Thursday, December 16, 2010

Not bouncing back

So, this is the first time that I have really, really not bounced back after chemo.  I'm doing what I normally do: taking my vitamins, getting lots of rest... But it is not working.  I don't know if my body is just getting weaker, or if it is this sorta cold thing that I maybe got from John.  It doesn't seem like a full blown cold.  It's just sorta a stuffy, sniffly ick that is hovering on the brink of actual illness.  Translation: I feel pretty crappy, but not crappy enough for my body to give me a break and just let me sleep it off.  I can't nap, and if I do, then I can't sleep at night (like last night).  And I can't do anything else, because I feel like I'm about to get really sick at any moment.  Is this normal?  Is this the normal progression from being on chemo?  I feel really lucky so far.  I haven't had a very bad time with it at all, so I guess it's high time I  started to plummet.  I'm just wondering if it is just going to keep going down from here on.  I supposed this is just fruitless speculation.  My body's going to do what it's going to do...  All things considered, I'm doing waaaaaay better than we had originally thought I would.

I have a friend of mine, Abby, taking me to a cancer support new members meeting tonight.  It is formally "Gilda's Club" (as in Gilda Radner) but is now called "Cancer Support  Centers of America" I think.  Apparently they are really good, and have a lot of great, free support services.  I guess if nothing else, I can ask people about what "normal" is.  Part of me feels that twinge of pride that says "I don't need any more "support".  I've got plenty of support!  "Support groups" are for for people who don't have any real friends, or family around".  My suspicion is that I will eat my words in the future.  We will see.  Sometimes you don't realize what you need enough to verbalize it.  I suppose it couldn't hurt.  After 2-3 people recommending I find one, (a support group), I suppose I'll give all the 3rd party observers a little credit for maybe seeing something in me that I don't.  Although, I suppose I am seeing it a bit right now.  I am pretty disheartened at how weak I feel.  I've been expecting it, but it is still a bit depressing actually feeling it.  I'll let you know how it goes.

On the pleasant side, after I get done with the meeting tonight, my upstairs neighbor (Tara) is cooking and we're going to have dinner together:)  John is finishing up with his last class of the semester, so he'll probably be up at TCC till midnight grading, and then he'll be done for the semester!  Lula is the greatest little cat ever.  God brought her at the exact perfect time.  Here she is, playing in a gift bag that we had already opened.  (It's the little things, am I right?!?!) The random "voice over" is John telling me about how some company is sending him ads for $1000 dollar watches, and we are laughing at how wrong, wrong, wrong they got their "target audience".  (ie: us)  It has nothing to do with Lula, but he didn't know I was filming, so it's on there:)

P.S. after viewing my video here, I am reminded to always shoot horizontally.  HORIZONTALLY moron!  Enjoy my tall skinny video!

P.P.S. Although, in my defense, I am posting a VIDEO!  I'm feeling pretty friggin' technologically saavy right now:)


Sunday, December 12, 2010

This round was a little rougher

Well, I am now back home at the apartment.  I stayed at my parents house a few days longer than usual.  (I have to give a shout out to Melanie Newton who picked me up from chemo and stayed with me the rest of the day at my parents house till they got home.) The chemo hit me a bit harder this round than past rounds.  I was in bed pretty much all of Friday and all of Saturday.  Still though, no nausea!!!  (or at least not much)  So there are NO complaints on this end!  I  can handle all the lethargy you can throw at me.  Just don't give me the nausea, and we're good. 

I was at lunch with John and my parents today.  Towards the end, my hands did their cramp thing, which made me laugh (because they look so ridiculous!) and Mom joined in the fun and started doing "the claw" at me, because they kinda look like that.  (For those of you who have seen "Liar, Liar")  Thanks Mom for mocking my pain:) Later, when I was on my bed, my foot did a really awesome cramp, and made the toes on my right foot give the "live long and prosper" star-trek symbol.  It was fantastic.  I could have never done that on purpose.  I really do have to take those pills like clockwork 3 times a day, or else my body starts doing all sorts of party tricks. 

I'm planning on taking this week sorta easy.  I feel better, but I still feel a little wiped out.  Thank you Lord that I have time, and the ability, and permission and the means to rest! Pretty much anything that I consider hard/difficult in my life, I always remind myself that there are single moms out there doing the same thing, and it blows my mind and reminds me of how "easy" I have it. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A raindown of blessings!

Well, it's been a very eventful week.  So, here are more of the details.  Like I said, the PET scan came up clear.  I feel so relieved.  I feel like I can sorta sit back for the rest of chemo and believe that anything else weird that I'm feeling really is just side effects of the chemo.  If it were still growing during the chemo, it would've showed up I think by now.  So, alllll is well.

The second good thing was that a huge burst cyst showed up.  Apparently it was too soon to show up in the CAT scan when I taken into the emergency room a few weeks ago.  I was really weirded out when they had "concluded" that it was just a side effect of the chemo.  I was terrified to go into chemo this week out of fear that it would happen again.  But, not only was it a burst cyst, but a really big one.  According to all the nurses, burst cysts are known to hurt like a... well I won't use the word that they used:)  Anyway, I feel a bit validated.  They are sending me to a ob-gen, to check it out and make sure there aren't more.  If there are, there really isn't anything they can do about it.  I'll just know that if it happens again, I won't have to freak out and think that I'm dying.

So, those were two blessings.  The second thing is in regards to finances.  I have heard of stuff like this happening to other people, but I haven't ever experienced it myself.  So, here goes: On Saturday night John and I rolled down the window of the PT and when we tried to roll it back up, it wouldn't go.  John took it into the shop, and it was going to cost about 300 bucks to get it repaired, because the part was so expensive.  The next day, the check engine light came on in the Honda.  John called to tell me that it was a bunch of repairs that were needed every 90,000 miles or so.  It was going to cost about 1,000 bucks.  This was going to be a pretty big hit for us, especially with me not working.  It wasn't going to totally tank us, but it was going to be a burden, especially around Christmas.  Anyways, here's where it gets pretty cool.  John gave two lectures at a recent conference, each of which paid about $90.  The school decided to match what he got.  So, that brought in an extra $360.  THEN!!!  John just called me today to tell me that he had gotten another "gift" from the school: $1000!!!  It was a $1,000 benevolence check.  It is amazing.  It covers the cost of all the car stuff practically down to the dollar. I've only heard of this kind of stuff happening to other people, but not us.  God really provided for us.  He is not giving us more than our "daily bread", but he IS giving us our daily bread.  Whenever we have some extra cost pop up, suddenly we get random money from somewhere.  I feel grace upon grace being showered upon us in this time.

So, that's the awesome news for now! 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Quick update: double yay!

I just got back from the hospital and from chemo for today.  I want to go lay down.  BUT before I do, I'll give you super duper quick overview of how awesome the appointment was today!  Double good news: 1) The PET scan was clear!!  No malignancies! 2) There was a friggin' huge ruptured ovarian cyst.  That was their original thought, and then they went to "Naw, it's just a side effect of the chemo" to which i said "Oh great, so this will probably happen again...".  But NO!!  Huge cyst.  Big rupture.  Lots of pain.  But probably not going to happen again!  Yay!!  I'll go into more details a bit later.  Right now, I have a bed calling my name.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Such a nice break!

I was making plans with John for this weekend to put up all the Christmas decorations.  He got them all out this last weekend, but I was feeling pretty poopy for much of it.  (I eventually had to just give myself sleeping pills on Sunday to knock myself out.  It worked.  I slept all day and all night and I feel much better.)  It was so funny though, because after we had made all these plans, about a couple of hours later I started laughing because I remembered "I've got chemo this week!"  The funny part wasn't the fact that I remembered I had chemo THIS week.  The funny part was that I had forgotten I had chemo ever.  I looked at John and said "I don't know what I was thinking, duh, I won't be able to do the Christmas stuff with you this weekend!"  He looked at me confused and was finally like "Uh... why?"  And I was all "Um... I've got cancer?"  He busted out laughing and said "Ohhhh yeeaahhh...".  All this to say, we have gotten pretty spoiled by this 3 week break.  It probably helps that I have tons of energy right now.  Really?!?!  My body had to wait till almost midnight to get a ton of energy?!?  Where was it all this weekend, huh?  Stupid body...

Anyways, it was nice to have a break from all drama, even if it was only in mind and for a few hours:)  (and John's too)  And just to think!!  I'll have a 3 week break after this one too!  Then back to the grind... (the grind as in every other week again)

Friday, December 3, 2010

My new leaf picture

So, nothing to new to report here other than I did another leaf picture today.  I'm kinda proud.  It's a combination of about 45 photos, and the amount of detail, if you could see it up close, is really cool.  It's still not as good as it could be.  I still don't have the light stand and my hand is pretty shaky.  But I still like it:)  I could've spot edited the little dead parts on it, but I kinda like the imperfections.  If you click on it, you can actually pull it up in a separate window to see it a little bigger.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Chemo postponed, PET scan done

So, I had my PET scan this morning.  I had stress dreams allllll night about it last night.  It was ri-di-cu-lous.  Needless to say, I was super tired.  But, the technician said (after I probed pretty hard) that if anything was there, it wasn't big enough to be obvious to him.  So, that has me placated for a while, at least until my appointment with Dr. Le. 

