Feel the Burn

So many of you have sweetly requested an update on my visit to MD Anderson on October 17th, so thank you for continuing to care about my journey.   Before I do that, however, let me back up just a bit to report on how I fared in the weeks following chemo #4…

All in all, my fourth round of chemo was better than my third.  Hallelujah!  I was more tired and weak on this round, but I wasn’t nearly as nauseated.  And I call that a win.  In fact, my sweet friend Ashley had flown in from Florida to be with me (as well as my friend Jenn from Tyler) and I was able to hang out with her the day after chemo (which is totally abnormal for my typical ‘day after chemo’).  I even wrote the following in the spiral that I keep to record my meds, any atypical symptoms, and how I feel each day.

FullSizeRender.jpg.jpeg I think the Lord allowed that gift, and I took full advantage of it.  😉  I love my friends Ashley & Jenn but only get to see them about once or twice a year.  THAT IS NOT ENOUGH.  Our husbands all went to med school together and we became close friends during those 4 long years.  I started crying when I saw them at my chemo appointment because I’m overwhelmed at how good ALL of my friends have been to me on this journey.  Taking time out of their busy schedules to really try to understand what I’m going through.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!  Now I’m crying again!

Not only did I feel good the day after chemo, but I felt good for a FEW days after chemo.  I couldn’t believe it actually.  I’m sure mentally I was SO relieved to be finished that my mind tricked my body into celebrating early!  Whatever it was, I was jazzed and wasn’t going to question it.  And I’m sure receiving my little front porch goodies didn’t hurt either.

 

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Around October 8th, however, I started developing a huge red mark that covered my right forearm.  The next day it was even worse and was extremely hot to the touch.  You know the phrase, ‘Feel the Burn’?  Yeah, that.  Knowing that’s not a good sign, I called my oncology nurse.  She told me that it was probably what they call a “TC Burn”.  The two drugs I used during chemo were Taxotere and Cytoxan (aka “T/C”).  Because I received these drugs via an IV and not a port, somehow the connection between the needle and my vein wasn’t air tight and some of the drugs leaked out.  Excuse me?!  The nurse who administered my IV better be happy that I was SO DARN TIRED or else I’d have marched back up to Baylor and given her a talking to.  Now if you get squeamish with this type of thing, I suggest you don’t look at the following pic.

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SO GROSS.  I’m so happy I had chocolate to comfort myself because it HURT.  And the kicker?????  My oncology nurse made the comment, “Well, just be glad this happened on your 4th round.”  To which I obviously replied, “And what if it hadn’t?”  She went on to explain that if this had happened in my previous rounds, I would have had to get a port (which is put in surgically) because they couldn’t have put an IV back in that arm (and my other arm is out of the question because I’ve had lymph nodes taken from that side).  Let’s just say I might have gone over the edge if that would have been the case.  Even my amazing stash of Hershey Kisses and Ghirardelli Sea Salt Assortments couldn’t have made this okay in my book.

Thankfully, I already had an appointment with my Dallas dermatologist on Oct. 10th and had her look at this unsightly new development on my arm in addition to my skin cancers.  She gave me a steroid cream and healing ointment for my arm, which is working beautifully.  Can we all just take a moment to PRAISE THE LORD that cold weather is on the horizon because between the skin cancer on my leg, this burn on my arm, and my sparse head of hair, I feel the need to be FULLY covered from head to toe these days.

In regards to my skin cancer, she took two more biopsies (one on the same leg and one on my left arm) during that appointment.  The one on my arm was just a precancerous spot, but the one on my leg was also a squamous cell carcinoma.  So, to help you keep track, I now have 3 spots on my left leg that need to be treated.  My dermatologist suggested Efudex cream twice a day for 6 weeks.  The downside is your skin looks N-A-S-T-Y for the duration until it heals.  That’s so unfortunate because I am seriously feeling SO ATTRACTIVE these days.  #totallysarcastic #cancermakesyoufeelugly

After my appointment, my dear friends from San Antonio, Mel and Gulley, came into town and we got to hang out which ALWAYS makes me happy.  If ever you have a bad day, Mel and Gulley are the people you want in your presence.  It’s virtually impossible to be sad or mad when they are around.   They are like a traveling circus in that they entertain you, make you laugh until you cry, and always leave you wanting more.  Even Dodger got sucked in.

