Katie & Briscoe

Katie & Briscoe

Monday, December 27, 2010

Merry CHRISTmas!

The title is a copy of a message from an online Christian friend who wisely wants us all to remember the true meaning of the season. Yes, I (and most every other Christian I imagine) know that Christ was not actually born on December 25th. And I also know that early church leaders appropriated the date from a pagan holiday. And I very much hate to see just how commercialized and self-centered the holiday has become. But ultimately, none of that changes the fact that the core meaning of Christmas - for Christians - is a celebration of the birth of the One who came to save us all. It's the time that we choose to honor that amazing event and it doesn't matter that it most likely happened sometime in the fall, not the winter. Perhaps there's a very good reason that God chose not to reveal an exact time and date for the birth of His Son. Just look at what we've done to the date we have chosen to use as a substitute! What began long ago as a time for reverence and reflection and thankfulness has become a time for ridiculous spending and selfish indulgence. We have so commercialized the holiday and turned our backs on the original intent that it has now become de rigueur to eliminate Christ from the title altogether.

I'm not trying to rant, here. I just find it increasingly sad to see just how far from Christ Christmas is drifting. I have no problem with giving gifts. I love to give gifts. And I love the best things of the holiday. I love the lights and the music. I love baking and making candy. I love decorating (including a tree) and wrapping gifts. I love the idea of the meaning behind the holiday and the notion that for a little while at least people do tend to try to be a bit more considerate and generous. Christmas is a time of year that holds very special memories for me and I will always love it. This year, however, has been harder than usual.  Here's my Christmas tree from last year:
As you can see, it's a sizable tree and covered with a lot of ornaments, most of which date back to my childhood. I love to turn all the lights off at night and just look at the lights on the tree. I just love the bright colors, the shadows cast on the walls and ceiling from the lights shining through the branches. I feel the same way about lights on houses. Christmas is a season I look forward to all year long. This year things weren't quite normal, though.

My decorating this year consisted of me putting a wreath on my front door. Well, I always have a wreath there, but I changed it for my Christmas wreath. And that's ALL I did. My Christmas tree is stored out in our shed and there was no way in the world that I could go out there and drag it into the house. Even if Mark had brought it in for me, I never would have been able to get it assembled and decorated. It would have taken me days to accomplish. Mark has been working far too much to find the time to do it himself. So no Christmas tree for us this year. I'd like to say it didn't bother me, but that would be a lie. I missed it. I missed the pretty lights and the nostalgia of hanging all those ornaments. I have a LOT of miscellaneous Christmas decorations. Like I said earlier, I love the holiday. Dragging all that stuff out and placing it throughout the house just brings a smile to my face. It simply wasn't possible this year.

I did my best to keep it from getting me down. I certainly have plenty to be thankful for and no excuse at all to complain. But I really did miss my tree. I missed getting to go shopping and wrapping presents. I missed making tons of candy and cookies and cakes and pies. And no matter how much I tried to let go of those traditions, it did kinda get me down. So Mark and I went out to do some last minute errands on Christmas eve and knowing how much I missed my pretty lights, he made sure I would have some. This is what we ended up with.
I don't know what these trees are called. I described them to someone once as a cross between a pine tree and a palm tree. LOL. My mother actually had one when I was a kid and we would hang tiny little Christmas balls on it. (Like the ones on this one.) These days small decorative trees are apparently pretty popular because I've noticed for a few years now that you can get everything from the little balls to tiny ornaments and even little garland. I had another one of these a few years back and had already bought the balls and some itty bitty ornaments. Mark and I picked up the plant itself and one of those nifty little strings of LED lights that runs off a battery. We came home and I found my little decorations in one of my Christmas boxes that I store here in the house. I put the lights and decorations on it, then sat it on one of my end tables. (Those little presents are toys for our dogs. Couldn't let Christmas go by with nothing for them! LOL)

Honestly, I love my little tree. It's just so cute. And it helped satisfy my craving for Christmas lights. I'm seriously thinking of just leaving the lights in it permanently. They make me smile.

So, I got my Christmas tree after all. And more importantly, I got to spend the day with my husband. He was actually not feeling very well, so I did all the cooking. God was gracious enough to give me the energy I needed to accomplish that task. I even took the ham bone after I'd cut most of the meat off and put it in a crock pot with a pound of dried beans. They were done when we got up this morning. Pretty tasty, too. So I have a fridge full of ham, a bunch of leftover beans, and almost a whole turkey breast that I put up after Thanksgiving and got out for Christmas. (Mark's a turkey nut!)

I think I'll take some of that ham and make ham salad for Mark. I've got all I need for it, and a big ol' food processor to make the job easy. I even found the energy tonight to load the dishwasher! All in all, I'm feeling especially blessed. Mark's going to have a few days off this week and I'm almost half-way through my second dense dose chemo. I'll be getting treatment #3 this week and then there'll only be one more left.

I wish I'd felt more like keeping my Christmas traditions this year, but maybe there's a good reason that I couldn't. Maybe I needed to take a step back from all the lights and tinsel to remember the simple truth behind it all. A little more than 2000 years ago God Himself became a flesh and blood man. He set aside His crown and His glory and came here to live among us, to share our toils, trials, and temptations. He was born to poor parents and raised without any fanfare or luxury. He would eventually die a terrible death, all so we could know full forgiveness and reconciliation with our Creator. As much as I love my Christmas lights and music and traditions, I am even more grateful to BE LOVED by the One who sacrificed His all for me.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Extreme Yucky!

I can't believe it's been so long since I made myself sit down and write a post. Sorry about that. I assign part of the blame to me being pretty tired all the time. Well, not so much tired as just plain fried. I mentioned "chemo brain" a few times I think. Well, after 6 chemo treatments so far it's really kicking in on an epic scale. Here's a cute little example:

I think I mentioned several posts ago about hurting my foot by jamming a small tree branch into the top of it. It wasn't a major injury, just a deep scrape. It left quite a persistent scab, though. I don't know when it finally healed for good, but it's been a while now. It's right on top of my left foot. Anyway, the other day Mark and I were at Wal-Mart returning a heater that was part of a recall. We were standing in line at the service desk for I don't know how long. Too long as far as I was concerned, since by the time we finally got through the process of returning the heater I was already worn out and didn't really care if I got my groceries or not. LOL So while we were standing there, I got this odd little twinge on the top of my foot. I slipped my shoe off and glanced down and spotted this small red spot on top of my foot. I was thinking, "What in the world is that? Did something bite me?" I turned to Mark and said, "Look at my foot. What is that?" He glanced down, gave me a look like he wasn't sure I was serious, then said, "That's where you jabbed your foot with that stick." I had been telling him just how messed up my brain was. When he reminded me that the red spot was actually a scar, I had to laugh. I was like, "See, I told you my brain is fried! I really didn't know where the spot had come from."

If I'd been at home by myself, I probably would have sat down to look at it and realized it wasn't fresh. I'd have probably remembered what it was and where it had come from. But my brain is moving at roughly one half to one quarter of its normal capability. I cannot remember anything. I keep telling Mark not to expect me to remind him of things because I can't keep anything in my head. I have to write EVERYTHING down if I don't want to forget it. I told Mark that I sure hope the brain fog clears up quickly after the chemo is over. I've heard some say it took them months, even a year to get back to something resembling normal. Some say they never fully recovered. It's all just part of the "New Normal" we all have to learn to live with. Still, I'm not going to complain. It could always be worse.

So, on to my chief complaint these days.

I've had 2 Taxotere treatments so far. I get them every 3 weeks and I didn't think the first one was all that bad. I got the treatment on a Wednesday, then woke up the following Friday with thrush. That was the first time I can remember having it. Anyway, it was gross, but cleared up with the help of a rinse from the Dr. During the thrush I had a bad taste in my mouth as well as a truly weird "full" sorta feel in my stomach. My abdomen was actually hard. It was uncomfortable, but not horrific. I attributed both the taste and the stomach thing to the thrush. Then I got my second Taxotere treatment.

