Friday, March 27, 2015

Highs and lows

I am thankful to say that following my treatment last Wed. I did not have the same intense side effects as after the fourth treatment - the regular aches and pains, some stomach sensitivity etc, but very controllable with the meds. Thank God!

On Monday, March 23rd I turned 50 yrs old! Originally I was supposed to be going through my last chemo treatment on that day. But because of day changes and treatments being put off, that didn't happen. And I'm glad for that because I was able to attend my wonderful surprise party organized for me by my family and friends this past Sunday.
They did a marvelous job - I didn't suspect a thing! It was so touching to see reunited in one room many lovely ladies who have been a part of my life at different stages since I have lived in Quebec: from my 2 sisters-in-law and Mother-in-law to friends from our old church in Pointe-aux Tembles to friends from the homeschool group in Vermont and so on. Quite the cross-section of people, some speaking English and some French, but all who have touched my life in some way over the past 28yrs.

I was so overwhelmed with joy, happiness and thankfulness that these ladies would come to Dunham to celebrate me, so touched by their love. And then there were the cards filled with notes of encouragement that I could only read the next day, cause I didn't think my heart could take so much emotion in one day! Thank you to those who came and to those who sent cards or messages via email or Facebook. I was very touched and felt loved!
 A couple of days later I find out the news of 3 ladies deaths from cancer, two from breast cancer, one who I knew personnally. Talk about a nose dive into the depths of sadness. It has been a hard few days, many tears, those old fears resurfacing. I let the tears fall, knowing that this too is for a season. My body and emotions are becoming weary of this journey, but the end is near.

A song by Michael W. Smith has been an encouragement to me to hang on when I don't feel like it:

There's a rose in the desert
Blooming red in the drought
There's a quenching rain
In the wings of the gathering clouds

Lift your eyes
Look to the horizon now
There's still a hope for us
Reach up from the dust
And call it down

One of my favorite Psalms, Psalm 139, reminds me over and over again the God has my story in His hands, under His control. I do not have to fear the story of another person. That was her story for reasons that I cannot and may not ever comprehend. My story is unique and different and I can trust the author, for He is faithful.

 Psalm 139:15-16
My frame was not hidden from You
when I was made in secret,
and intricately put together in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw me unformed,
yet in Your book
all my days were written, before any of them came into being.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

I'm 5/6th of the way there!

I am happy to report my 5th chemo treatment went well on Wed. March 18th. No side effects during treatment. They had reduced the dose of chemo and added some benadryl in order to try and reduce the reactions I had last time. We modified the  meds also. So hopefully this upcoming week will be uneventful with regards to side effects. And we have changed the way in which the injections will be administered in order to try and maintain a reasonable level for my white blood cell count. I am going to have to be wise with regards to resting regularly during the next 3 weeks so my body can build up its strength and my white blood cells can be produced sufficiently before my next treatment.

Thinking back on my treatments, I think my visits have become part of the comic relief in the chemo room. Last time my friend Karey brought the tropical decor and this time I was accompanied by my long time (20 yrs+) friend Joanne. She decided to keep me entertained by a drawing game similar to pictionary (Telestrations) while I soaked my feet and hands. We laughed so much! Seriously, how can hair extensions be interpreted as a Hassidic, orthodox Jew?? There was a quirk in the game though - when it was her turn to draw and have me guess, she simply drew, I guessed. But when it was my turn, I couldn't draw of course (hands soaking in ice) so she closed her eyes and I dictated how to draw my picture. Then she opened her eyes and tried to guess the picture. It was sort of like 2 games in 1.
Sometimes we laughed so hard, I think the other patients thought we were crazy! Well it did give them something to keep their minds off their own treaments. At one point, because of all the fun we were having, I didn't even notice that water from the melted ice had seeped into the ziplock bags and my socks were soaking wet! So, like the good friend she is, Joanne whipped off her socks and gave them to me to finish the soaking and afterwards went home with no socks on in her boots. You know you're good friends when you can wear your her used, sweaty socks!! Then everyone in the room had their opinion on what to do next - with my wet socks, drying off my feet, how to reposition the new ziplocks. It was a hoot!

 I realized afterwards that normally every medical appointment or procedure we have during our lives is usually very private. It's one on one with the health care provider or providers. But not chemo. We are all (this time 7 of us) in one room, positionned in a circle. So you have to look at each other, whether you want to or not. Chemo is lived out in community, with the advantages and disadvantages of this set up. One can see first hand other patients' reactions, fears, joys. One can hear words of encouragement from caregivers, nurses, advice from the medical staff etc. I tell you, we're in this together - not very private at all. I wondered about this with Daniel - is it primarily a budget thing, need for less nurses? Is it just convenient for the surveillance if something goes wrong with one patient the nurse can respond more quickly, being in the same room? This is probably true. But maybe there is some additional reason. Knowing you're not alone in the battle, that there are others going through the same journey, some even worse off than you are, sort of makes it less scary. There is an inspiration and encouragement in knowing others are going through the same struggles as you are, and they can smile through this too. I do sincerely hope we made a positive impact to those surrounding us on that day. We certainly did make them smile and I'm sure some had stories to tell when they arrived home.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

On slaying giants and facing fears

Well the first week of March was glorious and not just because it was March break. My sister Susan came for a week from Newfoundland to visit and support me in this whole ordeal. What a great time we had, laughing, reminiscing, shopping, snowshoeing and just basically getting out of the "cancer routine". She was originally scheduled to be here with me during one of my treatments but because there had been delays, it didn't work out. However, it was much more fun this way and Daniel and the girls and I really appreciated her time with us and practical help in the house.