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I’ve known these girls for almost 30 years and love them more with each passing year.  Mel was in town for a book signing (oh yeah, she’s a New York Times Best Selling author – no big deal) for her new book, Church of the Small Things.  But what’s important to me is that we sat on the couch for hours, talked life, and had a mini slumber party.  That’s the church of MY small things.

A few days later, I flew to Houston with my sisters and my mom for my appointment at MD Anderson.

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We all laughed when the guy at the ticket counter cheerfully asked, ‘So are y’all going on a girls trip?!’ Never mind that we only had our purses with us and no luggage whatsoever.  (WHAT FEMALE GOES ON A GIRLS TRIP WITH NO LUGGAGE?) He was so excited, however, that we just said, ‘YES!’.  (We concluded that saying ‘No we are heading to MD Anderson for a cancer check up’ might be a bit of a buzzkill).

Let me just say, though, that if we had a dollar for every time we commented on how nice it was to travel so lightly, we’d actually have enough money to go on a girls trip.

We arrived early in the morning (thanks for driving us to the airport, dad) and uber-ed (or buber-ed) to MDA.  Our driver was awesome and Karen proceeded to get his life story on the way to the hospital.  My mom never misses an opportunity to be social.  It’s in her DNA.

IMG_7723.JPG.jpegWe got to MDA a bit early and headed up to the waiting room to check in.  One or four hours passed then finally our name was called.  We laughed because one man in the waiting room said, ‘You know what the ‘MD’ in MD Anderson stands for?’  MOST of the DAY.

I was one of the lucky patients to have a Fellow come examine me before the actual dermatologist came in. (Does anyone smell sarcasm?).  And to preserve some sort of dignity, I had my sisters and mom get behind the curtain while I changed into my flimsy gown.  It’s hard to take anything seriously (even at MD Anderson) when this is your support group.

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Trevor always says my family has personal space issues.  I have no idea where he gets that.

Both of the physicians conducted their exams and were in agreement that either excising the spots surgically or using the chemo cream would suffice for treatment as the spots were superficial and hadn’t invaded beneath the skin.  It was a great affirmation that my physician in Dallas was on the right track, and we all felt good about their conclusion.  Seems like either option is an easy fix and thankfully this type of skin cancer is not dangerous.

SO…I have one more visit with a plastic surgeon next week trained in Mohs surgery (thank you, Joni!) to see how I feel about having the spots surgically removed.  I’m buying a little more time until my body is able to heal properly before I choose either of these options (maybe just a week longer).  I will definitely keep you posted!

For now, my little family is just enjoying life and taking advantage of all the fun opportunities that come our way.  Trevor and I keep joking that cancer has made us totally irresponsible because we keep doing things we’d never do before my diagnosis (unexpected gift of this dreaded disease for these two type A folks).  We had the chance to go to game 2 of the World Series in LA this week, which was such an incredible experience.  Despite the 100 degree weather (yes, we FELT THE BURN here too), we had a blast.  If you haven’t heard about this game, click here.  It was an incredible thrill of back to back home runs and extra innings.  And even though our beloved Dodgers didn’t win, it will go down in the books as one of my family’s favorite memories.

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And just like Game 2, I’m learning that life is really just one big contrast of highs and lows.  A roller coaster of emotions.  And whereas before cancer I was able to stand at the gate and watch the ride, I am now strapped in the back row and fully experiencing each and every peak and valley.  There is so much sadness in this life, but there is also SO MUCH JOY. And although I’m forced to endure the lows, I’m also blessed to experience the highs in a whole new way.  Life on the other side of chemo is BLISS, and I am beyond thankful for all of your support.

Please continue to keep all of those who are fighting cancer in your prayers.  It is a brutal, tiring road to travel.  Much love to all of my cancer friends – WE CAN DO THIS!

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

Jamie

“This is the day the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

 

 

 

It Is FINISHED

I am thrilled to write that I am OFFICIALLY finished with Chemo (now for sure, and Lord willing forever)!!!!!  My 4th and final round was on Tuesday, October 3rd, and I could not be more elated!  Thank you ALL for your prayers, your encouragement, your presence, your support, your cards, your calls, your texts, your front porch presents and your love.  I literally could NOT have made it through the past few months without you.  The Lord has been so very faithful to use each of you as a reminder of His goodness & faithfulness, and I am overwhelmed with how beautiful and tangible the body of Christ can be.  In my darkest hours, He provided hope.  Through my tears, He provided joy.  And in my weakness, He showed His strength in a mighty way.  I pray with all of my heart that cancer, illness or tragedy does not come your way, but if it does, I am here to testify that the Lord will carry you through it.  Our struggles on earth afford us a dependence and closeness to the Father that we do not have otherwise.  So while I wish so badly I didn’t have to walk this road, I am grateful for the intimacy I have experienced with the Lord over the past few months and wouldn’t trade it for the world.