When I went in a week later for my Herceptin, I thought I must be coming down with thrush again. I'd noticed an off taste starting a couple of days before. It was worse that Wednesday, though. I tried chewing gum, but that just made it even more awful. So, on the off chance that I was getting thrush again, my nurse got me a script for more of the rinse. (Did I mention that it is nasty? No? Well it is.) I came home and used it that evening and nearly barfed it right back up. (You rinse, then swallow.) I told Mark I didn't think I was going to be able to use it. The thing is, I didn't have the white film on my tongue that I had the first time around. So I decided to do some research and low and behold, when I Googled "Taxotere" and "bad taste" I got all kinds of results. Turns out it's an issue with this chemo. And so is the stomach thing. I actually wound up calling the Dr.'s office the next afternoon, just to let them know about my symptoms because (confusingly) the side effect list I read listed the stomach swelling as both a "common" side effect and one that was "rare" and should be reported to the Dr. immediately. How's that for helpful patient info? The nurse didn't seem concerned, though, and confirmed that the nasty taste was likely due to the chemo. Yippee.

So, I've been trying all kinds of things to get this taste out of my mouth. For the most part, it isn't that food tastes bad or wrong. My mouth just tastes really awful. Well, it's actually better now, almost gone, thank heaven. For a week or so there, though, it was pretty rough. Mark had bought some candy (cinnamon and butterscotch) for work. I don't like cinnamon, so I decided to try the butterscotch and it actually did a good job of masking the taste. Of course, the instant the candy was gone the taste came back. Mint was really bad. I like Doublemint gum, but I cannot describe how horrible it tasted. And no amount of tooth and/or tongue brushing helped. It is just a really unpleasant side effect that I didn't have with the first rounds of chemo. Unfortunately, it will probably get worse before it gets better as each chemo compounds on the ones that came before. Double yippee.

Other than the nasty taste, the only other issue I have with the Taxotere is pain. The weekend after the first treatment saw me barely getting out of bed. It was very rough. When I told my oncologist about it, he decided to try skipping the Neulasta shot that I usually get the day after chemo. It causes pain as well, but also spurs my body to produce more white blood cells. Anyway, we skipped it after the second treatment and that weekend was a little better, but not a lot. It remains to be seen what my blood counts will be when I go in for the third treatment the week after Christmas. It's possible that he may reduce the dosage on the chemo. Or he may not. We'll just have to see.

The good news is that many of the side effects of the Adriamycin/Cytoxin are fading. My hair has started growing back. For a while there, Mark said I looked like I had a "5 o'clock shadow" on my head. Now he says I'm moving into the "Chia Pet" stage of hair regrowth. It's pretty fuzzy, about 1/4 to 1/2 an inch long. I've got a LONG way to go before I really have hair again, but at least it's starting. Although I did just notice in the last week or so that I lost most of my eyebrows. Don't know when, but they're mostly gone. I never had much in the way of eyelashes to begin with, but they're fairly thin as well.

So, along with the hair on my head coming back, some of the symptoms of the medically induced menopause are starting to ease, too. I still get the hot flashes, but not as often. On the side of less than welcome side effects, the return of my hormones also means the return of my migraines. I have had nothing more than a mild headache since the chemo started. Now that's starting to change. I took birth control since my late teens, mostly because it kept my cycles under control. (I do my best not to think about how horrendous they were when I was young.) The pills also helped even out my hormones so that at least the migraines were usually limited to a 1 to 2 week time frame each month, centered around my menstrual cycle. I can't take birth control any longer, though. And no hormones when menopause kicks in for real, either. I don't mind saying that I'm a little concerned about what that's going to mean for both the migraines and my menstrual cycle. We'll just have to see.

Like I said, I've got 2 more Taxotere treatments to go. I'll finish up the third week in January. Then, sometime after that, I'll get just over a month's worth of radiation treatments. I'll also do the Herceptin every 3 weeks until sometime in November of 2011. The Herceptin isn't nearly as horrible as the rest of them. Well, other than the risk that it'll do permanent damage to my heart. LOL At least it doesn't come with a side of hair loss, nausea, pain, and/or indescribably nasty taste. Like I keep saying, it could always, ALWAYS, be worse.

Chia Pet Hair
NOT my actual head. LOL

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Life and Death and Memories of Both...

I'm generally an even keeled person when it comes to emotional stability. Well, I am these days. I endured a nightmare of very deep, out of control depression immediately after my mother's death. It lasted 2 years and if asked, I cannot give much info about those 2 years because I have no memory of them. I can offer a few anecdotes about that time, like I remember graduating from high school and returning to my home town for my prom, and a handful of other such "highlights" but the day to day living of that time is lost in a fog of desperate grief. Eventually the depression lifted, though I would fight it for years before finally admitting to a doctor that it was a problem. I've done therapy - still do, just to make sure I don't lose myself during this cancer battle. I also take a medication every single day and it has helped quite a bit. The depression isn't gone. I don't know if it ever will be. Perhaps some day God will choose to remove it from my life for good. Until that happens, it is something I live with, though I have enough experience now to see and feel it coming and to take measures to head it off before it can swallow me whole like it did before. That's what I'm going to do here.

I developed my depression coping skills over the course of a couple of decades. Once I rejoined the land of the living after that first major collapse, I wanted desperately to keep it from happening again. I've had some pretty rough patches, but I eventually learned to recognized the initial signs of impending trouble. I won't bore you with the details of it all, but suffice it to say that part of my way of dealing with it is to distract myself. This is a valid tactic, and works quite well until I take it too far and it slips into avoidance and denial. I tend to get to a point where I refuse to even allow myself to grieve. It's a lot of internal issues that I have, but basically I avoid the pain so much and for so long that it eventually becomes unavoidable. The solution is to let myself feel it. Seems simple, but no one wants to feel grief. No one wants to relieve the worst moments of their life. I know it sounds melodramatic, but for someone with major clinical depression, opening those windows to the past feels more like opening the floodgates at Hoover Dam while you're standing below them.

I wish I knew how to explain what clinical depression is like. The medical explanation is a chemical imbalance. But that doesn't even come close to touching on the reality of it. My brain just works differently than a normal person's. It isn't selfishness or a pity party, it is an intrinsic part of how my mind works. Kinda like being a pessimist and seeing the glass as always half empty. (Except, I'm not really a pessimist. If anything, I tend to be a little too optimistic.) Honestly, I've sometimes wondered if it might be more like possession. It's like there's this little voice in my head that does its best to turn every situation, every word or action by other people, into something dark and hurtful. It wants me to see the worst, to imagine the worst, to feel pain and sorrow and fear in every moment. The times it has overtaken me are the absolute worst times in my life. The medication does make a difference, which is a big indication to me that they might just be right about that whole chemical imbalance thing. I'm far less inclined to even hear that annoying little voice with the medication. It still rears it's ugly head occasionally, though, and the past few days have been harder than usual. The biggest reason for this is that yesterday, December 6, was my mother's birthday. She would have been 72 if she were still alive. Happy Birthday, Mama.

Wow, just saying it makes my throat close up and tears come to my eyes. I adored my mother. I never had any urge to rebel against her. I loved being with her. I loved talking to her. I was 17 when she got sick and died from pneumonia. She collapsed on Saturday morning and died on Tuesday night. My husband was there at the time, thank God, because I don't know how I would have gotten through it if he hadn't been. (This was in Mississippi, where I'm from. Hubby - before he was Hubby - had come down for a visit that weekend.) My sisters both lived far away, Debi here in Indiana and Connie in Texas. Without going into the ugly details, they both arrived before she died and I pretty much shut down the moment my uncle got to the hospital and took over making all the decisions. Mark had to tell me that the hospital was paging me when my sister called me back because I couldn't hear it. The shock had already started to take over. I remember her getting there, but oddly, I can't remember our sister Connie arriving. I just realized that. Anyway, it was a nightmare and it still haunts me to this day.

