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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Maybe a Little TOO Much Time On These Crochetting Hands

I mentioned earlier in the week that I have been working on some homemade projects to give for Christmas this year and was happy to have been able to complete them. One of them I added in at the beginning of December was this fun "hat" for my brother-in-law Bryan.

Viking Bryan
Viking Jake
Without getting into too many details, lets just say that he has his way of encouraging me in my needle craft hobbies.

The year that Matthew was new, Bryan actually cross stitched a bookmark for me and gained a little appreciation for the craft. It was the year after that when I crocheted him a hat with a beard attached as a little extra gift at Christmas. It was good for a little fun.

So, imagine who popped right to mind earlier this fall when I saw a pattern for a viking hat complete with horns and beard. I felt I may be up to whipping one up and thankfully, it was done on time to give on the 26th at Mom and Dad's Christmas.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Friday From the Heart: Fighting My Battles

My favorite week of the year is the week between Christmas and New Year's. I love how there is very little on the schedule, David takes work off and the kids are home from school. We are excited to have even more time off this year than we have ever had. We aren't returning to school til next Wednesday!

We were talking about next week and how the girls want to go to chemo with me. The last one. I have thought about that a lot today and there are really mixed feelings about things. I am pretty sure that I am mixed because I am feeling a little in limbo without another step after "last chemo". I like to have a plan. I know that we will, in fact, I might find out more about it next Tuesday.

Then there is the fact that it will be January 3rd...a new year. A new deductible to meet. That will just be lumped on top of the chunk we are already working on month by month as long as the doctor offices and hospital will allow. It is humbling. When I was diagnosed with cancer back in June of 2013 for the first time, I never imagined that cancer treatment would still be in the picture at the beginning of 2017. No one plans for this.

There was a helper in my kitchen for supper tonight which was pancakes since I am a little wiped out. While Stacey flipped pancakes it was time for me to fill up my old lady pill box since I had emptied the last slot last night. Have you ever felt a brick wall of blah rise up? I get them sometimes. I was sorting pills thinking "what in the world?" This STINKS!

There is a pill for every symptom I have (and a few symptoms have multiple pills). There are a lot of pills. I can't even fit them all in my A.M. slot. I should have a lunch slot but I didn't want to buy a whole new pill case (because I am really believing with everything that I have that this is a TEMPORARY situation) so I just take my three at lunch from the bottles. I don't take as many at night so they still fit. I don't know what it was when I got all those bottles out and the pill cutter and all of the rest...I just got that yuck feeling.

It was right about that time when the craziness of this life I have been living for the last six months kinda caught up to me. The introduction for the song Battles started on the radio. I stopped and listened (you can too if you click the link up there)...

This current is trying to wreck me
Like castles of sand, castles of sand
My fear, like an enemy army
Is marching again, but I’m making a stand

You surround me on every side
Your love is my armor, I fear no evil
Darkness runs from Your light
So I won’t be afraid, I won't be afraid

You’re going before me and oceans are parting
You’re fighting my battles
When my feet are failing and my heart is shaking
You’re fighting my battles

You're fighting my battles

You're fighting my battles
You're fighting my battles

Time after time, You’re my refuge

You heal every scar, You’re guarding my heart
Your promise, the hope that I cling to
My rescue, my friend, You come rushing in

In my weakness, You are strong

Every trouble, You have overcome
In my weakness, You are strong
Every trouble, You have overcome
In my weakness, You are strong
Every trouble, You have overcome
You have overcome

I will overcome...He is fighting these battles. Tonight, most of the fighting is being done in my mind with all of these random yuck thoughts coming up one after the other. I have to remember it is okay to just be still and let Him do the fighting. It is okay to be still and give Him my bill worries. It is okay to be still and take my pills, and it is okay to be still and watch as He unveils the plans for the next bend in my road.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Game Review

We got this great game for Christmas. Zachary is our big game player and over the past year he has been very instrumental in game nights at our house. Mostly because he wants to play Apples to Apples. Hearing about the game "Say Anything" I was wondering if this could be a game that we would all enjoy.

It really is. Players take turns reading a question to the rest of the group while the rest of the group writes down their answers and passes them to the question reader for that round. The one who read the question picks one and then puts the answers out for everyone to see. The other players pick the one they think the reader would choose.

The scoring is then determined by whether or not you matched the person who read the question or if you were able to get some points from people who picked your answer. It similar to Apples to Apples in the scoring. It is for 13 and up but the great thing is that every card to read a question from has a wide range to choose from. There was always one that Matthew and Zachary could understand.

We would have to give this game two thumbs up and if you want to get your family laughing and talking, it is a great pick!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Wow...One More To Go

I have to say, I am not going to miss our weekly chemo reports. But in the meantime I have two reports left. Today was an eventful day. I was going to bring the girls with me but at the last minute last night Dawn decided to go with Grandpa to Minnesota to visit Great Grandma Bushlack who is not doing very well. She is in hospice care and Dad decided to go spend some time with her today. I couldn't go because of chemo and I have always loved Dawn's heart.

So, Stacey and I set out to chemo at 7:45 and Dawn, Dad and Josiah headed north. I noticed again today that my right hand is swollen and the scale showed the puffiness too (although I won't lie, I have been filling up on the rich holiday food). I am already taking a daily pill to help the fluid build up but with two weeks left, the nurse is adding another. Two more weeks and then we start moving in the opposite direction and I can't wait!