I had rescheduled my chemo to be closer to the PET scan time, so we didn't have hours of lag in between.  However, there was a snafu in communication with the receptionist.  She had called me back right after I rescheduled to say that since the PET scan results wouldn't be back in time, and Dr. Le didn't want to meet with me until the PET scan results were in (maybe "technically" couldn't meet with me until then?) that we would have to reschedule my doctor's appointment.  However, I didn't understand that the doctor's appointment and the chemo were a package deal; I can't do one without the other.  So, I showed up thinking I was going to just go straight into chemo and skip the doctor's appointment (which I normally have right before chemo).  But, I found out otherwise.  Part of me is annoyed, because I don't want to stretch the 6 months out (and because it throws off my schedule for next week).  Part of me is relieved because I have still been very weak this past week ever since the whole sickness last Tuesday before Thanksgiving.  So, I guess this will give me extra time to build up my stamina.  I was worried that this would throw off my schedule to make Christmas week a chemo week, but they said that we could skip that week.  So I'll be feeling REALLY good for Christmas!  I feel bad that I made mom come all the way down for the chemo and then just drive me back to my apartment though.  Coulda woulda shoulda.  At least I'll be feeling good for John's birthday! 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

PET scan rescheduled

So, I rescheduled the PET scan for tomorrow, which I am really "excited" about because I REALLY don't like what my body has been doing.  There's about 5 different things that all mimic EXACTLY what was going on at the beginning of the year, and I don't like it.  I don't like it one bit.  I do NOT feel comfortable with it.  I will feel much more comfortable after getting the scan done, and having it come back clear, and having them say to me "Oh, all that really is just side effects of the chemo.  That, and you probably still have a food allergy.  THAT'S the pain you are feeling!"  To which I will reply "Great!  Thanks!  Yeah, I knew it was probably nothing.  I just wanted to make sure.  So, how do I test for food allergies?"  This is the conversation that I am planning on having.  Not another one.

I go in at 7:15 tomorrow for the PET scan, and I'll probably be out by 9ish.  I rescheduled chemo for 10, so that John and I didn't have a long break in between the scan and chemo.  I think I want to schedule all my chemo for 10 anyways.  I only did it for so late in the day before because I was still teaching.  It'll make it much easier to drive home NOT in rush hour traffic.

OH!!!  And everybody make sure to send John birthday wishes Thursday!  He finally catches up with me and turns 31!  I am SUCH a cougar...

New phone, new ap!


I was feeling really sluggish yesterday morning, so following the model of my friend Anne, I decided to do a tiny "work out".  It's not really a work out.  It's me walking the loop around the ponds at my apartment complex.  I'm not even walking fast, and I'm stopping to feed pretty much every squirrel I see.  (I know.  "Work out" isn't really the right word...)  Anyway, I have my new iPhone 4!!!  I upgraded from the FIRST generation iPhone, so it really was about time.  I have a new ap that my friend in LA recommended called "instagram".  I LOVE it!  Here's some of the fall foliage I came across:)

I started seeing some leaves that were really pretty, so I started collecting them, thinking that I would photograph them at home.  Unfortunately, one of the pieces of lighting equipment that attaches the light to the stand is MIA.  But, I did manage to do one picture.  It's not as good as I would like.  Pretty much, I'm taking a macro lens and photographing the leaf really upclose a bunch of times, and then taking all the really detailed, in focus parts and stitching them together to have a leaf with a whoooooole lot of detail.  This one was as good as I could do while holding the camera, trying to focus, and aiming the light all at the same time:)



Thursday, November 25, 2010

YAY TURKEY DAY!

I slowly got better yesterday, and by today was doing well enough to go with the family!!!  It was soooo cold!  I went from being, like 70 degrees yesterday and crashed down to the 40's.  Whew!  But I got to be there.  I got to snuggle with my niece.  I got to hear all 4 of my nephews running around trying to beat the crap out of each other.  Ahhhh.. family:)  It was priceless.  We got to have John's and my friend Paul out for his second annual Morgan family Thanksgiving brew-haha.  I had to lay down for a little after we ate, but for the most part I was fine.  And I was told by at least 4 different family members that I looked way hotter than they remember ever seeing me.  BONUS!!  I'll take a compliment like that!  (Cancer is known for doing that right?  No?  No? Just me?)

I was so worried I wouldn't be able to go. This was the sickest I've felt since I got swine flu last year.  There is no natural reason I should have recovered as fast as I did.  Thank you God!

John and I just got home, so he and my hot-self are going to watch a movie in bed.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Really sick

This week has been a week of extremes.  Wednesday was the worst pain I've been in so far, the weekend has been the best after chemo time I've had so far, and now, starting yesterday, I am the sickest I have been so far.  It is like my post-chemo days have gotten switched, and I'm feeling like it is the day after, but much worse.  Yesterday, last night, and today I have been fighting a fever.  This morning, I had the quintessential scene of laying on the bathroom floor in front of the toilet.  I had to post-pone my PET scan, which I really didn't want to do.  Right now, I'm wondering if I am even going to be able to make it out with my family for Thanksgiving.  It is going to really suck if I can't.  Thanksgiving, in my opinion, is absolute sacred Morgan time.  It is always the time when we have the whole clan together.  Please pray that this fever and this nausea go away.  I feel horrible.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Great day!!

So, I know the last few posts were kinda scary.  The last few days were kinda scary.  But as scary as they were, the clouds parted, and I'm having the best "after-chemo days" that I've had so far!  I was able to go back to our apartment earlier than usual.  I even went and did a service project with my church today at a place called "Exodus Ministries".  It was a lot of fun, mainly because I was with people that I love! (Jenise, Kendra, John C.)

On Wednesday, when I went in for chemo, I also met with my doctor.  Unfortunately, she affirmed all the research I had done: this type of cancer is known to be resistant to chemo, and yes it has been known to even grow or spread during chemo.  Yuck...  She didn't belittle me at all when I requested another PET scan.  She said that she would have to work it out with insurance, but if it would give me peace of mind, then it was important.  It will.  I might be being silly, but I don't care.  My body is acting the same way it did before, when I ignored it.  I just want to play it safe.  So, the PET scan is scheduled for Tuesday at 8:00 in the morning.  I am really not sweatin' it too much.  I fully expect for it to come back clean like it did before.  However, I am fully at peace if it does not.  Just rollin' with the punches:)

When I went to get unhooked on Friday, they gave me that shot again, the one that is supposed to make your bones hurt and give you flu like symptoms.  However, so far I haven't had much!  Just like last time!  I am feeling a couple of things (jaw's a little sore, body's a little achy), so it is slightly noticeable,  but not much.  I am super blessed because I have heard from so many people that have had uber bad experiences with this shot.   The only real side effects that I have are still from the oxaliplatin,  and they are all kinda funny ones - the muscle cramping (well, that one is less funny when it's in my calves and John has to carry me... like Friday).  But it's just kinda funny when it is in my thumbs. Then, I have that really strong pins and needles tingling sensation in my hands and feet, like the feeling you get when you have a body part that has gone to sleep.  That pretty much just makes me laugh though because, well, it feels funny:)  I can't remember if I've already written about these...  I think I said something in an earlier post...   Really, in summary, out of all the side effects that I could have, I think I have the best ones.  They aren't unbearable in the slightest.  I feel so blessed that I have not had the nausea.  I think there are a LOT of you out there praying against the nausea, and I've gotta tell you that I feel your prayers.  I feel them every time when I know I should be getting super nauseous, or I'm afraid that I will, and I don't.  That was my biggest fear starting out.

I've also heard from mom that some of you are memorizing Psalm 25 with us.  That is so cool!  It's like we are all connected now:)  Will, super excited about you and the other post men!  That's so fun:)  I love you all!  Time for bed...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Doing better

Well, I've  been discharged and am back at my parents house.  For all of you who called or texted, I wasn't able to get back with anyone because I hadn't brought my phone charger to the hospital (since I didn't know I was going to stay overnight).  It's charging right now.

We still don't know what it was.  I'm going to have a PET scan probably next week.  We had actually decided to schedule it before all this happened, so I guess it was good timing.  After I got the ER, they put me on some really good pain medicine.  After the medicine and a good night's sleep, I'm feeling back to my normal second day of chemo self.  (ie: exhausted, but not in pain.)  I guess please pray that the doctors could figure out what was going on.  They are moving away from the ruptured cyst explanation, although I'm still not convinced that it wasn't.  They are surmising that it is just a reaction to the chemo, but that doesn't make sense to me because I've had this exact same chemo three other times without any complications, and this came on suddenly, in a very localized area, and then went away.  Still fits everything you would expect from a ruptured cyst.

Thank you for your thoughts and prayers!  I am doing much better.  And for all of those who feel sorry for me for being in the hospital, let me just tell you about how much the hospital food rocks!  That is not being sarcastic.  The food is awesome.  I didn't take a pic of my breakfast, but it was a belgian waffle, scrambled eggs with cheese on top, and potato cube/hash brown thingys.  Here's my lunch and dinner:)


 Beef tenderloin with mashed potatoes and green beens with a side of mac and cheese (made with real cheese!) and angel food cake for dessert


 Chicken with mushroom marsala sauce, wild rice pilaf, and baby carrots and angel food cake for dessert Yum!!

