Monday, February 28, 2011

Beauty in The Little Things

This World Can Be Ugly, But Isn't It Beautiful?

Cancer, or any illness, does not have to make us bitter or separate us from God.
In fact, I have found that it draws me CLOSER, because I rely on Him now more than ever.
Every day, I have been making an effort to look for God in unexpected places.
I want to take the time to experience the beauty of the world that so often goes unnoticed.

My beautiful baby exuberates God’s presence every day through his curiosity, love of others, and zest for life.
He will always be our little angel, sent straight from heaven to give hope to our family.
God is everywhere. He is in a child’s pure and simple laughter. He is in the sunshine that came out at the perfect time today for us to enjoy some time sitting outside. He is in the warmth of a nurse who goes out of her way to make me feel extra comfortable. He is in the words of a complete stranger who sincerely wants to pray for us. He is in the face of a pregnant woman who glows with excitement of her soon-to-be little one. (This always brings back my own pregnant memories!) He is in the unconditional love that a pet will give you throughout the years. All of these little things are so beautiful, and simply represent God’s promise to us.

Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth. -Genesis 9:16

Lord, I pray that you keep my family members and friends strong, and for them to discover the positive things in their lives by searching for you in unexpected places. I wish that everyone may find true happiness and contentment. Please give my body the strength that it needs to fight and recover from everything during these upcoming weeks. I am leaving it all in your hands now.
This a song that speaks to me tonight, as I am preparing for chemo tomorrow:

“Katie” by Jack’s Mannequin

Katie you're a brave girl, and I know its only just started.
I'm gonna be there at six, with some flowers on sticks
That were clipped just to make the weak strong.
And Katie, its a strange world when girls can get so broken hearted
If it were me, and the universe, I'd get the worst of this gone.

Katie I'm sorry that in your condition
The sunshine's been missing but Katie,
Don't believe that it isn't there.
Oh and Katie be happy
This world can be ugly, but isn't it beautiful?
We're not really here, and we're really not there
We're really not there.

Katie you're a brave girl and courage is something I'll need now.
'Cause its been a hell of a day I've spent fading away
We all fade sometimes, I believe
And Katie its a strange world as I watch the tables get turned around
And you've got the strength that I've lost in a thought that would carry me.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Still Not Home

My mom cheered me up by giving me these gifts
last Thursday. She's so sweet and knows me so well!

So… I may as well go ahead and make the hospital my permanent residence. I’m on a first name basis with the oncology staff and have gotten to know the hospital “routine” more than I had ever wanted to. Its been a week, and I expect to be here for at least another week. blah.

The only thing that makes it bearable is having the constant company of my mom, and knowing that “this too shall pass”. Someday, it will all be a distant memory, and I will have moved on with my life. Its ironic how a week in the hospital feels more like a month. I realize how many things I usually take for granted in my everyday life. For example, how much I miss the comfort of my own bed, having the freedom to drive my car anywhere, sleeping through the night without having someone bother me to take my blood or vitals, but most of all how much I miss my husband and baby!

Trying to make my room look less hospital-like.

I've attempted to make my hospital room feel a little more "cozy" by putting up some pictures, along with the flowers and gifts that people have given me. It isn't much, but waking up to colorful flowers, balloons, and pictures of my two favorite boys really does brighten my mood each day.

I’ve also been making an effort to take walks every day when I feel good enough to. I figure that I need to keep my body as strong as possible, and it’s just healthier than laying around all the time. I haven’t turned the T.V. on at all since I’ve been here.

Hummus and veggies... yum!
The hospital food is a little disappointing, but I’ve managed to find one or two meals that were decent. My favorite was a plate of hummus and fresh veggies, which I was surprised to find on the menu, and even more surprised that it tasted so good! Generally, my appetite has been nonexistent, due to the antibiotics. I think that the doctors are concerned about my weight. Unfortunately, there’s not much that you can do when you try to force food down every day, but the number on the scale keeps dropping. It’s scary and it makes me feel very vulnerable. I’m hoping that once I get home and start feeling better, my eating habits and weight will return to normal. Its weird to think that I've lost 60 lbs in the past five months (pregnancy weight).

