Katie & Briscoe

Katie & Briscoe

Monday, October 18, 2010

One of Those Days...

Ever have one of those days where everything that could go wrong does? Of course you have. We all have. Today was one of those for me. Actually, I'd say it really started yesterday. Or maybe even a few days ago. But it all came to a head today. Lemme see....

Okay, just in case you aren't aware, chemotherapy does a real number on a person's immune system. Simple explanation, ANYTHING that might cause ANY kind of sickness or infection is much worse for a chemo patient than it is for the average person. The past few days have just been bad for me in this regard. I should, perhaps, start by mentioning the fact that I am the least graceful person I know. God bless my Mama, she put me in dance lessons back when I was a kid. Tap and ballet. Bless her heart, I reckon she had dreams of having a graceful dancer in the family. (She put both my older sisters through this rite of passage as well. I know because my friends and I used to play dress up with their old costumes.) Long story short, I have absolutely no innate grace. It isn't just dancing, it's anything that requires some measure of coordination. I stink at every single sport I ever tried to play because hand/eye coordination is a totally foreign concept to me. I've told this to people before, but it bears repeating. I remember my poor father trying to help me with the simple parent/child game of catch. He would toss the ball to me and repeat (more times than I can remember), "keep your eye on the ball." He would toss and I'd watch that ball like a hawk. Watch it go right past my bat and land on the ground. I was always thinking, "I'm looking right at it and I still can't hit it." He eventually gave up. I cannot express how grateful I am that I grew up in a time and place that did not force children to take part in Physical Education beyond the 6th grade. I'd have gone insane if I'd had to do it much longer than that.

Another "cute" example of my utter physical ineptitude: several years ago Mark and I were pretty into tennis. We decided to go buy ourselves some rackets and play. The courts we used are public and located along one of the main roads through our hometown. I know this will be hard to believe, but I swear it's true. I tried THREE times to serve the ball to him and I whiffed every time. A car full of young men who happened to be passing slowed down long enough to yell out the window, "Three strikes! You're out!" Good thing I'm not overly sensitive about my lack of coordination. Okay, so now you're aware of my lack of grace.

I had a Dr.'s appointment on Thursday morning. Nothing big, just a check in with my regular family Dr. So Mark heads out to the car and I'm following him and somehow - I'm not sure of the logistics - I managed to step on a small twig with my right foot and then kick it with my left. I wear sandals. The branch didn't actually embed itself into my foot, but it scraped it pretty good. I looked down, didn't see blood, and kept on going. By the time we got downtown, though, the blood had arrived. Not tons, but enough to let me know the stick had broken the skin. No telling how many germs I encountered there. I carry one of those nifty neosporin to go things and Mark hosed it down for me. Seems to be healing just fine.

I can't remember if it was later that same day or Friday, but Mark and I had gone somewhere and left our chickens out while we were gone. In all the years that we've had chickens, we've lost more than a few to raccoons. Before we put this new batch in the barn we rewired the entire pen with heavy gauge wire to keep them safe. Plus, the raccoons generally only come out at night, so the chickens are safe during the day. Or so we thought. Mark and I pulled up in the drive and he slowed down when we came around the barn and there were no chickens in sight. They're still young and a little intimidated by the outdoors so they don't go far from that chicken pen door. Then Mark slammed on the brakes and said, "Look at that hawk!" When the chickens were little we kept them in a small outdoor pen with a heat lamp until they had all their feathers and could be put in the barn. That pen is sitting out in front of the barn where we left it after we moved the chickens down there. Perched pretty as you please on that pen was a LARGE hawk. One of the largest either of us has ever seen. He took off once we stopped but the damage was already done. He killed one of the hens and the rest were scattered all over the place. We went to round them all up but the ones who'd hidden inside the main barn didn't want any part of going outside. Can't blame them for that. Fortunately they're fairly tame. You can push them with your foot and they'll just sit there and stare at you. So after realizing they weren't going to let me "shoo" them out of the barn and around to the chicken pen entrance, I decided to just pick up the two in front of me. Another long story short, one of them got in a lucky blow with a foot and opened up a fairly impressive scratch from the knuckle of my first finger to the base of my thumb on my left hand. More blood. More germs. Nasty germs too, considering a chicken's feet are all it has to dig with. Yuck! A long scrub with soap and water followed by more neosporin and this wound, too, seems to be healing fairly well.

Okay, I mentioned in a recent post that I grind my teeth. I've done it for years and wear a mouth guard to protect my teeth. Mark likes to tease me about looking like a football player. Plus I do tend to try to talk with it in my mouth and that's generally a recipe for hilarity. Anyway, with the chemo and all I tend to nap on and off at all sorts of random times. Okay, I tend to nap any time my head hits a pillow. So one day last week a fell asleep on the couch and when I woke up my tooth was hurting. This has happened before and while I was a little worried about it, by later that evening it felt fine. Fast forward to yesterday. I took another nap and woke up with the aching tooth again. It didn't go away this time, though. It just hurt and hurt and hurt some more. Then it started throbbing. And it hurt to try to eat. It hurt inside and out. My face all the way up to my eye hurt to touch. Still, I decided to hold on to hope that it would go away. Of course it didn't. I barely slept last night because of it. Oh, and did I mention that my Dr. put me on blood pressure medicine Thursday? I started taking it that night and woke up with the mother of all headaches on  Saturday night. So, killer headache, horrible tooth ache, plus a couple of fresh wounds. Oh, no, that's not all!

Mark was sick when he came home Thursday morning. Actually, he's been building up to it for a few days. But he really started feeling bad on Wednesday night. By Friday he was just too ill feeling to do much of anything other than sleep. Amazingly, I felt fairly good on Friday. Better than I usually do on the weekend after my chemo. My neck was sore, but the all over body pain that I usually have was nowhere to be found. PRAISE THE LORD FOR THAT! Since Mark was feeling bad, we didn't do anything on Friday. We stayed parked on the couch all day long until we went to bed that night. I'd made a roast the day before so I didn't even have to cook. (Gets kinda personal here, so if you're squeamish you might want to skip this. LOL)  In the past, on these weekends when I usually can't move because of the pain, I have had a bit of an issue with a sore tailbone. Yep, tailbone. I assume it happens because I sit too long in one spot. It's only happened a couple of times, but it isn't very comfortable. So Saturday morning, when I got up, my tailbone was so sore that I can't actually sit down comfortably.

What are we up to now? Stick in the foot, chicken claw to the hand, insanely painful tailbone, killer headache, and mother of all toothaches. Yep, Sunday was NOT a good day for me. My schedule for today wasn't clear, either. I had to be at the hospital at 9:30 this morning to have a follow-up CT scan. (I'm going to be totally honest and admit that some of this is my fault.) I wasn't supposed to eat for 4 hours before the scan. Only I couldn't remember what the time frame was. I ate yesterday around 3 and then NOTHING for the rest of the night. Yep, that wasn't the smartest thing I've ever done. Especially with the chemo, I've found that I need to try to keep something in my stomach. But I felt so terribly bad last night that I pretty much went to bed and stayed there all night. (In bed I could lay on my stomach. Hurt the tooth but helped the tailbone.)

