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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Survivor Files: Chemo #2

I started my day making a couple of phone calls and updating our family calendar now that the three soccer players have game dates and times. That pretty much took up all of the rest of the white space on the screen and now we have reached the point where my sanguine weakness of becoming overwhelmed when I view something cram packed like the family calendar will render me useless until I break it down to one day at a time.
Still smiling...and actually a lot of
laughing today.
This isn't all that bad. I have learned in my 46 years that the best way to go through life is one day at a time building on the past and letting God take care of the future since He is already there anyway. Today is my focus and it was a good day.

Again, Mom joined me and I started upstairs with my trainer. His name is Matt and his job is to help with all setbacks to physical activity that we deal with on the cancer journey. Our talk was a little different this morning than it was three years ago although I am stronger now after two surgeries and (at the time this morning), one round of chemo than I was doing two months out from a double mastectomy in October of 2013.

Things were too busy last time to get
out my comfy socks but not today!
Since his name is Matt we refer to him as "Trainer Matt" at home because we don't want anyone to be confused, especially the resident Matt. He is going to put together some exercises that will help regain range of motion in my arm where the lymph nodes were removed and stretches for my neck and shoulders where most of the bone pain was during the first round. (that comes as a result of the injection I get the day after chemo to help my body release the white blood cells it needs.)

We moved downstairs to oncology/hematology after that and I was cleared for chemo. Potassium was a little low so I will be eating a few extra bananas this round. Maybe some orange juice and other fruits mixed in a smoothie or something to make it interesting! I was perplexed because this past week with the three helpings of garden grown potatoes and hamburger gravy I pigged out on I figured I had gotten my potassium for the week at least! 

There was a little not so great excitement right after the saline flush was hooked up. Mom and I heard "doctor to chemo" and then a rush came from all directions as they attended to a woman that was having an adverse reaction to one of her drugs. I prayed that they would be able to help and they got her to the hospital for observation. She was doing much better when she left. It was comforting in a way to see how closely we are watched and how quickly they respond if something isn't going well. I know, that may sound weird but I am thankful.

So far, at the end of day one I am a lot more tired than I was the first round. I was pleasantly surprised and I could feel that the steroids were helping to give me energy. This time, I am not feeling that at all. Maybe magic will occur as I sleep. Mom and I spent most of our time on Facebook sharing funny stuff and keeping up with our Dice with Friends games. We had one post in particular that had us laughing that I thought I would share with all of you. I did post it on Facebook because I couldn't pass it up! Mom first cracked up when she read "what's an artificial triplet?" Exactly!!! Then mostly giggles through the first few letters until she got to "No, I don't watch Jon and Kate Plus Eight!" It is all things that I have thought as come backs when total strangers ask about my kids. Thankfully that doesn't happen much as they turn 14 next month since they are all so very different in size and personality but I will always remember the triplet stroller days when people came up and said things before they thought about what they were saying. The most appalling thing was one day in an elevator in May 2002 when I looked like I was going to give birth any day but was due in OCTOBER and I had this conversation:

"Due any day now huh?"
"No, actually I am due in October, we are having triplets."
"Oh man! If I found out I was having triplets, I would shoot myself!"
(we had reached the third floor and the doors were opening...as I stepped out I replied)
"That is why God gave them to me" and I walked out.
So, my one time in life when I had that great comeback. But unfortunately that doesn't happen very often. But, I digress...here is my mom still enjoying the funny things we remembered from the triplet days and the things that I could have said! I really love her, I am glad that she wants to hang out with me.

We both get uplifted by everyone there. One of the nurses told me that she is so inspired to see how each person walks through this kind of diagnosis and treatment. They always ask about the family and how are the kids. I give a few examples of interactions I have had with some of them. It takes awhile, and sometimes it is entertaining. She told me that she thought I sounded like a good mom. Well, I try to be. God fills in the rest.