So I've been fighting the grief for the past few days. Feeling it pull at me and drag me down so that I'm quite to the point of not even wanting to speak. (gasp! to those of you who know me. LOL) And I feel antsy and anxious, plus have trouble sleeping irregardless of how tired I am. I've been avoiding it and that hasn't worked, so I'm going to embrace it. At least I'm going to try. And I'm going to do it by taking a trip down memory lane. Starting with some pics of my mom.
Taken at Shiloh National Park, just over a year before she died. 


Mark took this picture of her during one of his first trips down to visit us. We took him to Shiloh National Park, site of the major Civil War battle. (In our corner of the world, this was one of just a few things to do. So few, in fact, that as a kid I took MULTIPLE field trips there with my school. So many trips that I and no doubt many of my classmates had much of the video that they offer memorized. LOL) But is was Mark's first time and we had a blast.
The entire time we were climbing up there, Mark kept yelling at us that we were gonna fall and break something. We didn't!
Mama and Mark, taken on that same trip. They were sitting in front of our fireplace. For those of you who know him now, look how black his hair and beard were!
I had no hair but Mama was determined to get it to curl and check out that beehive!
I don't know were we were going. Looks like a Christmas thing, but I can't remember.

Mark took this after a Music Mania performance. It was a big production our music department put on every year in the town's theater, known as the Colosseum. We were in the park, I think.

One of my favorite pics. Mark took this on that same trip that we went to Shiloh. Wasn't my mama beautiful!
I absolutely adore this pic of my mom. She looks so sassy!
My sister Connie and Mom.
Another shot of Connie and Mom. I don't know what's so funny, but there was always a lot of laughter when we all got together.

 I took this one of mom while my sister, Debi, was frosting her hair. That's my nephew, Dale, keeping mom from covering up her face.
And finally, a shot taken at a family reunion. That's Mama in the middle, looking backwards because our Aunt Geneva had done something to her right as the shot was taken. We come by our lunacy honestly. LOL

Man, do I miss Mama, especially now. I wish she could be here to do all the things a mama does, but I know she's in a better place. Doesn't make me miss her any less, though.
 Another family reunion, from L to R: My grandmother, Wyonia, Daddy (David), Mama (Carolyn), Me, my brother-in-law, Dale, nephew Dale, Jr., my sister, Debi, my sister Connie, my brother-in-law, Henry. (Just as an aside, those pants my daddy has on crack me up! LOL)

There are countless other pictures I could post. Vacations and Christmases, everyday shots of us just being a family. And Mama is the core of all of them. On a handful of occasions, she was the one behind the camera, but she was ALWAYS there, always the heart of our family.

I miss you, Mama, so very, very much.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Hilarity as Therapy...

My therapist says my sense of humor is a big part of what helps me get through the stress of having cancer. (Not to leave God out here, because we both also recognize and acknowledge that He is my ultimate Resource.) But laughter certainly helps to overcome the occasionally uncomfortable, unpleasant, and/or outright sickening aspects of reality. I have learned that a good sense of humor is a definite bonus in life. (Jeanne Robertson makes a living spreading this notion. Lord bless you if you don't know who she is. Here's a bit of one of her routines. Click her name above if you want to visit her site.)


Humor as a coping mechanism is nothing but common sense to me. Let's face it, when something that is utterly beyond your control happens, no matter how unpleasant, humiliating, or even frightening, you have two choices in how to deal with it. One) you can work yourself up into a lather, get mad and/or frustrated, and act like an out of control basketcase, or; Two) you can accept the fact that you can't change the situation with as much grace and humor as you can muster. Okay, I don't do grace particularly well. Not in any classic sense of the word, at least. But I can do the humor. I mean, what's the point in driving yourself nuts over something you have no control over? I have cancer. It is sometimes painful, sometimes disgusting, sometimes frightening, but it is almost always absurd as well. In so many ways, it is a surreal experience that just begs to be laughed at. From the chemo brain that of late makes even basic math a chore, (24/3 anyone? Yeah, I had to think about that for a few minutes the other day. *head shakes*) to the utter insanity of the treatment for cancer (which might kill me) being repeated infusions of outright poison (which also might kill me). Yeah, that makes all kinds of logical sense. LOL (I really do laugh when I think about it.)

So I have cancer. Some days it really stinks. Some days I hurt a lot and I won't pretend that I enjoy that or that I don't occasionally get frustrated or just plain sick and tired of being sick and tired. But all in all, even on the days when I feel the worst, I still try to find some humor somewhere. Which is why I absolutely get giddy when I come across something on the internet that I can laugh at. Hence my posts of amusing LOLs from the I Can Haz Cheezburger site on my Facebook page. I'd post some examples, but seriously, there are just too many that make me laugh til I cry to even begin to attempt to pick favorites. Wait, no, I just thought of one from way back that makes me start snickering just thinking about it.
Yeah, I might be the weirdo in my family. LOL

Anyway, I use Google Reader to keep track of my miscellaneous feeds and blogs. Not that I use it all that much on my laptop because I have the Reeder app on my iPad and that's where I do most of my reading. I got on the laptop earlier today, though, to do a little housecleaning on Reader. I'm an organizing freak when it comes to my computer. I have a file folder for everything under the sun, and usually folders within folders just so I can keep everything neatly organized. (As a quick aside, thank you Steve Jobs for finally getting around to getting IOS 4 onto the iPad. Yes, the ability to multitask and to collect my apps into folders makes it an even more awesome toy than before. Just wish you'd given it those abilities out of the box. End of rant.) So I was on Google Reader on my laptop, putting a couple of new feeds into folders when I decided to click on that "Suggestions" link to see just what Google thought I would be interested in. Most of it was junk. In fact, I outright ignored everything I saw until I spotted something called Cake Wrecks. This piqued my interest and then I read the tag line: "When professional cakes go horribly, hilariously wrong." This I had to see.

I have a love/hate relationship with the growing idiocy of humanity. Love because it's hard not to laugh out loud at some of the things I see/hear others write/say with complete seriousness. Hate because I honestly cannot imagine why so many find it so difficult to distinguish the difference between your/you're; their/there/they're; singular and plural; etc. Ex: Mark and I went to the store late the other night. Late because it was Black Friday and neither of us had any interest in braving the crowds. Plus, crowds are flat out dangerous for me these days. Anyway, we were at Wal-Mart wandering down the candy isle. Mark had a sweet tooth. So he's browsing the M & M's when I suddenly catch what a woman right beside us is saying. I'm going to do my best to convey this as it was said. Spelling phonetically may not be my strong suit, though, so bear with me. She was with a young man that I would soon realize was her son. She said, "I'm looking for marshmallow cherry cordials." Only she didn't say "\ˈkȯr-jəl\" she said it more like "\kȯr-dī-ˈl\." That's a long "i" sound in the middle followed by a third syllable pronounced something like "all." So, okay, I can understand that some people might not necessarily know how to pronounce cordial, especially as it's one of those words that is not pronounced phonetically. (Never mind that I was also wondering at this point exactly what a marshmallow cherry cordial was. I mean, this is something I've never even heard of, nor can I imagine it. LOL) I did find myself both tempted to chuckle at this pronunciation and inwardly cringing at it at the same time. Then, her son (who was easily in his late teens) replied with, "Is they in a box?" All urge to laugh vanished at this. Is they? Really? He was certainly old enough to know better. I was glad to leave the aisle as the butchery of the English language continued. (She did find her marshmallow cherry cordials, though. Apparently they were little chocolate covered Santa things.)