I was awake at 5AM this morning when Mark called to let me know he'd hit a deer with his truck. It's been a while since he mowed one down so he was due. He said he missed the big one but caught the little one that was following it. The truck is drivable if you don't mind the tire rubbing against the bumper every time you turn left. (You should know that I'm laughing right now. What other choice do I have. LOL) Mark is still sick. He sounds terrible. He went down to the sheriff's office to pick up the paperwork for the insurance claim then came on home. Since I dozed so much last night I woke up early and called the insurance company to get that ball rolling. We carry full coverage so they not only fix the truck, but provide us with a rental as well.

I left for the hospital a little before 9. I stopped down at the drug store to buy the strongest oragel I could find. I slathered my entire jaw with that, then went on to Madison. They took x-rays and did a CT. I had planned to stop at Walmart because I need a few things, but by the time I was done at the hospital I was ready to curl up in a ball and pass out. Carolyn offered to take me this morning and boy do I wish I'd taken her up on it! Between the toothache, the tailbone ache, the lack of food and the fatigue I was pretty much done in. So Walmart was out and a quick trip through the McDonald's drive through was in. I actually went through the automatic car wash just so I could take a few minutes to eat. LOL It did make me feel a little better, but I was still hurting and tired. So I came straight home. I called the repair shop to make sure they got the paperwork from State Farm and they did. The car rental place didn't, though. So I called State Farm. They told me I could expedite the claim if I went ahead and called the claim office instead of waiting for them to call me. So I did that. It didn't take but a couple of minutes. She said she'd send the paperwork to Enterprise within a few minutes. The Enterprise guy said he'd call me as soon as he got it.

BTW, the headache is MUCH better. Mark thought I ought to stop taking the new BP medicine since it came on so suddenly and was so intense. So I didn't take it last night and sure enough the headache is almost gone. Should have called the Dr. today, but there just wasn't time. Have to do that tomorrow.

Moving on to my toothache. By this afternoon I knew good and well that it wasn't going to go away by itself. Most likely, I have the start of an infection in one of my roots. I've had this happen before so I'm fairly familiar with the sensation. Normally the dentist would just go in and fix it. Or, in this case, the specialist dentist would since the tooth in question has already had a root canal and has a crown. (Had that done before, too. Did I mention my teeth are terrible!?) Trouble is, I can't have any dental work done while I'm getting chemo. Not unless I want to give the chemo a delay of a month or more. So, there will be no fixing the tooth until the chemo is finished. The only option left is antibiotics to take care of whatever infection is there. I worried that my dentist would want to see me before she'd prescribe antibiotics. That's not an option today since Mark had to drive the car to work and the truck isn't going too far. I went ahead and called her and God bless her, she totally understood. She prescribed an antibiotic and called it in to the CVS a few miles down the road. She did ask me to double check with my oncologist that the antibiotic would be fine in conjunction with the chemo. I did that and they said it was fine.

The only issue, of course, is that Mark was gone and that left me with the truck. The deer didn't actually do all that much damage. Less that they usually do. The front bumper is crunched fairly well and pushed back just enough that the tire does rub a little when you turn left. The bumper, like so many other things on vehicles these days, is plastic, though, so it's more noisy than anything else. I started nagging the drug store within minutes of getting off the phone with the dentist. I went down there about an hour later and got my horse pill antibiotics. Funny thing - Mark's truck is is DESPERATE need of shocks. Maybe the entire suspension needs to be redone. I tease him all the time that riding in it is like riding a bucking bronco. The seat isn't exactly the most comfortable in the world, either. The truck is a 1995. It wasn't new when we bought it. So, just for giggles, imagine if you will trying to ride a bucking bronco while sitting on a wooden saddle with a tailbone that's so sore you can't even sit comfortably on the couch........... Yeah, it wasn't fun.

It seems that my tooth hurts worse when I'm upright. It eases a little if I lay on my right side. So by the time I got downtown my rear was so sore that I could barely move, my tooth was POUNDING like crazy, and I hadn't eaten since before noon. I felt beyond bad. I ran into the drug store and got my medicine, rushed into the grocery store to grab something fast to eat, and dragged myself back to the truck for the agonizing ride home. I actually took the first dose of the antibiotic before I left the grocery store. LOL At home I collapsed onto the couch. The phone rang and it was Enterprise car rental. I was glad that they'd gotten the paperwork so the rental would be ready for us tomorrow. First thing the guy on the phone says is, (hesitantly) "are you in Indiana?"

I said, "Yes. We live in Vevay."

He says, "Well, I'm in Madison, WISCONSIN!"

Oh yeah, that's right. I told the insurance claim person to use Enterprise in Madison, IN and she sent the paperwork to Madison, Wisconsin. After a couple of minutes of joking about the transportation/pickup fees for that trip, he told me he'd call the insurance lady and straighten it out.

Honestly, the past few days have just been awful. But, things are looking up. My head feels a thousand times better than it did on Sunday. My tooth even feels better now that the first big dose of antibiotic has hit it. My tailbone is still sore. I told Mark that with the way things have been going it's probably some kind of abscess. (I am desperately praying that is NOT the case!) It does feel marginally better than it did yesterday. I figure the antibiotic might help that, too. The scratches on my foot and hand look like they're healing without any problems. I haven't caught whatever it is that Mark has. And while it's never a good thing to hit a deer, at least we have insurance to take care of it. Basically, as bad as the past couple of days have been, I still find myself saying, "It could always be worse."

I don't like pain. What normal person does? I can handle it for a while, but after a couple of days I tend to lose my patience. I absolutely know better than to pray for patience. But I guess God sometimes likes to test it just a little anyway. Just to remind me to focus on Him. I've certainly done a lot of praying over the past couple of days! God knows what I need, even if I don't. And He's given me a way out of just about all the problems I've had. This is just one more of those instances where I am profoundly grateful for modern medications. By tomorrow I'm guessing my tooth will barely hurt at all. I'm getting ready to go scrounge up something to eat. Something soft. LOL My head barely hurts at all. I've had two wounds that could easily have gotten infected, but haven't. I have a hubby who's sick but I'm not. God is good! Now, if I can just fix the aching tailbone before I have to get back in the torture device Mark calls a truck....