To back up a bit, in my last post I had written that I was fatigued and a little frustrated that I couldn’t even stand during the last song at church.  I naively thought I would follow the pattern of my previous chemo treatments where I would have one bad week and two good ones.   That did not happen on round #3.  I was down for all 3 weeks.  After the fatigue, I developed an insane itching all over my body.

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I’ve never had poison ivy, but I think I can now relate to all of those who have.  And let’s just say OUCH.  It was maddening.  The nurse told me to take Zyrtec each morning, which helped a bit.  But didn’t completely stop the problem.

Then last Saturday night, we were planning on going to our friends, the Messick’s, house to watch the Aggie football game (we are gluttons for punishment).  But that day, I started developing severe chest pains.  WHAT?!  I was walking the dog with Trevor and had to stop about 4 times to lean over until the pain passed.   I learned that the pain would subside if I was lying down but would resume when I was standing up or moving around (thus, ruling out reflux).  I finally called the doctor and they told me to go to the ER just to have it checked out and make sure we weren’t missing something.  Yikes.  So Trevor dropped me off at the ER then dropped the kids off at our friend’s house only to circle back to me.  After blood work, an EKG, a chest x-ray and a CT scan, all was clear!  Praise God.  And we even got to go join our friends afterwards and watch the Aggies get a win!!  (Yes, I learned that when you are a cancer patient plus you have chest pains, you are the first priority at the ER and get moved through at a pretty fast pace.  Nice perk.)  The best explanation the physicians could come up with was that I was experiencing bronchospasms due to my compromised immune system.  Given the other alternatives, I’ll take that one.

Sunday, October 1st, was my middle son’s 15th birthday, so we celebrated all day by watching him play baseball (his first and only love thus far).  My parents and in-laws joined us in Balch Springs (now THAT’s love) for the double header, as did my other two boys.  It was most certainly a banner day.

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Monday, October 2nd, was Hudson’s 16th birthday, so we geared up for yet another celebration the next day.  I always have that moment of feeling lazy for leaving the ‘Happy Birthday’ banner up, but really how silly to take it down at night only to put it back up the next morning, right?  My brain is so weird that it contemplates such things.

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Needless to say, I left it up.  Thank goodness Hudson was so excited to go get his drivers license that day, he didn’t give a flip about the banner.  And I got to spend the majority of the day with my eldest at the DMV waiting for our number to be called.  I’m not exaggerating when I say the line was approximately this long.

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But we persevered and walked out with an official license!!  It’s so surreal to have a child that is driving a real actual vehicle and not the motorized jeep he had when he was 3.

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I still don’t know how these boys are 15 & 16!!!

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(The original plan was for Hunter to get his drivers permit that day as well, but he told me he had 2 quizzes and he wanted to stay at school instead. Clearly, we are not related.)

Fast forward to Tuesday, October 3rd, and my 4th chemo date.  I want to start by saying that I had my strongest game face on and was ready to tackle the last round.  My friends and family were with me, my adrenaline was pumping, I WAS READY.  I felt like Rocky Balboa about to run up the last few steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art to my final destination.

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I had my blood work taken then met with the PA before chemo.  She was very concerned about all the bad side effects I had during round #3 that she casually mentioned that Dr. O may want me to skip the 4th round (WHAT?!) or delay it (NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!).  I couldn’t deal at that moment.  The PA slipped out of the room to go call Dr. O to discuss and I summoned my prayer warriors via text from the exam room.  I was so prepared that day to have my treatment and just wanted this all to be over.  Thankfully, she reentered the room a few minutes later and said that we were good to go for the day.  PRAISE GOD.

I went to sign in for chemo on the 3rd floor and had a corner full of love waiting for me when I got there.

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What’s a girl to do but feel so completely cared for and supported?!  I LOVE my people.

I finally got called back for chemo, where only a few friends at a time can visit.  And when I sat down in the chemo chair and was getting my first cold cap on, I noticed that my ankles were completely swollen.  (My body at this point feels like the craziest science fair experiment, I swear!).  We had to call the doctor to make sure it was okay to proceed with treatment (another hold your breath moment).  To be honest, I don’t know if she ever called back, but we proceeded nonetheless.

