I just got back from the hospital and it looks like I am good for another year. Phew!
Thank you everyone for your thoughts and prayers.
I just got back from the hospital and it looks like I am good for another year. Phew!
Thank you everyone for your thoughts and prayers.
It’s been three weeks exactly since my final chemo infusion. I woke up thankful that I didn’t have to prepare my “chemo food” or worry about the IV and side effects. It feels good to know that every day I will get a little bit stronger and I don’t have another infusion coming to knock me back down.
I spent the morning getting some things done around the house and putting things back in order. My plan was to work around the house in the morning, run some errands in town in the afternoon, write this blog post…then go to my first radiation appointment at 6:00 pm. Things were running along smoothly. It was a beautiful afternoon here in Groningen so I took a longer walk through the center and the park enjoying the sun and trees. I made it back to the house around 3:50 tired and hot, grabbed glass of water and sat down to relax and write for a couple hours. I checked my phone just to verify the time of the appointment…Oh crap! My appointment was at 16:10!! (dang that 24 hour clock) My brain had turned that into 6:10 pm when in fact it was 4:10 pm…in 20 minutes. Good thing I checked and good thing the hospital is close. So much for relaxing! I threw my shoes on grabbed my bag and was off for my date with a snorkel.
The appointment didn’t take long…10 minutes getting everything set up and aligned and 1 minute of actual radiation. Here’s a photo of the set up Jonathan took when I was practicing.
It’s quite involved. Nose plugged…weird mirror glasses so I can see the screen the nice lady is looking at…panic/control button in my left hand…and the snorkel. It’s not that bad. I actually spend more time thinking about the sensors they use to monitor my breathing and the code behind LabVIEW program controlling it all. Here’s to the next 6 weeks.
Well folks the time has come…number 6. I have my last heavy duty chemo infusion in my treatment plan tomorrow. It has managed to come fast and slow at the same time and, to be honest, I have mixed feelings about it. Don’t get me wrong I am SO excited to not have poison pumped through my body every three weeks. I am ready to de fog my brain and re grow my hair . But it is odd to get to the end and wonder if I accomplished anything with this challenging process. Emotionally and spiritually I have grown in profound ways but I will never know if the chemo actually did anything. I just get to the end, walk out the door and wait…hopefully wait years without any sign of the cancer returning.
When I started on this cancer journey it seemed like running a half marathon/marathon was a good metaphor for the process. I would be tested physically and mentally and would have to rely on mental fortitude to push to the finish. There are many similarities but where the comparison breaks down for me is at the “finish”. Tomorrow I will be done (minus the side effects) with the tough chemo but my journey with cancer will continue in a different capacity. There is not an “I made it” moment and now I get to leave this all behind me. I get to leave this particular physical challenge behind me but the race is not done. I am now thinking a better metaphor is a long distance hike and I have just crested a summit but the trail continues before me. There will be times that are more physically demanding and others I get to stroll along enjoying the scenery. However, I am now on a cancer path and it will forever influence me.
But, that wont stop me from having one heck of a celebration after cresting this “chemo peak”. After all this I’ve learned you have to party whenever you have an excuse.
Chemo #4 is in the books and I just now feel like I am coming out of the post infusion fog. It has become quite a familiar cycle at this point. I go in for my treatment on Thursday (IV in on the first time again! I am so thankful) and then spend the next few days in a puddle on my couch passing my time with reading, TV and whatnot. My cheeks and lips get tingly and numb and I can even have some vision problems…but it always goes away. It is difficult to drink a lot of water but I force myself. My brain feels like it’s been removed from my head and there are times when trying to remember a word feels like I am pulling it from an endless abyss. I have a regiment of medicine I need to take at certain times on certain days…it was overwhelming at first but now is automatic and I can apparently even do it without a brain.
This was my weekend but there always comes a moment when I can feel the side effects shifting. When I feel my energy returning and like I’m coming back to the land of the living. Today I passed that moment and I can feel the #4 post chemo dip moving behind me. I still have side effects but they become less severe the further I get from the infusion. I am thankful that nausea still has not been a problem and that I have the space to be a chemo-zombie for a few days. I have so much respect for people who go through this with major family and life obligations. I can tell there is an accumulation effect from the treatments because the “dip” is a bit longer and heavier every time. I hate this process but I will concentrate on the fact that I have 2 weeks until my next round and only 2 more rounds until I am DONE!
Well…it appears to be that time again. I’m never quite ready for it. I actually almost missed my blood draw this morning because my brain hasn’t quite accepted the fact that I get my 4th chemo infusion tomorrow. This cycle has gone by extremely fast and I was beginning to feel fully like myself. It’s hard to face the fact that my body will get kicked again and I then get to wait and see how it will rebound over the next few weeks. But it’s the 4th infusion out of 6 so after tomorrow only 2 more to go!!