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Streams in the Desert

My dear friend Carolyn is someone I have tons of respect for. I am very thankful that God brought her into my life several years ago. I have never, ever been in her presence that I did not laugh. Not once that I can remember. She's just that kind of person. And so are her sisters. One of her sisters, Shirley, gave me a book a few weeks ago. Shirley is one of those people that just shines with God's grace and love. Her husband has had a number of severe strokes and she barely ever has a chance to get out of the house, though we're hoping that might change soon. Everyone needs a break from time to time. Anyway, back in September Carolyn, our friend (and pastor's wife) Mary, and I went up to Cincinnati to a Quilt and Craft Expo. Shirley lives in Cincy and though she could not get away long enough to come to the expo with us, she did come to the convention center to say hi and to give me this book. It is called, "Streams in the Desert" and is a collection of devotions by L. B. Cowman. It has been edited by Jim Reimann, the same man who edited "My Utmost for His Highest." It is the updated edition, put into modern language for clarity. This blog post title will take you to the Amazon page for the book. You can get access to the original version of the book for free via Crosswalk.com. The original version is by no mean unreadable, it's just not as easy to digest as the Updated Edition.

Shirley included a very sweet personal message to me on the inside page. It begins with, "This book has spoken to my heart straight from the heart of God." How powerful is that! I was so blessed just by the book alone. When I got home and opened it and read Shirley's note, it gave me such a rush of comfort to feel the love and encouragement in her words. I just cannot express how precious both Carolyn and Shirley are to me. They have loved me and been friends to me virtually from the day we first met. They introduce me as a part of their family. They are great gifts from God, and I am profoundly grateful for them.

So, in the post I made yesterday I mentioned how I was struggling with some anxiety over what the future may hold for me. I don't seem to feel a lot of stress, or at least I don't always recognize it consciously. But it is having an impact on me. I mentioned my blood pressure, which is not something I've ever had an issue with in the past. Yet it is and has been high enough for my oncologist to prescribe medication for it. And while I have had an issue with grinding my teeth in my sleep for years, I now catch myself clenching my jaw even while I am awake. Obviously, I'm feeling more anxiety and stress than I realized. I trust God in this situation I am facing. I have no choice. I KNOW He is in control and that whatever comes, whether the next round of chemo is easy or hard, or whether I have a recurrence or metastases in a few months or a few years, or 17 years (as has just happened to one of the ladies on the Cancer Survivors Network, or if I never have to face cancer again. God is in control of everything "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28 (KJV) A little bit more modern:  "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." Romans 8:28 (NLT)

That is such a simple thing to read, but sometimes so difficult to put into practical use in our lives. It's so easy to give in to the human impulse to question God's motives, to even demand that He change His perfect will and give us what we think is best or what we want. And it is so very easy to lose some of our trust in Him. When we are facing something frightening or potentially devastating, we WANT to have complete trust in God, to utterly rely on what Romans 8:28 tells us. To KNOW, with everything inside us, that WHATEVER happens, God will be there with us and will help us through it and that the end result is and will be exactly what He knows is best. We're frail creatures, always asking questions when we ought to be listening and trusting. I have often wondered how it was that the Israelites could have so easily lost their faith in God when He was right there in their midst as He led them out of Egypt and parted the Red Sea and fed them with manna from heaven, and so many other things. And how in the world could the disciples have been surprised to find the tomb empty that first Easter morning? They had seen Jesus perform countless miracles, including raising the dead back to life, yet despite the fact that Jesus warned them of what was coming and promised them that He would rise again, they ran and hid in fear after His crucifixion and were shocked when the tomb was empty. Why? How? Because they were just like us, like me. It didn't matter how many miracles they'd witnessed. (I've seen my share.) It didn't matter how intimate a relationship they had with God or His Son. (I've known Jesus for many years, since my early teens, yet I still find myself wanting to go my own way.) They were mere men. Filled with all the same flaws that necessitated Christ's death on the Cross. Out of the sight and presence of God, they fell back on their flawed human emotions and understanding. There's a very good reason why we are told over and over again to draw near to God. To stay in His presence. Because outside of it we are too weak to fight our own nature.

So I picked up "Streams in the Desert" today and opened it to October 13th and what do you suppose I saw? This may be copyright infringement, but I'm not making money off this and I'm giving the author and editor credit, so I hope it will be okay. Here is the devotion, as written in the Updated Edition, for October 13. According to the book, all Scripture is taken from the NIV.

Do not be anxious about anything. (Philippians 4:6)

Anxiety should never be found in a believer. In spite of the magnitude, quantity, and diversity of our trials, afflictions, and difficulties, anxiety should not exist under any circumstances. This is because we have a Father in heaven who is almighty, who love His children as He loves His "one and only Son" (John 3:16), and whose complete joy and delight is to continually assist them under all circumstances. We should heed His Word which says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."

"In everything" - not simply when our house is on fire or when our beloved spouse and children are gravely ill, but even in the smallest matters of life. We are to take everything to God - little things, very little things, even what the world calls trivial things. Yes, we are to take everything, living all day long in holy fellowship with our heavenly Father and our precious Lord Jesus. We should develop something of a spiritual instinct, causing us to immediately turn to God when a concern keeps us awake at night. During those sleepless nights, we should speak to Him, bringing our various concerns before Him, no matter how small they may be. Also speak to the Lord about any trial you are facing or any difficulties you may have in your family or professional life.

"By prayer and petition" - earnestly pleading, persevering and enduring, and waiting, waiting, waiting on God.

"With thanksgiving" - always laying a good foundation. Even if we have no possessions, there is one thing for which we can always be thankful - that He has saved us from hell. We can also give thanks that He has given us His Holy Word, His Holy Spirit, and the most precious gift of all - His Son. Therefore when we consider all this, we have abundant reasons for thanksgiving. May this be our goal!

"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7) This is such a wonderful, genuine, and precious blessing that to truly know it, you must experience it, for it "transcends all understanding."

May we take these truths to heart, instinctively walking in them, so the result will be lives that glorify God more abundantly than ever before. George Muller, from Life of Trust

Search your heart several times a day, and if you find something that is disturbing your peace, remember to take the proper steps to restore the calm. Francis de Sales

 Tell me God isn't in charge! He knew how I would be feeling, knew I needed a little encouragement and a reminder of Him. There are those out there who would call it coincidence. But I don't believe in luck or coincidence or chance. I believe in God, the Creator of the universe and all within it, including me. He knows me like no other. He knows my heart, even when I don't. And He put these words here for me today, to uplift me and strengthen me as I go through this journey He has called me to.

Honestly, words fail me. Those who know me, know that's a rare occasion. :) I wish I could describe the flood of joy and comfort I felt as I read this short little devotion. See, like the Children of Israel or the disciples of our Lord, I have felt God's presence in my life so many times. I have felt Him and known Him over and over and over again, yet I still let my human nature get in the way.

God forgive me for that. And thank You so very much for never giving up on me, for loving me and staying right by my side even when I'm distracted and not paying attention to You, Lord. I am blessed beyond measure. I am so thankful for all You have given me, for all You have done for me. Thank you, Lord, for being Who You are!