So this demonstrates my love (can't help but laugh sometimes at how badly people manage to mangle the language they not only grow up speaking and reading, but also supposedly spend 12 or more years in school studying) and hate (HOW in the world can they be so illiterate after spending 12 or more years in school studying English!?!) relationship with poor spelling and/or grammar. And so, back to Cake Wrecks. This blog is run by a husband/wife team (mostly the wife) and a friend who make snarky comments about insanely horrible cake decor that they receive pics of. Many, many of the photos they post are examples of ridiculously bad spelling by cake decorators. I just have to show you this one as an example.
It says, "It a Gril." Original Blog Post
Yes, inexplicably those are bananas and strawberries ringing the top of the cake. And check out that oh-so-baby-girly dirt brown color! And this is just the beginning. I admit that I don't find every post laugh until I cry worthy. Sometimes, it was the comments after the post that finally make me snort with laughter. But the wit that accompanies some of these images - as well as the images themselves - were sometimes enough to make me gasp as I tried to catch my breath from the gales of laughter.
Today, we be having's a celebiation of learnir!
The caption is by the blog writer Jen. Yeah, I know we have the same name. A similar sense of humor, too. LOL She followed this comment up with a second, "(Note: typing that last sentence was actually painful. See what I go through for you?)" Double LOL!!!

Needless to say, I have spent the past long while looking back through many of her posts and laughing my head off. It is just stunningly hilarious (as well as disturbingly sad) that so many supposed "professionals" out there appear to have no grasp of basic English. The above is just one of literally hundreds of examples of misspellings. On this same post is a photo of another cake where the decorator managed to misspell a three letter word. It was supposed to be, "You Did It!" It came out, "You Dit It!" I had to stare at that one in awe for a few seconds. Seriously? They couldn't spell "did?" Like Jen, I found it was making my head ache just a bit. Still, like so much else in life, I figure I might as well laugh at it. Because I cannot change the ignorance of these people. Somehow, they managed to make it all the way through high school without gaining a basic understanding of the English language. We all make mistakes. My grammar is hardly perfect. And anyone can misspell a word. But I'd like to think that if it was my job to make a product for someone else that I'd at least break out a dictionary to make sure I had the words right. Is that so hard? Or do they just not realize how atrocious their spelling/grammar is? Can you say, UNPROFESSIONAL? I hope I mentioned that. Jen only posts cakes that have been done by professionals. IE, a customer somewhere actually paid them money to do it.

It is tragic how this lack of even the most basic grasp of our language is becoming increasingly commonplace. Then again, I know for a fact that at least some of our schools are promoting children to the next grade when they've clearly failed at least part of the previous one. So maybe it isn't the illiterate kids that are the dumb ones, here. Anyway, Jen's blog made me laugh out loud more than once. And just as an FYI, she doesn't only post pics of cakes gone horribly wrong. Once a week she posts what she calls "sweets." Pics of things that are nothing less that pure works of art. Let me find one as an example.
I am in awe of how much the fondant looks like fabric.

The detail here is just plain amazing.

Hours of piping this by hand. I can't even imagine!


All of these flowers are hand made from gum paste. Meaning they are edible. As is the beautiful pink bow. And just LOOK at the insane detail of that cross hatch! And the lace!

I love orchids.
Okay, so I couldn't stop at just one. These cakes are beyond incredible. This is edible artwork. The time, thought, planning and precision that goes into something like this is just amazing. I can't even begin to imagine how someone makes all these flowers!

Anyway, just thought I'd share a few laughs and some Ooh's and Ahh's as well. Learn to laugh at what you can't change. It'll make you - and everyone around you - a lot happier!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

That Still Small Voice...

First off, I meant to get this written and posted last night, but I was just too exhausted to do it. The steroids I had to start taking day before yesterday just would not let me sleep at all Tuesday night, so I was worn out. Anyway, it's a day later than I wanted, but at least it's here.

I had to go to the hospital early yesterday morning to have a scan done of my heart to make sure none of the chemo I've had so far has caused any damage. The next 2 chemos I'm taking are Taxotere and Herceptin. The Herceptin will be a year long event. The Taxotere will consist of 4 courses, taken every 3 weeks. I began the first course yesterday along with the first course of the Herceptin. I'll get it every week while I'm getting the Taxotere, then once that is fiinshed, the Herceptin schedule will move out to every 3 weeks as well.

Mark and I were worried about what to expect with these new meds. We'd gotten used to the side effects of the Adriamycin and Cytoxin, but new meds means new side effects. What worked or didn't work before is all out the window. I'm happy to say that so far, I'm not really having any obvious issues. No nausea at all, praise the Lord! (I was a little worried about it because this time around I wasn't taking one of the nausea meds I took for the A/C.) The Herceptin can cause flu-like symptoms, including fever and body aches, so they gave me Tylenol and Benedryl before they started the infusion. I did not notice anything yesterday, besides the Benedryl making me tired. This morning I woke up with just a tiny bit of joint aching that may or may not have anything to do with the Herceptin. I just took some Tylenol to be safe.

I was so exhausted yesterday that I slept pretty good last night. I woke up too soon, and just had to take another dose of the steroids, so I don't know if I'll get to go back to sleep at some point. If the Decadron kicks in, sleep probably won't happen. Today's the last day I have to take it, though, so that's good news.

Okay, update done. Now I want to talk about how God talked with me yesterday morning. I have devotions I read, several in fact. I try to keep up on reading my Bible, too, though I confess I don't get it done every single day. God knows I regret that and Lord willing, He'll help me be more diligent in that respect. There's a song I know that talks about our tendency to overlook God. About how we could and should pray more, read our Bibles more, etc. But the chorus of the song says, "Sometimes I overlook Him, but He still looks over me." How very true that is. Even when I let life get in my way and I start slacking on my devotion time with God, I know He is still here, patiently waiting for me to remember Him and turn to Him. I'm forever grateful for His great mercy and love and the undeserved patience He shows me when I get just a little too self-centered to keep all my focus on Him.

So, one of the ways I often find that God likes to chat with me is through music. I've loved music, in most all forms, for as long as I can remember. Sometimes it's the music itself, but just as often it's the amazing, powerful, and beautiful lyrics God has gifted so many out there with the talent to write. Honestly, I guess I'd say I would be hard pressed to pick one single artist or group that I could call my absolute favorite. Mostly because I'm pretty eclectic and depending on my mood, I listen to a lot of different styles of music. I've heard some say that there's no such thing as "Contemporary" Christian, or "Country" Christian, or Christian "Rock", etc. I would respectfully beg to differ. I have listened to it all most of my life and I like some of all of it. I own some of all of it, well, not so much the Christian Rock because I just sort of outgrew that as I got older. I lean toward Southern Gospel, Christian Country, and some Contemporary Christian for the most part. (Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of secular music as well, through I don't listen to it nearly as much as I used to. I still love it, from the Eagles, to some Opera, to Classical, to Garth Brooks, to Broadway. PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, I'm talkin' about you! LOL) Like I said, I love music in most all of it's forms. Got that from my parents. They were both musically inclined and could sing. My mother played the piano by ear. Boy do I wish I'd inherited that particular talent. Anyway, music comes in all forms and styles. And nowhere does it say that the only true Christian music is old Bluegrass or songs out of the Hymnals. (Both of which I also happen to like.) Specifically, the Bible mentions "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;" Eph 5:19, and "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him." Col 3:16-17

Just my opinion, but any song with a strong Christian message, whatever "style" it happens to be in, is a "spiritual song." And if the artist is doing it "in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him," then that's even better. And even having said all this, I can think of more than one beloved and popular Christian song written by artists that do not necessarily live what anyone would call a Christian lifestyle. Kris Kristofferson's "One Day at a Time, Sweet Jesus" comes to mind. And how about "I Saw the Light" by Hank Williams? There are plenty of examples in the Bible of God using unsaved/unbelieving and sometimes downright evil individuals to forward His plans and purposes and message. Sometimes, God gives inspiration to those we least expect and the result is something beautiful that can uplift and encourage us in spite of its origins. Sadly, I can also think of former Christian artists who have written some incredibly powerful music that somehow got lost along their journey and now are so terribly backslidden that it is heartbreaking. The one that comes to my mind - because I have loved his music for years and have sung many, many of his songs because they are so incredibly powerful - is Ray Boltz. He wrote, "The Anchor Holds," "I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb," "At the Foot of the Cross," and so very many others. Yet, a few years ago he suddenly announced that he was, and always had been, gay. He had a wife and children that he turned his back on to embrace his new "lifestyle." I find it amazing that he still claims to be a Christian and to write what he calls Christian music. He made a choice to put a lifestyle he wanted to live before God, and that's tragic, especially when it is so obvious that God had given him a profound talent. He is not the only Christian artist to do this, either. But my point is, just because he has lost his way does not change the fact that God gave him the inspiration to write songs with wonderful messages. I still love those songs he wrote, and I still sing them. Some may disagree with that choice, but I simply cannot make myself ignore the message of a song just because I know who it came from. God speaks how and when and through whomever He chooses. Even if that person is someone most "good" Christians would have no respect for.