We were very fortunate to have some visitors last week. If you follow the blog you saw theurgent appeal for my uncle’s bag. It hasn’t shown up yet but we are still praying for a miracle…it’s a lot to lose. But outside the unfortunate beginning to their trip we really had a wonderful time and it was great to see them. On top of their visit my good friend Miciah booked a last minute trip to see us also. She and I took a quick jaunt down to the Rhine valley in Germany for a couple days. We wandered through quaint German villages and were overwhelmed by the number of castles in this region. The weather was decent enough
and it was so good for my spirit to hang out with her and get out of town. On our way home we stopped by Utrecht and stayed with another good friend, Jen, in Amsterdam. It was an excellent weekend. I felt strong and like myself again…I think that’s why it’s especially hard to go in for the next infusion tomorrow. But this will pass.
Also, in case you’re interested my chemo menu for tomorrow (Thanks Casey Evans for the Facebook inspiration ):
Avocado Egg Salad wraps and homemade strawberry rhubarb crumble
Click here for the: Avocado Egg Salad recipe
I modified the egg salad a little bit with some lemon juice and paprika but it is excellent. I’ll put it in a whole wheat wrap for a healthy chemo treat.
Welp the 3rd infusion is done and behind me, got the IV on the first go…Yes!…now comes the role of the side effects dice. Fingers crossed for a big winner. This is a post I was working on for a bit and thought it was as good a time as any to send it out to the internet.
Have you ever heard the quote… “It’s about the journey, not the destination?” I understand the idea but honestly I really hate it because it flies against my natural mode of operation. I don’t love the journey for the sake of being on a journey. Just dancing through life soaking up the beautiful moments, I am focused on the goal. What am I working towards? And will I like it when I get there? I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment and checking something off the list. I can remember being on a hike in the beautiful cascade mountains and stopping myself ½ way up amazed at what I was focused on for the first 1.5 hours. My thoughts shifted between… “How far have I gone?”… “How far do I have left to go?” … “How are my legs/knees doing?” … “Do I think they’ll make it?”… I was focused on where I put my feet but never looked up from the trail long enough to enjoy the reason why I was hiking in the first place. These are the moments when I know that I need to make more of an effort to be present in the journey because I don’t want to miss it, but it doesn’t happen naturally for me. I have to choose.
I know that part of the reason why I can’t just abandon myself to the process is a fear that it won’t turn out the way I want. Again, I can feel this most often when I am watching a sporting match or reading a book. I have friends that will religiously avoid Facebook or the internet if they’ve missed a match or TV show so they don’t run the risk of “spoilers”. Those little bits of information that give away the ending and ruin the surprise. I will actively seek them so I know whether it is worth starting the journey in the first place. Jonathan laughs at me when I read because if there are characters I am invested in and the story is intense I will flip to the end and skim the pages for the names I want to make it. I don’t actually want to know what the ending is but I want to know that the characters I care about will make it. Confession: I totally did this with Harry Potter. I want to know that I am free to enjoy their story because in the end it all works out.
Now enter the kindle… I really enjoy the kindle. I wasn’t sure if I would miss holding a real book but it’s been great. The e-ink. The fact that I can carry 1400 books everywhere (not that I do…but I can). I can purchase and download a book in seconds, which is nice in a country where it can be difficult to get the books you want in English. Really, I am a huge promoter of this little device. But the one thing it has changed for me…I can’t skip to the end. It’s a pain in the butt on this digital wonder to get to the end of the book and back to the same spot. So, I’m forced to either 1. Not read anymore or 2. Open myself up for the journey and risk the end not being what I want. I have chosen to keep reading.
Of course this is all a big metaphor for my life right now. I want the last few pages. I want to know that this life I have turns out the way I want. I want to know how cancer plays itself out in the future. I want to know whether relationships are worth the investment. But these pages are not there to know and I am focusing on trying to embrace the journey.
The last few weeks have been a bit quiet on the blogging front…partly because we’ve had guests…partly because my brain has felt like a pile of mush…but mostly because this cycle has been rough and I just didn’t feel like it. And I decided that that’s OK.
But I thought it was worth mentioning that I have my 3rd infusion tomorrow. This marks the 1/2 way point in my chemo journey…crazy. I celebrated my last day of feeling “normal” for the next couple weeks by:
- eating a giant bowl of guacamole – yum! It’s nice to have taste buds again.