Remember that God is always in control. All we ever have to do is LET Him work. As the old saying goes, "Let go and let God." Perhaps I should have that tattooed on my forehead. (Just kidding.) But it would do us all good, me especially, to strive every moment of every day to actively seek out God's presence. To hunger for Him with all our heart and soul. As the Bible tells us, "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment." Mark 12:30 (KJV)

This is often easier said than done. It takes a devout commitment and dedication that I so often lack. But I want it. Like Paul, I do what I don't want and don't do what I want to do. "And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it. I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin."Romans 7:18-25 (NLT)  Lord, grant me strength to overcome my sinful nature. Give me peace and understanding, courage and endurance. Forgive me for entertaining doubts, for letting anxiety and fear creep into my thoughts. I love and trust You, Lord. I know You are the Author and Finisher of my faith, that You have embraced me as Your beloved child. Thank You for all the blessings You bestow on me each day. Thank You for loving me even when I was unlovable. Thank You for Your great plan of Salvation. I just want to draw nearer to You, to be so close to You that no doubt can enter into me. And Thank you for the wonderful friends You have given me, women of faith who uplift me without even realizing it. They are such great gifts to me! Bless each and every one of them, Lord, as they bless You through their generosity and love. Amen.  Thank you for reading this. I had to post this update because I found God's way of letting me know He's still there and still cares too amazing not to share. He is still on the throne. He is still in control. And there are miracles happening every day, all around us. We can see them if we'll just open our eyes and our hearts to God!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

No, I'm Not Crying...

One of the really lovely things about cancer and the chemo that comes with it is all those wonderful side effects. They warn you about some of them. The obvious stuff, like hair loss and potential nausea and/or vomiting, and fatigue, altered taste, and mouth sores (ulcers). These are, obviously, the biggies. Some chemos don't even cause them. Not everyone taking chemo loses their hair, for instance, though the particular chemos used for breast cancer do pretty much guarantee baldness. And to be fair, the new meds they have these days generally keep the nausea under control. In fact, some don't have any nausea at all. I've had a few hints, nothing more. My meds keep it under control very well. I think the fatigue is pretty much a given for anyone taking chemo, and it does get worse as you go along, Usually, the second week after my chemo is a fairly decent week for me. Last week I was just plain exhausted every single day. Didn't feel like moving at all. Saturday & Sunday, my taste was as close to normal as it gets, but I was too tired to fix anything. Mark got a giant bucket of chicken, which was good when we got it, but today the very thought of eating any of it makes me feel a little queasy. :( I think I'll just put it in the freezer for some later date.

Anyway, back to the side effects. Along with the hair loss, fatigue, nausea, etc., there's a long list of other, supposedly less common, side effects. You might read about them in literature about the chemo, but none of the Dr.'s or nurses usually warn you specifically about most of these unless you mention it first. That's why a site like the CSN is so important. At least there you can learn what to expect so that you don't start freaking out when you suddenly realize you can't see or your fingernails and/or toenails turn black and start falling off. (More on that goodie in a later post.) There's the fact that the chemo will put you into chemically induced menopause, which means no periods but it also means brutal hot flashes. As I type this, my head feels like it's melting. I'm going to have to go get myself something cold to put on it, but I'll do that after I finish this. Also, there's this little issue of acne. Yep, not only am I hot flashing like a menopausal  mid-lifer, I'm broken out like a teenager. Oh, and my skin is so dry it looks chapped and it feels like paper or something. Not rough, really, just... brittle. It isn't prone to tearing or anything like that, it just feels tight and uncomfortable. I put lotion on my arms this morning and it was absorbed in seconds. I think what I really need is to just soak in a vat of lotion. LOL

The altered taste is another common side effect. I've been fortunate that I haven't had a serious issue with it. Things don't taste bad to me, they just don't have any taste at all, for the most part. For example, orange juice or cranberry juice taste like you put half a cup in a big glass full of ice and let it sit all day until the ice was melted, then tried to drink it. Not so good. Doubly unfortunate is the fact that the only things that do taste half-way normal to me are sweet and sour things. So, I tend to reach for sweet stuff just because it tastes kinda normal. That's not the most nutritionally beneficial option. Salad, which I usually love, tastes too bland to eat. I've gotten a different salad dressing and I'm hoping it will be stronger so that I can taste it.

Weight gain is a problem, too. Like I need to get even fatter! Then there are the mouth sores. Praise the Lord, I haven't had any of them. Many others do have big problems with it, though. I am so thankful that I've been spared this problem!

So, one of the things that chemo does is dry you out. Skin, mouth, eyes, everything. That's what causes the mouth sores. You're mouth doesn't make enough saliva to keep bacteria and all those other creepy crawlies that live in our mouths under control. So they take over and next thing you know, you've got a nasty ulcer. I've had them before. I'm sure everyone has. But I cannot imagine how awful it would be to have a mouth full of them. This is gross, but one of the ladies on the CSN said that during her chemo she would rinse her mouth out and flush out pieces of her tongue every time. She said most of her mouth was fortunately numb at the time, but it's still a terrible side effect to have.

The dry skin I've already talked about. I also have developed dry eyes. It started on Friday. The funny thing about dry eyes is that having them actually causes your eyes to water. Seems beyond ironic, huh? My eyes water constantly. They're puffy and irritated, blood-shot and itchy. I have been using eye drops designed for dry eyes, but I may not be using them frequently enough because they're still watering like mad. I get up each morning with them all sticky and half gummed closed. Yesterday I tried cucumber slices and they did help for a little while. I picked up some dry eye ointment today that's supposed to help keep my eyes moist and lubricated at night. We'll see if it works. The real problem is that the tears are making the corners of my eyes sore from all the wetness. I look like I'm crying all the time. Thursday night I was watching TV and my eyes got so dry that my vision blurred. I couldn't focus on anything. I used the drops and eventually it got better, but I've been having the watery eyes ever since.

I don't want to come across like I'm complaining. I'm still very thankful for what I've got and for what I don't have. As annoying as my side effects are, they could be so much worse. I do worry a bit about how tired I'm getting. I'm half-way through the heavy chemo. I got my last Adrimycin/Cytoxin treatment today. (I'd dance a jig if I had the energy... and if I had any idea what a jig is. LOL) In 3-4 weeks I'll begin a Taxotere/Herceptin regimen. I will get 4 courses of that combination once every 3 weeks, I think it will be. I'll get more info when I see the Dr. on October 28. Then I'll continue the Herceptin for a year with just over a month of radiation treatments tossed in sometime after I finish the Taxotere. The Taxotere is supposed to be somewhat easier than the A/C, but my chemo nurse, Candi, was telling me that every time she tells someone that they wind up having awful side effects. So, hopefully I won't be one of them.