Anne Korte Hamilton, this hospital food bragging was for you!  Hahaha!  (backstory: her hospital food sucks.)

Ouch

This is Hill's hubby John posting today. Her internet access is limited in the hospital. She was having some sharp abdominal pains promptly following her 4th chemo session, yesterday. Before her mom could bring her all the way home from the hospital she had to turn around because the pain was too bad. They were running red lights, flashing the emergency lights, honking. She was in pain and needed meds! Well they got there, in tears, scared and worried that something was going wrong. Really bad pains forebode really bad other things. A few heavy meds, an I.V., and a CAT scan later and we think it was a ruptured overian cyst. Those things, they say, hurt like crazy and are pretty common. They release fluid internally into places that don't normally get fluid. And so you can get odd shooting pains in different areas, whereever the fluid flows. They're keeping her overnight for observation and pain management. Assuming the blood tests don't turn up anything else unusual she'll be back home to her "normal" chemo routine tonight.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Paranoia Research

It's 4 in the morning.  I am having a hard time sleeping.  I often have a hard time sleeping the night before chemo.  (sometimes because I just don't care.  I know I'll be sleeping for the next 3 days straight, so eh... whatever) The topic of this evening's musings: I've started experiencing some symptoms that I had had right around the time that we surmise the tumor was getting  bigger.  (ie: January - May or so)  I won't get all gross and say exactly what they are.  But they are there, and I haven't had them since everything was jacked up before the surgery. There's this part of me that is wondering, "can cancer actually grow, spread, metastasize or whatever DURING chemo?"  According to my research... it can. (Bomb drop here)  This is probably why I chose not to research all this when it was just going down.  I got to read a bunch of statistics regarding my life expectancy, and they weren't that great.  I won't tell you what so I don't freak anyone out.  I also read that small bowel adenocarcinoma has  a tendency to not respond all that much to chemotherapy.  (bomb #2)  So, if doesn't respond well, then there seems a liklihood that my "highly aggressive form of adenocarcinoma" could have spread, even during the chemotherapy.  I know I am being paranoid.  One tends to be a little paranoid at 4 in the morning when they have had the symptoms I've had for the last week.  I really am sure that there is nothing to be worried about.  I'm sure I'm just having some sort of GI snafu that is totally fine, maybe even just a side effect of the chemo.  Still....   I kinda want them to do another PET scan just to be sure.  They probably won't.  But I want one.  My body is acting goofy, and last time it started acting goofy, I ignored it and it blew up in a mid-stage cancer.  Sooooo I think my paranoia is at least a little justified.  It's not like crazy lady paranoia.  Right?  I'd have to get a LOT more cats to qualify for that crazy lady...

I'm going to try and sleep.  I'll keep reciting Psalm 25 (or as much as I've memorized so far).  I've gotta get CRACKIN' on that thing so mom and I can move on to Psalm 27 (also a very good one).

Cancer benefit dinner

 I can't remember if I wrote about this or not, but John took me to a dinner and dancing cancer benefit last weekend.  It was specifically for his student's mom.  Her insurance dropped her part way through her chemo, and bills are CRAZY now.  She was able to get into the high risk state pool insurance, but it's like 800 bucks a month plus whatever percentage she has to pay.  It was a charity benefit to raise money for her.  It was fun to get all dressed up.  She's the lady in the second picture.  We were able to sit at her table to eat.  She had heard of me, and I had heard of her:)  We talked "shop" for a good part of the meal.  It was nice.  Not the kind of bonding that you hope for, (ie: a bad thing to bond over) but it was still nice.  I wore a really fantastic skirt, but we didn't get a good picture of it:(

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Harry Potter was awesome!!

Last night was sooo awesome! On the tickets that we printed out, it said to get there early because the theater was overbooked to account for no-shows.  John and I left in what we thought was plenty of time, and it just took sooooo much longer to get there than we thought.  I was so scared that we would get there and they would be full up and turning us away.  I was thinking "What a horrible story that would make!"  So, I started praying (again!) that God would let us get there in plenty of time and get good seats.  I was calling the theater to see how many people were already there, and they told me that a pretty sizable crowd had already gotten there, but they weren't full quite yet.  I was dying!!!  So, we got there (still 30 minutes early) and I had John drop me off at the front and SPRINTED inside!  Obviously (from the title) we got there in time.  But that isn't the coolest part!  When I went into the theater, it was pretty much full except for seats at the very, very front (where you get neck problems) and some on the far, far side.  I decided to go searching anyway.  I kept seeing seats, but they all had jackets across them, or purses.  I kept walking up, and I saw 2 seats, but one had a purse in it.  For some reason, on this particular seat, I decided to ask "Is that seat taken?" The girl next to the purse was like "OH!  No, that's my purse."  The seats were up about 4-5 rows from the top, and pretty close to the middle.  They were AWESOME seats!  After sitting there for a while, I started to chat with them.  I asked what time they had gotten there, thinking probably like 5:30 or something crazy like that.  Nope. 3:00!!!!!!  They had been there since 3:00!!  We got seats so good, that the people next to us had been there since 3!  Apparently people had started lining up at 8:00 that morning.  (Nerds...)  So, God was not just good getting us the tickets.  It was like He had actually saved us awesome seats! 

I won't give away too many details so I don't  become a "spoiler" site:)  I CAN say, "Pay attention!".  There is so much story packed in there, that I want to see it multiple times.  The one thing I'll never understand though is why Hermione likes Ron and not Harry.  I know it's in the books and all, but I wish they would give Hermione and Ron a few more attraction/tense scenes where you can feel the chemistry and stuff.  As it is, it seems like there is always that unspoken chemistry between her and Harry.  Of course, now I'm starting to sound like a total nerd, so I'll stop:)  It was such an awesome night though!  I was so excited yesterday, that it gave me a burst of energy and I cleaned and did laundry!  Of course, I crashed about an hour before the movie started and was about to fall asleep for the rest of the night.  But I still had a huge goofy grin on my face until I layed down to go to bed!  Thank you again Michelle!  It was a "magical" night:)

Monday, November 15, 2010

Michelle Agonafer I love you!!!!!

I can't believe it!  I am so excited!!!  A friend from John's and my old church entered my story into a contest for an advanced screening of Harry Potter and WON ME TICKETS!!!!!!!!  I am so excited!  I almost feel like I should dress up... Thank you so much Michelle!!!!!!!  (And thank you Jesus. I'm pretty sure you had a hand in this:)

Here's her essay:  (the topic was supposed to be "Who is your favorite Harry Potter character and why")
 I am going to tell you up front, that if I win tickets to this advance showing, it is not for me, but for a friend who I don't really know all thatwell. First: My character preference: I am sure that most girls would say that Hermione is their favorite character. I am not one to argue, I love Hermione. Though she has her weaknesses, mostly in the form of pride and arrogance, her strengths lie in her loyalty and determination to do the right thing. Not many times do you find someone so determined to be excellent, who is yet so willing to betray and possibly lose scholastic standing, all for the sake of doing what she thinks is right, be it helping out bumbling Hagrid, or sneaking out in an invisibility cloak with her best friends. I really identify with the fact that she is a half-muggle, being a half-breed myself. Constantly feeling the need to prove myself "hispanic enough" or "white enough" depending on the circumstance, and always falling short is very frustrating. I love the fact that the BEST in class at Hogwarts is not a part of the good ol' boy club, but instead a headstrong, halfbreed with a messy head of hair and a penchant for trouble.
 Now that I've told you why I love Hermione, I would like to recommend that you give the tickets to a girl who is named Hillary Morgan Ferrer. She reminds me of Hermione in a lot of ways, she is intelligent, well spoken and very strong. You see, right now she is battling cancer. I am friends with her on Facebook and she mentioned entering a contest, and really hoping she wins, because this week is a chemo week and she won't be able to go again till next week. This really touched me, such a simple lamentation, not being able to go to a movie, while she is in the fight for her life. It is in this http://www.hillary2point0.blogspot.com/ blogpost that she talks about it. I can tell you that she is a young woman, a friend, and a great wife. I don't know if this is the contest she talked about entering, but if it is, please give her tickets. If she didn't please give them to me and I will pass them onto her, or give you her info so you can give them to her yourself. It would mean so much more than a movie, it would be an answer to a small prayer. Thanks so much for your understanding, and I really hope she wins!

 Sincerely,
Michelle Agonafer

I am totally crying.  I feel so blessed, and so loved.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Catharsis and rambling thoughts

Well, I think my crisis of yesterday has passed.  It needed to happen I guess.  Probably won't be the last time.  My mom is awesome and came over to clean the gunky stuff of counters and floors, and help me change the bed sheets.  It has done much more for my state of mind than I expected.  We talked about how I needed to really get out of the house.  It is not good for me to be here so much.  She suggested looking into some volunteering stuff.  I agreed.  I called children's hospital today, to see if they needed any tutors for some of their in-patient oncology kids.  I explained my situation (about me having cancer too) and she said that I would probably have to get a written approval from my Doctor to do anything, since my own immune system will also be so compromised.  I have a feeling it won't work out.  But I'll keep looking for something.  I want to be around people.  Unfortunately, people have germs.  I'll figure something out.  It will be a fun research project.