Since I’m sure you have been wondering… here’s
a list of updates/reasons of why I am still in the hospital:

*Staph infection
My blood no longer shows any bacteria from the staph infection (yay!) but because my infection was both in the blood AND in the wounds from my port, I am being treated with IV antibiotics for a longer period of time than the norm. My staph infection spread so quickly throughout my body that if we had waited another day to come to the hospital, I probably wouldn’t have survived. I never realized before that staph infections are that serious!

*Open wound
It was not safe for the doctors to stitch up my wound after my port was taken out, because the infection could have been trapped in there. So I have a deep, open wound on my chest that the nurses need to care for. This will probably take a whole month before it completely closes up, so I will have to continue to clean it and change the dressing when I go home (next week, hopefully).

*Blood clots
Along with the group of blood clots that are in my lungs, they also found one in my left arm. These were caused by the aggressive staph infection going throughout my body. Blood clots are serious if left untreated, but the doctors have given me a combination of Lovenox shots (which sting and burn inside my tummy like bee stings) and Coumadin pills to thin the blood. I have to stay in the hospital until my blood levels adjust to the correct amount, which may take five more days to a week. Once everything is adjusted, I should not need the shots in my tummy anymore, and I would just be taking the pills at home. The worst thing about the Coumadin pills is that I’m supposed to limit my intake of green, leafy vegetables each week (i.e. salads: my favorite). =(

I will be having my chemotherapy the day after tomorrow, while I am still in the hospital for all of these other reasons. It is a few days later than my originally scheduled time, but my oncologist feels that it is important to stay on track with my treatment plan. I am nervous about my body still being so weak from the staph infection, but since I will be on antibiotics throughout the whole thing, the doctors are telling me that I will be safe and capable to take on Chemo #3.

This is my newly inserted picc line, which will help save my veins during chemotherapy and blood draws. I’m so glad that my port is gone! It caused so much danger to my body, and I never liked that it required a needle stick to access it. With the picc line, there are absolutely no needles involved!

Sometimes, there are so many “unknowns” that it feels like another tragedy is just around the corner each day. We may be given more than we can handle (I certainly was this past week!) but we will never be given more than God can handle. God knows all about our tomorrows, and He understands the overall purpose of our lives. What we see doesn’t make sense, but we can’t see the full picture. He can, and wants us to trust in Him.

Be not afraid, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned. -Isaiah 43:1-2

I’m placing my full trust in God in that he will heal me in accordance to His plan for my life. I know that God is faithful and more powerful than any medicine, infection, or disease. He works through the doctors and nurses who treat me everyday, and I am so thankful for them. I am also thankful that breast cancer research has advanced so quickly in recent years, and that so many options are available to save my life. I will endure absolutely anything in order to be blessed with a long life with Barry and Ryan.

They came and visited me the other day, and we had a great time playing with Ryan in my hospital room. It just goes to show that it’s not where you are, but who you are with that matters. Ryan is happier than ever, and is so aware of everything these days. He is getting to the stage where he shows preference to people he knows over those who are strangers. It feels good that he loves his mommy and daddy and other family members, but I felt terrible when he cried at my oncologist! Ryan is definitely strong-willed, even at this young of age! We are going to have our hands full... I love it! =)

When I woke up today, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my IV pole that rattled loudly was replaced with a quieter one. I also found a fish bowl with a little friend waiting inside for me. I didn’t know where he came from, but I named him “Fishy” and have already started to become attached to him. (I know, I'm not very creative at making up names!)

Thanks to whoever who gave me such a unique gift! Aunt S!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


The truth is that I’m such a little kid inside. I’m intimidated by doctors, scared of medical equipment, and (as you already know) terrified by needles. But throughout this entire ordeal, I have been forced to put on my brave face and have important grown up conversations about my body and treatment with perfect strangers. Cancer patients have to be strong, courageous, and determined. But you know what? Sometimes I get tired of “playing grown up”. Sometimes I just want to rip up all of my medical records and cry. So what, if I want to sleep with my favorite stuffed animal every night when I’m in the hospital? It reminds me of the times back when my life was easy. Sometimes I just want the doctors and nurses to treat me like a baby. I want to be given colorful band-aids and stickers. I want to be told that I’m beautiful without makeup or hair on my head. As much as we’d like to stay young and innocent, there are times when you have no choice but to suck it up and take whatever life throws at you. No matter how harsh it may be. This is what happened to me over the past few days.

