Sunday, December 4, 2011

ALL CLEAR!!

I just realized that I hadn't updated about the RESULTS of all the tests the last few weeks.  (Sorta the most important part!!)  I am all clear!  The thing they removed from my stomach was benign, the place where they removed stuff before showed no new growth, the PET scan was all clear, and my kidney function actually improvement by .1!  (Not a lot, but I'll take it!)  Praise God!

And last night as I was getting ready for bed and brushing my hair, I thanked God for allowing me to keep it.  I could be fighting with awkward grow out hair, and I'm not.  Thank you Lord for the little things :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Upcoming tests

Well, it's been almost 3 months since that last endoscopy where they found the "almost cancerous" spot in my lower duodenum.  Friday I have my next endoscopy scheduled to see if anything has progressed.  I feel confident that if they find anything, it'll be quick enough to nip in the bud.  I haven't asked the doctor what the course of action would be if they DID find something that had blossomed into full blown cancer again.  I don't know if they'll just remove it and that's that, or if I'll have to go do chemo again.  Hopefully it's just a removal...  The next Monday is my PET scan, so I have 2 big tests in the next week or so.  I don't get to have my appointment with Dr. Le to discuss the results.  Seeing as that is the week of Thanksgiving, I'm not sure if that's good or bad.  On one hand, if it's bad news I won't know for Thanksgiving.  On the other hand, if it's good news... I won't know for Thanksgiving.  It's sorta a double edged sword. 

As an update to my last prayer requests, I was able to go to A&M with John, but I wasn't able to go out for Halloween:(  Sniff... Sniff... (I pouted in my room for about an hour, and then gave up and came out for dinner and a DVD with John.) It's a good thing that I didn't go out though because I ended up having a relapse of the bronchitis and still haven't been able to shake it.  (Who knows how much worse it could have been if I went out!) I guess that's all part of the gig for now; when I get sick, I get sick for like a month.  It again makes me so grateful that I only work 2 days a week!!!  So thankful.  Work is going wonderfully.  I thank my God in heaven for that job.  For a while, I had been planning on using dance to get back in shape, and I've finally come to the conclusion that that just isn't going to happen.  At least not for a while.  I'm stronger than I was, but not as strong as I want to be.  Normally I try to end on a good note, and say the things that are going well, and the things that I am really thankful for.  In all honesty, I'm not really feeling it right now.  I'm sick of being sick.  I'm sick of being "the sick girl".  It's pretty old.  But you know what?  Living the Christian life, choosing to be thankful, none of it depends on  how you are "feeling" that day.  So despite my lack of feelings, I will choose to be thankful today.  I am thankful for a husband who loves me "like Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for her". I am thankful for my parents and the rest of my family who are so supportive.  I am thankful for work that I love, students that I love, coworkers who are supportive of each other, and a gracious administration.  I am thankful for a cuddly cat, and a bunny who likes to leap in the air.  And sucky as they are, I choose to thank God for the hardships: for the sickness, for the tiredness.  Why?  Because we are called to rejoice in all things, and I am choosing to trust that He is doing it for a reason.  Why?  Because I have blind faith and I'm a mindless drone?  No.  Because I have seen too many times when He has taken a sucky situation and created awesome things from it.  I trust because He has PROVEN Himself trustworthy.  It is a trust based on evidence of His faithfulness.  (And in case you are wondering, yes.  I am preaching this to myself right now.  I really needed a reminder for what I know to be true today.  I think sometimes this blog gives me the forum by which to remind myself.)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Updates on my life

Hello all!  I was having lunch with my mom yesterday and she mentioned that a lot of people were asking about me since I haven't updated in so long.  In this case, no news is good news!

I started working part time at the Dallas Learning Center in August.  I think I had at least posted about that, how I was able to get 2 days instead of 3, which I have been soooooo thankful for.  There really is NO way I could have done 3.   I feel about to collapse with 2!  But it is a good exhaustion.  And since I'm prepping for 3 new classes (Chemistry, Biology and Physical Science),  I have plenty of work that I do at home.  When I first started, I dreaded going to school each day because I was so tired.  However, I discovered that I was having a different feeling at the end of each day:  I would leave absolutely loving the job!  I absolutely love working there.  I love my boss.  I love my coworkers, and I love the kids!

The scores on my first round of tests (for the kids at school) a few weeks ago came back very very good!  Much better than other teachers they've had in the past!!  I got lots of kudos for that.  And it's not like I'm making the test easier because it is a test from a distance curriculum from University of Nebraska - Lincoln.  The tests are actually pretty hard.  I'm just doing a good job prepping the kids.  My boss was very impressed, and very pleased. 

Like all of last year, I have my good days and my bad.  Lately, I've been having a lot of bad though.  I find that if I have a day that I do a lot of activity, it takes me several weeks to recover.  My day this month was fair day.  John and I had a blast!  We worked through the whole place eating every fried dish imaginable.  (This is the entire reason John goes.  He's a pretty frugal guy.... until fair time.  Then he'll drop about 50 bucks on food alone!)  We both get fair tickets from our school though, so at least we didn't have to pay for admission.  We were there for like 10 hours!  And boy have I been paying for it ever since... But if I could go back in time, I wouldn't change a thing :)  

My poor sweet John is struggling pretty hard.  He went full time at the high school (so that I could have health insurance) and it has been so much more work than when he was part time.  On top of that, he's teaching the class at Tarrent County College, and still working on his dissertation!  He's got 230 pages so far, and working hard.  But he is so tired, and getting really discouraged.  He's just ready for it to be over.  Prayers for his continued strength and renewal would be greatly appreciated.  He has been my rock.  He has taken care of all that on top of taking care of me.  He is such a rare gem.  I can't imagine life without him, and it's hard to see him so weary, knowing that there really isn't much I can do about it.  As soon as I start trying too hard to do stuff around the house, I get sick, and then he has to take care of me more.  I do what I can, but I feel guilty a lot.  Through it all, he never complains or makes me feel bad and keeps telling me that the best gift I can give him is to take care of myself, and not feel like I have to keep the house spotless.  (Ha!  As if I could do that when I was perfectly healthy!  Haha!)

Thursday, we are supposed to leave for Texas A & M.  John has organized a panel discussion, similar to the one he did there a few years ago.  The one a few years ago was called "The God Dialogues" and it had 2 atheists and 2 theists arguing from various philosophical angles for the existence of God.  They had over 300 people and it was standing room only.  This year, they are having 2 atheists, 2 Christians, and 2 Muslims discussing "The Problem of Evil" (meaning if a good God exists, then why is there so much evil in the world).  They will each be discussing how their world view gives account for this phenomenon.  We are supposed to leave Thursday after lunch, drive to A&M, do the panel discussion that night, spend the night in the hotel that they are putting him up in, and then drive back Friday.  I am really hoping that I can make it.  I am on the verge of getting sick (as I am so often...).  If you would pray that the Lord would just heal my body this week, that would be AWESOME.

So, looking into the future... I don't have my next PET scan till next month.  It feels like an eternity away.  Has it only been 2 months since my last one?!?!  It feels like it's been 4.  I wait with baited breath for those PET scans because in between each one, my mind wanders.  I'm losing weight a little.  Wait!  That happened last time before they discovered the cancer!  Small pains in my abdomen?  Better pay attention to those... Poo looking a little funny?  Did it look like that last year?  I can't remember... On and on my brain goes, looking for any sign that mimics what was there last year, before they diagnosed me.    Then I get my PET scan, and when it says "clean", I breath a sigh of relief and wait for another month or two, before I start having all these fears creep up all over again.  It's silly and pointless, and I know that it is silly and pointless.  So I thank God that he will give me the strength to stand, come what may.  And I ESPECIALLY praise God for those closest to me that He has given me to hold me up when I can't. 

And one more super stupid request... I have a picture of myself from Halloween last year.  I knew I wasn't feeling well enough to go to the costume party with my friends.  So I decided to be all pitiful, get all dressed up in my costume so that John could take a picture of me feeling sad and pitiful in my costume in the living room.  I really want to go to the costume party this year.  That's the other reason I really want the Lord to heal me this week.  It's on Saturday night.  It would be a lot to do, going to A&M a few days before, and then doing the party.  I know I really need to listen to my body, because being sick for work is not acceptable.  Anyway, it would just really mean a lot to me if I could feel well enough to go to the party.  (I feel silly asking...)

Well, that's all for now.  It means so much that people were asking my mom for me to write again.  I feel very loved :)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The good, the great, and the ugly.

Well, I've got good news, I've got GREAT news, and I've got sorta sucky news.  Normally I'd start with the great news, but since the great news requires you to understand the sucky news, I'll start with that one.

