Thursday, February 26, 2009

Things change the cancer world!

Yesterday I heard from the nurse that I was going to need a little help getting my WBC (white blood count) back into a safe range.  I was headed in to get an IV when they called and said that I would only need a few injections...YEAH.  I thought this was much better because it would be so much quicker.  Twenty minutes later, the nurse got in touch with my doctor and he said he was going to do NOTHING!  Hip hip Hooray!   My oncologist said that the range is expected with the amount of chemo I am on and that he would watch it for another week before doing anything.  So, there was no visit to "the institute" yesterday.  That is about how fast things change in the "cancer world."
Someone asked me yesterday what the worst part of this whole experience has been.  I am not sure I can really put words around that yet.  As of now, I would say the first weekend when we found out and the excruciating wait over the weekend.  As for side effects with my chemo, it changes each week.  This week the mouth ulcers have been especially bad.  I told someone yesterday that I feel like I have "chicken pox of the mouth" but without the itch.  When I looked in my mouth this morning that is the thought that came to mind.  I have a great mouth wash that usually helps a lot but for some reason this week the ulcers are laughing back at that wash.  Oh well....I know this will pass soon.  

A little story that should be in the category of "out of the mouth of babes...."  My 5 year old neighbor came over yesterday and wanted to pull on my hair.  So, I bent over and let her and she looked me straight in the face and said, "God answered my prayer because your hair is not going anywhere."  I smiled and considered it a kiss from the Lord.  I have my hair and he answered her prayer.

Thanks so much for following this little blog.  I hope that it keeps you up to date and as informed as possible.  It has been great hearing from so many people.  Thanks for taking the time to call, email, or facebook us.  

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Finally under 1000!

The nurse just called to give me my news of the week.  It is pretty crazy how much I anticipate that one phone call.  She gave me great news...."the count" is down to 919.  I am very excited. However, my white blood cell count is way too low so I am headed into the the Institute to have a little IV to get that more balanced.  It has been low for a couple of weeks but apparently this week it is too low to wait until Monday.  Oh well.

Another bit of good news, is that they are letting me travel to Montgomery this weekend.  I am very excited.  This weekend we will be celebrating my grandmother's 80th birthday and I did not want to miss it. 

I also want to tell you how blessed I have been by some friends.  As I walk through this journey, it has been great to have a community of people around me to be a support.  We have had friends fix meals for us weekly.  We have had friends that every Monday send us messages.  I have a friend who made me a basket of goodies and I open one each Monday (this week was silly string).  I have friends who have brought me my weekly supply of gatorade.  I have a friend who sent me personalized stationary to write all my thank-you's.  I have a friend who comes and walks my dog on my bad days.  We have been so blessed.  Thank you!

And for a few questions that we have been asked.....
Do you feel as good as it seems?
I have great days and days where I dont feel like getting out of bed.  The typical cycle is that Monday I go and get chemo and I am real sore from that.  The chemo is powerful injections that damage the tissue around the injection spots.  Tuesdays are a little draining.  Wednesdays and Thursdays are my toughest days.  By lunch on Friday I am usually bouncing back and that makes the weekends pretty good.  Then the cycle begins all over again. 
Why can't I travel?
The biggest concern is blood clots and infection.  With the location of my tumor, blood clots have been and will continue to be a concern.  And to be honest, I have not been up to traveling.  I think my bed time lately is about 8:30-9:00.  And no, I am not kidding.  I am pretty zapped of energy by night and so sleep is the best thing for me.  ****But, I am released to go to Montgomery this weekend so we will see how that goes.  
Can I drive?
Yeah!  I drive and many weeks even drive myself to chemo.  Michael meets me down there to go with me but I can drive myself.
Am I working?
I am still working full-time.  My schedule is flexible on some days and that makes things very nice.  I have used some vacation time and sick time to get me through a few of the weeks and I have canceled a few of my morning bible studies but we are back on now and things are pretty much back to routine.  I think I do better when I can keep as normal of a routine as possible.  

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More Pics of My Monday's at "The Institute"

As promised, here are some more pics of my experiences.  Enjoy the glimpse into my Monday's!

Here I am sitting in one of the comfy chairs waiting on my chemo.

Here is the nurses station in the chemo room.  This is where they get ready to give me the shots and where they hangout with me.

This is the world's greatest help if you have to get a shot...this freezes the spot before they stick me and I love this stuff so much.  It is the same stuff they freeze off moles and warts.

Here are my chemo shots.  Yes they are bright yellow.  Yes they get stuck in my butt.  Yes it hurts a bit.  Yes, my nurse Terri is great and I appreciate how much she tries to make it as painless as possible.

Here is a picture of the chemo room.  The nurses try to make it as pleasant a place as possible.  As soon as you walk in, they call me by name and ask me if I want a drink.  I can sit where I want and they always have a smile for everyone in there.

