go ahead and be seen for a follow up since I was already there.  Well, yes I do thank you very much.  Are you gathering about now how incredibly bizarre this whole thing is?  Steph and I are big fans of the Buy One, Get One Free concept, but not necessarily in this scenario.  Later, Stephanie even joked that when we she visited my plastic surgeon’s office, she would just tell him to forget his whole spiel and she would simply say, ‘I’ll have what she’s having.’

I love my friends.

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(I did want to note that Stephanie and I have been spending so much time together that literally we are starting to dress alike.  #offtheshouldernavyandwhitechecksforthewin)

Tomorrow, Trevor, my dad and I are heading to MD Anderson in Houston for a second opinion.  My friend, Molly Watson, will pick us up at the airport and act as our tour guide for the day.  Molly, bless her heart, has a reputation for being fashionably late.  Everywhere.We.Go.  When I told my ever so punctual husband that Molly was responsible for getting us to my 8:30am appointment, my middle son Hunter (who overheard us) said, ‘Is she going to be on Watson time?’.  She’s so fashionably late that we’ve even coined that term just for her.  I’ve stressed to Molly that we don’t have to be fashionable tomorrow and that on time is actually late, so I feel confident she will pull through and we won’t be a minute over 8:31!!  Love you, Mol, and cannot WAIT to see you!

My prayer for tomorrow’s appointment is that other expert eyes will review my entire case history and concur with Dr. O’Shaughnessy regarding the upcoming 4 rounds of chemotherapy.  Dr. O was a fan of me getting a second opinion and I love her even more for that.  I’m hopeful that the MD Anderson physicians won’t recommend more comprehensive treatment, but am open to hearing what they have to say nonetheless.  Thank you for praying along with me for the wisdom and discernment of these physicians.

As for cold caps, you guys are a wealth of knowledge.  Thank you so much.  You’ve shared so many success stories, and I am optimistic that it might actually work to some degree.  And while I’m amazed by this process, I’m still completely overwhelmed by all it entails.  Having a frozen apparatus on my head for 7-8 hours might be the second item I’d put on my ‘Things I Never Want To Do’ list.  And if the first wasn’t ‘Go Bald’, I might punt the whole idea.  But I’m going to give it a try and hope for good results.  Even though Jen and a host full of my friends (Kay, Lezley, Sterling, Sheila, Laura, etc.) have pulled off the bald look beautifully, I’m not sure I share their astounding courage and bravery.  Either way, I know I’ll be fine.  But I’m willing to freeze my follicles and see what happens!  (A huge thanks to Natalie for walking me through this process!!)

Lastly, per my request, Dr. O is willing to let me start chemo after I get home from our family vacation.  I’m so thankful for so many reasons.  Since my diagnosis, I have felt tethered to my house.  With so many appointments, tests, surgeries & scans, my schedule has not been my own.  And that constitutes a claustrophobic feeling.  I have missed so many of my son’s baseball games this season, which makes me sad.  I love watching my kids’ games and since I have all boys, that’s how I spend most of my free time.  Thankfully, I have been able to see his last two games and am cheering on the Dallas Tigers during the World Series this week (especially #8)!

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After baseball season concludes, our family will be heading out of town for a much needed vacation.  Something tells me I won’t be taking this one for granted.

My chemo start date will be August 1st and I will have it every 3 weeks until October 3rd (which, in keeping with my special occasion theme, will be 2 days after my middle son turns 15 and one day after my oldest son turns 16 #happybirthday #irishtwins).  You can’t make this stuff up.

The Lord continues to provide peace, encouragement and guidance throughout this process.  He gives me just enough distraction to not dwell on little aches and pains along the way.  And He shows me love through YOU.  Each and every day.  Thank you for caring for me and my family.  We feel so humbled and blessed.