Wow, got a little off the topic I originally wanted to discuss, here. Suffice it to say, I find music a powerful thing. God speaks to me through it all the time. I get in the car and my iPod is hooked up to my radio so I can pick and choose between all the music I own, as well as more than a few audio devotions, if the mood strikes. Usually, I go for the music because I just love to sing along. Anyway, yesterday morning when I got in the car I was really tired from the lack of sleep and I wanted something I knew really well so I could sing along without having to try to remember the words. I chose "Selah," a group that I suppose is considered Contemporary Christian, though they have released an entire album of Hymns. They began as a brother and sister both raised in Africa by their missionary parents and grand parents. They joined up with a college friend and started a group that specializes in absolutely magnificent harmonies and simple, powerful music with unmistakably profound messages. I adore them. I love the harmonies for certain, but more than that, I am amazed at the songs they have written themselves. So much power and obvious love of God.

One of the first songs that came on was "Unredeemed." This song never fails to touch me, but yesterday it seemed to be even more profound to me. The line that gets me every single time is "When anything that's shattered is laid before the Lord, just watch and see, it will not be unredeemed." What we give to God, however dark or painful or utterly broken, He can and will heal and fix. We just have to take that first step of letting Him have control. Here is a beautiful You Tube video someone put together of the song including the lyrics.
Soon after "Unredeemed" came "I Will Carry You (Audrey's Song)." This song was based upon a poem written by Angie Smith, wife of Todd Smith, one of the founding members of Selah. Back in January 2008, they learned that their fourth daughter, Audrey Caroline, was terribly ill. She was still in Angie's womb at the time and there was no doubt that Audrey would not survive. Angie started a blog to chronicle the events that would follow that fateful day that her 20 week ultrasound revealed the terrible news. The story is both heartbreaking and one of the most uplifting that I have every known. I have never lost a child. I cannot even conceive of the grief and agony of such a thing. But Angie, Todd, and Audrey's story is so incredible. How they dealt with what they knew was coming. How they chose to trust God, to let the tragedy draw them nearer to Him. Read the blog if you want to know the full depth of the miracle they experienced.Bring the Rain - Angie Smith's blog, the beginning of the story 

No, Audrey was not miraculously healed. But her parents and family were given a magnificent gift that defied all the expectations and predictions of the doctors. Audrey did not die immediately after birth. She lived for just over two hours, during which time her parents and sisters and grandparents and other family and close friends got to hold her and bathe her and love her and take many photos of this precious baby girl. That time was a pure miracle. Audrey, with her host of health issues, should not have been able to survive outside her mother's womb. Yet she did. For 2 hours, God gave her the breath and life to carry on. This video of her song was posted by Angie herself and includes photos of her, her husband Todd, and their other 3 daughters, as well as many of the photos taken of Audrey after her birth. The words of the song are as powerful as any I have ever heard. Angie's trust in God just shines through the words she wrote. It is the second chorus that brings me chills, because though the words do not change, the meaning does. The first time it's said, it is from Angie's perspective of how she will always carry her daughter with her. The second time is God Himself, promising to do the same for us. He will carry us all our lives. Gives me chills every single time I hear it. Here's the video with the lyrics posted beneath.
There were photographs I wanted to take, Things I wanted to show you
Sing sweet lullabies, wipe your teary eyes, Who could love you like this?

People say that I am brave but I'm not, Truth is I'm barely hanging on
But there's a greater story, Written long before me, Because He loves you like this

So I will carry you While your heart beats here
Long beyond the empty cradle Through the coming years
I will carry you All my life And I will praise the One Who's chosen me To carry you

Such a short time, Such a long road, All this madness But I know
That the silence, Has brought me to His voice, And He says...

I've shown her photographs of time beginning, Walked her through the parted seas
Angel lullabies, no more teary eyes, Who could love her like this?

I will carry you, While your heart beats here,
Long beyond the empty cradle, Through the coming years
I will carry you, All your life, And I will praise the One Who's chosen Me To carry you
I suppose this song, which always brings tears to my eyes, felt even more profound yesterday because Mark had mentioned to me something he'd seen on the tv in the break room at work. It was a story about some man who'd been raised in a strict Christian home. His parents took in a foster child who wound up violently raping this boy when he was around 5, I think Mark said. Anyway, this horrific event caused this boy to decide that any God who would allow him to be so terribly hurt either was evil or uncaring or just plain didn't exist to begin with. He turned his back on God and became a violent man himself. He'd killed someone by beating them to death with a baseball bat.

I cannot begin to list the number of people, both who claim no belief in God and those who do claim to be Christians, who I have heard voice questions about how and/or why God would allow terrible things to happen. There was a lot of that kind of thing going around after 9/11. How can a supposedly loving God simply stand by and watch such terrible things happen? How can He justify letting a defenseless child suffer unspeakable abuses? How can he put someone like Angie and Todd Smith, who have devoted their lives to Him, through the agony of losing a precious child?

The pat answer is that God sees, understands, and knows things that we cannot fathom. He is in charge and we ought to just trust Him in all things. That doesn't help with the pain, though. Not really. Even though it's true, it may not bring any real comfort to someone in the midst of terrible suffering. So, what's the real answer? The answer is us. WE are the ones responsible. God created a perfect world. No pain. No suffering. No sickness. No sorrow. No death. Just a perfect world where His creations could freely and personally interact with Him. It was Adam and Eve who chose to upset that perfection. God warned them that eating from the tree of Knowledge of Good AND Evil would bring death. And it certainly did. But it brought so much more. Pain and suffering, evil and agony. They unleashed every terrible thing upon the world, destroyed God's perfect creation, and the entire world has suffered in countless ways because of it. Their disobedience cursed every single person born since that time. You, me, all of us. It caused the earth itself to be cursed. Every natural disaster that claims countless lives can be blamed on that one moment of weakness. The "circle of life" that we all witness on nature shows did not exist until the fall. Every one of us, whether we want to see it or believe it or not, bears the stain of that first sin. We are guilty because Adam himself was guilty. The evil in this world is not God's fault. It is the fault of those who perpetrate it. It is the result of a fallen, broken world. God is not evil. He is not capable of being evil. He is perfect in all ways and this often results in us, with our tiny, fallen minds being unable to grasp how He could just sit by and let bad things happen. But we make judgments based upon our own limited - and incomplete - understanding. We color everything with our own personal feelings. We use our highly fallible logic and ethics and moral understanding to try to rationalize with the One who created the entire universe. How arrogant we are!

God is our Creator. He loves us. He sacrificed Himself for us. He is patient beyond measure with us as we struggle and often outright insult Him with the choices we make and life we live. We cannot grasp the depth of His knowledge, wisdom, love, and perfect justice. Which is why, when our very human minds and hearts start urging us to question His motives or actions (or lack thereof) we must take a step back and remember that faith is the thing that can carry us through whatever we are facing. Questions or fears or utter devastation can be dealt with and endured simply by trusting that God is, in fact, in control. More importantly, He is aware of all things, past, present, and future. He can see far ahead, beyond the end of our crisis. He knows who our faith might touch, who might be brought to Him because of the life we choose to live. And He knows who might be driven away from Him as well, if we choose to surrender to our doubts and fears. We are so shortsighted. So self-centered. Even at our best, we cannot come close to God's perfection. So we must turn to Him. let Him guide and lead us, and we must trust Him, even when we don't understand the why of a situation.