 Then the after sister's visit/ before chemo blues hit. Needless to say I was "fit to be tied" as they say in Newfoundland. As the week advanced and I missed my sister I also began anticipating with much anxiety this next chemo treatment, knowing it would be the same drug and fearing the same uncomfortable, yes even painful adverse reactions. I really began to lose heart and get discouraged. The emotions just seem to come out of nowhere and completely overwhelm me.

During this time my solace was in song. And I quickly realized why the Psalmist David used song so much when he was fighting his own battles, some of them literally battling for his life. So I turned once again to my CDs and my mp3 player and forced myself to hear God's truth told, whether I wanted to or not, and to be open to receive this comfort and the reminders that sometimes can come only hidden in a beautiful melody.

Here are some parts of songs that have greatly spoken to my heart this week:

Steven Curtis Chapman - Our God Is In Control
This is not how it should be
This is not how it could be
This is how it is
And our God is in control
This is not how it will be
When we finally will see
We'll see with our own eyes
He was always in control

This is not where we planned to be
When we started this journey
But this is where we are
And our God is in control

Though this first taste is bitter
There will be sweetness forever
When we finally taste and see
That our God is in control
Kristyn and Keith Getty - Jesus Draw me ever nearer
Jesus draw me ever nearer
As I labour through the storm.
You have called me to this passage,
and I'll follow, though I'm worn.

May this journey bring a blessing,
May I rise on wings of faith;
And at the end of my heart's testing,
With Your likeness let me wake.

Jesus guide me through the tempest;
Keep my spirit staid and sure.
When the midnight meets the morning,
Let me love You even more.

Let the treasures of the trial                                 
Form within me as I go -
And at the end of this long passage,
Let me leave them at Your throne

Aaron Keyes - You are Sovereign over us
There is strength within the sorrow, There is beauty in our tears
You meet us in our mourning, With a love that casts out fear
You are working in our waiting, You're sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding, You're teaching us to trust

Your plans are still to prosper, You have not forgotten us
You're with us in the fire and in the flood
You're faithful forever
Perfect in love
You are sovereign over us

You are wisdom unimagined
Who could understand Your ways
Reigning high above the Heavens
Reaching down in endless grace
You're the lifter of the lowly
Compassionate and kind
You surround and You uphold me
And Your promises are my delight

Even what the enemy means for evil
You turn it for our good
You turn it for our good and for Your glory
Even in the valley, You are faithful
You're working for our good
You're working for our good and for Your glory
Then this past Tuesday afternoon I find out the news that my white blood cell count is too low again and my chemo will be put off for another week, once again.
I was frustrated at first because this pushes everything ahead, but then realized that this is probably just what I need - another week to make my body stronger, readjust my meds and just relax and rest. Moreover, when I look back to what God has been trying to teach me through song, I can only have a thankful heart. He is in control, sovereign. He does know what He's doing and I can slay those giants and face those fears with Him, in every valley.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The famous fourth treatment

Well, I haven't written for a while, so I decided to do so again in the wee hours of the morning after being awakened by my ususal "tropical moment". Didn't have much inspiration these days for writing without sounding like I'm complaining, so I decided not to write at all.

How did the aftermat of this fourth treatment turn out, you may wonder? What can I say? Terrible. I had so many side effects - severe mouth sores, achy bones, intestinal issues, skin rash, nasal bleeding...but the worse was the heartburn and stomach pains which caused me an overnight visit to the emergency room. Things are stable now, thanks to various meds - lots of meds. Sometimes it's hard to remember the day when there were no pill bottles on the counter, no prescriptions to get filled. Me, who hardly ever took anything besides an occasional tylenol, I now live in the presence of my newfound friends, those little transparent containers filled with colorful candylike potions called RELIEF.

I have since heard from several people that the fourth treatment was their worse one. So, I take heart, knowing I am not the exception. And throughout these difficult few weeks of pain and sleepness nights, once again I am amazed and thankful for the wonderful team of people that surround me, who have done everything to help me get through this journey easier. From my doctor, who herself battled breast cancer last year, to my dear pharmacist who calls to find out how I'm making out, to the nurses at the CLSC who try so every gently to take blood from my so tired veins. I thank God for caring healthcare workers. Thoughtfulness and concern have been communicated and have been so appreciated by this weary patient. So I'm encourgaged once more to battle on and not give up. Only two treatments to go!