Until next time…much love to you all & make every day count,

Jamie

PS: “In every thing give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” I Thessalonians 5:18

 

 

 

 

 

Another holiday, Another surgery

All of my cancer related ‘events’ keep falling right around holidays or special occasions, and this one is no different.  HAPPY 4th of JULY.  Tomorrow I will be having my self entitled ‘nipplectomy’, and I guess you could say that even nips deserve the same freedom we’ve all been privileged enough to receive. #setthemfree #GodBlessAmerica.

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I wish so badly you could read the group text I share with my friends, because there’s everything from ‘Peace Out, Nips’ to ‘Nip, Nip Hooray’ on there.  My people are way too serious.

Ashley took me to have blood work done on Monday (because cancer never sleeps).  While I was there, however, the hospital employee said I could pre-register making everything move faster on the day of surgery.  Ummmm…is that a good thing?  After filling out my paperwork, the lady behind the desk actually handed me a VIP Speed Pass card.  To which Ash and I deemed akin to the FAST PASS you receive at Disneyland.  So, I’m totally pumped that I’ll be first in line at Splash Mountain tomorrow.  Or something like that.

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The past few days have been busy for us, and that’s a good thing.  I’ve learned that being busy keeps my mind off of the next few months I have in store.  Monday night, we joined my friend Casey and her family for dinner and early fireworks (I forgot to get a pic and I know Casey is THRILLED about that).  Then Tuesday (the 4th), we went to my friend Amy’s house to enjoy some amazing food and hang with her family.  Jennifer‘s mom, Jane, joined us which was so much fun.  Amy and I met on the first day of first grade at FBA and have been friends ever since.   When Jen enrolled at our school in 6th grade, we had the privilege of getting to know Jane as well and have loved her for well over 30 years!

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(We didn’t plan on red, white and blue, but I know Jen would have loved our coordinated holiday outfits!)

Today, however, after the holiday and time spent with friends was over, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach.  I guess there’s a part of me that still hopes I’ll wake up one day and realize this cancer thing was all a dream.  A very bad dream.  I don’t allow myself to dwell there, but I would be lying if I said those feelings don’t happen.  I quickly grabbed my Bible and Jesus Calling book, however, and was reminded again of how much my Savior loves me and how much he is in control.  Jesus Calling said, ‘You will never be in control of your life circumstances, but you can relax and trust in My control.’  It was accompanied by Psalms 56:3, which says, ‘When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.’  So I recommitted my trust to and in the Lord, which is rapidly becoming a necessary part of my daily routine.  The Lord is good and he IS trustworthy.  But man, this is hard.

After my devotion and a shower, I went with my friend Stephanie to her oncology appointment (because that’s what any logical person who is sad about cancer does, right?!).  I still have to pause as I type that because it feels so surreal.  No one deserves to have this nasty disease, least of all the people I dearly love.  But here we are.  Living out what I’m sure will be a poorly rated, dramatic Lifetime movie someday.  And even though it STINKS to have cancer, it stinks just a little less to have it together.

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Stephanie and I made the most of our visit, but walking into a cancer hospital is something I really never want to get used to.  From the outside, I’m sure we look like normal 40 something moms.  But inside, we are terrified of what cancer is capable of.  Thank God (literally) we have a relationship with someone more powerful than cancer.  #that’sJesusifyouaren’tfollowing

This season of life for me is almost too bizarre for words.  If I stop and think about it for too long, I get overwhelmed.  So I’m trying to take it day by day and set my stress, expectations, planning and fear FREE.  Just like the nips will be tomorrow.

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Thank you for your continued support, encouragement, food, cards, gifts, prayers, etc.  I COULD NOT DO THIS WITHOUT YOU!

Until next time…much love to you all & make every day count,

Jamie

PS: Tomorrow’s surgery is a day surgery and should only last approximately one hour.  I would appreciate specific prayers that neither the anesthesia nor the pain meds make me nauseous.  And also that my friends will have something else to discuss via text after this is all over. #snipthenips #nonipsisgoodnips

“In God, whose word I praise – in God I trust and am not afraid.  What can mere mortals do to me?”  Psalm 56:4