There are a few things going on this week. The fluid retention is one of the lingering issues. But there is a little good news/bad news thing this week. For the last few weeks I have had polish on my nails and I thought the neuropathy was getting worse with all the pain I had in the tips of my fingers. Truth is, it isn't the neuropathy. I haven't gone up on my meds for that all week and I think we are holding steady.

When I took off my old polish I saw what has been going on with my fingernails these last couple weeks when everyone has been complementing me on my fingernail color. I had no idea what was going on under that great new color. Seems that the first four rounds of the stronger chemo have made it to the ends of my nails through these last couple months. Now the top half of my nails are pulling away from the nail bed.

Taxol and Potassium at the same time

Good news...the terrible pain at the end of my fingers ISN'T neuropathy but BAD NEWS, the ends of my fingernails are lifting and a couple look like there is some infection underneath. SO...added to my protocol along with two more water pills a day, I get to soak my fingers in a bleach solution two to three times every day. I should smell like a clean kitchen or really white laundry for the next few weeks.

Another surprise today was that I was low in potassium from the lasic medication I take for the fluid every day. Seems that through the holiday I forgot to eat my banana for breakfast and before bed and eat a sweet potato during the day. So, I got a potassium infusion as well which originally was going to add on two extra hours. Thankfully, they checked and it could be given with the Taxol and so one hour was with the chemo, and I had only one extra hour at the end instead of two.

Stacey and I packed a new card game Zachary got called Sushi Go! and we figured out the rules and played for an hour because it ends up to be pretty fun. We had also come in armed with adult coloring books and markers/colored pencils so we spent some time doing that too. I got to have a foot massage today as well. I got through my "sleepy" stage and I dozed off a little bit while Stacey worked on the January page of the coloring calendar that she got from her brother for Christmas.

It was a pleasant morning. The papers I have signed and my records have been sent to Mayo to get their input on the radiation question. My nurse isn't sure on timing since it is the holidays but hopefully we hear back soon so we can make the next plan. I like plans.

Other than that, life is happening all around and over the weekend when all of the family traditions were going on I was present for them all. I did have less energy in the preparations and didn't do as much. I look forward to sharing some of that in the next week or so.

Specific prayers for the homestretch...
  • That I remember to drink my water and that with the help of these meds the fluid will go down. The new one today working with the one I have been taking is supposed to stabilize my potassium. Please pray that it does. Right hand and arm is pretty puffy tonight and painful. I would really love to see improvement in the morning.
  • Please pray for relief for the pain in my fingers. It is good news that the pain is not neuropathy but because it isn't there is no pain relief. It is very hard to do every day things.
  • Praise! The neuropathy seems to be at a minimum without the maximum drug intervention.
  • Please pray as I come up to a new transition in treatment. Although having chemo come to an end is a great feeling, there is a lot to say about routine and seeing the great people there at the clinic who have made this whole experience tolerable and even a little more than that on most days. I have met some great people who have a calling more than just a job. I am thankful for that.
  • Please pray James 1:5 as we are at another place where we have decisions to make. Knowing that God is sovereign over my life is my lifeline. To be honest though...I REALLY want to be done with cancer.
  • Prayers that our family can continue to thrive through this. It brings me to tears to see and hear my children and how they are growing through this. It is humbling the things they are teaching me.
  • Pray for my Grandma Bushlack. The end of life is hard. At 96 she has lived a full life and the last few years have been very difficult for her. The visit today was good for all who were there and I praise God that Dad, Sy and Dawn could give just a little bit of themselves to Grandma today.
  • Praise for another amazing Christmas celebration with my family and for December and a door full of Christmas cards and pictures from people we love. A little small p.s. to that would be that I would love to praise Him that I was able to get all of my homemade gifts done and give them. It really helped my giver's heart during this time when I am trying to learn to receive gracefully.

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given him.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

“Your cross is prepared and appointed for you by divine love, and you are cheerfully to accept it. You are to take up the cross as your chosen badge and burden and not to stand caviling at it. Jesus bids you submit your shoulder to His easy yoke. Do not kick at it in petulance, or trample on it in pride, or fall under it in despair, or run away from it in fear; but take it up like a true follower of Jesus!”
  Charles Spurgeon
Dear Loved Ones,
This year our family has experienced again another level of faith building. Many of you who have followed us on our blog living-the-miracle.blogspot.com may find a few things here that are not new but my goal in our letter this year isn’t to focus on all of that, but on the great things that have come from our adversity.

Just a few things we have learned:
  • ·        We ask “why NOT us” instead of “why is the happening to us?” 
  •       We are A LOT stronger than we think we are because we rely on the ONE who is stronger than us all.
  •       We are blessed beyond our wildest imaginations with friends and family members who have showered us with prayer and support through what has been the most challenging time we have experienced yet.
  •           Our day to day life does not have to be beautiful to be meaningful.
  •       Sometimes the greatest peace is found in the middle of the hardest adversity trusting the Prince of Peace.
  •       We serve a God who is so good and so near and has given such amazing gifts to David and I through the years. Five of them we get to love and enjoy every. single. day.

We would love to share:
      Zachary is rocking middle school with honor roll status after the first quarter! He is playing trumpet, soccer, singing in choir and is keeping up with his favorite video games. I have caught him a few times with the guitar in his hands making up songs. He is still a huge Garfield and Peanuts fan and has taken an interest recently in the solar system and American History (you know this makes his mama happy).