It began when I woke up last Friday morning, feeling like my port was a little different than usual. I figured that I must have slept on it the wrong way, so I continued to shower, get dressed, and go hang out with my friend, K. Around late afternoon, I realized that the skin around the port was becoming red, swollen, and itchy. The area was also starting to really hurt. I called the nurse-on-call as soon as I got home (because it was after hours on a Friday). They prescribed me an antibiotic and told me to expect to feel better in about 24 hours. By the next afternoon, my fever was at 103 degrees and I was completely paralyzed on the left side of my body, because the infected area had spread so quickly. I was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. Upon arrival, they attempted to access my port (which was broken) and then attach an IV to my arm (for fluids and drawing blood). The results determined that I had a staph infection (sepsis) in my blood, which had originated in my port. This accounts for the rash, skin swelling, high fever, chills, and low blood pressure that I was experiencing. My treatment was the immediate surgical removal of my infected port and to be put on three of the strongest IV antibiotics to help my body fight the infection. Being a cancer patient, my immune system was already compromised, so this was very scary.

The next thing was that I kept having sharp pains in my heart that were unexplainable. The EKG and echocardiogram showed up normal. Then they sent me in for a CT scan and found multiple blood clots in my lungs that were close to my heart, which were causing that feeling. These clots could have originated from another part of my body. I had an ultrasound done of my legs today (clear) and will probably have one of my arms tomorrow, to try to find the source of the blood clots. They certainly weren’t there in the CT scan that I had done of my full body just a little over a month ago. My guess is that the blood clots were either caused by the chemo or (most likely) by the infected port. My treatment for this is two painful shots in my tummy that I will have to give myself daily, to help thin the blood and keep it from clotting. While I’m here at the hospital, the nurse administers the shot, but soon I will have to learn how to do them myself for when I go home. I dread this part more than anything. I will also be taking an oral pill to help get rid of and prevent blood clots in the future.

The good news is that today is the first day that I have not had a fever at all, so hopefully this means that the antibiotics are helping me to get rid of this terrible infection. Tomorrow they will draw my blood, and if I am completely free from infection, I will be ready for my picc line surgery. A picc line is another option for receiving chemotherapy, rather than a port. Because of the complications I had with my last port, the thought of getting another one makes me feel queasy. So, I think the picc line is the best choice for me now. Once the picc line is in, I should be allowed to go home! (with daily visits to the doctor to keep receiving my IV antibiotics, I’m sure). My goal is to be home for the weekend. I will feel so amazing to sleep in my own bed and have my own stuff after being in this hospital for a week! My mom has stayed with me every day at the hospital (with the exception of quickly running home for a minute to grab something that she needs) and she has even slept here with me every night: on a hard, uncomfortable chair. I told her that she doesn’t have to, but she insists. I have the best mommy in the world!! So happy that I am on the road to recovery, thanks to everyone who has given me their support this week! Its so nice when people unselfishly go above and beyond what is expected of them! Thanks for the brownies, flowers, cards, and visits!

*I apologize for the lack of pictures in this post, as I am writing this from the hospital, on a laptop. I will keep you posted on which day I will be allowed to go home! =)

“So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead even though you have to endure many trials for a while.” 1 Peter 1:6

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Hearts Day!

…From My Littlest Valentine! 

I am such a lucky girl to have TWO handsome valentines this year!  Barry and I actually celebrated by going out to dinner this weekend, just because it was more convenient for us to go then.  Today Barry has to work, and when he gets home we will just stay here, eat in, and play with our little boy! =)

There is certainly no greater love than that which comes from having a child.  Barry and I are perfectly content with the one that we have, and we have considered future children as a possibility.  Since our baby is only five months old, this wasn’t really something that we were ready to think about or decide right now.  However, before I started chemotherapy, we were forced to think about whether or not we wanted children in the future at all.  This is because the drug Cytoxen has a very high risk of causing women to lose their fertility completely.