Short recap: insurance was denying the PET scan that Dr. Le (my oncologist) was requesting.  PET scan is the thing that checks for cancer.  Insurance said "No.  Only every 6 months, not every 3."  So, they were going to have to do a CT scan instead.  The problem with a CT scan is that it requires 2 things: drinking the most God-awful concoction that I have ever had, and then putting a contrast dye into my bloodstream.  Last time I tried to get this done (b.c.  haha!  Before cancer!  I'm so witty...) they couldn't do the intravenous contrast dye because my creatinine level was too high.  (Creatinine level measures basic kidney function.)  When they did the CT last time, it felt kinda pointless since the scan only showed a "thickening of the walls" in my small intestine.  That's it?!?!  For that massive tumor in my intestine, all it showed was a thickening of the walls?!?!  If that's all it can do without the contrast dye, I'll pass. But they were still telling me that this was the only test I could have.   However, they decided to double check, see how my creatinine was doing. So that's where we left off last time... Prayer to get approval for a PET scan. 

The sucky news is that my creatinine was significantly high.  My Nephrologist immediately ordered a 24 hour urinalysis.  I got to collect my pee for 24 hours.  Ewwww.... So, I got the call today about how that had gone.  Conclusion? My kidneys are only functioning at somewhere between 40%-50%.  Not renal failure, but not great either.  Of course I immediately googled what percentage renal failure was.  It is around 20%.  When it is approaching that, they start talking about dialysis and transplants.  I've already had 3 family members offer a kidney:)  My family rocks.  I feel VERY loved!  Next step: I am going in Monday morning to have an ultrasound of my kidneys.  Not sure what that does.  From what I remember last time I had that done (sometime in high school), the left one is sorta shriveled and gimpy.  I guess it's just a matter of finding out how much gimpier it has gotten since then.  

So, the good news is that the doctor that the kidney doctor who normally takes 6 months to see is fitting me in next Wednesday!!! Eaaaarly... (before school.  I'm sure I'll be all bright eyed and bushy tailed for class... cough... sarcasm...) On one hand, it's pretty awesome that he is getting me in so soon!  On the other hand... Should I be concerned that he's jumping on this so fast?  In my past experience, when they rearrange their schedule for you, it's not a good sign... But for now, I'll just chose to think it's because he likes me so much.

The GREAT news is that after haggling with insurance about how I can't have the full CT scan because of my kidneys, they have agreed to let me have the PET scan!!! Wooohoooo!! No nasty barium!!  I'm pretty stoked about that.  That will take place, also eaaaarly tomorrow morning.  (like be there by 6:30).

Between now and next Wednesday afternoon, I have 4 doctors appointments, and 2 procedures.  Phew!  It'll be a busy week!  Thank God for modern medicine!!


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Praise God for answered prayers!!!

HOLY COW!!  I have been praising God to everyone who will listen to me for the last two hours or so.  God is so good!  Prayer request #1 was answered!!!  And it was answered in an even better way than I prayed for!!  When they first hired me, they only really needed me for 2 days a week.  I told the lady that I could do 3, to which she responded with "Great!  We can find stuff for you to do!  Math tutorials, SAT prep... We'll keep you busy!"  The closer it came to school starting the more and more terrified I got because I knew that I was physically incapable of doing 3 days a week.  Two days didn't scare me as badly.  I felt pretty comfortable committing to 2 days, but not 3.  But now I was in the awkward position of telling my boss "Hey! Remember that whole cancer and chemo thing?  Well, I don't think I'm fully over it.  In fact, I'm so tired that 3 measly days a week is too much."  Yeah... that's not the way you want to start out a job.  So, as I mentioned yesterday about prayer, I wanted to be able to go down to 2 days, and I wanted HER to bring it up.  I thought maybe it could be like budget cuts or something.  I knew the talk would be awkward for them to have, but I didn't care.  I'd pretend to be bummed, all the while rejoicing on the inside. 

But God answered it even BETTER than that!  NOBODY had to bring it up!  We discussed my schedule, and pretty much everything fell on 2 days as expected.  And before we could really talk about the 3rd day, I just said "Yeah!  Tuesday and Wednesdays sound great, with the occasional Friday if the kids are behind." So, occasionally I'll have a 2 and a half day week.  But it's only on an "as needed" basis.  I feel so relieved.  SOOOO relieved!  And nobody had to have an awkward conversation.  It all just worked itself out.  I am on cloud 9, and actually looking forward to teaching again, instead of dreading it.  God is so good.  And so specific!  And He does it even BETTER than we ask for.

Monday, August 15, 2011

After a hiatus, we bring you MORE awesome news...

So, I haven't posted in a while.  I guess I've been so excited to be out and living life (well... in comparison anyways...) that I figured there wasn't much to update.  Until today... Last year, before we discovered the cancer in my small intestine, they found what is called a "pre-cancerous polyp" in my lower duodenum.  The plan of action?  Remove it, biopsy it, and come back in a year to see if there is any new growth.  There's no way to guarantee that they got it all, so that's why they usually have you come back in a year. 

There are 3 steps before something is designated as "cancer".  There is the adenoma stage, low dysplasia, and high dysplasia.  The steps are distinguished by how abnormal the cells are from regular cells.  High dysplasia, they're pretty funky looking.  Cancer = totally jacked up.  Last year, it was just an "adenoma".  This time... High dysplasia.  It's jumped up two steps.  Instead of waiting a year, we are going to check back again in 3 months.  We'll see what happens then.  It makes me wonder what else is growing in my body... You know, the places where you can't easily stick a camera.  Where the sun don't shine so to speak.  Not THAT place. You can stick a camera there.  But all the other places... pancreas... brain... bone marrow... All THOSE places. 

So, as always, I need to end with what I am thankful for, because we are called to rejoice in ALL things (not just the fun things)... So here it goes (although I've got to warn you, it sounds depressing) Of course the obvious, I am thankful that it is still just precancerous, and not cancer.  I am thankful that they are catching it early enough to do something about.  But besides all that, I am really thankful that I don't fear death.  There really isn't any choice but to think about death when someone drops the C word.  And I am really thankful that death really doesn't scare me at all.  Like at ALL.  Honestly, it seems pretty cool.  I get a new body (score!) and I can go to a place where there is no sickness, pain, or tears.  Why would that be something I should want to fear and avoid?  I am thankful that I don't have kids where I would worry what will happen to them.  I can't imagine how hard it would be to go through all this crap terrified at the prospect of dying.  And if I had to choose between this happening to someone with kids and a fear of death, or me (childless and almost looking forward to meeting my maker), then I'm glad it's me. 

So... Prayer.  Apart from the obvious, here's what I really need prayer for:

1) I go back to school tomorrow, and I am terrified.  I can barely make it through a 2 hour shopping trip before I start feeling like I'm going to collapse.  How in the WORLD will I make it through 3 full days a week?!?!  I am banking on the fact that I get energy around kids (teenagers) and that I enjoy being with them so much that it gives me energy.  My main prayer is that my work would ask me to go from 3 days to 2.  I don't want to ask them.  I don't want to give them hirer's remorse.  But if they would ask me (for WHATEVER reason!  Fewer students, budget cuts, whatever) to go to 2 days, that would be awesome. So please pray for supernatural energy to make it through school.

2) It's a long story as to why I need this.  It mainly involves a CAT scan.  But I really want a nephrologist who is at Plano Presbyterian hospital, who is LINKED in to the hospital, who can see all my records on their hospital networked computer.  Every referral that I get, every doctor I look up online, no matter how much it SAYS that they are a part of Texas Health Resources Presbyterian Plano Hospital, for some reason they never are.  They are always located somewhere near the hospital, but not IN the hospital.  I have too many doctors.  I want one place, one address to remember, where I know that I can walk into this building, and all my doctors are in there somewhere.  Talking to each other.  Sharing medical information.  It is gotten to a point where I am willing to just skip having the CAT scan and waiting 3 more months till I can have a PET scan.  However, after the news today, that seems especially unwise.  But I don't know what else to do. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

:( This hurts a little

Dear John and Hillary,
Thank you so much for filling out the pre-application to our agency. After careful consideration our agency and social services department will not be able to approve your application based your recent history of cancer. Even when cancer is in remission, we typically want to see at least 5 years of stability prior to starting an adoption. Some foreign governments require at least ten years. You may be able to consider a domestic adoption in the meantime.

(not that I blame them really though...) And in case you were wondering, we weren't really applying to start the process now.  It was just the pre-application that you have to do to even start thinking about it.  I guess it's best that I found out to stop thinking about it now rather than later. 