Anyway, I am now bald, with red, puffy, watery eyes, my nose runs like a faucet half the time, my cheeks are broken out with scores of little pimples, and I'm so fatigued that I can barely keep my eyes open half the time. When I am awake, I can hardly work up the energy to move. Basically, I'm pathetic. LOL Poor Mark is having to do almost everything around here. I feel sorry for him. He's so sweet, though. He does everything for me, even when I don't ask. God gave me such a great husband!

On a sadder note, I'd like to ask for prayer for some of my fellow CSN members. One of them, Thomas, is a Marine with a wife who is stage IV with multiple tumors in her brain, another on her liver, and cancer cells in her spinal fluid. Her name is Lesley and they have been told that further treatment would just cause her more pain and give her very little additional time. There is, apparently, nothing more they can do about the cancer in her spine. She was originally diagnosed in 2008, so she's been fighting this battle for two years. They are both younger than I am and they have 5 children. They just celebrated their 7th wedding anniversary. It is as tragic an outcome as any cancer diagnosis can lead to. Thomas is, obviously, heart-broken. His wife is in a lot of pain and the meds she is given to help with that in combination with her brain tumors, keep her out of it a lot of the time. He had to make the difficult decision to call in hospice alone. He did say she was finally cognizant enough yesterday (her birthday, if you can imagine that) for him to sit and talk with her about it. He said she was sad that her disease had progressed so rapidly. Please, lift this family up to the Lord.

There are many others who have recently received bad news about their cancer. God knows all their names. I told Mark that reading the posts usually gives me encouragement because these women are so strong. They battle this dreadful disease, sometimes for years and years, and they rarely complain or whine. They share their strength with each other, always offering encouragement, advice, prayers, or just a shoulder to cry on. This week has been a rough one for everyone on the forum. So many have received bad news in the past several days, including a couple of ladies who have the exactly same kind of cancer I have. One of them was originally diagnosed in October 2008 and then found out it had spread to her liver and spine in March 2009. She received the same Chemo regimen that I am getting and has the same cancer that is not hormone receptive (which means there are less options out there for treatment) and Her2 positive, which means it is more aggressive. There is a targeted chemo out there for Her2 positive cancers. That's the Herceptin I mentioned earlier. I'm grateful for it, but I can't help but be a little concerned about my chances of the cancer coming back.

I don't want anyone to think I'm worrying myself sick. Not intentionally, anyway. I say this because every time I've gone into the Dr.'s office since the diagnosis my blood pressure has been too high. A couple of weeks ago when I saw the Dr. he told me he wanted to put me on blood pressure medicine. I REALLY don't want to do that. I have the medicine, but I just hate the thought of having to use it, even if it is only temporary. It isn't the chemo causing it. (I specifically asked the Dr. about this.) My oncologist seems to think it is more likely stress related. He wants my general practitioner to manage the bp medicine. I have an appt. with him later this week. Mostly, I suppose I'm a little afraid that once I start taking it I won't be able to stop. This is exactly what happened to Mark's dad. He started take blood pressure medicine years ago for some reason and wound up not being able to stop taking it because every time they try to take him off it, his heart goes haywire. I just don't want to wind up being stuck with something I don't really need just because having cancer has made me a little anxious. Then again, I also don't want to be foolish and risk damage being done to my heart. It's just another decision to have to make. There are so many of those!

I didn't even realize I was particularly stressed. It seems hard to explain because I truly do trust God in this. I know He's in charge and that He will take care of me. I trust that completely. But I guess I'm still giving in to my human nature a little, though, because there are issues that concern me. Recurrence is one of them. I tell myself not to worry about something that hasn't happened, but it's not easy, especially when I've read about so many who've had this very thing happen to them. It's the nature of the disease that it tends to be hard to get rid of for good. The good news is that you can live for quite a while (decades in some cases) with metastatic breast cancer, assuming it's caught early and treated aggressively. It isn't necessarily a death sentence, but just the thought of possibly having to face years and years of treatment is definitely daunting. Of course, I try my best to be positive. I want to believe that this thing will be beaten and will not return, but I also don't want to bury my head in the sand and pretend that nothing bad might ever happen. It's a fine line between faith and practicality. I'm doing my best to walk it, but I'll admit that sometimes the worry gets the better of me. I guess that's what's driving my blood pressure up.

I guess I'll get off here for now. I'm tired and feeling a little queasy. I've been feeling kinda queasy on and off all day, today. Along with the increasing fatigue is apparently a bit of an increase in the queasiness. I've got medicine for it, though, and I've just eaten a few of the ginger cookies I bought back when I started chemo. Mark drank all the ginger ale, so I can't try it. But I'm okay, just a little ill feeling. I'm going to head to bed and try to get some sleep in spite of the massive dose of steroids they pumped into me earlier today.

I'm grateful, as always, for the blessings God has given me. I have so many of them. And, as I said earlier, I know God will do what's best for me. I just don't want to let my "rationality" ever get in the way of my faith - something I have to pretty much always be on guard against.

Anyway, I just wanted to post an update. I'm half-way through the worst of the chemo and, God willing, the Taxotere won't be quite as bad. If it is, I might just be bed-ridden by the end of it! LOL For now, I'm just going to be thankful for the good moments and  do what I can, when I can. The muscle relaxer seems to be keeping the muscle spasms in check, which is a great blessing. The queasiness is annoying, but not serious. I have no problems at all that can't be cured by reminding myself that it could always be worse. It is much worse for some. It's infinitely worse for Thomas, Lesley, and their families. So, pray for them, and pray for me. I can't ask for anything more than that.

God bless you all,

Jenn

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

For the Love of Coffee... and Tea, and Hot Cocoa, and....

Okay, this really has nothing at all to do with cancer, beyond the tenuous at best connection that it means less cleaning at a time when ANY cleaning is almost more than I can handle. Then again, less cleaning would be a major plus for me even if I wasn't getting chemo. :) Have I mentioned how much I HATE to clean?

Anyway, like everyone else in the civilized world, hubby and I drink coffee. Sometimes I go for days without it, and so does he, but then I might go for days where I will want a cup or maybe two. I'm not an addict like some I've known (read pretty much everyone else in my family, LOL). I sent my sister a Birthday card once with this cartoon woman on the front who is sitting at her kitchen table with a gun in her hand while her coffee maker runs in the background. She's just shot the telephone and it said something about not bothering her until she'd had her coffee. My sister Connie often commented that she did not function until she'd had her coffee. My other sister, Debi, is the same, I think. And my mother used to give ME coffee (cream and sugar, please) with an ice cube in it when I was a kid. To be fair, I'm pretty sure I nagged her until she gave in, but the point is, everyone in my family has always been a coffee drinker.