I have leaned this lesson over most of my lifetime. I admit I've done plenty of questioning God. I've had moments when I quite literally screamed at the heavens in frustration and pain. I still have those tendencies sometimes. But I know, in my heart of hearts, that God's plan is perfect. Whatever comes, whatever happens, He is in complete control and will do what is best for a future I cannot begin to see or comprehend. I still feel fear. I'm human. I still feel pain. I miss my parents and sister and Mark's mother each and every single day. Especially now, as I go through this battle with cancer. I wish they were here. I wish my precious mother could be here to hold my hand and comfort me. I wish my sister could be here to share her experiences with her cancer. I wish Vannie could be here to just be herself, to be my friend and offer her support and love in her sweet way. I feel their loss keenly. But I know God has a plan and I am grateful for the others in my life who are still here with me. My other sister, Debi, who just sent me a sweet card of encouragement. My friends who make me food and cancer hats and just offer me love and laughter and support as I go along. And my precious husband, Mark, who is my rock and my best friend and stunningly patient with me. God has given me great and profound gifts and I cannot help but be thankful for them all.

I hope we can all learn to be grateful even in the midst of a crisis. I hope we can see the blessings through the tears. I hope I never get to a place where I find myself able to justify turning my back on God. And I hope none of my dear loved ones ever get to that place, either. I am just so grateful to God for continuing to speak to me even when I'm not trying to listen. I'm glad that He does not turn His back on me, or withdraw His hand even if I sometimes deserve it. I'm grateful that I can turn on a radio and hear Him speak to me through a song, and that He can use something so simple to pull me back into the center of His will. And I'm thankful that I have a chance to share what He's taught me with others. I'm no evangelist. But I never want anyone I meet to walk away without knowing that I love and trust God. Who knows when something that simple might be the catalyst to cause a complete stranger to turn to Him? God please give me the strength to maintain my faith in You, whatever comes my way.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sinus Issues, Thanksgiving Dinner, and Other Miscellanies...

Well, I seem to be over my infection issues. Praise the Lord! I have a bit of a sinus cold, though, which is unpleasant, but doesn't seem to be getting any worse. I always tell Mark that there's a fine line between medicine helping and hurting in a case like this. On the one hand, the antihistamines, decongestants, and expectorants, help keep my sinuses from draining down the back of my throat (and making it horribly raw) and also from collecting down in my lungs (making me sound like an accordion in serious need of repair.) The first day I woke up with it, my throat was already sore from the mucus (gross!). Ironically, I was seeing my oncologist to talk about my next course of chemo. Just as a quick FYI, I'm due to start it next week on Wednesday, November 17. I will also be having another MUGA scan (heart) early that morning to make sure my heart is still okay for the next round of treatment. This time around it's Taxotere (every 3 weeks) and Herceptin (every week.) I'll be taking the Herceptin for an entire year. The radiation will come once the Taxotere is finished.

Honestly, I'm just anxious to get on with it. This sinus thing is annoying, but so long as I don't develop pneumonia or an ear infection or something worse, I should still be able to get my chemo next week. The Taxotere is nothing worse than what I've already had. It can cause hair loss, though my chemo nurse told me that most breast cancer patients actually start regrowing hair while on it. LOL, I told Mark that I dreamed I had hair the other night. I've been dreaming a lot of weird stuff over the past few days. I think it's the NyQuil. LOL I've taken it all my life, despite the horrific taste. It was my Mama's "go-to" medicine for colds. Of course, these days they've taken the decongestant out of it because of the crazy druggies out there using it to make whatever it is they make with it. I used to be able to find the NyQuil that still had the decongestant at my local drug store, but now they've stopped carrying it altogether. So I have to buy a separate decongestant and take it with the NyQuil. The stuff knocks me flat out. Maybe that's why Mom liked it so much back in the day. LOL

I actually haven't taken anything since this morning because I am a little worried about taking too much medicine when I have a mild cold like this. I got caught in that catch 22 several years ago when I was going to visit my sister, Connie, after she'd been diagnosed with cancer. I didn't want to risk taking the cold I'd had down to her so my Dr. gave me some antibiotics and a prescription decongestant/expectorant. This was back when the asthma was still something of an issue. Anyway, I still remember sitting in the airport trying to keep from coughing up a lung while all the other travelers gave me a wide berth. I kept wanting to tell them it wasn't contagious, but I could barely stop coughing long enough to breathe, much less talk. LOL It took me a few days to finally figure out that the decongestant was drying me out too much, which was in turn making me cough like crazy. I quit taking it, but it still took almost a week & a half for me to fully get over it. So now I'm kinda paranoid about taking too much medicine when I'm sick. I may have to break down and take something, though, because my nose is pretty stuffy and I'm still coughing. This morning the expectorant kicked in and I got some stuff out of my chest, but my throat feels awfully raw from all the coughing. Seriously, I just want to feel half-way decent for a few days! Especially since I'm about to start the new chemo and I don't know how it'll effect me.

The Herceptin is supposed to have almost no side effects. It's targeted to a specific protein within my particular cancer. The one big side effect it does have is potential heart damage. Hence the MUGA scan on Wednesday morning to make sure my heart is still going strong. Ya'll pray about that, please, as the Herceptin is one of the big guns that is supposed to help keep the cancer from coming back down the road. If that scan, or any of the others I'll have routinely throughout the treatment, shows any sign of heart damage, I won't be able to get the Herceptin at all.

Okay, change of topic. So, Mark and I were at the store sometime last week. We'd gone to Kroger because they were selling frozen stuffed peppers for a really cheap price. This is one of Mark's primary meals when I'm sick and not up to cooking. He can cook other things, but this is his quick and easy, toss it in the microwave and scarf it down meal for days he works. So we went to replenish our supplies since I've been so sick lately and he's been eating a lot of them. On our way through the store Mark honed in on the frozen turkeys like a laser guided missile. This is something we go through every single year around Thanksgiving and Christmas. There are TWO of us. Neither of us cares for the dark meat on the Turkey. When his mom was still alive, we'd send all the dark meat to her because it was her favorite. I have tried for years to convince Mark that all we need is a turkey breast. He simply cannot bring himself to buy one, though, because he feels like he's being cheated somehow. I confess to sharing this feeling a bit, especially considering the fact that a turkey breast is at least twice as expensive as a whole turkey and you're getting less meat. Somehow, that just feels wrong.

Anyway, the whole vs. breast thing is just the start of our issues. Because along with an innate urge to buy a whole turkey Mark also suffers from a driving need to buy the biggest turkey he can find. He simply cannot stop himself. He gets positively depressed if he can't find a turkey well beyond 20 lbs. I am so not joking, here! For years, we have bought turkeys that topped out at 23-25 lbs. So, that night at Kroger he found a giant bird that was over 25 lbs. I could see the drool forming as he leaned over it. I am a more practical person. Well, more practical when it comes to turkey. I like it. I eat it. I'm pretty good at cooking it. But ultimately, I am a ham person. Not fake-o de-boned, machine pressed, ham loaf ham, mind you. That stuff, as far as I'm concerned, should be relegated to the deli and never allowed to leave. What I like is a whole ham. Like Mark and his turkey, I search out the biggest ham I can find and drool over the prospect of eating it. So, we're two of a kind, I suppose. Which is why we come out of every single major holiday with enough turkey, ham or both to feed an army. Actually, Mark lives off the turkey for the days following the holiday. He eats turkey and potato salad for pretty much every meal. The rest of it he can take or leave, but there have been holidays when we didn't actually have any turkey to put in the freezer because he ate every bit of it. LOL

I always wind up putting ham in the freezer. There's probably some in there right now from either last Christmas or maybe this Easter. I can't remember if I fixed a ham for Easter. Anyway, Mark actually didn't buy that turkey. I was amazed at his restraint. He knew we could find them cheaper at Wal-mart, though, so he held off until he got there. Where he bought a 24 pounder that is stuffed into our freezer waiting for me to make room for it in the fridge. It'll take a week for that monster to defrost!