I am getting out of the house today.  I am going to go on a walk, and do some light leg workouts at our gym.  I think I need to start doing this multiple times a week.  My muscles are getting sorta atrophied, and it will probably give me energy to work out.  Just not right away:)

I said a really stupid prayer this morning.  Someone made a comment on facebook about advance screening tickets of the new Harry Potter movie, and I got all excited because I had really wanted to go to it on opening night, but it is on a chemo week, so I can't.  However, the advance screening is on Monday, and I could make that!  But you have to win the tickets.  So this morning, I sent up the stupidest prayer ever and was like "Lord, please let me win those tickets!"  I've been saying stupid prayers like that since this summer.  Right before everything came down this summer, when I was having all those tests done, and we didn't know what was the matter, God did something cool.  He started answering all these little prayers, over and over.  Usually it was in regards to me being exhausted, and please let this client cancel.  And they would cancel.  God, I can't do that shoot today, please let it rain.  And it would rain.  God, please let that client randomly forget our appointment and not be home.  And they had forgotten the appointment and weren't home.  There were all these little tiny prayers.  God isn't in the business of being a cosmic Santa Clause, and just giving us whatever we want.  But He was making a statement to me, and I heard it loud and clear.  He was saying "I am paying attention to you right now.  I have not forgotten you."  It was His way of showing me that He was listening to every little thing I was saying and reminding me that He was all powerful to accomplish any little detail that He desired.  I think He did that for that whole month before my diagnosis because He knew that I would need that security of knowing that I was ever present before His eyes, and that what was happening was in His full view, and that I could trust.  And I do.  He might not (and probably won't) give me the Harry Potter tickets, but it's worth asking, because I know he CAN.  And I ask for stupid things like that now.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Warning: super depressing post

Sorry this is depressing.  It is just how I feel today...

I feel lonely today.  Brutally, painfully lonely.  I feel like the shut in, who lives life peeking through cracked curtains in their living room, looking out onto the outside world.  Except for me, it's facebook.  I sit in my house, not really feeling confident enough to even drive, and just surf over everybody else's lives.  "Catching up" with them in a completely one sided way.  I make comments, and I chat with a few of them.  But it isn't the same.  Nope, I can't make your birthday party, or this or that event.  That's a chemo week.  I can feel myself starting to wallow.  It isn't pretty.  I just sat here and cried, for the first time since my diagnosis.  It actually felt pretty good.

I decided to call my mom.  I have been getting increasingly more and more depressed at the state of our apartment.  It is embarrassing.  When I was first diagnosed, my church offered to set up a care calendar with people who could come help with housework and food and stuff.  I felt at the time "It's a 700 square foot apartment.  I can't imagine it getting too out of control.  I'm sure I can handle it."  If you hear a smacking sound, that is just me, eating my words. 

Mom didn't even bat an eyelash.  She is going to come over as soon as she is done with her ride.  What did I ever do to deserve such an awesome family?  Thank you God. 

Sunday, November 7, 2010

No bone pain!

I am very pleased to announce (hopefully not too soon, knock on wood) that I have NOT had any bone pain from the latest shot!  My energy levels have been going up and down depending on how many doses of meds I need for the muscle spasms and other assorted pain.  (I have some random back spasms that  I think are probably from a night of sleeping wrong, probably needing chiropractor work,  because they don't feel like the other spasms in the rest of my body.  Hopefully I can get that taken care of sometime this week, if it doesn't go away on it's own.)  SO!  Thank you you all who have been praying for me.  I was a little nervous about the effects of the shot.  And for all of those who are praying for the nausea, as of today I have only "gotten sick" twice from the chemo, which is a miracle for someone with such a sensitive stomach as I.

I am finally allowing myself to relax for the first time in who knows how long.  Since I do not have to worry about work, and lessons, and deadlines, I feel free to be sick for the first time.  That sounds like a crappy kind of "freedom" I know, but for those of you who know me well, that is actually a pretty liberating milestone for me.  There is much sleep taking place, and without guilt.  I'm sure it will only be a matter of time before the restlessness really kicks in, so I am already preparing for a myriad of productive ways to occupy my time that do not involve deadlines or necessity.  (I'm thinking about trying to organize and album the 10 billion pictures I have in our storage unit.)

However, one of the things I am currently doing (as of last night) is helping John with his research.  He submitted an article to a journal/magazine that was meant to be a mere "opinion" piece (ie: research based, but without all the fancy citations and much shorter than an actual article)  However, they liked it so much that they requested that he turn it in to a full blow article for their publication.  I am helping him out by collecting specific sources for each of the claims that he is making in the piece.  I could really see this as something that I might want to do in the future.  I may not be a good "helpmate" in terms of cooking and cleaning.  But by golly, I can research with the best of them!

And last, but no least, I just want to give a shout out to the Kingston's.  Anne, I have really enjoyed getting your letters.  Jack, I loved hearing first hand about the work that you are doing in Washington and abroad.  Congratulations on your re-election!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

So far so good!

I was really worried about this round since last round was such a beast.  But I am doing much better this time!  Mom's friend told her about this vitamin juice stuff (some sort of Mangosteen) and that he had started taking it and gone off coffee a year ago, and it just made him feel so much better. So of COURSE mom had to get some:)  She gave me some twice yesterday and started making comments on how much more energy I had.  Then when I got up today, she gave me some more.  I don't THINK there's any caffeine in it.  But even if there was, I think I would just feel as crappy as I did before but just awake and jittery.  I am sleepy, I walk like frankenstein because of the muscles in my legs, and I'll have to stop doing tasks because I suddenly lose function in my thumbs or pinkies.  You'd have to see it happen to laugh and realize that it's kinda funny.  It just sounds sad over words on the internet. (Martha, tee hee!) But all in all, doing much better this time.  (knock on wood...) I am not catatonic, I can speak at a semi normal speed.  I am up and about (which I was NOT last time).  So, praises to God all around!  And thank ya'll for praying:)

Oh, and some specific things for prayer: My white blood count is going down, which means my vulnerability to illness is going up.  (ie: immune system starting to tank)  It's not like, crazy bad right now, but low enough for them to have to give me some big fat shot on Friday when I go in to get unhooked.  And apparently the shot is supposed to make me super sore all over, because it is doing something to my bone marrow?  So, let's just ask the Lord is we can keep that to a minimum:)  But even if it isn't.  Even if it is the worst pain than I've ever had, BLESSED be the name of the Lord.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Hearbreak and relief

Well, my heart is breaking a little today.  As stated before, I have not been myself since last Thursday, and this is an OFF week for chemo.  (Which means it's probably not going to get better...)  This entire weekend, I tried to sleep, but no matter how much I slept, it still wasn't enough.  Sunday night, I felt like I was about to pass out the whole night.  Yesterday, Monday, I felt like I was about to pass out all day.  I went in to the hospital to get some fluids.  It helped some, but not enough. This morning, when I got up for work, I felt like I usually do: super sluggish.  However, unlike most mornings, this morning I just layed on the floor in front of the front door.  I wanted to call in and say I couldn't come in, but I knew that I had all the materials: the book, the keys, etc.  I couldn't NOT go in.  In summary, we had to finally make the announcement to the kids about my cancer, and subsequently that I would be taking an extended leave of absence.  I was trying to avoid this as much as possible, not only because of how much I love my kids, but because it was bringing in a good chunk of income.  We can survive without.  It will just be tighter.  And I talked with them (my bosses) before I left, and there is the possibility of me doing some curriculum work for them  (ie: creating some science curriculum).

As sad as I was to give make that announcement though, in some ways it was a bit of a relief.  The teaching part was the part that I loved.  Creating the lesson plans was really stressful though.  It really is a relief to not have to do all that on my down time.  Maybe I'll start hitting the "learning Italian" thing really hard now:)

On a good note, I did something on Sunday that I haven't done in a really long time: I did some photography!  It wiped me out a little, but it was a good kind of wipe out.  It was an "I can't keep my eyes open now, but I'm really, really happy" kind of a feeling.  I took my good friend Jenise out to my favorite shooting spot (White Rock Lake) and did some portraits that I've been wanting to do for a while.  So, here are some shots from the shoot!  (We were only out there for about an hour, so it's not like I went did crazy long shoot) Note: look closely at her glasses in the extreme close up:)  SELF PORTRAIT!








Saturday, October 30, 2010

Something afoot...

I feel like there is something afoot in my body.  I have felt it for 2 days.  It feels like I'm getting sick, like it's just waiting to come, but it isn't coming.  I've laid pretty low since Thursday.  I haven't gone anywhere during the day and just rested.  I have gone out and done stuff in the evening, but it's only been chill stuff like watching the ranger game and going to a movie.