John says that it is altogether possible that I got cancer when I did because God wanted a way to really determine the next 5 years of our life, and that this could be His way of saying that He wants us to really focus on the college students that John will be working with.  Maybe college students are the only ones that we are supposed to be "adopting" in the future.  I just feel like it's this club that I'll never really be part of.  You know... the mom club.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Great day today! Big day tomorrow...

Well, it's almost 1:30 and I can't sleep.  I think it's a mixture of 2 reasons: all the caffeine I had this afternoon in celebration of the END of chemo!!! It was such a lovely party.  I couldn't have asked for more.  So that is one possible reason.  The other is ironically the opposite, and that is the fact that my next PET scan is tomorrow.  My head is fine.  My head says "No sweat!"  My body says, nausea, shake, freak freak freak out...  I wish I could quiet my body up.  It's the emotional teenager, and my brain is the calm collected adult that tries to quell the mass hysteria as much as possible.  I remember the last few PET scans I got.  I couldn't sleep before them either.  Why would today be any different? And do I have to go through this insomnia twice, since I have to wait till Wednesday to get the results?  I'm glad we had the party when we did, so that even if I get not so great news, we at lease got to formally celebrate the end of chapter 1. 

My old pastor, Britt Merrick, has a little girl who has been battling some gnarly cancer for a while.   One of his most recent posts sums up my thoughts exactly.  They were going in to get her next scan.  He wrote "If it shows that she has no more cancer, we will praise the Lord!  If it shows that does still have cancer... we will praise the Lord."

I know I've said this verse before, but I really mean it.  I'm too tired to look up where, but it's in Job when his wife is telling him to "curse God and die" from all the crap he was experiencing.  To which Job replies "Shall we accept good from the Lord, and not evil?  The Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord."

It is what it is, and it will be what it will be.  I hope and pray that I am all clear, all healthy, and well on the path to start dancing again!  But if not, then that is OK too.  I have more to learn.  And if anyone knows me at all, they know one thing: I LOVE to learn!

Here's a picture I took tonight of some Tulips that someone gave me.  I'd like to think that it doesn't represent me.  I'll have to think of some other explanation than the obvious.  I welcome other captions and interpretations!!  Bring em on!

Anyway, I call it the defeated tulip.  Poor little guy looked so sad.  I had to photograph him!


Monday, May 9, 2011

Party, and deep thoughts about gender

So, first things first: I told y'all I would update you on when the party was going to be.  Sorry this is a little short notice, but it will be next Sunday from 2-5 at my parents house.  If you don't know where that is, go ahead and comment and I'll email you.  (I figure they don't want me publishing their address for all to see...)

Next... I had a random thought about Biblical gender as seen at the VERY beginning.  Don't ask me the entire process that it took for me to get to this thought.  The inner workings of my mind move very fast and very randomly.  I'll just say it all started with eating berries, and morphed from there.  haha!  So, according to the Bible, both male and female encompass attributes of God.  In fact, you cannot even begin to understand God without taking both of those roles into account.  Men have that protective, pioneering, authoritative, cultivating, warrior aspect.  (This is a very broad generality of course...) Women, have the softer, wise, care taking, nurturing, loving, tender, gentle aspect.  Both of these are aspects of the God that we serve.  He created male and female, because in them is the fullness of God expressed.  That being said, you have to imagine that when he first created Adam, he was already planning on creating Eve.   Otherwise, mankind would only reflect part of Himself.  But He kinda doesn't let Adam in on this little fact.  It occurred to me that God treated man at the very beginning the way men like to be treated now: they need to figure it out on their own.  Adam had to come to the realization that he wasn't complete.  In fact, God let him go through EVERY animal searching for the perfect "helpmate" and let him grovel in the fact that none could be found.  It was then, and only then, that God created Eve.  At that point, Adam was more than ready to receive:)  But it is interesting how God allowed him to go through that entire process of "figuring it out for himself" (ie: not asking for directions) before He came through with His provision (Eve). 

It seems like such a silly thing, but I found it rather amusing.  There really is something built in, something good, about men's propensity to need to figure things out themselves.  Even God himself respected it.  It is wise to seek counsel of course.  The Lord is very clear about that throughout the rest of scripture.  But there really are times to just let them work it out, even if we already know the answer.  Wisdom and grace are shown by knowing which time is which though. 

[Disclaimer: John has no problem asking for directions.  He calls me his "little GPS"]

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A song for the brokenhearted...


This song is for my sister, one of the strongest women I know, if not THE strongest.  This is one of my favorite songs of all time, because it does more to describe the Christian walk as I've found it than the really Christian happy-clappy songs where you apparently always feel like rejoicing.  That has for sure NOT been my experience all the time.  There are times when you can feel God right there next to you through the storm, and then there are times when you can't feel Him at all.  It is in those times that we have to rely on what we KNOW to be true, and not what we FEEL to be true.  

2 Corinthians 4:18 " So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

It woulds be super duper if we just "felt" God's presence with us all the time.  But that doesn't allow us to grow into maturity.  If we loved only when it was easy, it isn't real love.  It is pragmatism.  I don't want John to love me because it's pragmatic, and because things go his way when he does.  And I don't want my love to be based purely on what I get from him.  Such "love" is immature.  God desires to have that deep love, thick and thin, come hell or high water (horrible choice of cliche I know... but roll with it.) kind of love with us.  He wants us to grow strong, as I would want for my children to (were I to have children...). 
Anyway, this song is for all those times when you don't understand what He is doing.  You don't even know where he is.  But the truth IS that He will never leave us or forsake us.  Period.  This song is for you sis.  (I know... more my style than yours... but hopefully you still like it.) 
 (Oh, and I didn't really get the whole guy tied up thing in the video until the end.  I think it's the idea of being in bondage that is really more of a choice.  When you stop struggling against it, and just let go, that is when it ceases to have control over you.  That's what I garnered anyways...)




Never Alone lyrics

I waited for you today
But you didn't show
No No No
I needed you today
So where did you go

You told me to call
Said you'd be there
And though I haven't seen you
Are you still there

[Chorus]
I cried out with no reply
And I can't feel you by my side
So, I'll hold tight to what i know
Your here and I'm never alone.

And though i can not see you
And I cant explain why
Such a deep, deep reassurance
You've placed in my life 

We can not separate
Cause your part of me
And though your invisible
I'll trust the unseen

[Chorus]

We can not separate
Cause your part of me
And though your invisible
I'll trust the unseen

[Chorus]

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The beauty of suffering

I got hit with some news today that shouldn't be shaking me up as bad as it is.  One of my oldest friend's brother is separated from his wife.  Broken marriages seem like they should almost be the norm nowadays, and yet it still messes with my head, even when it isn't MY close friend.  I've been sitting here all morning sorta ruminating on it, feeling pangs of a broken heart that I'm sure are miniscule in comparison to his, and letting tears slip down my face that I'm sure are barely a drop in his bucket.  I don't care what the statistics are.  A broken marriage is worthy of a cry.  Shoot, 100% of life ends in death, and we still mourn that!

I was on my knees just praying for him today, and I started to feel a little guilty.  Why? Because part of me was delighting in the beauty of the situation.  I know that sounds horrible, so let me explain... I don't know what exactly is going on in the situation.  But I have caught a glimpse of something beautiful.   I have caught a glimpse of a loving God wooing his child back to himself.  And for that, I am rejoicing. 

I started sensing this joy that I was feeling and started wondering "Am I sadistic?!?!  How can I rejoice in any PART of this!  Am I THAT uncompassionate??!?!"  I felt ashamed.  But I kept thinking about it.  And I was reminded that THIS is the joy that comes with suffering.  It all depends on perspective and what you value.  I value anything that brings us closer to a loving God, because that is where true joy contentment, and peace reside.  And I can say this loudly because I feel I have put my money where my mouth is.  I feel like I have earned the right in some regards to speak about joy within suffering.

When I was diagnosed last year, I felt a joy.  I felt a joy and an excitement because of what I saw happen with my mom all those years ago, and I was legitimately excited about being refined in the same way.  Did I ENJOY it?!?! Ummmm... read the blog... However, would I change it?  No.  I feel able to feel joy in his suffering without fear of hypocrisy, because I reacted the same way with mine.  I don't say that to sound all cool and spiritual.  I say that because I want to stress that it doesn't come from some academic knowledge of suffering, and it doesn't come as some trite Christian cliche, coming from someone who just dosn't know what to say in the face of real pain, but feels the burden to say something.  It is coming from my heart.