Okay, back to what I was saying. Being Southern, I love my tea just as much, or probably more, than my coffee. And like my coffee, I like my tea sweet. So, I own a coffee maker I really like and an iced tea brewer, too, though I realize I could just use the coffee maker for both. Hubby's addicted to kitchen gadgets, though - which undoubtedly played a major role in our most recent purchase. So, several years ago we started seeing those single cup coffee makers. Mark used one several years ago when he was in Europe and liked it. But for the longest time, there wasn't really much out there in the way of selection, either for the coffee makers themselves or for the coffees they brewed. Plus, I'm not a fan of owning a gadget that requires me to make some kind of special trip to a special store just to buy the things I need to use it. In the past couple of years, though, we've noticed that the different kinds of single cup coffee makers was multiplying. Last  year sometime we talked about buying one, but chickened out due to the fact that we just weren't sure we'd like it.

The oldest brand is the Keurig. It's been around for years and they make several versions of their machines. Mostly the difference between each of them is minimal, usually limited to the amount of water the reservoir holds and how many pretty lights it has on the front. It uses these little cups - called Kcups - to brew a single cup of coffee each time.

Then came something called the Senseo. I never really liked it. It used a little coffee pouch thing. Anyway, it was never really in the running with the others.

The most recent entry into the single brew market is something called the Tassimo. Like the Keurig, it uses a small cup, though the two are not interchangeable due to differences in design. It was the Tassimo Mark and I considered buying last year. It was on sale at Bed, Bath, and Beyond (one of our favorite stores just because we both love the kitchen gadget section). We talked about it, but decided to wait and do some research.

I looked it up on the internet and frankly, neither it, nor the Keurig got particularly good reviews. Keurig is a German company, so you'd expect them to make high quality stuff, but it seems like many of their machines fail much too quickly. At least, that was a real problem a year or so ago. So Mark and I stuck with our regular old coffee maker.

I should mention that part of the reason I don't drink coffee more often is that I hate cleaning the stupid coffeemaker. I cannot abide simply rinsing out the pot and reusing it, even if I dump out any leftover coffee quickly. So it meant using soap and water every time, plus cleaning the reusable filter (because I'm too cheap to buy the disposable ones.) Maybe this is a small thing, but it always annoyed me to no end. Especially because I frequently crave coffee at night. It makes no sense, I know, but I can't seem to help it. So if I wanted to satisfy my coffee cravings, I'd be making one half pot in the morning and another at night. I never finished off the coffee I made, so most of it went to waste. This is just annoying to me!

So, to make an already long story shorter, a couple of weeks ago Mark and I were at Costco. They had one of the Keurigs on sale and it came with a large assortment of various Kcups. These Kcups have come a very long way from the beginning when all you got was regular old coffee. These days you can get pretty much every flavored coffee you can imagine, if you're into that, which I'm not. You can get mild, medium, and BOLD (even extra bold!) coffees. You can also get teas. Herbal teas, green teas, but best of all, iced teas! They have regular sweetened or unsweetened iced tea, plus a decent assortment of flavored iced teas. And this was another factor in our making a purchase. Mark recently tried a drink called an "Arnold Palmer" at Bob Evan's and really liked it. It's a mixture of half tea, half lemonade. Well what do you know, but there's a Kcup for that, too!

So, like the good, careful shoppers we are, we did not buy the Keurig then and there. We had a coupon for Bed, Bath, and Beyond (again) and headed over there. That's were we ran into a little issue. It seems that Keurig is no longer the only company manufacturing Kcup coffee brewers. Who knew? There were 2 other brands there as well. I forget, at the moment, what the first one was called, but the second one was a Cusinart. Now Mark and I like Cusinart. We own other Cusinart stuff and we trust that name. Plus, this Cusinart machine had some cool features we both liked. First, its water reservoir was bigger than anyone else's. Second, it has this "hot water" feature that makes it deliver near boiling water on demand. I love hot chocolate about as much as coffee and drink them interchangeably in the winter, and already have a bunch of those nifty little packets so the hot water feature seemed like it would be useful. There are hot cocoa Kcups, but why buy those when I already have a stash of the packets? Anyway, the Cusinart also had one of the largest selections of cup sizes as well. And for the money, it was no more expensive than the others. Cheaper, in fact, than the one I can't remember the name of.

Okay, so we both liked the Cusinart, but Mark and I often have commitment issues when it comes to buying something new. So we decided to wait, again, until we could go home and do a little research. This was the point that things got utterly absurd. That evening I looked all 3 of the brewers we were interested in up online. I love hitting consumer review sites before I buy stuff. It makes me feel more comfortable if the vast majority of people who own what I'm thinking of buying are happy with their purchase. So, I started reading reviews of the different machines and it was just plain hilarious what some people said.

I can't remember off hand why we chose not to go with the Keurig. I think I felt that too many people were still complaining that the machines just didn't hold up. Whatever the cause, I moved on to the second machine, the one I can't remember the name of. It had this entire series of reviews based on an issue some people seemed to have with the light on the front button. I wish I could remember what it was called so I could go find and repost some of the reviews I read. My brain is not that functional at the moment, though. Suffice it to say that more than a few people felt the light was WAY TOO BRIGHT! I don't mean they complained that it was like a nightlight or something. I mean they described it as BLINDING! One person actually suggested that they feared it might do damage to their child's eyes because it was directly on a child's eye level. I know this isn't nearly as funny now as it was that night, but you just have to understand... here I was, reading these reviews and I see a couple of mentions of this light being too bright. Then a couple more people brought it up, and with each subsequent review the descriptions became more and more emphatic. By the time I'd read several of them out loud to Mark we were both laughing so hard we couldn't stop. Maybe it was the fact that in between the reviews complaining of the blinding beacon of light emitted by the button were other reviews where people said stuff like, "I don't know what everyone's talking about with the light. Mine is fine."

It was just one of those moments when life became ridiculous. There were other issues with it that made it a less than ideal choice, price being one. I just didn't like it as well as the Cusinart. So that's the one we settled on. No blinding beacon for a button, but a cool machine that does exactly what it's supposed to do and is turning out to be way more convenient and useful that I ever dreamed it would be.

Mark and I went back down the Bed, Bath, and Beyond a few days later to get it. I'd hunted up my 20 percent off coupon just for it. The coupon that was expiring in another day. Talk about timing, LOL. Anyway, we also bought an assortment of Kcups, since we had no idea what we'd like, as well as a box of the plain, unsweetened tea for me (I was afraid to try the sweet tea for fear it would be too sweet) and a box of the half lemonade, half tea for Mark. We got home, opened it up and ran it through a quick setup process, then I made my first coffee. I chose a French Roast because that's the regular kind of coffee I buy. By the way, I should mention that I can use regular coffee in it. It comes with this tiny little insert and a permanent filter that lets you use your own ground coffee, if you want to. So, I had the French Roast and Mark had some kind of Vanilla flavored coffee.