I want to say that the steady stream of visitors throughout the day made this process go by so quickly.  As did ALL OF YOUR PRAYERS.  No kidding.  I had so many sweet texts encouraging me and with every word I gained more strength and acquired more grit. You have no idea how big of a role you played in getting me through!!!

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Ashley, me, Casey & Jennifer (friends for 20 years); Ashley flew in from Florida just to be with me and Jenn drove from Tyler.  I’m so thankful for these ladies!!!!

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Me & Amy (friends since 1st grade); Amy was with Jen through all of her chemo treatments as well.  It’s safe to say we’ve been through it ALL in our years of friendship.  

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Meredith, me, Lezley & Stephanie L  (college friend, and breast cancer friends); I could not have made it through without these gals.  {Please note that my hands are in ice (as are my feet) to combat neuropathy.  How am I still smiling?!}

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Me & Stephanie B (friends from aTm); Steph noted that she looks like she has no limbs in this photo as I remarked that I look like I’m setting a “pick” in basketball terms.  We clearly need posing intervention.

After the final infusion was over, I was able to participate in a ritual they have for chemo patients.  When a patient is finally finished with his/her treatments, they are allowed to ring a gong.  It sounds corny, but I was so excited that my time had finally come.

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It’s so sweet because everyone claps and cheers for you.  What a special memory.  I guess I really did channel my inner Rocky.

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Man, it feels SO GOOD to be finished.  Thank you, Lord, for the gift of modern medicine and good health.  I made it to the top of the stairs!!!!!!  Hallelujah!

Trevor ended up surprising me towards the end of treatment (I think he was having FOMO), which I greatly appreciated.  Oh how I love this man.

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And he loves ME…silver mushroom hat and all.

We all made our way downstairs to get ready to leave Baylor and grabbed one more pic (cause you obviously can’t have too many pics).

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Casey, Jennifer, me, Jennifer, Ashley, mom & Ashley; yes, it’s confusing

I went home and finished out the cold capping with sweet Sandy (my cold cap concierge and also a breast cancer survivor).

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My last cap came off around 7:30pm and pray to God I never have to wear that thing ever again!!!

So…many of you have asked about next steps.  I have an appointment with my Dallas dermatologist next Tuesday, Oct. 10th to review topical chemotherapy for the skin cancer on my leg.  Then I go to MD Anderson the following Tuesday to do the same.  After that, I will determine how to proceed and hopefully it will be an easy and fast fix.  I figure if I can freeze my head for 8 hours at a time, surely I can rub some cream on my legs.

And lastly, I have my final reconstruction on December 6th (removal of expanders and insertion of implants).

This journey has taught me so many valuable lessons that I hope I can remember and apply from here on out.  I’m so happy I didn’t have to walk this road alone, so thank you for being my sounding board and my audience.  You have cheered me on in a way that is so overwhelmingly beautiful, and I AM GRATEFUL.

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

Jamie

“Praise the Lord.  Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”  Psalm 106:1

 

 

 

In Sickness & In Health

Well, chemo #3 is officially in the books and it was by far the hardest one yet.  I’m not going to pull any punches.  My body is definitely feeling the effects of the cumulative treatment and I am downright exhausted.  Physical weakness to this degree is something I’ve never experienced.  Some days, I’m at the point where I hesitate climbing up my stairs for fear I might not make it to the top without a break.  THAT, my friends, is super humbling.  I am also still trying to take my daily walks in the morning, but my legs feel so heavy that it’s like I’m dragging weights.  So strange!  My sister, Ashley, took me to the mall the other day to walk and I literally had to find chairs in the stores to sit in while she shopped.  Never have I identified so much with all the males in a mall as I did that day.

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(Shout out to Nordstrom for some comfy chairs btw.)

In addition to weakness, I also had the lovely side effect of a swollen face this time around.  And I’m not talking in my cheeks.  My forehead protruded and my eyes were almost swollen shut for 3-4 days.  I felt exactly like Will Smith in the movie “Hitch”.

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SOMEONE GET THE BENADRYL!!!

My middle son, Hunter, and I were trying to have a face to face conversation one day and he stopped right in the middle of a sentence and said, “Mom, I can’t take you seriously like that.” (In the most loving way, of course ;)!