 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1: 2-4)

"...For the joy set before him he endured the cross..." (Hebrews 2:2)

"5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
   “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
   and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
   and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son." (Hebrews 2:6 quoting Proverbs 3:11-12)


 


Suffering sucks.  Plain and simple.  But joy is entirely about perspective and values.  It says about Jesus "But for the joy set before him, endured the cross."  Joy?!?! There was joy on the cross?  Ehhhh... yes and no.  There was joy, because of his perspective and values.  His perspective was "this is temporary" and his values were us.  This temporary act would allow him relationship and fellowship with us, and we with him.  Boom.  Joy.  There's joy in cancer?  Perspecive: "this is temporary".  Values: This will refine me, cultivate compassion, cultivate patience, teach me how to sit still!  It will make me a more beautiful person in general.  Boom.  Joy.  Having a baby?  Easy one!  Spring football training?  Again, temporary.  Values?  Stronger, faster, more powerful, and more chiseled for da ladies!  I could go on and on.  Give me your suffering, and we can find some piece of joy in it.  It all depends on what you value though.  If you don't value the refinement, no joy.  If you do not value a closer walk with a loving God?  No joy.  Joy only comes when the thing that is reaped is bigger and better than the thing that is sacrificed. 

All that being said, I don't know how I could handle something happening in my marriage. I don't know if I would want to be given the testimony of how a marriage can recover from an affair (like a friend of mine has).  I don't know if I could handle John dying.  I got to watch a girl I knew in high school go through a year long struggle after her husband's accident, and finally lose him.  There is no shred of the somewhat surfacy "Christian girl" that I had known.  Instead there is this amazing woman who has more strength than I could ever imagine, and I don't know if I would come through the same situation as beautifully as she.  But the again, "God doesn't give us the grace while imagining a situation.  He gives us the grace when we are in the situation."  I have no idea who said that to me, but I'll never forget the words. 

I think the most tragic situation in the world is someone going through a whole lot of suffering and gaining nothing from it.  It is definitely a choice what you are going to do with suffering.  Choosing to let it drive you further away from a God who loves us like his children... well there is nothing more tragic than that.  So, while I hurt with my friend's brother, while I pray, and while I cry, I do not "mourn as those who have no hope."  Through my tears, I rejoice.  I rejoice because I am seeing the seeds of beauty welling up in his life.  And for this, I wish I knew him better, so that I could cheer him on face to face.  

And if you are out there and know who you are, know that I am rooting for you.  I am rooting for your marriage and restoration.  I am rooting for how the Lord is revealing his faithfulness to you in the situation,  and I'm rooting for that little seed that you allowed me to see that testifies to the man you are becoming through the situation. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

I'm DONE!!!!!!!!!!!!

As of Wednesday, I was unplugged for the LAST time!!!  I am elated.  I am on cloud nine.  I am sore and feel like my body has been poisoned... But I don't care!!!!  I'm done!!  Now begins the slow process of healing from all the chemo.  I am wondering if they picked 12 sessions because it is based on years of research of what the body can really handle at a time.  I know that there are plenty more people out there who are still unsuccessful at shrinking their tumor, and have to go much longer.  But I can't imagine how.

My good friend from high school Diana took me in on Wednesday to get unhooked, and as we left, I had this big goofy smile on my face.  We decided to have a little celebration lunch (which I chose poorly by suggesting Mexican... not good right after chemo...) and when we got to the parking lot, she asks me "How do you feel?"  I said "On cloud 9!"  And then the emotion just started to overwhelm me.  I'm done.  At that point I started to tear up.  And then while we're sitting in the car waiting to go in, I just say "I think I need to have a little cry."  And I just started bawling and sobbing into my hands.  Thank goodness I had another girl with me!  Any guy would have started freaking out I'm sure.  (They're such weeny weirdos when it comes to women crying in front of them.)  It felt good.  It was a good cry, not a bad one.  It was a cry of relief, release, and thankfulness. 

I'm done, but I'm still not whole yet.  I still feel pretty ick like I normally do after chemo.  But I'm going to keep getting better, and I don't get kicked down in another two weeks.

Here's the video from when they celebrate your last "hook up".  I had my phone camera all ready!  I wanted to record it!  And of course they came when I was in the bathroom.  Mom tried to start filming, but pushed some other button and I kept having to tell them "Wait! Go back!" so I could get it.  So, they're are kinda laughing about that.  You'll hear me telling Mom "Don't touch anything!" when I had her the camera, haha!  I love her:)

video

Here's my Psalm of the day.  My mom gave me the idea to start interposing the word "cancer" whenever I see "enemies" in the Psalms.  I don't see myself as really having "enemies" per say...

Psalm 18:1-3
1 I love you, LORD, my strength.
 2 The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
   my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
   my shield[b] and the horn[c] of my salvation, my stronghold.
 3 I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise,
   and I have been saved from my {cancer}.  haha!

Just FYI, Mom and I are planning on doing a "Hurray!  No more chemo!" party in about a month.  So be looking for details:)

And in case you are curious, I'll be having another PET scan in about 4 weeks to make sure I'm still clear and a bone density check, since there is the possibility that I have lost some bone density from being on bedrest for so long.  If I've lost density, it'll just mean that I need to really eeeeeeaaase back into working out and being active because it's essentially like having osteoporosis where I can get get fractures really easily.  I'm hoping it shows up as "not a problem" (the official medical lingo...)  My plan is to get back into shape by taking dance classes.  Can't do that if I'm on the verge of breaking a hip.

Another shout out to all those who have been awesome with keeping me fed!  You are amazing, and I'd probably weigh about 75 pounds without you.  Thank you to Urla who has been taking me for fluids every monday!  And thank you all for your prayer support.  I have felt it so much.  I pray that I would continue to learn the power and importance of service through being a real prayer warrior.  Still working on that:)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Chemo postpones again AAARRRRGG!!

I had high hopes for this one.  I wasn't feeling too "knocked on my butt" lately, and I haven't been bleeding for about a week, so naturally I thought my blood was up and my platelets were fine.  I went in for fluids today, and it turns out that my numbers are worse than they have ever been.  My white blood count is the lowest its ever been (risk of infections), my hemoglobin is about 3 pints low, and my platelets, good heavens!  42!  (normal = 130-500)  This makes me think that the Lord is for SURE watching over  me and my blood.  Every time I've dipped below 60, I've had crazy bleeding sessions (from my nose, from the pin prick where they stick my port).  So, the fact that I haven't been bleeding makes me think that the Lord is supernaturally holding my blood together, because it for SURE shouldn't be!  Thank you daddy:)  And even though my blood (hemoglobin) is low, I haven't felt that whole "pass out weak" feeling.  Of course, maybe I just haven't noticed it because I've been all rolling around sneezing, sniffling, running, crying, scratching my eyeballs out instead.  It's actually made me question if I might actually prefer nausea over these allergies.  (of course I say that NOW...)

I felt really great after getting fluids today.  I got two bags because I figure I'm pretty dehydrated seeing as it's all coming out my nose.  (yummy!  Better than blood though, am I right?!?!)  I think those two bags helped a lot.  Oh!  And I've noticed an improvement in my chemo brain since they took down my dose of oxylaplatin last time!  I had my first intellectual conversation in MONTHS on Sunday!  It was positively thrilling.  (It's the first time my brain has been able to track with more than small talk and banter.)  So that's good too.  With all my extra energy today, I did about 5 loads of laundry.  I'm pretty proud of myself right now.  I feel downright domestic like!

I'm rescheduled to try again on Monday, so please be praying that my blood would get a swift kick in the pants by then.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Doing much better than last round

Well, I am pleased to say that I am doing a lot better than the last round.  I think this is mainly due to them taking my oxaliplatin down 25%.  It's amazing what that little 25% does!  It is the difference between feeling miserable, hopeless, and defeated vs... well, less miserable but hopeful.  I didn't think it was physically or psychologically possible to go through two more of what it was like last time.  But now, even though I'm not looking forward to it, I feel like "Yeah. It's all good.  I can take one more. " One more folks!!!  Can you believe it?!?!?!  Why, it only feels like a million years since I got diagnosed!  This time has just flown by, like a snail on a turtles back (while sitting atop a truck on 635 during rush hour)!  Haha!

As for levels, I'm not sure what they are right now.  My lovely, wonderful, giving, amazing aunt who always takes me in on Mondays had to attend to her own mother going into the hospital this week.  (We're praying for y'all Urla!)  So, I didn't get to have my blood taken.  I think I'm doing OK though.  I'm having some bleeding, but it's not out of control, which tells me that I'm at LEAST in the 60's.  (Usually, in the 50's is where I can't clot).  I've been eating my pineapple faithfully every day.  I am really hoping that I still like pineapple when this is all over and done with.  I already know that I sorta relate belgium waffles and potatoes to cancer.  ( I used to treat myself to belgium waffles right before chemo every other week.  I no longer have ANY craving for them.  And I had to subsist on potatoes for a good month or two around when I first got diagnosed)  So, I hope that my feelings for pineapple will not follow in the way of Pavlovian response.  I am scheduled for my next chemo a week from today.  I will make sure that someone has my video camera app open when the staff comes in singing and bringing me balloons to celebrate the last chemo.  It will be posted and I will have a big goofy grin on my face.  (granted, that will partially be from the adivan... weeeeeee!!!!) 