I had planned on going to a Halloween party tonight with John and some church friends.  I was really looking forward to it:( I think I've decided that I shouldn't be around anybody for the next 2 days.  I think this might just be what they are talking about when they say that my "immune system is compromised".  I think if I were around anybody that was even slightly sick, or had just been sick, I'd probably tank.  I'm going to just take some of the pills that cause me to sleep (the muscle cramping pills, maybe a pain pill, because my stomach really is hurting), and just try to sleep for the next 2 days.  Hopefully this feeling will go away by Monday.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Energy

I feel a little bad not updating more, but I don't have anything really exciting to report.  So, I'll just tell you how I'm doing:)  I've had more weakness after this round of chemo than I had previously.  I think I mentioned, I was all but catatonic the day I had the chemo thing strapped to me.  I was slowly gaining energy, and then I kinda tanked on Sunday again.  I thought I was feeling better, but then when John came to get me, he practically had to carry me out of the house.  We were supposed to pick up my car from the hospital, but there was no way that was going to happen.  We had some really awesome friends (thank you Victor and Shakiba!) who drove all the way over to the hospital, picked up my car, and then drove it back to our apartment.  Then, I had another friend, the girl that lives upstairs in our apartment building (Love you Tara!) actually baked me a huge gluten-free lasagna!  So awesome.  It has kept me fed all week so far.  The idea of cooking is just so exhausting to me.  I understand now why everybody and their dog makes food for people who are going through a death in family, or have had some accident or illness.  Food REALLY is the last thing you want to have to think about. 

Even though I felt as weak as I did, I still felt pretty sure that I could go to work on Monday.  After all, it was only for 2 hours.  I can muster energy for 2 hours.   I find that when I am at school (or around any number of people for that matter), I feel more energized.  That's the full on extrovert in me talking:)  It's like I have some sort of adrenaline rush (I don't know what else to call it.  I don't get hyper or anything...) and I just don't feel sick.  I feel exhausted afterward, and practically drop, but it's at least a few hours a day that I don't have to focus on how tired I am.  But really, I am not that incredibly more tired than how I would normally be during allergy season, so I can't really complain much.  (unless I complain about allergies.  I think I will.  They suck and I hate them.  They make me feel crappy.  OK, I'm done...)

I was preparing the lesson plans for my next Biology Unit, and came across something interesting: about 1/3 of the questions from the next unit deal with cancer.  Really!!??  I have to teach about cancer?!?  I've already sorta (informally) decided that I might have to just create super awesome lesson plans, condense all the cancer into 1 days teaching, and then be mysteriously sick.  I honestly don't know if I could be all talking about it and just be cool and casual.  I don't think I'm quite that strong.  I really don't think my work would blame me.  I just need to leave really good instructions.  On the other hand, it might be interesting to learn a little more about it...

Well, to top it off, I went in to get fluids today.  I have been going on my off Wednesdays, and I've noticed it doing wonders for my energy.  Also, I keep seeing the same people there, since we all have the same "usual" day (ie: Wednesday).  It's starting to be a big party every week.  A weird party... but a party.  Ha!  So, that's about all for now!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

This week in chemo

I apologize for not updating sooner.  I really need to have John or my Mom give an update on weeks like this.  I went in for chemo on Wednesday, and it's been a groggy blur since.  When I was getting the chemo, they gave me a drug for nausea that was pretty powerful.  I remember sitting there talking to the people around me, and then felt the drug hit.  I had to excuse myself, layed down in my chair, and just went to sleep.  When it was time to leave, I was still so woozy that they had to wheel me out.  The next day, I felt like I had been hit by a mack truck.  I could barely crack my eyes open as mom came in and out making sure that I was well hydrated and fed.  When I tried to walk, my calf muscles seized up.  I'm discovering a somewhat painful, somewhat comical side effect of the chemo.  I am having muscles cramp up really bad.  In my calves, and in the right arch of my foot, it is painful.  The fact that it also targets JUST my thumbs though, is kinda funny.  My thumbs keep contracting so that they move towards my palm (like you were signaling the number 4).  I was sitting there trying to use the remote control, and I couldn't!  I couldn't move my thumbs.  Come on, you have to admit that that's kinda funny:)

Anyways, when I went back in on Friday to get unhooked, they had to wheel me back up, because there was no way I could walk that far.  Daniel, one of the men who is always there at the same time as me, told me how he had had the same thing with the chemo drug that we are both on.  Dr. Le came in and said that yes, that was something that happened to some people, and gave me a prescription for it.  Apparently, it doesn't have anything to do with your muscles per say.  It is more a nerve thing, where the nerves are firing electrical impulses to contract the muscles.  The medicine helps counteract that.  It also makes you really sleepy.  Most the medicines I have make me really sleepy, so I am trying to take them only when I need them.

I am feeling a bit better today.  I took the nerve/muscle drug last night and it seems to have helped.  Everyone is gone today, so my friend Diana has come over the "babysit" me:)  I am loved.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Awesome weekend

I am wrapping up one terrific weekend.  I watched a movie and talked late into the night with one of my best friends Friday night, had a nice walk feeding some ducks with a girlfriend Saturday afternoon, went to her dinner and birthday party that night, and had lunch with some people after church today.  (And then promptly took a much needed nice long nap upon returning home!) I feel super blessed that I felt as good as I did.  I was able to spend a lot of time with friends this weekend, before having my next round of chemo.  I think that being around people helps a whole lot.  When I am wrapped up in talking with them, I don't feel my body as much.  I go back in on Wednesday for another round, and I'll go to my parents place for the next several days while I'm hooked up.  I gotta admit, I am really not looking forward to it.  (Duh, right?)  I don't know if this is true or not, but I am expecting the nausea to get worse and worse each round.  Last time, I didn't feel OK until Sunday, late afternoon.  If I go any longer than that with the nausea, I'll have to miss school, which I don't want to do.  Please pray that the nausea and sickness/exhaustion will go away in time for me to be back at work on Monday.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bird's nest hair

A girl in my Bible study reminded us of an old adage that I like.  It is mainly in regards to how we deal with negative thoughts or feelings.

"You can't keep a bird from flying over your head, but you can keep it from building a nest in your hair."

Love the imagery.  This has been me today:

Awesome day yesterday

I went to the nutritionist yesterday.  She wasn't nearly as scary as my doctor had said!  She didn't say anything that wasn't just plain common sense, and/or good organic sense.  I got a little insight as to maybe why it seems like my mom and I seem to get every weird ailment out there and people like my dad and husband don't.  She framed it in terms of the body's ability to naturally sift out toxins.  Some people's bodies do it well, others do it poorly.  That makes sense.  Someone like my husband can eat pretty much whatever and his body can pick out the good stuff and toss the rest of the crap.  Me, my body's a hoarder.  It keeps everything, and then lives in it's own toxic cesspool.

It was a really great day yesterday.  I went to work, met mom for lunch while I got an iv saline bag, and then to the appointment.  After the saline bag, I was feeling so chipper and energetic.  It was awesome.  I need days like that to remind myself of reality: the reality that life and the future are not as overwhelming as they feel.  When I feel like I do today, I have to remind myself of days like yesterday.  Otherwise, I would believe all my negative thoughts. 

I felt pretty cruddy today.  I wanted to do so much.  I wanted to clean, and cook, and grocery shop, and do laundry.  I did succeed in cleaning the bedroom and making a birthday card for my in-laws, and that's about it.  The rest of the time I was sitting like a bump on a log thinking of all the things that I should be doing.  It's like the real me was trapped inside my brain going "OK, I'm going to do x, y, and z.  Ready?  1, 2, 3, GO!  Why aren't I going?"

But yesterday was good.  I'll think about yesterday.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Bye bye to comfort food...

Well, it's been almost a week since my first treatment.  Besides the nausea this weekend, I really can't tell if what I'm feeling is from the chemo or from other factors.  For one, it's allergy season and my body goes all wacky, like I have mono, every allergy season.  Also, I probably haven't been eating the way I should.  I have to admit, I've taken some liberties in my diet and have eaten stuff that I've tried to stay away from for quite some time.  I think I kinda threw all the rules aside when I had to go on that liquid diet for a few weeks around surgery time.  I figured, "If I can't have solids, then ice cream is a viable food option again."  This time, my thinking is more along the lines of "Quick!  I've got the nutritionist appointment tomorrow!  Eat it now!"  It's been my own little Mardi-Gras.  (I even had a candy bar today!  Ooooooohhhh!!  I haven't had one in over a year I think.)

I've heard this particular nutritionist described by my oncologist as a "nazi".  Apparently lots of people have had a difficult time following her hard core regime when it comes to what they can or cannot eat.  I'm not particularly good at self control, but I stuck to a restricted diet for three months a little over a year ago.  I figure I might as well give it my best shot for 6 months, even though it might mean resigning myself to some kind of raw carrot puree crap for a while.  (Hence, the candy bar today.) I don't know.  We'll see.  It just seems hard to think of giving up all your "comfort foods" at a time like this.  I mean, if this isn't an excuse to eat whatever the heck you want, I don't know what is!  But I have to keep in mind that it is in my best interest to make my body feel as good as it can.  I'll let you know the "bad news" tomorrow I guess...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Update on Nausea

It is so weird.  With all my fancy $100 a pill medicines for the extreme nausea, it was the ginger ale that finally worked.  I was even able to go on a nice walk with John around the park!  I'm sure it was some combination of the pills and ale, but I'm not going to dissect it!  I'm just going to enjoy sitting up!

Nausea

I wish I had a better report of how little side effects I have, or that the first round hasn't been so bad, but  I am really struggling with the nausea (and flat out stomach pain), which is what the doctor had suspected I would have trouble with.  I've taken the maximum amount of meds, and it is still a problem.  Poor John had to get up twice last night to bring me more meds: some anti-nausea pills, and eventually the pain meds to just knock me out.  I had to miss church today because my tummy was just so unhappy.