I wasn't overly impressed with the French Roast because I thought it was too weak. I should mention here that no one I know - other than Mark - likes my coffee. My mom never actually got around to teaching me how to make coffee, so when I decided to try it a few years back, I just read the directions that came with the machine and measured the coffee according to the chart it included. Mark took one drink and said I needed more coffee in my coffee. Of course, by the time Mark was offering his opinion on how my coffee tasted, he'd been conditioned to actually like the swill served at work which was rarely, if ever, fresh. So I added more coffee to my filter and now I drink it strong enough to strip paint. My precious friend Carolyn will drink it, but only because she loves me and doesn't want to hurt my feelings. God bless her. Mary doesn't even pretend to like it. If she knows I've made the coffee she will pour herself half a cup and then go fill it up the rest of the way with water. No kidding! I don't care, though. I never claimed to be a barista. LOL

Back to the new toy... the next thing we used it for was to make our teas. And this is pretty much the moment I knew it was going to be a great purchase. It's just so incredibly simple. Fill a glass with tea, stick it under the little spout and push a button. It brews the tea right over the ice, which cools it down and adds just the right amount of extra water needed. I add sugar - or actually Splenda - to mine and Mark takes his straight out of the machine. With this thing the tea and/or coffee is always fresh because it brews on demand. It takes a few seconds to brew and a few more seconds to fill its internal tank and heat the water for the next cup. If you leave it on, hot water is always ready. If you turn it off, it takes 3 minutes (or less, I think) for it to heat the water for you. My other coffeemaker took longer than that to brew half a pot.

I have tried the hot cocoa that came with our assortment, but I don't really like it. It's too weak for me, even if I brew a smaller cup size. Our assortment included several versions of bold coffees and these are my favorites, though I did try a different kind of French Roast this morning that was surprisingly good.  The only drawback I've found is that all the Kcups we want are not readily available at local stores. While I was doing research on the coffeemakers, though, I read that it's actually significantly cheaper to buy them online. So I did a little checking and sure enough, there's a place that sells them in larger boxes at the same price we paid in the store. Best of all, they ship for free! Gotta love that. It didn't take Mark long to go through his box of tea. He ran out 3 days ago, right about the time I ordered more from our new coffee/tea supplier. Yesterday he resorted to making my tea and drinking it. He asks me every day when our tea is coming. He's be beside himself when I tell him I got the shipment notification today. It'll be here tomorrow! He loves the stuff so much I got him 3 boxes of it.

I have also tried brewing iced tea using regular tea bags. It did work, though like using your own coffee, you have to clean the little filter before storing it or reusing it. I will probably wind up going that route eventually because I know it would be cheaper in the long run. Still, I am just amazed by how cool this thing is. And no, the lights are not overly bright. There's a nice, soothing blue backlight to the control panel and another blue light that shines up inside the water reservoir so you can see the water level at all times. This light also blinks if your water level gets low, letting you know you need to add more.

Ultimately it's a totally frivolous purchase, but one I can at least say we use multiple times a day. In fact, all this talk about it has given me a hankering for some hot chocolate. I'm thinking I better get it now, before another hot flash hits. Man, are those things brutal! Anyway, I haven't actually used it to make hot chocolate from one of the pouches, yet. I keep telling myself that I need to use up the Kcups we have first, or I'll just let them sit around forever. There are a few I don't know what we're going to do with, though. Namely, a couple of English Breakfast Teas. What in the world do I do with those? LOL

I suppose I've touted the virtues of our new toy long enough. This is a mostly pointless post, but I was sitting here, wide awake after my couple of days of sleeping due to Neulasta aches, and I was thinking I might as well write something. My brain is still too foggy to write anything of a serious nature. Anyway, If anyone out there is thinking of getting one of these things, I'd say go for it. Mark and I both love it.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Little Common Courtesy, Please...

I'm not the kind of person who gets offended easily. Not for myself, at least. I suppose I was different when I was younger, because I remember my feelings being much more sensitive then. I've grown up, I guess. That, and I have a natural attitude that inclines me to give most people the benefit of the doubt. I just don't want to believe that people out there intentionally set out to cause others pain. Not most of them, at least. Call me naive, but it's the way I am. I consider it a gift from God. I'd rather assume the best of others and be occasionally wrong, than to always assume the worst and be constantly right!

Having said this, I will have to admit that I DO get offended on behalf of others. I don't know why. I just absolutely hate to see someone else hurt. I want to defend them, to rush in like some kind of avenging angel and protect them from the cruelties and insensitivities (however unintentional they may be) of the world.

- I can't help but mention the vision that has popped into my head at this point. For whatever reason, I am thinking of an angry mother hen, feathers all ruffled, voice growling out a warning to anyone who dares to threaten her chicks.


Yes, I had chickens when I was a child. Yes, I have them now. Yes, I have been pecked by an angry hen who did not like the idea of me getting near either her eggs or her young chicks. And yes, I know chickens aren't particularly scary, but seriously, they can have a very impressive attitude!

Okay, so back to what I was saying. Since getting my diagnosis and spending so much time on the CSN website, I have found myself occasionally surprised and even flat out appalled by the idiotic things people have said and done to other cancer patients. The most blatant example of pure idiocy is a story I can't help but repeat. First, let me point out that being bald is hardly the worst problem that comes along with breast cancer and its treatment. As side effects and consequences go, it's pretty tame. Still, as women a lot of our identities can be wrapped up in our hair. Long or short, whatever the color, it is a major part of who we see ourselves as being. So to have it all fall out is no picnic. There's always the wig option, but seriously, the vast majority of survivors who have tried wound up abandoning their wigs because they are flat out uncomfortable. Face it, when you're dealing with the myriad of side effects of cancer treatment, the last thing you want or need is to be uncomfortable just because you don't want to look like some kind of weirdo. So wigs are often out and that means hats, scarves, bandannas, etc. These may be better than a wig, but they're no picnic either. My wonderful chemo has sent me into chemically induced menopause, which basically means I've got all those symptoms along with the standard cancer/chemo ones. Can anyone out there say hot flashes? And I'm not just talking a little warm, here. I'm talking about a full on rush of heat so intense that I have often been quite sure I am physically melting. What does this mean? It means that if I happen to be out in public and am wearing a scarf or bandanna or hat, my head begins to feel like it's trapped in a sauna on an August day in the Amazon. It's not only uncomfortable, it's disgusting as I tend to sweat like mad. Just plain gross. So I tend to ditch the head coverings the moment I get into my car.

All this is to point out that I am not brave enough to just go without anything at all on my head. (The CSN girls call it going "topless.") I don't mind it with people I know well, but it just isn't something I feel comfortable doing in public. I imagine that may change over time, however. Because the self-consciousness might just give way to frustration with the discomfort of always being too hot or too itchy, or too SOMETHING. Generally, the head covers start disappearing pretty soon after most of the ladies start growing hair back. This can take MONTHS even after finishing the chemo, but eventually it does happen. So imagine yourself finally having a little hair after months of being bald and uncomfortable. Do you dare to go out in public with it that short? If you do, you might get this kind of reaction.