Thank you for all of you who have brought food, and thank you again to my mom.  If nothing else, I think this whole experience has shown me what it looks like to serve someone else completely and selflessly.  Both she and my husband have gone so far above and beyond what I ever thought possible.  I am truly blessed. 

So, with all that cancer crap out of the way, I can move on to being truly miserable from ALL THE FRIGGIN' POLLEN!!!!  I mean, holy cow!!  Is there anyone else out there who has been a snotty mess all week?  I have just stayed inside, and kept all the doors and windows CLOSED.  I have even doubled up on allergy pills (which I don't think you are technically supposed to do...) and even THEN my eyes have been all red, and my nose tickling and runny.  I can literally see a green dust all over the stuff on our porch.  Here's a gorgeous picture to remind people how beautiful I am, even on my worse days...

Aren't I lovely?  Thank you Texas pollen!!!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Yes, Chemo has commenced

 So, I went in yesterday feeling pretty crummy.  I had dreams all night that I couldn't get chemo because I had a stomach virus.  I was probably just feeling nauseous in my sleep and it translated over to my dreams. As gung ho as I was about wanting to get it done, I actually felt OK if I didn't get it yesterday, just because I felt so ick.  They took my blood and the numbers came back and I was still 5 points below the cutoff for platelets.  However, Dr. Le said that they could do a little compromise and cut one of my drugs (oxylaplatin? I have no idea how to spell that...) down to 75% of the normal dose.  This is the drug that really takes a toll on me and has been the cause of most of the problems associated with the chemo so far.  


John and I were asking the Dr. how necessary these last two sessions were.  Really?  10? 12?  What's the difference.  My body just can't take this anymore.  She said that usually she started taking down the oxylaplatin usually on round 9 (two rounds ago) but she hadn't done it with me because she wanted to be aggressive as possible, and because I'm so young.  I think they just kinda wait for you to cry uncle, and then taper accordingly.  UNCLE!!!  UNCLE!!!  My cries were heard, and I'm going through round 11, looking forward to round 12 being the LAST!!!!  There's a possibility of cutting out the oxylaplatin completely the last round.  That would rock.  That would make a very happy Hillary.  


So, that's the news for now.  I'm hooked up, and feeling icky and sore, but not as bad as when I have the full dose.  The real test will be the next couple of weeks.  That's when I really bore the worst of it last time.  All I can do is wait...  


 "26 it is good to wait quietly 
   for the salvation of the LORD. 27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke
   while he is young."... 
31For no one is cast off
   by the Lord forever. 
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
   so great is his unfailing love. 
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
   or grief to anyone.

Lamentations 3:26-27;31-33

Monday, March 21, 2011

Good and bad news

I know I haven't posted in a while.  But I have a good reason!  I really don't like to post unless I can say something positive.  And honestly, these last few weeks I couldn't.  When does posting about feeling like crap go from "informative" to just making people wallow with you in your misery?  There really is no point.  So, the good news, is that I'm feeling OK for the first time in WEEKS!  I guess the other good news, if you choose to look at it this way, is that God believes in me and thinks I'm WAY stronger than I do.  They say God won't give you more than you can handle, and I do not feel like I can handle anymore.  Yet, here I am!  So... I guess thank you God for thinking so... highly of me?  haha!

So, the bad news is that my numbers aren't up.  I was going to try and switch my chemo to today (monday) because I feel like this last round was so bad that I just want to get it friggin' OVER with.  I feel like I'm waiting for the shoe to drop and squash me and I'm like "Just SQUASH me already!"  This waiting for it is insanity inducing.  As it is, I couldn't have done it today even if they could have fitted me in.  My hemoglobin has only gone up by like .1 or .2.  This is even after they gave me the "miracle" shot that last time made my blood jump 2 pints in a day and a half.  This one has had a week and it's only gone up by the aforementioned (miniscule) amount.  I've had a lot of abdominal pain these last few weeks and there is a large part of me that feels strongly that I'm bleeding somewhere.  It may be a slow bleed, maybe not even enough to show up in the stool.  But all I know is that I've been hurting, and my blood is not replenishing, so do the math...  Of course, that is mere speculation at this point.  Even though my blood level is low, it is still "technically" high enough to get the chemo.  It's my platelets (those durn' platelets!!!) that are still low.  We knew for a fact last week that they were low because I couldn't stop bleeding from the little pin prick I got getting fluids.  Usually it's just a tiny spot of blood.  Last Wednesday, it soaked through 4 layers of gauze AND my sweater!  Not a good sign... At least today, it was still only a pinprick of blood.  However, the platelets are still at 62 (norm = 140-400).  The very minimum I need is 80.  This is the exact same thing that made us have to postpone last time.  I do NOT want to postpone again!!  Getter' dun!!!  That's what I want.  John and I are going to have a serious talk with Dr. Le about how "necessary" these last two sessions really are, because I feel like my body can't take anymore.  We'll see how that conversation goes... We'll be in to see her on Wednesday and hopefully get chemo.  I'll keep you updated on if that actually happens or not.

As for blood though, "The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.  BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD!!"  Haha!  (Just a little hospital humor for you there folks.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Not the greatest week...

I still can't write much because I'm on my phone. Despite having a totally amazing time hanging mith my mom last week, I've been having a really tough time. I got a weird infection, and all my energy is gone. Absolutely gone. The bloody noses have started again, but not anywhere near as severe as last time. Blood counts show both hemoglobin anemia and crazy low platelets (hence the bloody noses). Please pray for my blood counts, no more bloody noses, no more infections (this is my 4th since the new year), at least a little energy, and the endurance to make it through my last few chemos. I honestly don't know how I can do it two more times. Fyi, if you don't hear from me for a while, that's usually a sign that I'm not doing super great. But in the midst of it all, praise be to my god who has promised to keep me till the day of Christ Jesus. I for sure don't feel like praising right now. Thank you Lord that I still can though. Let everything that has breath... That means me:)

A special shout out to Tran and Paul for bringing food this week. You guys rock.

I have so many thoughts that I wish I could write... Another time I guess...

Monday, March 7, 2011

Yay! Chemo's a go!

Yay! Platelets doubled!!' I'm at 117! In Chemo now. Hoping to have my numbers up again to have Chemo next week and then I'll be back on schedule. Dr Le predicts it as very unlikely that my numbers will be recovered by then, but I still have hope. Cant type much on my phone, but that's the update.

2:28 am, and still awake

This usually happens.  The night before chemo, I have a hard time getting to sleep.  There is this real conflict of... something... emotions probably, but it feels like a blend of thoughts and emotions.  Maybe it's the chaos as my brain tries to break up a fight between my positive and negative emotions, and thus my brain joins the fray.  Whatever it is, it is fairly predictable.  John caught onto it a lot earlier than I did.  Sometimes I'd be cranky.  Other times I'd be all emotional.  Either way, John knew that he was going to have to take a deep breath and whether the storm, whatever that might be for the night.  It was a lot better for us once he gently gently brought this to my attention.  (It was probably prompted by me saying some thing like "What is wrong with me tonight?!?  I feel so... so... so something.  Anxious or something..." To which he probably wrapped me in his arms and said "Yeah, I've come to expect that the night before chemo".  me: "What? I do this every time?" John: "Yup.")  So there you have it.  Mystery kinda solved.

Unfortunately knowing the source and the cause doesn't necessarily make it go away.  There's that part of me that is praying that all my gorging on pineapples has lifted my platelet levels, and I'll be able to do chemo tomorrow.  The good news will be: I don't have to delay chemo more!  The bad news will be: I have to do chemo now.  Ewwww... Me no likey.  BUT BUT BUT!!!  The really good news (best case scenario) is that if I can do chemo tomorrow (technically it's "today" but I don't consider tomorrow today until I've actually gone to sleep and woken up.) So, chemo tomorrow, and then Dr. Le could possibly say "We'll do a week and a half gap instead of 2 weeks, and do your chemo next Wednesday".  This would put me back on track without any delays.  At that point, after that one that is a mere week and half away from now, I will only have ONE MORE SESSION!!!  Tomorrow is third to last.  After I'm done with that one, there there are only two more!  And after that next one, there is only ONE more!!!!!!  That's totally doable.  I think it is anyways.

So, no deep thoughts tonight.  Just a dance of anxiety and hope.  It's a rather elegant dance though, if I do say so myself:)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Boooo... Frowny face:(

I can't write much because I'm on my phone, but my platelets are not high enough. Chemos a no go. :( We'll try again Monday.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Prayer!! Need prayer!!!