I am impressed each and every minute at what a selfless husband I have.  He doesn't act like it is a burden on him (even though I know it is).  When I whispered his name last night for the pills, it's like he immediately woke to attention, and jumped out of bed to go get me what I needed.  Today, when someone suggested I try some ginger ale (since ginger is known to settle the stomach), his first response was "Want me to go out and get some right now?"  He's got his 4 classes that he's teaching.  He's got his PhD comps to study for, and yet his immediate response is to do whatever needs to be done for my health.  I really couldn't ask for a better husband that him.  He amazes me.  I am humbled.

I called the doctor about the nausea, and they said that the only thing left was sleeping pills, to just knock me out.  I let them call it in, but I don't think I'll use those quite yet.  I am not overwhelmed to the point of needing to just be unconscious, though I might get there.  The ginger ale is actually helping a lot.  My main dilemma is whether/when to call work.  I only have a two hour session tomorrow.  I feel like I can make it through it.  I've just got this fear of throwing up in public.  And who knows, I might be through the worst of this by tonight.  I'll probably call somebody just to check in though, and let them know what I'm thinking.  I really don't want to miss out with my student tomorrow.  I really do adore him.

On a happy note, I've got a new friend!  There's a cat that has suddenly started hanging out, and has sorta adopted us.  As dorky as it sounds, I actually feel a little better when I'm sitting with her and petting her.  Animals to me are therapeutic. (I am sooooo my mother's daughter...) I think it just takes my mind off my body. It's like God just sent me a little silly piece of love, wrapped up in a furry bundle.  He hasn't forgotten me. She can't come in (though she tries!) because of John's allergies, so we just gave her a little basket with a towel on the porch, which she loves.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Boring report

Not much new to report here.  I've just been dealing with the same side effects, although they have been a little better.  I am still waking up a lot at night, and I'm pretty sure one of the meds is giving me whacked out dreams.  I woke up this morning with the taste of blood in my mouth.  I had a very mild bloody nose and I don't know where it came from.  Is that too much information?  I think that might be too much information... Sorry to gross everybody out.

Other than that, it has been fairly chill.  I've been working on outlining cellular structures today.  Earlier today, I got to meet a neighborhood cat and have some kitty loving.  That was pretty awesome.  Good times at the Ferrer household:)  Rootin' for my FROGS today!!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Day 2 of Chemo

So, they gave me that sexy little fanny pack to take home that had the 3rd chemical in it that was to drip for 44 hours.  Again, it hasn't been horrible, but it hasn't been great either.  I haven't had to wait all that long to see what the side effects are going to be: namely muscle aches.  Its hard to describe, but it's just this ache all over, like they are soaking up the chemicals or something, which I'm sure is what is going on.  It's not unbearable.  I couldn't get to sleep last night till after 4 because of it, but I'll just take the pain meds earlier this time:)

I also had my first "getting sick in public" episode.  As mom said, I almost "christened" the Culver's. (Culver's is her and my dad's favorite burger joint.)  But it was small, and again not unbearable.  So far, I am very very pleased at how not miserable I am.  That is good.  It means that I am keeping my spirits up, and not letting it get me down.  That's a big deal for me, because it usually doesn't take much to get me down (as my husband can attest to).  But, today's not that day.

I'll go get unhooked tomorrow.

And the hair cut is OK.  Not my favorite, but much better than the mop I was sportin'.  I probably just need to style it myself.  Well!  That's the wrap up for today!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Day 1 of Chemo

Well, all in all, not too bad today.  The day started out fine.  One of my kids did something that kinda worked a number on me temporarily.  He's not a bad kid.  He doesn't know what is going on, so this wasn't on purpose.  Sometimes he just gets in moods where he doesn't want to work, and he'll start saying random answers like "pineapple", "blueberry" when they have nothing to do with the topic.  Today, suddenly he randomly made a cancer "joke".  (not really a joke, but a light-hearted comment of some sort).  Normally I'm pretty jovial and smiley, but I felt everything suddenly drain away, and I said softly "Don't make jokes about cancer."   He still looked a little defiant and said "Cancer kills, man."  I got even more soft and serious and said "I know."  I  think he could tell something was up at that point.  And unlike some 16 year olds in other schools, he didn't take advantage of seeing the teacher get upset and then try to keep poking at it for fun.  It was nice to see that he was sensitive enough to realize "Holy crap, something is up.  Don't bring up cancer again".  He probably just thinks that someone close to me has it or had it.  He didn't act up for the rest of the class.  I could feel myself start to tear up at one point (we were about 20 minutes away from me leaving for chemo).  I just had to excuse myself temporarily and collect myself.  I never fully got my game back, but thankfully it happened in the last 20-30 minutes of class, and not in like, the first 5 minutes.  (We have 2 hour sessions)

John met me at school, and took me to the hospital where mom was waiting for me.  Then, like the amazing husband he is, he went out to get me a "last meal" of sorts: all sorts of fantastic-ness from "On the Border".  Salsa, chips, enchiladas with sour cream sauce, some kind of gordita... He is awesome.  Dr. Le met with us for a little while to tell me what to be expecting.  My friend Anne has been going through chemo, and she said that they had told her to expect the nausea and side effects to start on day 11, which they did.  Unfortunately, I don't get quite that much lag time.  Dr. Le said I should be feeling them by tomorrow, if not tonight.  I already have started feeling the cold sensitivity.  It's hard to describe, but it is an interesting sensation.  It's actually kinda cool feeling.  I'm sure the  novelty will wear off.

When they put me in the back with all the chemo patients, they hooked up my port, and then the lady said "Now, this might make you a little bit sleepy..."  Aaaaaaaand that's the last thing I remember for about 2 hours.  Ha!  I think I needed a nap.  I think my sleep's been a little spotty lately.  Can't imagine why... When I woke up, I still had about 2 hours left, so I was able to talk to a close friend from Hawaii that I had lost touch with, and then played some words with friends with Mom.

I'm back at her and Dad's place right now.  She and I were just watching some TV, when all of a sudden I could feel the queasiness starting to descend.  I don't think it is too bad yet.  I took one of the less powerful anti-nausea pills so I can save the big-guns for when it is getting really bad.  I'll keep them by my bed tonight, just in case.  I think I'm going to go to Mom's Bible study tomorrow, since all the women supposedly want to meet/see me.  THEN!!  Mom is being awesome by taking me all the way to Fort Worth to have this one place give me a hair cut.  I haven't had one in over a year.  They are the best salon I've ever been to hands down (It's called "Cut Hair Salon" in Fort Worth) They are amazing)  I want to get a little bit better cut because.... Yay!   A photographer friend of mine from Fort Worth is going to do a shoot for John and me.  We haven't had any photos done since our wedding, so I figure now is the best time.  I also wants some pictures of me before I start looking all scary-like.  So, that's the motivation for the new 'do.  On Friday, I go back in to be unhooked from this current drip that I have to wear for 44 hours, and then Saturday, Tracy Autem Photography is doing a shoot with me and John.  It'll be different being on the other side of the camera.

So, that's the update: emotional beginning, sleepy start, good conversation, Bible study, hair cut, unplug friday, fancy photo shoot saturday.

OHHHH!!  And the most important tid-bit:  Yes. Yes I am rocking a fanny pack with the stuff attached to my chest.  And yes I am accepting offers to sew/bedazzle/bling up one the worst fashion faux-pauxs of all time and bring it back to sexy.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

T minus 13 hours, 53 minutes

It was a nice night.  My friend Katy put together a super informal "good luck tomorrow" party tonight.  It was just a few close friends, dinner, and "glee", but it rocked my world.  All day today, my stomach has been doing little flip-flops every time I think about tomorrow.  Solution: don't think about it.  As they say, it'll come whether I think about it or not.  (I'm not sure who "they" are, but I'm sure somebody says that...)  When the doctor first told me that he thought I might have cancer, I assured him that I was not freaking out (which I wasn't).  (and I wasn't because I feel like I was being prepared for the news for like a month beforehand).  The way I described it to Dr. Park, it wasn't like having a bomb dropped on me.  It was more like watching a tornado from really far away.  You can see it coming.  You can't get away from it.  All you can do is swallow, get ready, and hold onto something for dear life.  It isn't a shock necessarily, but it isn't not shocking either.  That's how I feel about tomorrow.  It's the same huge tornado that has been off in the distance, that I have watched get closer and closer. 

I really don't know what else to say about it. Flip flop goes the stomach...  Thank you everybody for all your love and support.  I may seem like I am handling all this well, but I honestly think it has a lot to do with how much love I have coming my way.  I guess next time you hear from me, I'll have a tube hooked up to my chest.