I don’t know exactly what the swelling was from, but I did learn that the last medicine administered during my treatment this time was given in 30 minutes vs. the usual hour, which I’m told can make all the difference.  That little change may also be the reason for my nausea, my extremely fuzzy brain, my terrible insomnia, my skewed taste buds and my increased hair loss as well.  Guess who’s NOT going to let that happen next time?  Me. And Will Smith.

To make matters worse, my husband’s birthday fell right after my treatment (because what’s a cancer treatment/event of mine without a special occasion surrounding it, right?!).  And to say I wasn’t in a place to make that day special is an understatement.  Yes, I got a cake.  But only because Kim ordered it for me and my mom brought it over.  As you can see, I left it in the box WHILE lighting the candles.  So clearly I’m in not in a good place.

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I sure hope my fire extinguisher is.

Trevor has been an absolute rock star in taking care of me during this entire experience and I really wanted to celebrate him like he deserved to be celebrated.  He really has been amazing.  In fact, my friend Ellen and I had lunch this week and upon her asking, ‘so how are you and Trevor doing during all of this?’ tears immediately started rolling down my face.  Right in the middle of the restaurant True Food.  Now, if that would have happened about a year ago before I appreciated super healthy food, the tears may have been due to the fact that I had a bowl of quinoa sitting in front of me.  But no.  This was because she touched on something I hold so sacred.   And even though I was surprised by my emotional reaction to her question, I know 100% why I had it.  Trevor is a natural born care taker (it’s a good thing he’s a physician).  But never have I been so appreciative of someone than I have been of him the past few months.  Not only does he get up every single day and go to work at an ungodly hour, but he works all day long then comes home and immediately starts taking care of the kids.  At this stage in life, that means making sure they have something other than oreos or pop tarts for dinner, shuttling them to their various activities and confiscating all of the electronics at night to make sure no one overdoses on screen time.  He even attends the late night games in timbuktu while I lay in bed and watch Fixer Upper or House Hunters for the 40,000th time.

When you get married and recite your vows, you say “in sickness and in health” not really knowing or understanding the gravity of that promise.  But I can say now that Trevor is not only the best example of knowing and understanding what that means, but he also does it without complaining and with sincere compassion for me.  He makes me feel so loved even when I’m at my worst physically and mentally.  I am so so grateful for the man I married and told him that we’d have to BOTH redo our birthdays next year as neither was even in the ballpark of adequate (hello, double mastectomy on mine).

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(Breckenridge, CO // September 2017)

I love you, Trevor!

Now, with all of those crazy side effects and such, the good news is they usually pass (somewhat) within 7-10 days after chemo.  So I’m writing to you from a better place.  Or so I thought.   I did have to leave church a few minutes early this morning to go sit in the car because I felt too weak to keep standing during the closing worship song.  (Makes me happy I’m not an NFL player during the national anthem right now as I might have to kneel for an entirely different reason.)  After I got in the car, however, I started to cry.  It’s so bizarre at my age not feeling like I can even make it through 30 minutes of standing!  And even though there’s a reason for it, it still feels pathetic.

This week, I pray that I feel as normal as possible before I go back in the Tuesday after next, October 3rd, for my last treatment.  As tradition would have it, the special occasions surrounding chemo #4 are my middle son’s birthday on October 1st and my oldest son’s birthday on October 2nd.  They turn 15 and 16 respectively, so we will hopefully have a permit and a license before I convalesce for two weeks or so afterwards.  I really hope they like their new bumper stickers, too.

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As for my skin cancer (yes, aren’t I the picture of perfect health?!), I will be going to MD Anderson with my sisters and mom on October 17th to see what the dermatologist recommends for treatment of my spots.  The oncologist at MD Anderson believed that because chemo weakens my immune system, it creates an inability for my body to fight off squamous cells, thus the multiple new cancer spots.  They have mentioned a topical chemotherapy, which I’m in favor of, over surgery.  Please pray that that is a viable option.  I’ve had more surgeries than I’d like this year and still have one more to go.  If I can avoid yet another procedure or two, I’d be thrilled.

So, in closing I’d like to thank every single one of my incredible friends and family for running my errands, taking my kids places, dropping off food, etc.   I also appreciate the continued texts, cards and words of encouragement from you all.  Just on a day when I feel like I can’t keep going, I hear from one of you.  God is so good to keep prompting you, and I’m grateful for your obedience and willingness to listen to Him.

Please continue to pray for me and for all of my fellow cancer fighters.  This is not an easy road, and we could not do it without your support.

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

Jamie

“My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words.  Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.”  Proverbs 4:20-22

 

 

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