Hello everyone!  Ok, here's the situation.  I felt like I was gonna pass out for the last 5 days or so.  I had just gotten an infection and was wondering if that was the reason, or if my blood was low.  The answer is yes.  Yes to both.  The infection apparently can take a toll on a chemo patient and can make you feel like death.  (Check...)

On a positive note, my hemoglobin levels were low, but not that low.  They met the minimum requirement of what is needed to proceed with chemo.  (they were at least 2 pints higher than what they were last time we had this little crisis)  HOWEVER... my platelets... my platelets are tanked even lower than last time.  The average range is between 130-400, and mine is registering at 52.  Yikes!!!  (Thank God I haven't had any nosebleeds again though or gotten any cuts, or I'm sure my hemoglobin would also be way low!)  The problem with this is that there is a minimum requirement for both hemoglobin and platelets in order to proceed with chemo for the week.  I DO NOT WANT TO MISS CHEMO AGAIN!!!  I do not want to put my ending date back ANOTHER week!!!!  The minimum that my platelets need to be in order to be deemed "healthy enough for chemo" is 80.  Please, please, please, please pray that my platelets would get up to the minimum within the next day and a half.  (Shoot!  Pray that they get up to the normal range!  Dream big, right?) I can't stress how much I don't want to delay another week.

I'm honestly not stressing all that much about it, because whenever I have put something out here for people to pray for, I have usually seen almost immediate results.  God is good, and He listens to the prayers of His people.  I feel ABSOLUTELY confident that He will do this.  However, even if He chooses not to, I praise the name of my God because He is good.  (say it with me!  "The Lord is good" "When?" "All the time")  I love the prayer of Job.  "The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord".  Here's my song for the day.  For those of you who were at my wedding, this was the song that John and I walked out with, right after our big fantastic smooch.  Please forgive the graphics.  There's no way to get a Christian song without seriously cheesy graphics.  Just listen and read the lyrics and chuckle to yourself at the graphics:)


 (Blessed be the name of the Lord by Matthew Redman)

(Also, I want to give a shout out to some super awesome people who have been blessing me like crazy!  (Of course my parents) Thank you to my cousin Mary who actually canceled a work appointment to take me into the hospital last Thursday when I was feeling so sick.  Thanks to my other cousin Mandy for actually sitting through two bags of fluid with me.  Thank you to some people from John's school (I'm not sure who...), Abby, Katy, and Stephanie for some awesome meals.  And a huge thank you to my bff Jenise who actually came over to help me clean (Ok, she did most of it while I layed on the couch and cried on John.  But I helped some!).  Not only did she do it, but she expressed LOVING it the whole time!  (She's kinda a freak like that.  Of course, one of her reasons for loving it was she loved being able to actually see such a difference while doing it.  It gave her a sense of accomplishment.  It game me a sense of shame.  Haha!)

Monday, February 21, 2011

A little better, a little worse, and the emotional gamut

Sorry this is tardy!  Our internet has been on and off all weekend. 

This round was not nearly as draining as the previous several.  The last couple of times, I pretty much slept for 3 days straight, and was mostly incoherent for several days after that.  I was actually awake during the day for this one!!  I was still tired, but it wasn't like I had gotten hit by a mack-truck, like how I'd felt the last few times.   The nausea has been much worse though.  The glass half empty mindset would say "Uggg... if it's not one thing it's another".  I think I'll choose to go half full on this puppy and say "Good thing they aren't all coming at the same time!"

These were my thoughts this weekend.  I've run a pretty wide gamut of emotions today though.  Here are the verses that I was really "feeling" today: (read all the way to the end, or you'll get really depressed)

Lamentations 3:17-24

"My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is.  So I say, "My endurance has perished;  so has my hope from the Lord."


Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall!  My soul continually remembers it, and is bowed down within me.  But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  "The Lord is my portion," says my soul.  "Therefore I will hope in him."

Such is the ebb and flow of the believer who is experiencing difficulty.  I love Psalms, and I love the lamenting in general from the Old Testament.  They didn't sugar coat things.  If life kinda sucked, they said it:  "Life sucks!", but in beautifully poetic language of course:)  But it never stays there.  It almost always inevitably follows that the writer remembers who God is.  It isn't some saccharine "Let's turn that frown upside down!" kind of crap.  It is knowledge.  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.  His mercies never come to an end. 

There is a worship song we used to sing back when I lived in Santa Barbara.  The chorus was "Why are you so downcast oh my soul?  I will yet praise You, my Savior my King."  I always identified with that.  It's an honesty followed by discipline.  It is the honest cry of someone who feels (FEELS) a hopelessness within them.  And it is the discipline of reminding themselves of the truth.  I know what I know, whether I feel it or not. 

I was laying there in the hospital today feeling the first part of this.  "My soul is bereft of peace.  I have forgotten what happiness is."  I feel very strongly that when I am feeling like this, it is because I have been starving myself from the word.  I have not been reading.  I have not been praying.  I have not been plugging into the the one that gives hope in the face of hopelessness.  So I read a little.  I prayed a little.  I meditated on the goodness of my God.  And like water flowing onto a plant that is nearly dead, I could feel myself rising from the depths, and a twinkle came back just a little bit into my eyes. 

I can usually gauge how I'm feeling by how "possible" I feel like it could be for me to be a mom.  I know that I'm having a good day, and feeling good, when I start thinking about having kids.  It is those days that I have enough energy to feel like "I really want to be a mom.  I could do that".  I guess I weigh my ability to do something in the future by how I am feeling in the present.  If I have energy, then I tend to plan optimistically, because future hard work feels possible based on my current amount of energy.  However, it is usually inevitably followed within either hours or days, by the stark contrast of "Who am I kidding? You don't get sick days as a mom.  How could I ever take care of someone else when I feel like this all the time?  I can't even take care of myself."  This didn't start when I found out I had cancer. But then again, we really don't know how long it had been there, so maybe it did.  Anyways, today was a first.  Today was the first day that I have ever felt crappy AND thought about wanting to be a mom simultaneously.  (to quote Zoolander, "Just thinking about it was the most rewarding experience I've ever had!!"  haha!)  It may not sound like a lot for some people, but this was a big deal for me.  It's some part inside of me that is having a spark of a hope that I can have a normal life in the future.  I still may not.  But it's nice to daydream about it though. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Hillary's Husband has snuck into her account!

[From John to Hillary]
To my Tufted Puffin,

Happy Valentines Day My Darling. I know this bout of sickness (not to mention the cure) have dealt you a punishing blow, and it has been hard to be so helpless in seeing what you endure and yet I can't fix any of it. I can't make the cancer go away, or make the chemo any easier. Yet you have inspired and encouraged me in how you've dealt with it. You are an amazing woman and I fall in love with you more and more each day. Happy Valentines day. I adore you, enjoy you, and just plain love you.

Sincerely, your polar bear.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

A little more energy

Even though chemo was canceled, I ended up staying at my parents anyways.  I was so weak, and then with the whole crutches thing on top of it, I really didn't want to be alone.  I found that when I went there, I perked up a whole lot.  The first day or two I slept most of the day, but then Thursday and Friday, I was actually up and interacting!  Part of me wonders if some of my weakness was just from being alone most of the day, everyday, for like 2 weeks.  I am an extrovert.  Having other people around energizes me.  John came up and got me last night since he's home on the weekends.  I am walking much better now.  I still have the boot on, but at least I don't need to use the crutches anymore.  That is just a pain.

I woke up this morning at around 6, which is really unusual for me.  I tried to just sleep through anyways, but then Petunia had one of her little "bunny nightmares" that she has occasionally.  She thumps REALLY loud.  It sounds like a gunshot.  It's a bunny strategy to warn other bunnies of danger, and John and I finally figured out that she does this when she has had a bad dream.  Like all kids, she just needs me to go sit with her for a second, remind her that she's a safe bunny and that mommy's here, and then she goes right back to sleep.  If you don't, she'll keep thumping.  So, needless to say that cemented the "awakeness" on my part.  So, I'm sitting here with Lula in my lap trying to get sleepy again.

I think I might have a really good weekend!  I feel better than I have in a while (which probably means my blood is up!)  I always overdo it though when I feel better, and I always overdo it on SATURDAY and then wake up knowing that I don't feel well enough to go to church.  NOT this time!  I will bide my time and stay chill today, and finally get to go to church again!  I feel so out of the loop.