- running 6k
- hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
- cleaning a bit
- reading a bit
- praying a bit
- prepping my “infusion” food…this time spinach tortellini
Please pray the next cycle will be a bit more gentle…and like always the IV going in on the first try.
Well I survived receiving another chemo infusion. They got the IV started on the first time again…yippee! I’m going to keep asking for that because it is a tangible answered prayer for me. And I decided that I was going to skip the dry Dutch bread and cheese that they give you for lunch here and bring my own fabulous baked sweet potato fries. It was entertaining to watch people try to figure out what I was eating, because of course I had a little ketchup with them being an American. And once someone finally had enough curiosity to ask they just couldn’t get their minds around it for a few reasons…it wasn’t a sandwich for lunch…there wasn’t mayo for the fries…and who eats ketchup? I had a quick conversation with them about how sweet potatoes are SO much better for you than normal white potatoes and they seemed interested but who knows if it stuck. All I know is that I was very happy with my lunch and that’s all that really matters. Today I feel pretty good, no nausea, and I’m now in the balance of trying to never get too hungry or too full…and hydrate! At any given moment I have no less than 5 cups scattered around the house with various levels of water, juice, tea, and coffee.
My spirit was down going into this round because we received some extremely bad news that is probably worse than hearing you have cancer. The details of this are not for public blogging but it’s enough to say we’ve got some other stuff to deal with. So I must have a great excavator in my life that just doubled the pit I am now sitting in but here’s hoping we have hit bedrock.
In the midst of all of this I have been slowly reading through a book given to me by my new pastor and his wife at Vineyard Groningen, The Blessing Book by Linda Dillow. The 2nd chapter of this book has been especially relevant to me. The one I want to share with you today is called “I will remember” and it’s based around Psalm 77.
For the director of music. For Jeduthun. Of Asaph. A psalm.
1 I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
2 When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands,
and I would not be comforted.
3 I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.[b]
4 You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.
5 I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;
6 I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart meditated and my spirit asked:
7 “Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion? ”
10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
11 I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
13 Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?
14 You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
16 The waters saw you, God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
17 The clouds poured down water,
the heavens resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.
18 Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
19 Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.
20 You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
At this particular moment I feel like I am living in the first half of this psalm (vs 1-10). Where my spirit is grieving and weary. It is difficult to be comforted or to find the strength to carry on. Sleep is hard to come by and it is impossible to know what to do. Except remember. I will choose to remember the ways God has worked in my life and the power/miracles he has displayed throughout time. This is not overly spiritualized my heart is still heavy…but I know my God. I know he is the giver of life and redemption. I know he can move mountains and pray fervently for transformation and provision. And with this remembrance comes the peace of knowing it will not always be this way.
It’s hard to believe that 3 weeks has passed already and that I am set for my next chemo infusion tomorrow. My hair is falling out in patches so my kick ass crew cut has turned into something that more closely resembles a style from a concentration camp. And while I’ve tried to hurry the hair loss process along with some duct tape it remains very patchy and unattractive. My spirit has been down these past two days and I have a lot of anxiety for this next round. But, I must face it and will take the side effects as they come. One day at a time. I’ve been drinking water these last 3 weeks like I am about to face a drought and it has really helped my veins. Each blood draw has been a piece of cake…apparently I’ve lived these last few years in a constant state of dehydration. This is a pretty quick update. I’ll let you know how it goes when I’m up to it.
Specific prayer requests:
- Again, that they would get the IV on the first try. I’m getting spoiled now.
- That I my anxiety would ease in remembering God’s provision and faithfulness.
Welp, I survived the first round of chemo with fairly minimal side effects…so far. 2 HUGE ANSWERED PRAYERS:
But that was just the first part of the long, boring day. It was in my right hand so I couldn’t do any journaling or crocheting but I got a lot of reading done while the chemicals drip, drip, dripped into my system. I wore my cozy pink bunny socks (with the wide angle lens makes my feet look like pink skis) and wrapped myself in the beautiful quilt my mom and sister gave me to have some love from home. I had no problems with my veins burning or any other discomfort. Poor Jonathan was by my side for the the whole 5 hours in a super uncomfortable chair but he was a trooper.
I am on the strongest dose of anti-nausea medicine and that also seems to have done the trick so far. I am still drinking a ton of liquids and eating small meals but outside of an occasionally queasy stomach it hasn’t been so bad. I understand that the effects are accumulative and this is the first dose but I’m taking my blessings when I get them…one day at a time. I have my “chemo physical therapy” tomorrow to help keep my strength and fitness at a good level during treatment and I am actually excited to go.
Thank you everyone for your prayers and positive vibes during this…they help a lot.