Well, that is a look at my Monday's at the USA Mitchell Cancer Institute.  This place has become a part of my life and I am so thankful that we have a place like this here.

It is Fat we have to wait for the results!

Here in Mobile, a lot of places are closed for Fat Tuesday.  Well, apparently the USA Cancer Institute observes the holiday as well so we will wait until tomorrow for my results of the week.
I did go in Monday for my 5th consecutive week of chemo.  As Michael and I were waiting for the doctor, we talked about how crazy it seems that we are 5 weeks into this journey.  It really seems that some weeks fly by, and others have seemed to go on forever.   My oncologist basically said that I am on track and hopefully headed for remission.  He believes that I will have a minimum of 4 more weeks of chemo.  This was somewhat of a disappointment for me, but I think he might be surprised again. 

Many have asked about my experience so here is where Monday starts...

This is the University of South Alabama Mitchell Cancer Institute...
...more pics to follow

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

And they keep falling.....

That is "the count" keeps falling. I am very excited to tell you that the number is now 3500! My typical pattern has been that "the count" is cut in half each week. THIS IS NOT TYPICAL. I am way ahead of schedule. I was really hoping for a 0 count, but I will take 3500 all day. This is better than half of last week. The nurses and my Oncologist are still amazed that the numbers are falling so fast. I am amazed but not surprised.

Monday marked my 4th week of chemo. My parents came in town this weekend and went with me to get my chemo. This was an experience! My dad is not the most patient man, and we had to wait forever this week. We were in the chemo room for over 2 hours, and my dad got to know all of the other patients, the nurses, and every piece of equipment in the room. I have realized that it is deep within every man that goes into a new surrounding to touch and explore all the different pieces of equipment in the chemo room. Michael and my dad have both explored this room thoroughly. The main conversation in the chemo room this week was why gas stations serve the best fried chicken! Rest assured that no chemo patient was talking about this, but all the visitors and nurses were intrigued by this concept.

I still really know nothing more about the cancer other than my counts are falling and that is good news. We are praying that I will hit the ZERO mark in the next few weeks and then proceed with more scans and tests to see where I stand.

As far as questions.....
How many weeks of chemo do I receive?
Indefinetly. I will receive chemo as long as I have cancer. When I get to the remission point, I will still receive chemo 2-4 weeks after that and then be monitored monthly for a couple of years.

How is Michael?
He is great! He is relieved that the numbers are falling and that the cancer is gettin' a whoopin' and that I am feeling so much better. He has been the greatest support I could have ever dreamed of.

That is about life as we know it. We are still keeping a busy schedule and really loving life still. We have really been blessed to have so much community around us right now. It amazes us and encourages us to get facebook messages, emails, and phone calls each week to know people are thinking of us and then checking on how I am progressing. It truly has been a blessing that we can not put words around.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

You Prayed: He is answering!

Yesterday I had my third week of chemo. We have almost gotten into a pattern and know what to expect. I know when my side effects seem to peak, and I know when I will feel the best. We have also gotten into a routine of anticipating "the count" on Tuesdays. This number is the determining number to tell us how much longer we will be on this journey. Today I began calling at 8:20 to find out that number, and I am sure that I am driving the nurses crazy. A little after lunch she called and gave me GREAT NEWS!

I should first back track and tell you that this number should be 0, so that is our goal. The first week, my number was 93,000. (It is never good to hear the Doctor say you have "a count" that is through the roof.) We were prepped and coached on what to expect, and so we were not really anticipating any significant change until next week. The Dr. had actually told us not to expect a change unless the number INCREASED first. Last week we heard that the number had dropped significantly, and that was to around 67,000. (That is when I thought I would jump through the phone last week...see previous post)

So, this week we were not sure what to expect. I think I honestly thought it might go up this week. When my nurse finally called on Tuesday, she was excited to tell me that "the count" had dropped to 22,269. Yep! You are reading that right. "THE COUNT" is dropping so FAST. The nurse said she had never see someone respond so well to chemo! Yeah, I screamed again, and I still think she believes I am crazy. I then told her that when I go into remission, I would be more than glad to do a commercial for her. We are so excited, and we know that the Lord is answering your prayers as well as ours.

and more answers to a few more ?'s we have been asked....

Did I have a Molar Pregnancy to cause this?
No! I did have a miscarriage, but I did not have a molar pregnancy. The type of cancer I have is not from or caused from a Molar Pregnancy. It is a totally different cancer.

How long will I receive chemo?
We do not know. I will receive chemo as long as I have cancer. After I go into remission, I will receive 3-5 more weeks of chemo.

Am I sick all the time?
No! I have more good days than bad. I do have some side effects, but I know that they will pass as well.