And another shout out to my love Laura!  I got a pink package in the mail from Victoria's Secret with a card that said "For doing nothing "in style" - Laura".  Inside was a set of leopard print pajamas with pink around the edges, another pink dress style pajama, and a grey robe/sweater thing.  Oh!  And matching leopard slippers:)  I'm sure John will be glad to see me out of ratty t-shirts and my sweatpants for a change.  Do I have the greatest friends or what? 

Monday, February 7, 2011

Low blood, no chemo, yay crutches...

Well, it's been an interesting week.  It was nice having John home so much.  4 snow days in a row!! Crazy!  I was having some pretty serious trouble with nose bleeds.  (is that one word?  Nosebleed?)  I've never really had them before, but I just couldn't get it to stop!  I called my doctor, but I don't think she really understood how much blood I was talking about.  Needless to say, I was feeling pretty weak.  I really wanted to get my blood levels checked to see how much I had lost, but I couldn't really get around in the snow and ice (especially not all the way over to Plano).  So, I just waited till today when I was going in to get fluids.  As expected, it was low.  Apparently I lost like 2-3 pints!  Crazy!  (still not as low as when I had the big fat tumor though!) I was expecting maybe a pint, pint and a half.  My platelets were also around half of what they should be.  (The nurse said she'd seen much lower, so that's good.  Well, I guess not good for that person, but good that I'm not horrifically low.) Dr Lee said that was probably why clotting was a problem, since platelets are involved in the body's clotting response, and that's why I couldn't get it to stop.  So, I guess with the numbers so low, at least I don't feel like I am just a wimp for being so tired!!  I showed the nurse some of my lovely pictures of how much blood I was losing.  I felt very reassured to hear that she had seen similar before.  As long as somebody tells me that it's normal, I'm happy.  So, anyways there is a certain level of blood and blood platelets that you have to have in order to be consider "healthy" enough to do chemo, and unfortunately I don't make the cut this week:(  I'll have to wait till next week which doesn't thrill me because that means that chemo will trickle over into beginning of April.  It really is amazing though that it's taken me this long to get to that point!  I know of lots of people who have had this problem way earlier on in their treatments, so I still consider myself lucky. 

Oh!  Ha!!  And the really funny thing is that I woke up this morning with my achilles all swollen, so I'm back on the crutches again.  I'm such a pathetic mess!!  Poor John... as if he didn't have enough to help me with:)  It's been about a year since my last crutches time, so I guess I'm pretty happy with that gap!  About a year ago, I was on them every 2 months like clockwork for an entire year.  I thought that I had beaten the mighty achilles, but alas...  I consider it to be proof that my body is getting old, when you start having old injuries flare up with weather changes.  A year ago, I was pretty proud that I could actually predict when they (weather changes) were coming!  Haha! I became staunchly aware of how much upper body strength I have lost since I stopped working out.  Maybe this'll help?

Some really awesome news is that I have had a much easier time praying and reading lately.  That has made a world of difference!  Thank you for all of you who have been fighting my spiritual battles with/for me though prayer.  It really makes a difference.  It is amazing to see how God works whenever I post something on here.  Here's a verse that really spoke to me this week:

 19For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. 20And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. 21And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk in it," when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. (Isaiah 30:19-21)

 Amen!!

My friend Jenise also went to the library and checked me out the first Harry Potter book!  It's right about the level I can handle right now.  I still have to nap a little every couple of chapters, but it's nice to have something besides the spider solitaire on my phone to occupy my mind.  So, I guess that's the update for today!

If I were to ask for prayer, it would be that God would continue to transform me from the inside out and teach me more about who He is.  Pray that my blood numbers would get up.  Pray that I would exercise more self control with complaining.  (I'm starting to get a bit whiny around John ever since I started going downhill.  It drains him because he says it makes him feel so powerless.) Please pray for my poor John.  I am starting to see all this taking a toll on him and he is SUCH an amazing servant of a husband.  He never complains about all the meals in bed, or times when I can't do stuff for myself.  AND he's doing all of this while working 2 jobs and studying for his PhD comprehensive exams.  He is such a mighty man.  I am in awe.  But he could really use some encouragement and energy.  I think I might try out a cancer support group tomorrow night.  It is kinda cool because they have 2 groups always meeting at the same time: one for the cancer patients, and one for the friends and family of the cancer patients.  I don't know if it'll help, but it's worth a shot.  It would be nice to meet other people to bounce "Is this normal?  Is that normal?  Have you had this?" kinds of questions off of.  That's all for now!  As always, thank you so much for all your support and prayer. 

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Feeling down.

There is something we learned about in my psychology classes back in college.  It's called "learned helplessness".  It is what keeps girls with their abusers, and sometimes kidnap victims with their kidnappers.  It is when you "learn" that you are powerless against something, and so the only power I guess you feel like you have at that point is to "choose" the thing you are powerless against.  I'm starting to wonder if I'm becoming that girl.  My captor is called "doing nothing" and I'm getting really, really good at it.  Probably too good.

I came to the horrifying realization the other day that there are certain mental things that I can't do right now, even if I try.  I'm not talking about being a rocket scientist.  I was just trying to work on some Physics for my math/physics teacher certification.  I started trying to work on it, and it was like the huge overload, and I had barely gotten started!  I've tried to read some of the science books that I've been looking forward to having time to read, and it is like this huge information vomit that I can't see through.  This is the kind of thing that I normally enjoy.  And I can't right now.  It is too overwhelming.  (Do you remember that "Twilight Zone" episode where there was the man that just wanted to read, that's all he ever wanted, and he was in some basement during the apocalypse, and when he came out, he was finally all alone and the only building that survived was the library?  He's elated feeling like he has gone to heaven.  And then he accidentally drops his glasses and steps on them so he can't see, and you leave the episode with him crying "noooooo!!!!!".  That's about right.  I've got all this time to do all these things that I've been wanting time to do, and now that I have the time, I don't have the energy or mental capacity to do them.) I started crying and asked John if he would still love me as much if I couldn't think very well anymore.  Of course he would.  I know that.  But I would feel left out of his world, that's for sure.  I'm already feeling left out. I keep reassuring myself that this "chemo brain" (that's what Dr. Le calls it) is temporary and I'll be me again in no time.  But how long?  A few weeks after chemo is finished?  A month?  A few months?!?!

There's something wrong with my blood clotting response right now.  I need to talk to Dr. Le about it because it's becoming a bit worrisome.  I've had a pretty constant bloody nose now for a few days.  John and I were up till after 3:30 the other night trying to get it to stop.  I woke up in a little puddle of blood today.  It is congealing, but not really clotting.  I won't gross you out with more details than that. There is something about getting used to bleeding that is in itself depressing.  Of course you have that lady in the Bible who bled for like 30 years, so I should really get over it. 

I guess I am just sorta depressed because I don't feel like myself anymore.  And I wonder, when I get the chance to go back being "myself", will I be someone different by then?  Someone less?

My friend Jenise recommended that I try some reading that was less brainy.  Not a bad idea.  Maybe it's time to read the Harry Potter books.  Lord knows I'd never do it if I didn't do it now.  If I can't handle those, then there REALLY isn't any hope for me:)

Monday, January 31, 2011

Another tough round, but I'm tougher (at least that's what I keep telling myself!)

Wow.  Well... they're getting tougher.  Lucky for me, tougher doesn't mean nausea though.  More like I just got hit with a dump truck.  A big one:)  I feel so thankful for my mom, who just lets me sleep, wakes me up to eat and drink, and then lets me go back to sleep.  Usually, it has been an up and down, but I've still managed to maybe run a few errands with mom.  Maybe go out for lunch, play some scrabble.  This round,  I was pretty much unconscious till Friday. I perked up a little on Saturday, but was running a temp of about 100.

Sunday was so awesome.  I still couldn't do much and stayed in bed, but I have the most awesome friends who will come to me when I can't get out.  My friend Katy came and layed in bed with me and watched Disney's "Oceans" (definitely not as good as their previous "Earth" movie).  Then, Jenise (who leads worship at church) came over and did a little private worship session with/for me (since I couldn't make it to church).  It was so amazing.  I love to hear her sing and play the guitar, and I hope I didn't ruin it too much when I sang with her.  :)

Today, I went to get fluids like I do every Monday.  I don't know if I've mentioned this yet, but my Aunt Urla has been taking me to the hospital every single Monday to get fluids.  I feel so lucky and so blessed, and I really feel like I'll look back on our time with fondness because when will I ever get to spend so much time with her, just the two of us again?  Never, that's when!  God just brings family and friends when you most need them, and turns it into this amazing time of blessing. 