He keeps asking me if I'm going to get a ham and I told him I haven't decided. The way things are going, I'm not likely to feel much like cooking next week. I think I'll just go rummage around in the freezer and see if I can't find some pouches of ham in there. That'll save me quite a bit of work.

I learned from my Mama to make enough food at the holidays to feed an army. This usually includes all kinds of desserts from pies to cakes to candy and cookies at Christmas. I just wish I knew if I was going to have the energy to do it this year. I love cooking, but I haven't been doing much of it lately. I just get tired too quick to do very much. I had to talk Mark through cooking frozen corn last night. LOL He did it, though. along with making mashed potatoes and mac & cheese to go along with the rotisserie chicken we picked up at the store earlier. He even bought gravy in a jar. It was all very good. Before this is all said and done, he might just be a pretty good cook. LOL

Well, I'm tired. My urge to cough is getting annoying, as is the congestion in my nose. Kinda makes my head hurt. I'm going to take some medicine and go lay on my bed. I've got some stuff to read, assuming the NyQuil doesn't knock me out. LOL

I just wanted to do a quick update on where things currently stand. I was really hoping that these last few days before I started my next chemo would be some of my best, but it just isn't working out that way. God's got a plan, though, so I'll just keep on plugging until I get out the other side of this thing.

I should confess that I had something of a rough day this week. I told Mark I was just so tired of feeling sick. But, it didn't last long. Oh, I'm still tired of feeling sick, but my perspective righted itself pretty quick. As I've said so many times before, it can always be worse. For me, I'm just profoundly grateful that I'm not still in the hospital. And though I don't much want to eat, when I do, at least everything tastes normal for now. All in all, I just can't complain too much. I've got too many things to be thankful for.

Oh, and a quick shout out to my big sister, Debi. Thursday was Veteran's Day and she was a Marine (is? I've heard there's no such thing as an ex-Marine. LOL) To her, and our friend Bill (Army, Vietnam Vet), my preacher Hobert (another Marine) and all the others out there who have and continue to put their lives on the line for this country, I thank you and appreciate you and pray for you.

That's it for now. I'm feeling ready for a nap, I think. I'll try to do an update Wednesday to let everyone know how the new chemo goes. God Bless!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Please Just Let Me Sleep!

You know, all the research I did indicated that the Adriamycin/Cytoxin portion of my chemo would be the worst part. The Taxotere & Herceptin aren't supposed to be as tough. So, when that 4th and final A/C treatment came and went I was just plain thrilled. I kept thinking that the worst was over. Lord willing, it would all be downhill from there. Then that whole mouth abscess thing happened and I kid you not, it was the worst pain I've ever had. I was ready to have Mark just shoot me and be done with it. The left side of my face was ridiculously swollen. Mark said I looked like a hamster packing for the winter. LOL The dentist prescribed one antibiotic for me, but after taking it a couple of days and not really feeling any better, I stopped in down at my oncologist's office and he added a second antibiotic to the first. So, we took it up to the pharmacy, got it filled (along with a new, stronger pain med he also prescribed) and I took the first antibiotic as soon as Mark brought it out of the store. We got home a little while later and I went to lay down for a while. When I woke up a couple of hours later, I had a few hives on my head and face. Now, hives aren't all that odd for me because of my allergies. I get them occasionally and with the chemo, Mark and I figured I'm even more susceptible than usual to allergens. So we didn't worry too much about it. After a couple of hours, they mostly went away. The new antibiotic was one of those heavy duty ones that only has to be taken once a day, which I was grateful for since the other one was on a 4 times a day schedule. I hate taking pills, mostly because I tend to get choked on them. Anyway, the next day came around and I took the second antibiotic and within half an hour the hives were back. I had more of them this time, too. So, it didn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that it was the new antibiotic. I called the Dr. and he called in another one and I am now officially allergic to Levoquin. So, by now my jaw was starting to feel a little better and the swelling was improving. I kept taking my 2 antibiotics and after another couple of days, I was no longer in constant pain.

I should add that during this time a second abscess showed up. This one was right on my tailbone. It had been sore, but I just thought I had sat on it funny or sat on it too much while I felt really bad the week before. It was very sore, but I didn't know for sure that it was an abscess until it started draining just a little bit over the weekend. Mark and I made more than a few jokes about how long the root on that abscessed tooth must have been for the abscess there to travel all the way down my spine and pop out on my tailbone! LOL I figured I'd have to call the Dr. on Monday (October 25) and have him look at the abscess. I was also thinking that I was already taking 2 antibiotics and surely they would keep any potential infection under control.

I didn't feel all that well when I woke up Monday morning. Mark was actually off on vacation. He'd taken time off to go to work for a few days down in Tennessee for Colgate, but when my tooth issue became such a mess, he wound up staying home to make sure I'd be okay. Monday was his last day off. He was supposed to go back to work on Tuesday & Wednesday.

As the day went on, I was laying on the couch and I just kept feeling worse. Eventually I realized I was running a fever because I was freezing to death. I headed into the bathroom to check it and it was high, but not in the danger zone yet. (I was told in chemo training that if it hit 101.5 I was to go to the ER.) I have a small heater in my bathroom and I fired it up and parked myself in the floor in front of it. Then, once the chill was off of the room, I took a hot shower. Of course, this was the wrong thing to do because it all just drove my temperature higher. I got out of the shower and got into bed. My temp was higher at this point, but I knew the heater and the hot shower would have added to it so I told Mark I was going to wait a half hour or so before I checked it again. He insisted that I try to eat something, though I wasn't hungry at all. He made me some soup and I ate a few spoonfuls of it. When I checked my temp again, it was right at 101.6. I really didn't want to go to the ER, so I had Mark call the Dr.'s office. He was in with a patient and the nurse said she'd talk to him and call me back. About twenty minutes later I checked my temp again and it had climbed to 102 so I told Mark we were just going to go ahead and go to the hospital. He called the nurse back and let her know we were leaving. We took the thermometer with us and I was sure that by the time we got to the hospital my temp would have gone down. Especially since it was cool out that day and Mark had the window cracked as we drove. But just as we got to Madison I checked it again and it was at 102.7. In the ER they checked it using an oral thermometer and it was below 101. I told them I'd just been drinking a cold drink so they said they'd check it again shortly. Half an hour or so later the nurse came in and checked it at my armpit. It was 101 or 102, I can't remember. But she decided to recheck it orally on a whim and it was 103.

The Dr. ordered a CT scan of my new abscess and sure enough, there was a small pocket in it. So he lanced it there in the ER. NOT a fun experience! The lancing wasn't bad, but those shots to numb it hurt like the dickens! They put in an IV and loaded me up with a new antibiotic, and eventually gave me some Tylenol down in the ER just before they moved me upstairs to a room. The fever broke and I felt quite a bit better once it did. I was seriously hoping that I might somehow get to go home the next day. Should have known that wasn't going to happen. They put me on a total of 4 different antibiotics. 3 were oral and one was a giant dose administered through the IV. We found out right off the bat that the IV that was put in down in the ER wasn't good. They had trouble with it when they tried to administer the contrast for the CT scan, but once I got upstairs my nurse couldn't get it to work at all. So that IV came out and a new one went in on my other arm. I should have just had them access my port, but I was still hoping I wouldn't be there that long. Apparently the IV antibiotic is fairly nasty. It burns up your veins so it had to be administered over about a 4 hour drip.