This is a true story, as testified by the lady it happened to. She was out at a coffee shop minding her own business. She was in line to get her coffee and a fine, upstanding example of society was in line somewhere behind her. He apparently took issue with her very short hair, because he just could not keep his mouth shut about it. Loudly enough for everyone to hear he said, "It doesn't matter how short that lesbian cuts her hair, it still won't make her a man."

At this point I imagine I would be mortified. I can just see myself turning away and slinking out the door in abject horror. But not this woman. Not this wonderful, brave woman. She calmly finished getting her coffee, then sat it down and turned to face the idiot with the big mouth. See, she'd lost both her breasts to the monster. And in an act of bravery that I can barely fathom, she opened her shirt to flash her mastectomy scars at him and said, "I'm not a lesbian, I'm a breast cancer survivor."

And out the door she goes. She didn't mention it in the post, but I sincerely hope her departure was accompanied by cheers and clapping. It should have been.

This is one extreme example of just how idiotic people can be. There are others that are similar. Parents who hug their children close and pull them away from cancer patients because they either make the same mistake as the coffee shop guy or because they somehow seem to think that the illness might be contagious. It's disturbing to imagine just how mean people can be. I have NO interest in getting into a theological discussion here. I'm a Christian and I believe that homosexuality is wrong. That said, there is absolutely NO excuse for the kind of behavior I have heard some of the ladies on the CSN describe. Rude is rude, period. Treating someone like you think they are sub-human is never, ever okay. You don't have to condone anyone's lifestyle, but you certainly don't have to make them feel like dirt either. Especially when all your assumptions are wrong!

I still want to believe that most people don't intentionally try to cause others pain. I want to make excuses for them, to try to see things from their point of view. But honestly, how self-centered does a person have to be to focus only on themselves when someone else is the one with cancer? I am blessed with a husband who has no problem taking care of me. He loves me, bald or not. He will hold me, encourage me, comfort me, whatever I need. He offers me the support and love that any spouse should. I am forever thankful that God saw fit to bring us together all those years ago.

If the family members I have lost through the years (mother, father, sister, and mother-in-law/best friend) were still here, I know each of them would support and encourage me completely. I don't even have to wonder about it. Again, I have been blessed with family that loves me. And I have friends who love me as well, and who have already offered me so very much in the way of support and encouragement. So it just flat out breaks my heart to read stories of others who are not so fortunate. It makes me angry to see a woman (or anyone) who is already in the middle of what might just be the fight of their lives have to also deal with the sheer agony of a parent, spouse, sibling, etc. who only makes things more difficult. Another example.

One of the ladies on the CSN mentioned something her father did. She is absolutely beautiful, by the way. Before her treatment, she had lovely long, blond hair, close to waist length. She has stunning blue eyes, too. She's about as gorgeous as anyone can be. And her smile is just plain fantastic. She's the kind of woman who would light up any room she walked into. Even without her hair, she's going to always be beautiful.

So her father was over at her house, along with her sister. He mentions her beautiful her sister is. Then he does it again, and again, and again. They two sisters are looking at each other, trying to figure out what he's getting at. Then, as he's getting ready to leave, he looks at his daughter, the one with breast cancer, who is bald because she is fighting for her life, and says, "You could be be beautiful too, if you'd just grow your hair back out."

Seriously?! Needless to say, she was both stunned and hurt. Who wouldn't be? But she was brave enough to stand up for herself. To point out that she wasn't bald by CHOICE, as if any woman (outside of crazy Hollywood actresses and musicians) would choose to be bald. It just amazes me that anyone could be so idiotic and cruel.

I wish this was the only example I could offer. But there are so many others, so many wives facing the fight alone because their husbands can't man up and deal with it. So many daughters whose parents have better things to do than hold their hands in them midst of their fear and uncertainty. So many sisters who just don't have time to be there for each other. It's tragic to me. Tragic and shameful.

I just wish I could reach out and hold each of the women I have encountered who have been so hurt by those who were supposed to care for them. I wish I could somehow smack their husbands, parents, siblings, co-workers, upside the head and jar a little sense loose. But it doesn't work that way. I've certainly witnessed it in my own life. People are selfish. Instead of focusing on the one in need, the one they claim to love and care about, they can't get past their own wants. My favorite excuse is, "I just can't take it."

Really? YOU can't take it? But the person suffering from cancer can? I have never been more angry in my life than the times I have heard someone say that. Because it isn't about YOU! Wow, what arrogance it takes to say such a thing! I always want to come back with, "yeah, well I didn't want to 'take it' when my mother was dying and I was a 17 year old girl having to hold her hand and try to tell her it would be okay. I didn't want to 'take it' when my sister called me to let me know she was dying from cancer. I didn't want to 'take it' when my best friend and mother-in-law was diagnosed with terminal cancer, either, and needed someone there just to hold her hand through the whole mess." It infuriates me to this day to hear those words spoken or even implied. Because I know first hand what it's like to have to set aside everything, including your own fears and worries and emotions, so that you can support someone else who you love. It's what grown ups are supposed to do. It's what family is supposed to do. And anyone who has ever said they couldn't take it and then walked away from someone in need should be ashamed of themselves.

Wow, I'm on a rant tonight! I need to just quit before I dig myself into some kind of hole. I guess I just want us all to take a few steps back and look around us. It's very easy to get caught up in day to day life. Realistically, our own issues and problems can sometimes be almost more than we can take. But the fact is, there is a measure of relief in helping others. However stressful our life may be, whatever issues we may be facing, no matter how big or small, we can find some peace from them when we take our eyes off ourselves and focus on someone else instead. Telling yourself that your problems are just all you can handle at the moment is a bit of selfishness. Because whatever you're dealing with, there's someone else out there who's facing something worse. Something bigger and badder. I have cancer, but it isn't terminal. It may come back someday, it may even kill me if it does, but there are others who already know the worst of what cancer can do. There are people who have walked into their doctor's office thinking they had a lifetime ahead of them and have walked out with the burden of a terminal diagnosis. There are children who are fighting this monster before they're even able to walk on their own.

I have been and continue to be blessed. I am thankful for every moment, for every friend and family member who loves me, for God who never, ever abandons me. I am thankful that despite my current crisis, I can still look to God with faith and trust and know that whatever comes, He will carry me through it. And I am thankful that I am not so self-centered that I can't see past my own problems. I am thankful that I have compassion for others, that I hurt when they hurt. I am thankful that caring about others, thinking of and praying for them, helps me to not be so selfish. I am far from perfect, but I hope that I never make anyone I love face a trial alone because I'm too self-absorbed to help them.