What is the worst side effect?
Depends on the day you ask. My blood is thinner, so I have been able to relate real well to my grandmother who freezes all the time. But, my worst side effect is probably the mouth ulcers caused by the chemo.

We still covet your prayers. We realize that we still have many more weeks to go but want to celebrate what the Lord is doing right now.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

yes I heard the words: "You have cancer"

I have pretty much refused to blog or create a site to go into what is going on basically cause I did not believe I was that sick. After hearing so many mixed stories, and people begging me to set up a site, I decided I would just blog what we know and a few of our feelings. Besides, then Michael can't make fun of me for not blogging--- although he does not even really know why people blog in the first place.

First off, you should know that I am not hiding anything from anybody. However, I am a pretty private person that is dealing with some of the hardest emotions I have ever had, and to be honest I have personally been trying to figure out how to process these emotions. Michael and I do value and need your support, and especially your prayers. Our families also need your support and prayers. We have leaned on you, and the encouragement you have given us to make it through the past few weeks.

Here is a summary of the past few weeks:
On Friday (1/23/09), I went to the doctor because I have just not been feeling well. I went in the Tuesday before to have some blood work. On Friday, I had an ultrasound and began to realize by the U/S tech and the Doctors that came in, that something was not right. After just a few minutes, the Dr moved me to her office and asked me to call Michael to come meet me.
Over the next hour, we were told that I had cancer. They found a peach size tumor in my uterus. They sent us immediately to the hospital so I could have a MRI. Michael's sister came and sat with us at the hospital and immediately began calming our nerves.  It was good to have some one who understood medical jargon with us, especially since Michael was calling my cancer "cardiocarcinoma."  (AND NO I DO NOT HAVE HEART CANCER)  Cathy straightened him out.  The MRI was a not a good experience for me....I do not go to tanning beds because I get claustrophobic, so those of you who have had an MRI can only imagine the type of panic I had when they sent me into what I have dubbed "the Hole." The lady thought by placing a washcloth over my face, that would help.  NO, it made it worse.  After the MRI we were sent home to wait for the results. They called shortly thereafter to confirm that I did have cancer. They set us up with the Oncologist on Monday morning.
That was the longest weekend of my life. My mom did come and do ALL of our laundry and cleaned our whole house.  It was amazing and we did not even ask.  She said she had to keep busy.  My dad came and about ate Wintzell's out of oysters in a 24 hour period.  That is how they dealt with the stress.  Michael and I sat and starred at each other all weekend wondering what this meant. I can tell you that I was scared to death. Monday (1/26) we went with "a clan" to meet with the oncologist. HE IS GREAT. He came in confident and with a plan, and this was a tremendous relief to us. He spent a great deal of time with Michael and me, and then met with our group of family and friends that were with us. He laid out a plan of treatment and told us that my specific cancer is one of the most aggressive, but this also means that is very responsive to chemo. It has a cure rate of 99+%.
I began having chemo shots that day. I will receive chemo shots every Monday until the cancer is gone. I never dreamed that at my age I would see the inside of the USA Mitchell Cancer Institute and the chemo room, but I guess there are always firsts. It is such a nice facility, by the way, and I am so thankful it is in Mobile. There are only 3 Oncologists in our region that treat this type of cancer and two are in Mobile. This is a blessing.

So where are we today?
We got great news Monday that my CT scans came back negative which means the cancer has not spread! What a relief. Then on Tuesday, the nurse called and told me that "my numbers" (this is the number that determines where we stand in the process of ridding the cancer) had dropped 30,000! This is huge because it indicates that my body has already begun to respond to the chemo. YEAH! Still a LONG way to go, but we are on the road to remission! Although we are still scared to death, I can tell you that I slept better last night than the past 10 days. When the nurse called to tell me this, I screamed REALLY loud. If I could have jumped through that phone, I would have. She already thinks I am crazy, so I thought I should just confirm it for her. Then the Doctor called to talk, and I just told him that Jesus was going to heal me. You can only imagine his response. So, I will continue to have chemo every Monday, and we will update you on how it is going.

And for the ?'s we have been asked the most:
Am I contagious?
No I am not contagious. Fortunately you can't catch what I got!
Am I going to lose my hair?
As of now, no. If my body responds to the drug I am on I should not.
What about the specific names?
I can only spell about 2.1% of what they say, and we have decided that every word with cancer has 17 letters involved, so I am going to give you the shortened version.
Do I have brain cancer?
We have laughed out loud at this one. NO! I do not have brain cancer, I have Uterine Cancer.
Will I be able to have kids?
This is our prayer, and we are praying that the Lord will bless us with that responsibility one day.

So, yes I have cancer. Yes, I have started Chemo. Yes, you can call me (please do not avoid me). Yes, we are still scared. And Yes, we believe that the Lord is going to heal me.

If you have questions, I will be glad to try to answer them if you email me--