That night my fever spiked again. It hit 103.5. We tried Ibuprofen or Tylenol (can't remember which because they gave me both) but it didn't drop fast enough. So we resorted to cold washrags in my armpits and the bends of my elbows. This eventually worked. I swear, coming down off the fevers was almost as bad as having them. When the fever was up I would shiver and chill so hard that my teeth would chatter. Then, once it started dropping I would first get hot. I mean hot like a oil radiator. This would inevitably be followed by absolutely disgusting sweating. I'd be soaking wet. It really wasn't any fun at all.

I saw the Dr. early the next morning and he let me know that I'd be staying in the hospital until at least Thursday. I was not happy, but Mark and I both knew that it would be crazy to try to come home when I was spiking such high fevers. Long story short, my fever continued to do a wild yo yo over the next couple of days. It would almost always spike when I tried to sleep. Not that sleep was easy to come by. God bless my nurses and techs, they were all very sweet and took great care of me, but with all the antibiotics being taken on a bunch of different schedules and them coming in every 4 hrs or so to check my vitals, sleep wasn't something I got much of. Even when they did manage to get me a fair block of time without either a pill to take or vitals to check, I'd just wake up an hour or two after going to sleep with another fever. I got very skilled at recognizing when it was starting to climb.

My nurse on that second day decided to access my port for me. I was glad because after just 2 infusions of that antibiotic in my arm, it was starting to hurt. That's a big part of why I have the port. The Adriamycin chemo is what's called a vesicant. Basically, if it leaks out of the vein as it's being administered it can literally burn up whatever tissues it touches. (This is the same kind of stuff used in WWI as a biological weapon. Read: Mustard Gas.) It is so toxic that it cannot be administered through a common vein. The port places a catheter into one of the main veins in my chest and runs all the way to my heart. It is accessed with a nifty needle contraption that slips into a "dock" that's implanted just beneath my skin. I'll keep the port in for the duration of my chemo. That's more than a year. They may even leave it in place a little longer than that, just to be on the safe side.

The port (and it's catheter) allows them to administer toxic or irritating drugs like the chemo or this antibiotic without damaging my veins. It also meant they could run the antibiotic infusion at about twice the speed as they could when the IV was in my arm. That made things a little easier, though my arm is still a little sore from the first couple of infusions I got.

Mark wound up having to take off both Tuesday & Wednesday because he just couldn't bring himself to work while worried about me. I was still spiking fevers at night when I slept. I was scared to death that the Dr. wouldn't let me go on Thursday and I think he did want me to stay, but I managed to convince him to let me go home. I was so exhausted by then. I had a previously scheduled appointment with my oncologist that afternoon and I called them right after we dropped my new prescriptions off at the pharmacy to see if they could get me in earlier. They did. It turned out that the abscess on my tailbone wasn't the cause of all my fevers after all. They did a culture on it and found nothing. What they did find was a Urinary Tract Infection that I didn't even know I had. Turns out that the second antibiotic my oncologist prescribed for me is the one normally used to treat UTI's but my particular UTI was resistant to it, so it wasn't doing anything to rein in the infection. The Dr. sent me home with 3 antibiotics to take. And you know I have to take all of them on a different schedule. One is every 12 hrs, one every 8, and one every 6. Basically, I get a 6 hr window once a day to try to sleep. The rest of the time I'm having to get up to take one of these massive pills.

The interesting thing is I never ran another fever once I got out of the hospital. By the time I left Thursday, they were pretty much keeping me dosed up on Tylenol and Ibuprofen just to keep the fever at bay. I took the nest regularly scheduled dose of Ibuprofen while I was sitting in the Dr.'s office. I missed the next regular dose by a couple of hours that evening because I pretty much went to sleep when we got home. In the hospital, my fever would usually spike as soon as the Tylenol or Ibuprofen wore off. Sometimes even sooner. So I was amazed I didn't have a fever when I woke up. I went ahead and took some Ibuprofen, but that was the last time I took any and no more fevers. I will admit that I'm a little worried that the mouth abscess or some other issue will pop right back up once the antibiotics run out, but I'm just going to trust that God will keep them all at bay.

This has not been a fun time. I was so exhausted that I pretty much slept for the first 2-3 days after I got home. I couldn't believe how exhausted I was. I feel a lot better now, but I'm still pretty tired. Of course the infection means we had to put off my next course of chemo. I see my oncologist next week to talk about it. The fever is gone, but I've been having problems with my back ever since I was in the hospital. I was on a muscle relaxer while on the chemo because of issues we assumed were caused by either the chemo or the Neulasta or maybe both. After finishing that 4th chemo course I went off the muscle relaxers. In the hospital my back started bothering me again. I got a refill on the muscle relaxers but so far they haven't made much of a difference. I have issues moving around comfortably and bending over more than twice is almost impossible. My back just seizes up and that's that. I guess I'm going to wind up having to go back to the Dr. about it and see if we can figure out exactly what's going on. Sitting around all the time probably isn't helping, but it's a catch 22. I hurt if I move (or just feel too bad in general to do much) and not moving probably makes it worse.

I had to laugh last Monday, though. When the Dr. let me out on Thursday he only did so after making sure I'd follow up with my family Dr. on Monday. So when I saw him he was going over my chart and Mark and I were laughing about all the various issues I'd had over the past couple of weeks and he said, "Well, it could always be worse." There's my motto again! As bad as the pain from my mouth abscess was, and as unpleasant as those fevers were, I knew very well as I went through it all that it could be worse. I have so very many things to be thankful for. I have access to the medications I need because we have good insurance. Not just good, awesome. I've had 4 chemo courses so far with 4 more Taxotere courses to come and  a year's worth of Herceptin. The price tag for EACH of those first 4 treatments is over $20,000.00. Yeah, that's twenty thousand dollars times 4. I don't know if the Taxotere and Herceptin will be just as expensive or cheaper, but I do know that I am not paying a penny for my treatments. With all the surgeries and Dr.'s visits, I hit that out of pocket maximum pretty early on. This insurance was dropped into our laps right at the same time that I was diagnosed. Tell me that wasn't God's Providence! He knew what was coming and provided Mark with a job and insurance right when we needed it even though we weren't looking for it! I am so amazed by how He provides even when we don't know what we need. I'm even more amazed that so many people out there call something like that "coincidence." It's sad to live your life relying on accidents, coincidences and lucky breaks to help you out when you're in trouble. I'd much rather trust that God is in charge and will always do what's best for me, even if I don't understand what He's up to.

So I'm a lot better than I was this time last week or the week before. My back hurts most of the time, but at least I can still move when I need to. And a little bit of praise for my hubby. He's doing it all around here. He does the dishes and laundry and even cooks. My appetite isn't all that good, probably partly due to the antibiotics. Mark made us a pair of steaks day before yesterday and it was pretty doggone good. One of the best things I've eaten since I first got sick a couple of weeks ago. Not much else has been very appetizing. I even made a big pot of vegetable beef soup and though it tastes okay, I haven't felt much like eating it. Half the time I make something then don't actually want to eat it. I'm hoping my appetite will come back once I finish up the antibiotics. That'll be in the next day or so. It's not like I can't afford to lose some weight, but I don't like the slightly queasy feeling that accompanies the lost appetite. Food smells tend to make it worse, which is weird because I didn't have any trouble with that while actively on chemo. That was another issue with the hospital. The food is just plain AWFUL! I told Mark that the moment I lifted the lid off that tray whatever appetite I might have had vanished. He brought me in a couple of meals but even they didn't sit all that well with me. It really stinks to be hungry with a growling stomach but to get nauseous at the thought of actually eating most things. LOL Like I said, it could always be worse, though. At least I can eat. Some can't. And though I'm kinda queasy, I'm not actually vomiting. All in all, things are pretty decent these days. I'm just hoping I can get back on schedule with my chemo treatments. I really want to get through the Taxotere. The Herceptin is a targeted chemo, meaning it doesn't attack my entire body like the others. This also means that it shouldn't be nearly as hard to take. The Taxotere is a traditional chemo, but they say it isn't as bad as the A/C, so I want to get it over with. Plus, I still have the radiation to get through. This journey is a long way from being over, but at least it's easier than the path some are on.