·        Ryan is a still a great “juggler” this year keeping busy with show choir, band (euphonium), Opus honor choir, the school musical, choir, soccer, jazz band (trombone and piano), basketball, cross country, piano, and worship team in youth group. He is proud to have obtained his drivers permit this fall!

·       Stacey is focused on basketball despite injury and is having a great season so far! She is committed to her youth group leadership team and has become a superstar babysitter.  She loves her music and has an awesome playlist! She also has become the proud owner of her driver’s permit this fall and likes to drive as long as she is sure we won’t see anyone she knows!

·       Dawn is filling her evenings with babysitting jobs as well. She is the lover of all things aquatic, writing her own songs on the piano, singing, and she uses her talents in choir, show choir, the musical, band (clarinet). She loves to work in the garden, sew, create things with her hands and play Zelda. She has also become a permitted driver this fall.

·       Matthew is still full of energy and life and keeps busy with many things. He recently played piano in his first recital, he loves soccer, wrestling, and reading bedtime stories as far past bedtime as he can get his mom to read. He loves playing Mario Kart during video game times and loves his friends.

David and I have so much to be thankful for this year. As we get closer to the end and I start looking through my journal, I certainly could not have predicted our 2016. I wouldn’t ask to experience it again, but I wouldn’t change a thing either. Our prayer list is longer and our heart is more in tuned to the eternal once again than it was a year ago.  

I am thankful that the Christmas season has brought celebration and preparations that have reduced chemo day to a few hours on Tuesday morning to get done so we can move on to the good stuff of life and praise our God there is so much of that!

We pray for you all and are thankful that you are a part of our lives. Thank you so much for your prayers for us and for your love and support. We love you all so much!

Love, The Sloans

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Taxol #10

My appointment wasn't until 11:15 which isn't my favorite. I like to get there right away in the morning and get it done. Thankfully, my last two will be 8:00 appointments. The kids will be home for Christmas break and they probably won't be awake early so going first thing will get me home right before lunch and most of the day can be enjoyed together.

I didn't even have my clunky boots on today but am at the highest weight I have been yet. So more of the "pee every 15 minutes" medication and some easy activity and I may get some relief. Otherwise, we will just deal with it until we are done with the Taxol and it will slowly get back to normal.

Neuropathy...YUCK! I have been increasing my meds and will continue to do so. It hurts to do anything with my hands. (You should see me wrap Christmas presents). It hurts to press down on things or use pressure to pull or lift. You never really know how much you use the tips of your fingers until you are dealing with this. I can continue to add another pill every three days until I take three in the morning, three in the afternoon and three before bed. Right now I am at two.

My favorite Sara was there again today to give massages. She has been gone the last couple of times and I found myself in the bathtub this morning thinking about going to chemo today. I actually prayed there while I was soaking and asked that God would put Sara at the clinic today. I didn't realize how much better it is when she is there. A massage on hands or feet every time I am there has been wonderful. I love that God answers even prayers in the small things. She not only gave the massage but she also shared a neuropathy recipe for essential oils which has given me a great bit of relief this evening!

I am very surprised even though I use oils all the time for other things. I was so happy last night when I got done with everything to go through my oils and find out I have all of them but two. After finding some money still stashed away in my substitute teaching money, I ordered them. One of them I had a good substitute for so I mixed up a batch (minus Cypress oil because there wasn't a good substitute for that) and slathered it all over my hands and feet before bed. I kid you not I am typing at almost normal speed to post to you this morning! I am pretty excited about this great find and will be mixing up a lot of it as chemo comes to a close and I coax my life back to normal. I may not have to up my med at the quick rate I have been thinking.

I also signed the release of records papers for the Mayo clinic. We will be working with them to determine what the best course for me will be after chemo. Radiation is not usually on the agenda because there was only one lymph node affected but because of the cancer on the chest wall, I am a little different than textbook and we will get a few more doctors to look at the situation and weigh in. I am good with that.

The rest of the day was filled by a chat with a friend who brought dinner (and breakfast food), a little bit of knitting and Cub scout Christmas party and awards night. It was fun but I am ready to take it a little more easy today. I am finishing up a few homemade gifts today and tomorrow and that will keep my happily busy in a chair of some sort. Life is good!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Christmas Ornaments

Every year there is at least one ornament that I order for the kids that doesn't come in a timely manner. Because of that, we have to delay our "Christmas Eve" gift exchange. We all open one present on Christmas Eve that hopefully remains secret to the person receiving and everyone else. The Christmas Eve gift isn't a big deal and is best if handmade or personal to the receiver.

Our tradition is to give the children a new ornament and then exchange names. Each year though, there is one or two ornaments that take forever to arrive. Well, this year, I was shopping on Thanksgiving weekend and in one store, I found an ornament for each child in one place. I opted for saving a little money and not going for the personalized waiting game online. As a result, I had them wrapped and under the tree by the end of the long Thanksgiving weekend.

Waiting for someone to notice or ask about when we would be having our Christmas Eve gift exchange, I was surprised that no one commented on the gifts under the tree or the exchange for a week! I finally announced that we would be doing the exchange and everyone was surprised that we were barely into December. Everyone would have plenty of time to think about their gift and make it special.

They opened their ornaments packages first. Matthew got Captain America. Mainly in my thinking because I didn't want to get him Pokemon as everyone in the house is boycotting getting Matthew anything Pokemon because it is annoying to everyone in the house but him. I saw Captain America and realized he has never had him on an ornament but yet he is one of Matt's favorite.