Oh yeah! I guess I could give the details. I go in tomorrow at 11:15.  They will hook me up to one chemical for 2 hours, and then a second one for another 2 hours, and then a third one that I'll take home with me for the next 44 hours.  So in essence, I'll be having the treatment for a full 48 hours.  After the 44 hours of the final chemical, I'll go back up to the hospital to be unhooked.  John is meeting me at work and taking me over to the hospital, and mom is meeting me at the hospital and taking me home to my parent's house for the next two days, so I can have someone home with me.  That's the plan so far anyway. Thank you God for family!!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Work, and an attitude adjustment

I don’t think I’ve had the best attitude about work these last few weeks.  I have felt so tired, somewhat defeated, and just… lazy.  Well, I call it lazy.  My family and doctors refers to it as “normal” or something crazy like that.  When my body feels sick, the whole world takes on this shadow of doom: everything is overwhelming, and everything seems to be an impossible task that I can only surmount by practically killing myself.  At least that is how it feels.  The future, even if it’s just 2 hours of work the next day, feels impossible, and I have dreaded it.  My attitude was along the lines of “I can’t wait to have an excuse to take extended leave”.  What a cop out!  It’s like I wasn’t even planning to fight.  I was just resigned to feeling like crap.  It was just a fact of the matter, a decided fate. 

But I feel like I have turned a corner today.  I realized something.  No, I take that back.  I remembered something today.  I really do love what I do.  I do.  I legitimately like my kids.  I can’t share too much about my students, for privacy sake, but I’ll share a little.  I have this one boy whom I suspect has had it drilled into him that he is stupid, stupid, stupid.  Every question I ask, he’ll start to say something and then stop himself and mutter “No, that’s probably wrong.”  A good amount of the time he isn’t wrong.  He just expects that he will be.  If he does give a wrong answer, or if he is just drawing a blank, he sits there and verbally says “Gosh!  I’m so stupid!” and other degrading comments about himself.  You don’t get that way on your own.  Someone has to have “encouraged” you to think that way about yourself.  I get to be that other voice.  (Well, I and the other teachers of course)  Every time he thinks that he’s wrong, but is actually right, I get to remind him that he needs to trust his brain, because it is a good brain.  I get to tell him how capable he is, because he really does have a good head on his shoulders.  What will I do if I don’t get to be the one telling him that week after week?  I’ll crumble on the inside.  I live for, and I love, being that person in his life.  And not just him, but the rest of the guys as well.  I have another kid that I’ve just recently discovered mainly thinks in pictures.  He isn’t autistic or anything like that, but he just has this mental block when it come to big science words.  We are now going through his Biology 2, taking notes via pictures (not an easy task).  We are going at like, a quarter of the speed that we technically should, but that is why this school is so amazing.  I have the freedom to do what’s best for the student, and ensure that he is learning, and not just shrugging my shoulders, and compromising the process to ensure that I can pass him along.  He is a challenge, and I love reveling in the fact that I don’t have to deal with someone else’s timeline.  I can do what is best for him. 

For the first time since my diagnosis, I have felt the fight welling up inside me.  Everyone kept telling me what a fighter I was, but I didn’t agree.  I felt pretty resigned.  But I’m not anymore, or at least not today.  I want to fight.  I have the best excuse in the world to take time off, and I don’t want to anymore.  I had pretty much closed my eyes, and prepared myself to take the punches, and merely endure.  But I think I’ve changed my mind.  I think I might want to swing back.  I might end up going down in the end (as in having to take a leave), but I don’t think I’ll go down without a fight anymore.  It was a good day. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Hurry up and wait

It's that "in-between" time right now.  I'm not still in pain from surgery (well, not much anyway) and I haven't started chemo yet.  You think that this would all be real to me already, but I'm not sure if it is.  I keep making jokes about it.  The last brownie is mine.  I've got cancer.  It's the cancer card.  I haven't pulled it for real, but I kinda joke about it.  Every time I make a comment, every time I make a joke, I feel like it's me running the thought by my subconscious.  I am asking "Do you believe it now?" and I'm still not sure if I do.  It isn't real.  The scar on my stomach is pretty much healed up, though its still painful to push on.  (I know... so don't push it.)  It's healed, and even that doesn't seem real any more. 

I was watching a movie with John tonight, and after the credits rolled, I just said it out loud again.  "I've got cancer".  Yup.  Still nothing.  It still sounds like some line from a soap opera, and I hate soap operas.  John says he feels the same way, that it is all kinda surreal.  But as he said, "Let's revel in the surreal while we can.  It will be real soon enough."  And it sure will be.  Wednesday.  T minus 3 days and 12 hours. 

I've got half of me that feels nothing, and the other half... I don't know.  Every now and then I think about being hooked up to machines and having crazy chemicals running through my veins, and my stomach does a flip flop, like I'm about to give a public speech or go on stage to perform.  I started this blog to keep people informed about the facts, but I also wanted to put my thoughts down.  Up until now, I've kept it as much factual only.  But there is a catharsis in writing.  I don't know if is interesting to anyone else, or if it is just for my own release.  How does one feel nothing, and scared, and peaceful all at the same time?

Monday, September 27, 2010

The port works!

I went in to see Dr. Le today.  I had called to tell her that we were worried (we as in me, John and my parents) to start chemo this week since I still wasn't feeling all that great.  She said to come in so she could draw some blood to check my levels.  From the immediate results, there didn't seem to be anything to explain why I've felt so weak, but we get the full results back tomorrow.  My hemoglobin was down some, but not as low as it had been before.  I really don't want to think that after all this I'm still losing blood somewhere.  I'm sure it was just a temporary dip.

Anyways, she said that I might just be low on fluids, and recommended that I stay to just get a bag of saline before I left.  SO!!!!  It was my first time to use the port!!  It was great!  They sprayed this numbing stuff on it, and then poked it with a needle that I refused to look at and BAM!  It was in! I was getting fluids, and there was NO painful IV!!!  Miracle of miracles!  I love this port.  I think it will become my bestest, bestest friend within these next few months.  Here's a picture.  It's just off my iPhone.  The port needle is the yellow thing taped to my chest.  It has the small tube coming off of it that goes to the IV bags/fluids.  I hope to figure out how to make it fashionable.  After all, I'll be wearing it for 44 hours straight every other week:)

Oh, and she agreed that we should put the chemo off for another week, so I'll start the Wednesday after this.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Request for nausea

I would like to ask for prayer for something though: I haven't even started chemo, and I've been having crazy nausea.  (that's a huge reason they are pretty sure I'll have it tough on the chemo)  My stomach has been hurting a lot and I've had a lot of nausea.   Theoretically it was supposed to be from the anesthesia and would go away, but it hasn't.  It's kinda bad right now.  That's all.

Thank you

To all of you who prayed for me after I expressed on Sunday that my port was hurting pretty bad, I thank you.  I felt your prayers.  I was really uncomfortable and unable to move my arm on Sunday.  I put out the word, and Monday I woke up, and suddenly could move my arm!  It was still a little uncomfortable, but it healed more overnight than it had the previous 4 days combined!

In more ways than that, I feel very blessed.  My family is so amazing in how they have all rallied around me to let me know that I am not alone, and will not have to go through this alone.  My church has offered food, house cleaning, rides, anything I or John might need throughout all of this.  I have friends that have offered me their blood.  Their blood!  I have received so much support from people I don't even know, and I want you to know that every email, every voicemail, comment on facebook or here, it makes me smile and it makes me feel very loved and supported.  My head is still swimming, so I rarely even get to respond to them, but they are received and I tuck them away inside for the bad days when I feel awful.

I do though; I feel blessed.  I feel blessed that even though the cancer was so much bigger than a regular adenocarcinoma, it hadn't spread yet.  I feel blessed because my work is so willing to rearrange schedule after schedule to accommodate me and my health.  I feel blessed that, although the "power port" was not fun to install, it will keep me from having to get IV's every week.  And lastly, and least importantly I feel blessed that the lady at CVS gave me the least painful (flu) shot that I have ever had in my life.  In and out, no pain.  Ha!  It really is the little things (and I was just really tired of being stuck, so it was a stupid little blessing, but a huge blessing at the same time).

It's funny how sometimes it takes a really sucky situation to make you more thankful than you were before.  Even before all this happened, that is one area that I knew I needed to improve on.  (just ask John!)  I am by nature a problem solver, which can be a great thing.  The unseen evil that goes along with that is that you see every little problem.  (After all, how could a problem solver fix problems unless they can see them?) It is nice to have something big that eclipses all the other little annoyances for a change.  So that is already one thing I feel like I will be taking away from this.  Again though, as I've told many of you, I expect that my attitude will completely change once chemo starts and I feel like vomiting constantly.  But that is where the rubber meets the road I guess.  These few weeks before chemo, these are the "learning lesson" times.  The days after chemo, those are the "practicing the lesson" times.  Ewwww.  Not fun.  Necessary, but not fun.  I apologize in advance.  Please remember me like this when I becoming the sniveling whiney machine.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Port successfully installed...but...

Sorry I haven't updated.  The port surgery went well, but it is much more "uncomfortable" than I was expecting.  I haven't been able to really use my left arm.  It is much bigger than I thought.  It is about the size of two Oreo's stacked on top of each other, and it is right under my left collarbone.  It feels a bit like a torn muscle when I try to move my arm, though as far as I know, there were no muscles torn.  I'm guessing it is just the pressure of the "super port" against all the muscles.  Yes, it is called a "super port".  I don't know what makes it more super than a regular port.

I am typing this with one hand right now and it's kinda slow going, so I'll bid adieu.  Please pray for this to stop hurting so much.  I had to call my work to tell them that I STILL wasn't going to be able to come back because of my inability to move my arm.  They are being awesome with all this, but I'd still like to be as UNflaky as possible.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Port surgery scheduled for tomorrow

They say it takes about 2 weeks to get over the effects of anesthesia.  I have been feeling its full force, but my parents keep telling me "two weeks Hillary.  It will be two weeks until you really feel like yourself, I promise."  Well, two weeks will be over tomorrow, so I thought I'd celebrate... by having another surgery.  Woohooo.  BUT whatever...