Everything went about as well as it did the first time while we were there. Got up feeling a little shaky but I had been sitting for three hours so that was okay. I was able to come home and help with homework and hear from everyone how their day went. I was thankful for the extra spaghetti sauce that I put in the freezer last week so supper was quick work. And everyone loves spaghetti in the house so that is always a plus!

Matthew over there tries so hard to sit still and get his homework done. I see about as much as the picture below as he remembers something that he "has to do" and runs off saying "I'll be right back" It eventually gets done and I know since he started moving in utero that this boy is not a stand still kind of kid.

Zachary in his "middle school" maturity does better to get the work done. We are trying to learn how to "show your work". He does a lot of the simple math in his head and teachers want to see the work. So I told him to just write down what happens in his head when he thinks about the answer. I think he did pretty good for the first time.

I can't end today's post without mentioning this little man again. After his homework he was messing around with a gallon jug "watering" plants all around outside our house. I told him that I am going to get the tomatoes prepared for canning tomorrow but I needed someone who could go out and pick the ones that are red in the garden. He took a bowl and out he went. This mom was so grateful to not have to go outside with my internal thermostat set on perpetual high. I am thankful for his willingness.

On another note. The ratio of hair staying on my head is still more than what is coming out, but it seems like the race is on. No "handfuls" yet and no bald spots to report so but the pace in picking up, lets just put it that way. I have stopped "yanking" to see how many strands I get...last count I stopped at thirty. It is part of the process and we are all processing it differently. I am honoring those family members that don't want to talk about it, and those who want to talk about it every day.

Thinking about remaking the song "Nothing Compares 2U" by Sinead O'Connor. I have a partner in crime that may just be able to help me pull it off. If I remember right, it is in my range! For tonight though, I am going to let my body rest and the chemo search for any of those cancer cells that could be hiding. I am going to let the other meds do their job and I am going to pop up at 6:45 and wake up my kids. Oh, and I am not going to think about my thyroid ultrasound until Thursday! (yes...it is that time again if you want to know some of that back story, you can read Once Upon a Thyroid I had no idea what was coming a few months down the road)

If you are praying for us, here are some specifics for this week:

  1. That the lines of communication in our house continue to stay open...tonight was a great night!
  2. That we all get to the other side of this "hair loss" transition because I am pretty sure that we will rock the new normal when it becomes our new reality.
  3. Precious time in God's Word for me...days are just better that way!
  4. Rest...I am a doer and there are always things to do. Tomorrow is tomatoes and I am only going to let myself skin them and get them ready to can. I don't have to do the whole thing tomorrow. (I am running out of quart jars so that will stop me quick til I can get out for more)
  5. That the ENT on Thursday isn't concerned about the PET scan uptake in the left node. And that none of the nodules have gotten any bigger and I can keep my thyroid for another six months!
  6. That Jesus can continue to come through my every conversation and interaction with people from those I love to the complete strangers. I just want to let Him. He's way better at this than I am. I will rest in that truth.
I love you all and thank you for you. Whether you are checking in, thinking about me, are part of my prayer warrior team or just curious. Thank you! I feel the peace in this storm and it really is beyond comprehension. He is so good even in the bad. I am so blessed by you all!

"Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Survivor Files: A Little Bit of Normal

Yesterday I ran a few errands, took a short nap to try to get rid of my headache, and worked concessions at the 10th grade football game. Oh how wonderful it is to feel normal.
My view from the concession window (we won by the way)

Today while you read this I am at the doctor getting through round number two. A lot has happened in the last couple of weeks and I find myself loving the normal things in life.

Normal will look a little different as the fall goes on as I was reminded tonight. A few more hairs are on my hairbrush and no longer on my head. Thankfully the mouth sores that I acquired over the weekend aren't long lasting and those are gone. I will take all the good I can with the bad.