Zachary is not hard at all, Garfield or Peanuts and so this year it is Snoopy on his decorated dog house. It was definitely a hit with Zach! When we were putting up the tree, Ryan made a comment about his Star Wars ornaments because for awhile he got Star Wars for years in a row. So, when I saw BB-8 in an ornament I thought it is perfect for this year when the next set of Star Wars movies began.

Dawn was a little bit of a stretch because I found this adorable Ariel ornament and like Matthew, I realized that Dawn had never had an ornament of princess Ariel. And this year, she has been the keeper of all things aquatic in our house. The tiny goldfish that was put into her 70 gallon tank has thrived and grown to fit his surroundings, and is a whopping 9 inches long. She has learned that if she doesn't keep him fed, he will eat his smaller companions. The whimsical Ariel ornament was perfect and she loved it. Stacey of course got a basketball ornament because that is what makes her happy every year.

After ornaments were opened and put on the tree, we did our secret exchange drawing. I of course can not tell you how that turned out because it is a secret and besides, I only know who I chose from the treasure box. I can tell you that I am working on a gift for them and can't wait til Christmas eve to give it. I was pretty proud of myself for having ornaments this year before anyone asked about the Christmas drawing.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

My Heart Care Story - Short and Sweet

Yesterday I posted something I have been working on in my journal for awhile and something with a little more depth. Today I will share with you my "Heart Care Story". Trust me, it is not nearly as heavy or as long. Bear with me.

I receive a lot of things in the mail from my hospital/doctor's office as I am sure you can imagine. This week I received this:

Now, I will have to zoom in a little at give you some of the details. But basically what they want me to do is share my heart care story. I am told that I will be entered into a random drawing for a $50 Visa gift card. Who wouldn't want an extra $50. So, here is what they need from me:

Here is my heart care story:
My name is Jody Sloan. I am a breast cancer survivor and was sent to the cardiology clinic for a echo cardiogram before I began my chemo regimen to be sure my heart was strong enough for chemo. It was.
I am debating...do you think I would be able to get into the drawing with a stellar story like this? I am not sure why I received this because I don't even have a cardiologist, or at least if there was one that looked at my cardiogram results, I never met him/her.

Through the meanderings of cancer treatment and survival, an increase of paper in my house from the hospital, the surgeons, the pharmacist, the doctors' offices has grown ridiculously annoying. I just laughed when I received this wondering how in the world do they choose who to send this stuff out to. I was in the cardiologist office all of 30 minutes.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Friday From the Heart: The Little Girl In That Big Desk

She sat quietly in the large over sized desk that had been pulled out of one of the classrooms close by. When the big kids walked past looking at her, she just knew they were thinking that she was naughty. It was the mid 1970's and she attended a school in a small community in southern Minnesota. The building housed all of grades K-12 stretched across one of the town blocks. She usually spent her days on the other end where each student in the district began their school career as kindergartners.

But, today was a special day. Today the kindergartners had walked all the way from their end of the school through the halls until they got to the big gym. Today was the day, the annual Christmas program would be tonight and they were there to practice, a dress rehearsal of sorts. There was an excitement as they made their way through the school to where the big kids were in class. She knew her classmates were excited about their families coming to see the program later in the evening.

She also knew as she sat, that her family would not be there. She didn't celebrate Christmas. She didn't understand it all back then but what she had learned was that no one knows exactly when Jesus was born and the Bible doesn't tell us to celebrate Jesus' birth so her family didn't.

Oh how she tried not to like the sweet song about that baby as the notes and words  floated out to where her ears could hear. Her grandma had taught her a song on her organ called "Jesus Loves Me" and she got that same feeling when she heard about that baby, the one with "no crib for a bed". The words almost sounded prayer like and every time she heard it she couldn't help but be drawn to it.

She knew she shouldn't be. They had practiced for the last month or so and every time she, sitting outside of the music room, heard every song. And now she sat outside the door of the big gym in that big kid desk where she could hear it all again. She tried not to, but there was something about the baby in that song.

As the years went by she grew and learned more about why Christmas wasn't something her family celebrated. She sat outside a few more music rooms through the years too. She was eighteen when she understood Jesus as her Savior and knew she should ask Him to forgive her sins and be baptized. Not too many years after that she started to read more in her Bible about what she thought she believed.

It wasn't until she was married and working in a small office where a local radio station played all day over the speakers, that things started to click for her. During December they would play holiday songs like most stations do. Manheim Steamroller recorded a beautiful song, a rendition of Silent Night that would always cause her to stop for a bit and just listen. That little twinge would come to her again "I'm not supposed to like this song".

She would read parts in her Bible that she didn't understand and asked for wisdom with a heart that wanted to know and to be His. Romans 11 and Galatians 3 were important to her in that the church does not replace Israel and that salvation because of His blood and His love, is for everyone who believes, not just a special group of people. It is all about Him.

With a better understanding and a growing trust in the sovereignty of God through some of life's tough storms, Christmas became very important for her. From the very first one she celebrated as an adult in 1997 to today, each year brings November and Thanksgiving to begin the season. Every Christmas for her begins with thanks.

It was during one of her times with Him, during her favorite time of year, when she realized that the very creator of the entire universe came to the earth in the body of a baby. She pondered that for a very long time. And, she remembered the song, the song about the Baby. With a love like that, "veiled in flesh the Godhead", she understood better the sacrifice that He came for ONE REASON, to die for her sins, to love her THAT MUCH! It made her not only see herself in a different Light, but see everyone around her differently. All redeemable by the very Lord of the Universe!