They are going to be installing my port that I will use during chemotherapy.  I guess there really isn't a good time to go under again, so tomorrow is just as good as any other day.  I'm just a little bummed because it seems like it's my last chance to feel normal before chemo, and I'm going to miss it.  Maybe this time, since it is a much more minor surgery, won't knock me out for a full 2 weeks. I hope...

So, tomorrow at 11:00 I go under again.  For anyone trying to come by or get in touch, I'll be going back at my parents house afterwards.  Thank God for my parents!  I don't know how I could get through this without them. 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Update: PET SCAN CLEAR!!!! Chemo plans...

Wooohoooo!  The PET scan was clear!  This was so huge!  Now that it's clear, I'll explain why it was such a big deal.  I didn't want to freak anyone out before, but if they had found anything anywhere else, it would have put me immediately into the stage 4 category with a 95% mortality rate within a year.  I didn't want to freak anyone out unnecessarily. But we are good! 

From here, I am waiting to hear back about installing the port.  Apparently, the port is something that they install under the skin that will just feel like a bump.  It's kinda like a permanent IV hole, but the skin actually grows over it.  The only stick I'll have during chemo is to puncture the skin covering the port.  But that's not bad.  It's not like having to dig for a vein that may or may not roll.  The port is installed via an outpatient surgery-like procedure.  On the up side, they do put you under, so I'll be out when they install it.  On the down side, I am already taking quite a beating recovering from this last surgery's anesthesia.  But this one should be much less gnarly since I'll only be out for about an hour, and not multiple hours, like the small intestine resectioning.

The nurse said that they were going to try to schedule for this Friday to do that, but might have to do it next week.   Chemo, as of now, is scheduled to start on September 29th.  It will consist of a 2 day process that I will do every other week.  First, I'll go into the cancer center at Plano Presbyterian hospital.  I'll always see my oncologist (Dr. Le) first.  Then, they'll hook up my port to one type of chemo and let it run for around 2 hours.  Then, they'll unhook that one and hook me up to another one for about an hour, hour and a half.  Then, they give me the third one, which I actually take home with me.  I'll get to sport a sweet little fanny pack for 46 hours, and then come back into the office to have it disconnected.  John's excited about decorating it.  I'm a little more skeptical as to the extent we can make it fashionable.  But maybe I could sew a couple of little cover bags to match various outfits.  We'll see.

Dr. Le is a bit worried about how my body will respond to the chemotherapy.  She is sensing (rightfully) that my body is much more sensitive than most.  That, and apparently thinner people have a harder time.  Since I just dropped below 100 lbs, she is expecting that I may have a bit harder time with the chemo.  She is prescribing me some mega-anti-nausea meds, so I am thankful for that.  She is really a sweet, caring doctor.  I like her.  Also, she presented that paper on my case at the conference, where the 8 other doctors looked in depth at my case.  They were all in agreement as to both the diagnosis, as well as the course of treatment, so I feel confident that we are doing the right thing. 

Some of the side effects that she expects will be nausea (of course) as well as a fairly severe cold insensitivity.  As she described it, I won't be able to drink cold beverages as it will "feel like you are swallowing glass shards".  Appetizing... I won't be able to reach into a freezer even at the grocery store!  So weird... But, we'll see what else pops up.  I hope that I don't psych myself into having some plethora of psychosomatic symptoms stemming from my own expectations of it being really gnarly.  My mind is excellent at wreaking havoc like that.

Anyways, that is the main update for now.  There was a whole lot more information, but this is long enough.  OH!  One more thing.  Apparently my "uncommon" form of cancer is SO "uncommon", that it is not even listed in the national registry of cancers.  They list like, everything, and mine is so uncommon that it didn't even make the list!  I knew I was special...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Update: PET scan and results to come back this Wednesday

I've got my appointment for the PET scan tomorrow super early in the morning.  This is the test where they look to see if there is any other cancer in the body.  For the most part, I feel that I have taken most everything in stride.  I haven't had too much worry or anxiety.  This is the one exception.  This one test is big enough to decide pretty much my whole fate at this point.  (I know that sounds a bit melodramatic, but that's kinda how it is).  For the first time, I am scared.  And part of me feels like I'm being silly because there is no reason to stress before I even know anything.  As the doctor has said, there is absolutely no reason to think that the cancer is anywhere else because it wasn't in the lymph nodes. My mind knows this, but yet I am still afraid. 

I wanted to ask a request from those of you who I know believe in God.  I won't ask anyone to do this again, and I wouldn't ask now unless I felt it was super important.  But, my request is for two things: 1 is prayer (duh!) But the second is for fasting.  If anyone feels led, could you please fast for me during this time as this test is THE most important one?  Please pray that there not be any cancer anywhere else in my body. 

For those of you who do not believe in God, I still thank you for walking with me through this journey.  You thoughts are felt over here, and you are also such a huge part in making me feel like I can handle this whole thing.  I love you so much.

So, after the PET scan comes the longest day and a half of my life.  At 2:30 Wednesday, I meet with Dr. Le to discuss the results. I was planning on trying to go to work Wednesday.  However, knowing what I do now, as in what test results I'll be hearing about, I don't think there is any way possible to just concentrate on work before hand. 

So, that is the update as of now.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Update: Where do we go from here?

So, we met with the Dr. Le (prounounced Lee), the Oncologist last Wednesday and Thursday.  My surgeon said that she was the best, and who he would take himself or his family to if one of them were to get cancer.  That was super encouraging.  She went over the diagnosis and some details of adenocarcenoma.  (details which I'll sort through later and maybe publish, depending on the appropriateness or level that I want to divulge).  The main thing that she let us know in no uncertain terms was how uncommon (not rare, uncommon) my particular case was.  The reason they had originally thought it was lymphoma and NOT adenocarcinoma (before the surgery) was because of it's size.  It was way bigger than adenocarcinoma usually is.  So size makes it uncommon.  Location also makes it uncommon as there are very very few found in the small intestine.  Adenocarcinoma is predominantly found in the Colon (large intestine).  So size, location, and finally my age, make this type of cancer extremely uncommon, which means there is a lot less research to go on when deciding treatment, odds, prognosis, etc.  One of the super cool things though, is that because it IS so uncommon,  she is actually presenting a paper on my case at a conference coming up.  What that means is that I'll have 8 (count em, EIGHT!) doctors all looking in depth into my case and diagnosis.  Talk about second opinions!  I'll have eight second opinions!  Super cool... 

My level of diagnosis is currently considered stage 2b.  There is 1, 2a,2b,3a,3b,3c, and 4.   So, 2b isn't as good as it could be, but definitely not as bad as it could be.  The main thing that classifies me as a 2b is the fact that they didn't find any cancer in the lymph nodes surrounding the main tumor.  This is huge, repeat HUGE.  I would have a much worse outlook if there had been any cancer in those nodes, because once it is in nodes, it is much much more likely to metastisize (ie: spread) throughout to the rest of the body.  Since the lymph nodes didn't have anything, best guess is that the rest of my body doesn't either.

So, the next step from here is to make an appointment to come in next week for another scan.  What they are going to do is shoot me up with a lot of glucose (apparently cancer is a total sucker for sugar.  Aren't we all?) The glucose will have some sort of dye mixed with it.  IF, repeat IF there are any cancer cells anywhere else in my body, they will show up under the scan.  The cancer sucks up the glucose with the dye, and then it is easily seen.  This is what I need the most prayer about.  For those of you who believe in prayer, I ask earnestly for you to pray for this.  I will be asking my close friends, and anyone else who feels led, to fast the day before or the day of.  I can't stress enough how important this test will be.  Again, we don't have any reason to believe that there will be anything anywhere, but then again, this is me we are talking about.  I don't exactly have a track record of following "norms". 

So, after that, when we of course find no trace of cancer anywhere else (please Lord God), we will talk chemotherapy.  The plan as of now is for me to wait about 3 weeks till I have totally healed from the surgery, and then start chemo.  Chemo, as of now, is planned to last about 6 months.  I am going to have something installed in me called a "port".  From what I can tell, it's like having a gas tank portal in your body where they just open the hatch and put stuff in.  On the up side, this means I won't have to get stuck every time.  On the down side... we're talking about a girl who won't wear EARRINGS because she's afraid they will get pulled or ripped or tugged etc.  Those are my ears.  This is like a hole in my body that could get tugged or torn or whatever.  I don't know if it is actually like that, but that's what it sounds like. 

The type of chemo (for all you google nerds out there) is called Fol-Fox.  Don't ask me what it stands for.  I'll post more as soon as I do my own research (which for those of you who know me, know it's only a matter of time...).  There is no telling how you will react to chemo.  They say everybody reacts differently.  I am praying that I just get really tired, and I'm not hovering over the toilet 24/7.  But we'll see.  Anyways, that is where we are going from here.  Thank you for all your calls and emails, texts, cards, etc.  They have made such a huge difference.  It is really awesome to know that I am not alone in this.  I love you all.