So… this obviously isn’t a decision that you can make lightly.  On the one hand, I have always imagined myself with a somewhat large family (meaning: at least three kids).  I have been talking about my future children since I was a little girl playing with dolls and pretending they were real “babies”.  Since I grew up as an only child, having a bunch of kids was like a dream.  I wanted my kids to always have someone to play with and for family gatherings to be exciting.  The larger the family, the more supportive and close relationships you will have for the rest of your life.

But on the other hand, my body has gone through so much already, with even more to come in battling cancer.  I am so thankful that I have already experienced pregnancy, but I don’t feel like I need/want to be pregnant again because physically my body just might need a break.  Besides, I wasn’t one of those girls who “loves” being pregnant at all.  The whole pregnancy, I just couldn't wait to not be pregnant and finally meet my baby!  Another worry that I have is the possibility of passing on the genes for breast cancer.  I will be genetically tested to see if I am a carrier of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.  If I test positive for these genes, we would be less likely to want another pregnancy.  Rather than take a risk of passing on these genes to a future daughter, we could consider adoption.

For now, I don’t know if I carry those genes, or what exactly we want to do in the future.  So we decided to try to preserve my fertility, in order to have the opportunity to have another natural child if we wanted to.  I have been receiving Zoladex shots, which supposedly put me into an early menopause that is reversible once treatments are over.  There is nothing fun about Zoladex shots.  Even my husband and the nurse who administered the shot couldn’t stop talking about the size of the thing (I didn’t dare look at it!).  Each shot actually injects an implant that sits under my skin.  I chose to have them in my arm instead of my tummy.  Now I get to experience hot flashes and all kinds of lovely sensations caused by hormones.  I can suddenly relate to women in their fifties. 

This is my scarf,
"a hug for my head."
Since the mall and other crowded places are somewhat off limits for me when my immune system is low, I have a new love of online shopping these days.  Its easy and it saves time!  The other day I received a package in the mail that was addressed to me, but I couldn’t remember what I had ordered.  It turns out that it wasn’t my shopping habit after all, but rather a personalized gift from the Good Wishes Program at France Luxe.  They sent me a gorgeous silk scarf ($72 value) for free, and a hand written card with individual notes of encouragement from all of the people that work there.  It is so sweet when people who don’t even know you are kind enough to reach out and offer you sincere hope for your healing.  They have some really cute things on their website, and 20% of their sales go to breast cancer research.  Check it out if you get the chance!

Ryan got lots of attention this weekend, thanks to E, my mom, and Aunt S for coming over and spending time with us!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Corny Jokes

I think baby Ryan wants to watch mommy and daddy dance to their wedding music. Hehe, I love our family! Thank you God, for giving us a cheesy sense of humor and for showing us how laughter makes everything feel a little better!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Glad This Week is Over!

Some people think that the worst thing about cancer is either: 1. the moment that you find out you have it;  2. losing all of your hair; or 3. getting the chemotherapy.

Its not.  The worst thing (for me) is managing the side effects the week AFTER chemo.  The two days that I spend in the hospital while receiving chemo and immediately after are relatively easy compared to how it feels once I come home (days 3 through 7 = nightmare).  After that comes the extreme fatigue, which is there the whole time, until it’s time for the next chemo treatment.  I guess every chemo drug combination is different, but the TAC regimen certainly lives up to its evil reputation!

My three best girl friends: K, E, and J, visiting me
at the hospital for my second round of chemo.
(I took this with my iphone).  Love you girls! <3
Anyways, I had some very special visitors come to see me at the hospital last weekend.  Thanks to my three best girl friends, Aunt G, Aunt S, my mom, and of course Barry… I felt so loved and cared for!  I enjoyed catching up and gabbing with the girls… definitely the highlight of my week!  Thank you all for making time in your busy schedules for me!  And thanks to J, for traveling all the way down from Ohio!