She had to accept that gift. She knew it wasn't her own choice, but it was His back in that hallway outside the high school gym. It was there where He called to her heart and let her know that she was His. So, if you ever see her at the Christmas Eve service singing with her family and it is time for Away in a Manger, you will see tears rolling off of her cheeks. Every time she hears the voices of her children sing about that Baby - the Lord of this Universe, veiled in flesh, she remembers the little girl and how God called her to Himself in that public school hallway.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Three More Weeks

I love how chemo has become a three hour interruption. I am not planning my life around it or focusing on it at this point. There are still plenty of things that I can do and actually go a few minutes/hours if I am lucky without thinking I am a sick cancer patient. I love that I can "snap back" to reality after going for awhile without it being the focus.

That being said, the week has rolled around and back to Tuesday. By the time I get this posted it will be Wednesday but, you know what I mean. I got up and put on some leggings and warm winter boots, and my long hair (I was cold this morning) and headed out to the clinic. Parking was a problem and I had to drive around to the parking deck and walk all the way through to the other end and down the stairs. Not a big deal in the pre-chemo days but I was huffing and puffing today.

It was a longer wait in every room this time and there were again, a lot of people today. Of course it was, I had an appointment at 2 to be home and having coffee with a friend. It is always a lot easier to get in and out when there is nothing pressing on my calendar but I digress. 

My weekly chat about bodily functions with my nurse was fun as always. Happily to report, there were no nosebleeds this week! But, over night my right hand and lower arm had become swollen and that is never a good sign.

You can see by comparison, it is definitely looking different than my left hand. There was a small little pocket below my ring finger and pinky last night that was painful but this is what I woke up to. Boo.

So this morning I get to take a new pill that as my nurse put it "you will want to be close to the bathroom for awhile until you know how your body reacts. It will be trying to get rid of all this excess fluid". Thankfully, some of it has gotten better as I was down a few pounds. So, a little good news.

We discussed my call in on Monday to see if we could up my neuropathy meds. Over the weekend it was awful. The pain in the tips of my fingers was really causing a lot of frustration just trying to do day to day things. Picking things up, typing, trying to keep a pen in my hand. Ugh...the additional pill I added actually started helping a little Monday night and I was given permission to add another every three days to see if we can get it under control for these last few weeks. We don't want permanent damage.

So, here they are...the jumbo pill bottles. I have never had a pill bottle so big! Some may have seen these before but wow...these could be what saves the ends of my fingers before all is said and done and I will be happy to do what it takes to be able to do the things I love to do with my fingers. Meanwhile I watch White Christmas and sing at the top of my lungs to get my mind off of the pain it takes to bind off a knitted project from my needles. Whatever. It. Takes! Christmas is coming! I have projects.

Over all the day went well. I rested a little more when I got home, like I said with a friend and coffee. Johnse and Lauren stopped by while I was in the middle of chemo. A welcome distraction since it was just about the time I get the creepy crawlies under my skin that make me want to get out of there! I was by myself today listening to Christmas music and knitting a little, reading a little and surfing my phone a bit too.

Unfortunately, Tuesday evening my nose started bleeding and I am still waiting for it to stop. Ugh. I guess skipping the Neosporin for two nights isn't a good thing! David told me I jinxed it by telling the nurse that I didn't have any this week. Thankfully the quilt I was working on didn't suffer any damage but I will have to spot treat and soak my green LuLaRoe Irma! It didn't fare quite as well.

I am thankful today for fingers that can type more comfortably than the last few days and I am hoping to post on a few other things this week besides cancer/chemo junk. Life is so much more awesome than that. Thankful to all of you for your continued prayers, we are going to get through this!

I think of John 15:14 "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends". So many of you have laid down a part of your lives...the time in your kitchens to make a meal, the time at your desk or place where you write notes and cards that you send. Some of you give your time praying for us, not just me, but those who are close, my loves who have to go through this thing too.

Thank you all...friends and family near and far. We do not take your thoughts of us for granted and are humbled again and again by your love.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Ten Years Ago Today

Max and Zachary on their "one fine day"
It is something that you can't un-remember. The details of that day still play in my mind as I sit and ponder. I even remember what meal was cooking on the stove when the phone rang. We haven't ever had that meal here in this house again. It is hard to believe that it has been ten years already.

Ten years ago today...something you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy let alone for your brother and his wife. It was the Christmas season and our minds were on Christmas things, present buying, decorations, planning food for family events. That night we were getting ready for our church's Christmas program.

We didn't make it to the church. Instead we drove north to Mason City crying and trying to explain death and heaven to three four-year-olds who were so sad and yet still so curious and full of questions. My secret hope was that they would just stay quiet once we arrived because they were known to say whatever was on their mind.

Max was with our family for 3 1/2 short months. Since they were living in Mason City when he was born, we visited together only two times in person in his little lifetime. Max is Zachary's "twin cousin". Once the grandchildren started with Jeremy and Loretta's Jake and Marissa, Mom and Dad went from 2 grandkids to 8 in one year with the arrival of their twins, Johanna and Bryan's Brianna and our triplets in the span of one year.

Since then, each cousin has been born within 6 months of another. Zachary was born in June and Max came in August of 2006. He often will talk about Max and how he wishes Max could stay here. He wonders what video games Max would like best, if he would play an instrument, or play soccer.