God has been really working on my heart in the areas of contentment.  I love our little apartment.  It is great.  It is small.  Really small.  But that hasn't bothered me at all... until I've had to be in it all day every day.  Then it feels REALLY small.  And really cluttered.  So, I've been "fantasizing" about maybe moving into a larger place, maybe renting a little house nearby.  But the thing is, it will of course will cost a little bit more.  I can't remember if I've shared this yet (another side effect of chemo.  I'm turning into that weird aunt who tells you the same story over and over...), but I've got a little miracle that is happening on a daily/monthly basis.  I will scream it from the rooftops because God is so good, and that is how much He is providing for us financially.  I liken it to the story in I Kings 17, where Elijah has been in the wilderness and there was like 3 years with no rain, and he comes upon a widow and asks her to make him some bread, and she tells him that she has enough for pretty much one loaf.  So, he tells her to make him one anyway.  Well, here's the relevant passage:

14 For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD sends rain on the land.’”  15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah.

So, I don't liken myself to Elijah.  And I'm not a widow (thank you Lord Jesus!!!).  But I'll tell you something: our financial situation does NOT make sense.  John and I have made a very pointed decision not to look too closely into the numbers, because we KNOW that they will not add up.  We aren't spending frivolously, but we aren't living off of ramen noodles either.  In some magical way, we have kept our previous lifestyle (for the most part), and are doing it off of half the income.  Less than half even!!  AND we are still putting a little into savings every month!!  My friends, this is an act of God.  There really is no other explanation.  And every time I think about it, I have to bow to my God in recognition that I really am not worthy of such a gift, but that I recognize it, thank Him, and very willingly accept it. 

So, here is where the whole "contentment" thing comes in.  WHO THE HECK DO I THINK I AM?!!  I am receiving this amazing bounty from the Lord, providing for all our needs (AND even a few date nights!), and here I am fantasizing and wanting more?!?  A bigger place?!?!  We shouldn't be able to afford what we have now based on the fact that I'm not working.  How dare I!!  It's one of those things where I'm catching myself, and then I fall on my knees in shame because if I were God, I'd be all "Well fine!!  What I'm doing isn't good enough for ya, then I'll just let you see what it's like without it!".  He'll just take his ball and go home!  But luckily, we serve a merciful God who is kind to ungrateful children such as we.  And so every time I am tempted to look on craigslist "just to see what's out there", I stop myself, ask the Lord to forgive me for taking his provision for granted, and then thank Him for what He has provided. I won't say it isn't a struggle.  But honestly, if you aren't "struggling" with anything, then it probably means you've given in to everything.  So I sit in our little apartment, and revel in how peaceful it is. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Getting vulnerable: SUPER long. Read at your own risk...

I have been struggling for a while with how much to share on this blog.  I have a friend who also has cancer, and her blog was the one that gave me the idea to have this blog.  But her cancer seems to be much more "eventful".  She has weekly updates that include new treatments, how this one is working, how that one is working, etc.  My cancer seems to be pretty uneventful so far.  I am just plugging away day after day at the same chemo, and it seems to be working fine.  Not much to report.  The real reports are probably what is going on in my head and in my heart. 

I think about the title I gave to this blog: Hillary 2.0.  The title is all about who God is shaping me to become, not just how I'm feeling on this day or that.  It really scares me to think of sharing real thoughts, real struggles, because I'm afraid of being judged, or of saying something that reflects negatively on who God is, or of completely turning somebody off.  But really, God is reminding me today that part of the purpose of this whole cancer dealy-bopper thing, is to share with others the process of what God is doing in me.  Sometimes it's beautiful.  Sometimes it's not.  But like it or not, I feel like God is wanting me to just share what is going on.  Being naked is scary.  But here goes...

I am a little disappointed in what little change I see going on in me.  Yeah sure, there are some things.  Probably one of the best changes is that I've mellowed out a LOT.  To describe me as intense before, well... At least I've gotten better since high school.  But I am my mother's daughter.  We have a hard time just relaxing. We get our panties in a wad verrrrry easily.  (Just ask my dad...)   My mentor from my first year of teaching, one of my favorite people because she is everything I'm not (I love you Jan!) used to put in my evaluations that I needed to learn to "roll with the punches".  I am happy to report that I am rolling much better! So, I guess that is one of the good changes that I see.  The thing that I was really hoping to see going on was for me to become so much more dilligent in prayer and reading the word.  I mean, I've got ALLLL this time on my hands!!  You'd think that suddenly reading and prayer would be so much easier.  But it's not.  I don't know why I don't love it more.  It's not like it doesn't enter my mind.  It does.  There is just this THING that immediately draws away, and just wants to go watch a movie, or TV, or play cards or ANYTHING else.  For someone who claims to love the Lord, you would think that it would be more exciting.  But it isn't.  What is wrong with me?!?!  I really don't know.  I feel really lame. 

So far today, since I've woken up, I've only done a few things, and most of it (I am pleased to report) involves prayer, and just getting on my face before the Lord.  (Why is this so hard for me to write?  Why am I so afraid to put my relationship with God out there for everyone to see?)  Anyway, God has revealed some really beautiful longings of my heart (namely, I really really really want to be a foster parent, even though I am terrified at the same time).  But he has revealed a really ugly part of my heart too; one that I am ashamed to admit.  Here is my ugliness.  Here is what I wrote in my journal:

"God, at the heart of it all, I feel like my problem is that I don't feel like prayer really does anything.  Lord, if there is nothing else that you are trying to show me, it's that prayer does things.  I don't understand it."

I don't.  I don't understand it.  But I can't deny it either.  I can't deny how much I have felt the prayers of all of you.  I can't deny how ridiculously easy some of this journey has felt.  And I know it has been because of all the prayer warriors out there lifting me up.  I said a really funny prayer this last chemo treatment.  I was praying the night before, again lifting up to God "Why aren't I getting more spiritual from all of this" (or at least that was the gist of it).  I thought about how my main thing has been "I'm not nauseous, so I'm good.  No matter what happens, as long as there is no nausea, I am happy with whatever state I'm in!"  So I thought, maybe I am holding back.  I know that suffering is supposed to bring change in our life (as I've been hoping/expecting from my present circumstances).  So of course!  Maybe I haven't given God the permission to really take me through suffering.  So there on my bed, the night before chemo, I started praying "God, I accept it.  I accept whatever suffering you want to bring now.  I accept as much nausea and vomiting as You need to really refine me".  (I know, it's kinda a stupid prayer)  But I was fully convinced that the suffering was to begin now. I texted my bff Jenise, and asked her to pray for endurance for me, because I felt like things were going to start getting bad from here.... Aaaaaand they didn't.  Yes, I am waaaay more tired than before and I can barely do anything.  But honestly, having to sleep like 10 times more than the average person... it could be a lot worse.  When talking with her this weekend, and discussing my "logic" behind the prayer, she asked me the question that revealed my ridiculousness: "Do you really think you would pray more hovering over the toilet?" Ummmmm... Good question.  It just sounds silly when you say it like that.

So many of you have been praying like amazing prayer warriors for me, especially regarding nausea, and I have felt your prayers.  I have felt them in the absence of real pain, and the absence of feeling miserable during this time that my oncologist frankly told me that she expected me to fare really badly in.  I have shared with you all my physical ailments, and prayers for physical comfort.  I have been so blessed by that.  I have seen the power of prayer.  I have felt it.  So, if I cannot seem to get it through my thick skull by doing it better myself, then I have no choice.  If I really want to change, to become more of a woman who is wholeheartedly after God's own heart, then I need to start presenting new prayer requests to my community who is so faithful to me.  I need to present the diseases of my heart for you to pray for.  God "impressed" upon me today as I was literally sitting in front of the computer crying while looking at foster care sites, looking at profiles of kids 12, 15, 17 years old that needed adopting, or fostering.  He impressed upon me that if I really wanted to foster, I REALLY needed to learn how to pray!!  I need to have it burned inside my chest that prayer affects things here in the real world.  (I actually considered asking everyone to STOP praying for me for a week, so I could really feel the difference, and see what the prayers are doing, but then I saw Jenise in my head saying "really?!?" and realized that that was stupid.  It is probably just the science teacher looking to do a "control group, placebo study" for prayer.  haha!)  So, as I sit now, I am thinking that I should stop telling God HOW he is to go about molding me and refining me.  I'm sure he has a much more mysterious way to go about it.  I just need to ask.  I need to ask those of you who are more advanced than I to pray for me.  Pray that God would move in my heart in regards to prayer.  I want to be a prayer warrior.  I want to understand (not in my head, but in my heart, in my VOLITION) the importance of prayer, of scripture, and other spiritual disciplines.  I am relying too much on what I can see with my own eyes, and progress that is quick enough to behold.  But most growth isn't.  Most growth is too slow to see at the time, seen only in retrospect and with comparison.   I don't know what else to say.  I'm a little spent.  There is my heart, for all to see.  Deal with it gently.