I also received a beautiful blanket that was made “for a special person” by a teacher and her students, and they chose me to be that person!  I remember just last year when I was teaching, the students at my school collected “pennies for patients”.  Its amazing how when you are on the other side of it and everything is normal, you never would expect that to be you.  Life can completely change in a single moment, and that is true for anyone.  Two years ago at this time, I never would have suspected that both my mom and I would be tragically fighting cancer.  It definitely forces you to grow up fast.  But on the good side, I also wouldn’t have expected to have a beautiful baby boy who is just too perfect for words!  Ryan made his first attempts at crawling this week.  I can’t believe it!  He is becoming so alert and playful these days.  Just seeing my precious boy can change my entire mood in an instant.  He will be five months old on Monday (Valentine’s Day).

I was so thankful to spend some quality time with my mom the past two days.  She is slowly but surely recovering from her treatments, and seems to be feeling stronger each day.  I hope and pray that her next PET scan shows reduction of the cancer on her liver… she has fought so hard for such a long time, she deserves some time of feeling good!  I love and respect her more than anyone in the world.  If she can fight for two whole years (as of this April), I can at least fight through these next six months of chemo and surgeries.  Of course, I have my moments of weakness.  It is extremely hard to bear the constant worry about my mom and my own struggles at the same time.  But in the end, I know that nothing will change this situation and I have no choice but to just keep going.  It is a difficult and emotional journey, but at least we have each other to get through with, and that is a blessing in itself.  I'm just so glad she's here with me!

Tomorrow I will shave my head. lol.  I never would have thought in my life that I would type that sentence!  I’ve been a girly-girl with somewhat long, blonde hair since I was four years old!  I am surprisingly okay with it though (at this point).  I feel like I have been mentally preparing myself for a while.  Besides, anything is better than this ugly “boy” haircut that I have right now, and its shedding everywhere.  I will think of it as a clean start, and I can have fun with scarves, wigs, and hats for a few months.  But I can assure you that as SOON as my hair starts to grow back this summer/fall, I will be VERY eager to have long, blonde hair again!  =)  

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Gearing Up for Chemo #2

So it looks like my mom and I will both be in the hospital at the same time on the same floor this weekend.  I wish we could be roommates, but they only have private rooms on the oncology floor.  We are treated like VIP at the hospital!  I’m so thankful that my Aunt S has been with my mom every single day for the past two weeks, and has really been helping her out.  She has such a big heart and is willing to do anything and everything for my mom. The bond between sisters is so precious.

I’ve come across some tips for when I’m getting chemotherapy:  Chew on ice chips while getting Adriamycin to help with mouth sores and have mints while getting Cytoxan to make the metallic taste go away.  If I can stay awake long enough, I will try these things and see if they work.  Lets just hope that I can remember, since I have almost no recollection of actually getting it last time.  That chemo does weird things to your body and also to your brain!

Barry’s mom will be staying at our place the whole weekend to watch Ryan while Barry is with me at treatment.  She is flying up from Florida, and I am so appreciative that she has offered to come all this way to help us out.  I sure will miss my baby though!  I’ve put all of his little outfits together in bags for each day, so that I can still feel like I have some input even when I’m not there.  Besides, I just love putting together all of those cute baby clothes anyways!  =)  

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Love My Husband!

Ryan’s shirt says “My Dad is: Awesome, Fun, The Best!”
We had fun taking some pictures today. Doesn’t he look so much like Barry? I think so! I love it! =)

Reasons Why Daddy is the Best:
Ryan practicing his tummy time!
10. he is good at helping Ryan fall asleep
9. he treats mommy like a princess
8. he is a great cook AND he likes to clean!
7. he takes care of mommy when she is sick
6. he is hard working and motivated to succeed in life
5. he treats us with patience and respect
4. he doesn’t care what other people think
3. he has many talents, but is humble and down-to-earth
2. he can always make us smile and laugh
1. he loves mommy and Ryan more than anything!

Olive, thank you for being so amazing and perfect! We love you so much!! xoxo!

No Pity Party for Us!