I love this picture...Betsy's sleepy new mommy again
We traveled up to Mason City when Max was about a month old. Betsy and I had been pregnant together and had shared that great experience. I had told her about this great onsie outfit I had found for Zachary that said "Max and Me" on the front. Zach was decked out in that when we arrived.

We hung out there for a few hours and talked about how things were going with a newborn and of course took a bunch of pictures of our boys. I always think of that day as our "One Fine Day". Sy and Betsy were weary with the "we have a newborn in the house" look but there were smiles and it was a happy day.

That is what I like to remember when I think of Max. That fine day and then sometimes Zachary and I imagine what he would be like today, a ten year old just like him. We get sad sometimes as it should be. Max is definitely a very tangible "treasure in heaven" for our family. We look forward to being able to see him again.

We pray for Josiah and Betsy on his birthday and December 13th in extra measure. The pain is still there but let me tell you, I am so proud to be their sister. As I have watched them and been close by these last ten years, I have seen their faith grow and I have seen them share their story with others who need to hear it. I see them loving and serving people and I see the spirit of Max in their lives as they give and love those around them.

In the midst of the worst thing any parent can experience, they have turned toward God not understanding how this could be His best for them, but trusting and moving forward with a faith that works. You can see it as they raise their three boys here on earth and you can see the beauty of an eternal perspective.

We all got a clearer a glimpse into eternity when Max left ten years ago.

Love you Sy and Bets, Syler, Eli and Jonah!

Friday, December 9, 2016

No One Calls Me Mommy Anymore

I was wrapping a few presents we picked up today as we were out and about. As I made out the tags I got to this one. Something has happened between last year and this year. It didn't seem right to sign "Mommy and Daddy" on Matthew's present. There is always a year that it happens, my children one by one have grown out of the "Mommy" stage.

It hit me today that I am here once again but this time for the last time. I was Mommy last year but for Matthew, second grade is the moving on year. It is okay, once I took that initial gulp of realization. I enjoy all of the milestones and I celebrate them with each child.

David has the remaining Friday's of the year off since we haven't been able to take any vacations this year. He has been doing school drop off duty for the older kids since back this fall when I was in the hospital. He has been sweet to give me an extra hour every morning since the middles schoolers start at 7:30. Matthew doesn't start til 8:30 and today he took Matthew too. Then we sat and chatted over coffee for an extended period of time. We had a few things to accomplish today going out and looking for some good deals.

Christmas shopping is a little more strategic this year because of our budgetary limitations. We had a coupon for wings so we stopped for lunch and to evaluate our progress. I drew out my regular Christmas diagram. We are doing about as well as we usually are at this time of December.

I have been watching the dates on my coupons and using a lot of them and so far so good. I could use a few more good ideas but I have two or three more places to stop and they are the places where if I don't have anything in particular in mind, I can get some good ideas.

One of my favorite things is taking the kids out for their shopping which I still get to do with some of them. I love watching them think of each other and what they might like to buy or make for their siblings.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

T-Minus: FOUR!!!!!!

Four more Tuesdays is all we have left! It was an interesting morning as I reported about how my week went. Neuropathy has calmed with the addition of two more pills to go along with the one I was taking. There is a great deal of pain in the tips of my fingers but things are better in every other way. I can call in if I think we need to increase. I may be doing that this week, it all depends on the pain and if it gets harder to do the day to day things.

There was a lot more focus on the nosebleeds I have had this week. I felt terrible on Friday, like I had the flu with aches and the feeling of just wanting to climb back into bed. This went on through Saturday and wasn't quite as bad on Sunday. I had at least one nosebleed a day from Thursday-Sunday. My nurse checked my nose and said it looked awful. So, now after a nasal rinse (which I had been doing) she told me I needed to coat both sides with vaseline but preferably neosporine since she thought there could be infection. Fun.

On Friday late afternoon I started having pain in my forearm like I had back toward the beginning of chemo where the surgeon told me I had thrombophlibitis. Since it was Friday I just did what she told me to do last time and use Tylenol or Ibuprofen for the pain and heat/cold which ever was more comfortable. I also massaged upward toward my shoulder as much as I could stand. It never turned red or warm thankfully and my nurse today told me to add baby aspirin so that anything clotting can break up. As an update...tonight as I type I can tell that it has hurt but am surprised that the pain is very minimal. So WOO HOO!

Another red flag came up when the scale showed that I had gone up 5 pounds in weight this week. My nurse said this is definitely fluid as she could tell by looking at me. (So I really DO look like a sick cancer patient like the one I have seen in the mirror too!) On the up side, you have heard people all the time say "it is just water weight". I got to hear the confirmation from my nurse! They put an extra med in my protocol today that will help. So, more water for me this week and I had to get up a few times during treatment to go to the bathroom.

Then, on the way to my appointment, I mentioned to Mom that I haven't been hearing well for awhile and think I will talk to my ENT in the spring when I go back for the thyroid stuff. She thought we should mention it to the nurse so we did. She told us that some of the meds I take can effect hearing so she looked in my ears. Seems that I could hear better in my right ear without the nasty wax that she found. She couldn't see anything. So...Debrox for me!

Here is the 3 point shot my niece Bri made
during the JV game!
So now it is like a super fun party in my bathroom before bed! Neosporin up my nose, debrox and suctioning wax out of my ears, dutifully checking all scars for any lumps, washing off all of the drawn on facial features so I can draw again tomorrow, and admiring the 1/8 inch hair growing out of my scalp! (WOO HOO!) Treatment went well, nothing much to report about. There were a lot of people there today in various stages of their protocol.

