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.




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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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,


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





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.


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.




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.


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.


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.


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


(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.


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.


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!!!


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!!!!


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.  


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?!}


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.


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


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.


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).


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).


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!


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