K came over to take care of Ryan one Friday
when I was feeling sick.  I wish I had pictures
of everyone else who came over to help too! 
Barry and I were talking last night about everyone’s reaction to me having breast cancer during the same time that my mom has colon cancer. Most people have sincerely offered compassion and to help us in “any way possible”. I think that sometimes we do need help, but it is hard for us to even think of what that help might be! Looking back, what I appreciated most is when people didn’t ask, but instead went ahead and found a way to help us. For example, telling me that they were coming over on a certain day to help take care of Ryan and visit with me, cooking food for us at a time when we were too stressed to think about it, and offering to travel all the way here from another state to spend time with me and cheer me up. All of these specific ways of helping have been sooooo greatly appreciated! Thank you all so much! I’ve found that these things have been so much more helpful than people just casually saying “let me know if I can help” and then doing nothing.  I have to admit that I have been guilty of saying that to people in the past, when I really didn’t know what else to say. But now that I’m actually IN a situation personally, I can see which types of “help” really do help! =)

Another thing that Barry and I talked about is how it makes us feel awkward when people say, “Oh my God, I feel soooo sorry for you guys” and act like it would just be so terrible to be us. First of all, we love being us and we are very happy with our life and our family! Please don’t feel sorry for us!  I appreciate everything more than I ever have, and Barry and I are only growing closer through these times. I have also become so much closer with my mom during the time that she has been sick, and now have a special connection with her that will always be a part of me. Happiness comes from within, and a person’s happiness depends on how they choose to look at the world. Why would I choose to be a miserable person when I can instead choose to focus on the good things and make myself happy each day? Yes, there are some really hard things to get through right now, but I know that they are temporary. When this is over, I will be a better, stronger person. Eight or nine months of being sick, uncomfortable, and not-so-great looking isn’t going to matter in the overall picture of my life. In fact, my future will be even more rewarding because I know how hard I fought for it, and I will be proud of myself for beating cancer. (Which WILL happen, because I refuse to think otherwise!) I have so much admiration for those cancer survivors that have gone before me, including my mom. It is amazing how much willpower and strength they have.

I remember this time last year (well actually every year for the past four years) my second graders wrote letters to Punxsutawney Phil, the famous groundhog who comes out of his burrow every February 2nd. Well, I’m happy to say that the groundhog did not see his shadow this year… which means that spring is coming early! yayyyyy! I sure hope it’s true.. I'm tired of the freezing cold and losing power for days at a time whenever it snows! COME ON SPRING!!!! 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


I have been very anxious today because everything kind of hit me at once.  I only have two more days of feeling relatively healthy, and then I have chemo.  For me, the scariest thing about chemo is the needle going into my port and having to keep the needle in there for a few days afterwards.  Of course, I’m also nervous about the actual chemo and the extent of side effects that I’ll experience.  But even after everything I’ve been through with pregnancy, labor, and now cancer, STILL nothing scares me more than needles.  I always have to put lidocaine on my skin to numb it beforehand. I get nervous just thinking about needles, and knowing that I’m going to have it on Friday makes me very anxious for pretty much the whole week.  I feel like I am coming face to face with all of my biggest fears at once, but I am determined to overcome them.  I’ve come a long way from a few years ago when I couldn’t even walk into a hospital without panicking.  I hope that one day I will also overcome needle phobia.

Although I don’t understand why I was diagnosed with breast cancer at such a young age, or why I have to go through 4 months of chemotherapy and then lose both of my breasts, I understand that life isn’t fair and nobody ever said that it would be.  Those things were meant to happen in my life for a reason, even if I’m not capable of understanding that reason right now.  I know that there is a better world waiting for us that is fair and perfect, which is heaven.  This life on earth is just temporary; every single living thing will die, and nobody knows when their time will come.  It could be when you are ninety years old, or it could be tomorrow.  It is so important to treasure our loved ones while they are here and enjoy the moments that we have left with them.  Just because someone has cancer doesn’t mean that they will die, and just because someone doesn’t have cancer doesn’t mean that they will live.  Some people have long lives, but are unfulfilled and miserable; while other people have short lives, but are happy and complete.  I consider my life a gift, and despite all of the hard times and stressful moments, the good certainly outweigh the bad.  When I spend time with my wonderful family and see my baby growing and changing each day, it makes it all worth it.  Even the needles!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...