Stacey is third from the left.
I got to have lunch with Mom and actually got excited about doing some shopping. (I love the steroid infusion!) Then, while Matthew's wrestling, the JV girls basketball game was going on in the gym so Stacey and I watched. Marion's girls have worked hard and they are fun to watch. When Matthew was done we all stayed for the varsity game which was a blow out. We started cheering for the other team too during the second half. They left with 5 points total. Matthew had fun with math through the game as he told me with every few baskets how much we were leading. At the end we lead by 66 points. Crazy game.

During the half time of the varsity game the middle school teams were recognized and these teams have been having a great year too. So again this week, what started with chemo has ended up to be a fun day. I am very blessed with a lot of things in life to distract me. It has been a big day. There were a couple of times when it hit me today that there are only four of these left. Only four more posts where I update you on my week and how chemo went. From then on we will see...

We will be conferencing with the Mayo Clinic to determine whether we will be moving on to radiation or not. I am not quite a textbook case so I am thankful that my doctors are seeking more input and that more eyes are seeing my chart. When it comes our turn to make some of the decisions coming up we feel confident that we have the information we will need.

I am thankful that the peace that I have been given still fills my days and that God has blessed me with very few missed scheduled activities and many opportunities to cling to Him when life is out of sorts and uncertain. That is what has really been the difficult part of these last eight treatments and the four that still remain. No week has been the same as far as how I feel and so I don't really know what to expect day to day.

What I have found is that I am much more thankful for the good days and much more thankful for the people who come around me on those not so good days and encourage, send a note or stop by for a face to face visit. For those who have told me that they are keeping up with my blog and appreciate knowing how things are going. I am humbled by all of it and thankful.

Psalm 136:26 "Oh give thanks unto the God of heaven: for His mercy endures forever"

Monday, December 5, 2016

Family Christmas Traditions


We have a few things we like to do during the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas as a family. This year when it came time to set up the Jesus tree, I chose the dining room. Like most years, the pre-lit lights didn't all come on when I plugged it in. David was able to fix it by the time we got home from scouts tonight. We will be taking off the prelit lights at the end of this season and pack a good set of lights in the tree box.

So far the evergreen tree, the lights, the red bows, the Bibles and the framed pictures of each child are hanging on the tree. If you want to know more about our tradition of the Jesus Tree, you can read more about it here.

We also gave the kids their ornaments and drew for our family's Christmas eve gift exchange. This gift can be something homemade or a small little something special for the person receiving the gift. It is completely secret so if you are small and have a little trouble you can ask ONE parent to help.

It is fun to share the traditions with the kids and they are always so excited. This year I was able to find ornaments for them on Thanksgiving weekend so I had them and the names in the treasure chest ready. Every year I am waiting for an ornament I ordered or some other reason stalls the gift name drawing. This year I had everything ready on Thanksgiving weekend but no one even asked "when are are going to do the gift exchange?" Every other year I get pestered until the last of the ornaments are purchased and sometimes it takes a little longer.

I think this year is the earliest we have ever drawn for Christmas Eve. I think we should have enough time to think of something special! It is starting to feel a lot more like Christmas around here.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Our First Wrestling Meet

Matthew had his first wrestling meet today and it was a learning experience for him and me. Mostly him. He has been in the Little Indians Wrestling Club since kindergarten but we haven't really done an actual tournament til today.

There are some even by second grade that have a lot of experience and in a way I feel bad we haven't gotten him to a tournament til now but I think he learned a lot today and he will be better prepared for next time. I know that he will be paying closer attention when his coaches are teaching at practices.

He may have placed fourth but he worked pretty hard for that trophy! As tough as it was for him (he said the biggest thing that he learned is that wrestling hurts), he said he likes to wrestle and wants to keep doing it. 

Watching him stick with it and fight til the end each time was kinda fun. It is fun to watch your kid take a challenge and run with it. I think that I can go along for this ride.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016


How many times have we been to Gatlinburg? I had to take a minute and try to count. I do know that it all started with David and I looking for a place to celebrate what I originally thought was our first anniversary but I think it was actually our second. We didn't have a camera and well, no cell phones were really available for the general public at that time. (Yea, we are old) Kinda makes me sad because I would have loved some pictures. But none exist.

Whether it was our first anniversary or our second, we fell in love with Gatlinburg and began making it a tradition to spend the first week in December there. And we did it through the infertility years enjoying the "romance" of the city just the two of us. The Christmas lights are up and it is a beautiful mountain drive around town. I don't know the status of that first cabin we stayed in but I do know most of the cabins in that area burned to the ground. Sad. 

We didn't go in 2002 with 2-month old triplets but I remember the first trip in 2003 with the just-over-a-year old triplets. It was overwhelming but magical in their eyes too. We had a terrible condo that we have never returned to and always talk about that terrible condo when we reminisce about our Gatlinburg experiences. We heard today that there is nothing left standing on that road.

It makes us sad because the condo we LOVED and stayed in last year is over on that side of the city too. We found out this morning that at best report building A, the office and the pool house are gone for certain. (Several eye witnesses saw them engulfed in flames). Not sure about the rest of the property but it doesn't sound good.

Here is a good video of the aerial view of fire damage for anyone who wants to see. We also have heard this morning that our other very favorite resort Tree Tops has lost some buildings. I am thankful for the local news in the area because the post their reports online. Unfortunately since it isn't California, there isn't much coverage in our national media.

Please indulge me while I share some of our Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge memories because these kind of events make us all a little sentimental. We are going to make it back there as soon as we can. We are sad about our favorite resort spots, but are sad too for the people whose homes have been totally destroyed. That is where the real damage is. Up in the mountains, all those beautiful homes that are no more than foundations. We are praying for more rain to end this dry spell.

The kids were just devastated last night at the report that two people so far have been charged with arson in these fires. We just don't understand the minds and evil hearts of people who would purposely start a fire like this. Hopefully the judges and jury in their cases are a little easier on them than our kids would be. They weren't calling for the death penalty but life in miserable prison. David said we should just throw them into the fire and the kids were okay with that too.

Of course we know that that is all just talk and raw emotion when we are terribly sad about what has happened. It just goes to show how much we love this place and are sad that someone would think to do such a terrible thing. It is one thing to be careless with matches and start a fire on accident but an example of pure evil to do it on purpose.

We are praying for Gatlinburg and all of the people who will now slowly be let back in to see for themselves the destruction of their homes, many of them with very little time to get out with anything but the shirt on their back. We pray for the families of the 3 that have died and the ones who are still looking for missing loved ones.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Chemo #11

I started out this morning dreading chemo...I just hate the way I feel about 30 minutes in and I had been praying last night for our beloved family vacation spot Gatlinburg as the forest fires had become a huge threat to the place we love. I thought it only appropriate to wear my Gatlinburg sweatshirt because my prayers continue as the pictures of the devastation have started to surface online.

Mom joined me and as I look back on this last week (remembering that last week Michelle was with me) it feels like forever since I had been there (thankfully there have been no iron infusions or sick germs that have brought me back before today). We had such a great visit this Thanksgiving.

Chemo itself was pretty uneventful since about 15 minutes into it I got pretty droopy. Mom and I had both brought our JoAnn's fliers and we had been looking at all the sales coming up on Thursday and if anything we needed was included. Seriously...one minute I am talking irons with Mom and then the next I am staring at the flier and can't for the life of me get my brain to process what I am seeing on the paper. At that point I just reclined back and fell asleep. It is weird because the last couple of weeks I have been able to have full conversations with people and stay awake the whole time. I felt flush when the steroid went in the last couple of weeks but didn't today. So I guess I won't really ever know what to expect.

Pleasant surprise when I woke up hearing a familiar voice talking to Mom. Beth (Ross) Dunkel was in for some tests and has taken the seat next to me. (Praying for GOOD news tomorrow when she gets results!) That was nice to get caught up on how her treatment is going and chat about life for a bit. I still was a little groggy so I was not the best conversationalist. She isn't normally in on Tuesdays but again, a nice diversion.

So, I really thought I was going to be able to post yesterday but by the end of the day I was wiped out. I would have called it "I LOVE Mondays" and tell you all about what I accomplished on Monday in preparation for being down for 2-3 days after chemo.

I was able to go to Stacey's away game and she played amazingly so it was worth the trip. I did some laundry, darned a Zachary sock, cleaned up the rest of the weekend dishes in the kitchen and got supper ready to eat for our Monday "eat in shifts" schedule. I always feel better about leaving when they all have something to eat ready for them. I made up my 3 lb. tube of ground beef into meatballs and that felt wonderful. Then I mixed up gluten free and regular spaghetti (all the meatballs are gluten free because I had a ton of ends of gluten free loaves of bread to grind up into crumbs). I put the regular spaghetti into the crockpot on warm and the gf spaghetti into the oven after I finished the gf and regular cookies I baked when the spaghetti was done. (The cookies were frozen pre scooped fundraisers so not much work on my part).

It felt good to have a relatively normal day yesterday and as I went to bed I was smiling about my accomplishments. Kinda dreading Tuesday morning but it is done again for another week and we move on.

Here are a few things that have changed if you all are keeping up with me:

  • I will be increasing my tummy medicine because it seems that I may have been eating a little too much rich food this past week and got me a case of gastritis (hmmm...wonder how THAT could have happened). Although common in chemo treatment, I think the yummy Thanksgiving food may have had a little bit to do with it, not to mention the increase of sugar intake with all of the scrumptious desserts that weren't all gluten free. I will let you know how this week goes getting that under control. It may have been totally worth it when all is said and done.
  • I also have had a pretty big change in my neuropathy side effects this week. Waking up with numb feet, finger tip pain and my left toe is almost constantly numb and sometimes random pain shoots through it. We are bumping from 1 pill at bedtime to 2 pills at bedtime and then on Friday increasing to 2 pills at bedtime and 1 pill mid afternoon. Crochet has been hard because of the fingertip pain but because knitting uses mostly the forearm muscles I am able to do that much easier. I have been preparing Christmas cards and writing has become problematic. I am not great at keeping a pen in my hand and so I am hoping that with the increase of the meds I can get some relief.
  • Sleep is not so easy to come by. Sometimes because of the neuropathy and sometimes because I don't feel sleepy. I haven't been napping in hopes that it makes a difference but sometimes it doesn't. I am a lover of bedtime and of sleep. I have struggled with this in other phases of life so I hope this to will pass and quickly!
Thank you all for your love and prayers. I need that to push through the next five weeks. FIVE more...I can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I feel your prayers and they aren't wasted on me! I appreciate you all SO much! 

And a little p.s. note to my friend Todd...prayers are going up for you throughout my day! Praying for peace as you wait for good results! Our God is SO much bigger than all of this earthly junk!