I counselled a couple of children and read to a couple of them before bedtime, I got a little impatient with a couple of family members and angry at one. All normal stuff. As always I am thankful that His mercies are new every morning. I will need them today. There are a couple of boys in my house that with need some homework help when they get home from school, and tonight there are piano lessons and soccer practice.

Resting my weary feet
I pulled out some of my journals from a long time back. I was sharing with one of my children who was struggling with a reason why to pray if things just keep on the way they are or get worse. I had to agree when the examples were Dad's work situation, my health and a few other things that I could say definitely have not gotten better.

God was so good to guide me right to the spot in 1999 when I was journaling about the very same thing. I shared what I was learning then and what I know now. Although it was one of those times when mom can't just make it all better, I do believe there was some understanding. I was looking into the names of God at the time and how they describe His character.

El Elyon is the God Most High. We don't know His reasons or His ways. I heard a great quote last night while I was listening to Dr. Jeremiah talk about suffering. He was reading from Hebrews 4:15 "If the sinless Son of the living God has to experience suffering so that He could identify with our suffering then we should not be surprised that we have to do the very same thing."

We are going to suffer, sometimes the suffering goes on a long time, or comes back. I don't get it, I have no way of explaining. I have received so much from Him in my life that I can't turn away and say He isn't being fair. He is more than fair and I am growing more than a conqueror because that is what He wants for me. It isn't easy to explain that to a child, but I pray that I can live it out so that they can see Him through all of this. So if you are looking for a specific prayer request today, pray that their faith can grow.

"For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin." Hebrews 4:15

Monday, August 29, 2016

A Fun Day in the Sewing Room

The day started and ended with smiles!
Dawn and I spent a little time together on Saturday. Much of that time was spent downstairs in the coolness of the sewing room. She wanted to finish her skirt we had cut out in the beginning of the summer. I have to brag on her a lot. Her biggest aversion to sewing something is pins. She has been afraid since she has been small of poking herself with a pin. Oh, and the other thing she doesn't like to do is iron, she doesn't want to burn herself! I totally get all of that at her age.

So...the agreement was I will pin and iron everything she needs as long as she does all of the sewing. She was all for that although I told her when we jump into the next projects she has sitting by her sewing machine, she will have to ease herself into these two things and get past the fear that has been holding her back! She thought that sounded reasonable.

Okay, so I said she was going to do all of the sewing. I had forgotten that this skirt has an invisible zipper. I actually just put on my very first invisible zipper last spring when I made Dawn's dress for Easter. I felt silly when I did it because it really wasn't as difficult for me as I expected it to be. But, I have been sewing since I was nine and I am much older than that now! I was doing my best to instruct her in all of the wisdom I gained from my ONE experience and told her we could watch a couple of YouTube videos (I mean, last spring I watched about eight or ten before I jumped in). She told me no, she thought she could do it.

Hmm, well she did sew the waistband on beautifully that had quite a bit of easing to my surprise so, maybe I could let her go on this. See, and that was another thing...I actually was working on my own stuff while she was there. I am pretty sure that is the difference between trying to teach a nine-year-old and an almost 14-year-old. She was definitely up for the challenge. I helped her pin on the first side and she sewed it right up.

I was trying to help her pin the other side of the zipper on and well, lets just say that I am a little direction-ally challenged and finally she just grabbed it from me and said "Mom, I think I know, I will do it." Okay...and you know what? She did. She sewed the invisible zipper on the skirt without one seam ripped out and done over and completed the side seam like a pro! Her machine worked like a charm too.

If you can't tell, I am a little proud of her. She wants to tackle a Princess Zelda costume next. She has the picture and we found a pattern in Grandma's collection that we can use for the dress. Last week we used a bunch of coupons and got a great deal on every color. I told her that with chemo this week we will do our best to get the pattern cut out. She knows we may have to wait until next week. She also knows that her mom's LEAST favorite thing to do in the whole process of sewing is cutting stuff out.

When did I blink that this little girl is sewing invisible zippers all by herself? And walking out the door with heels and a skirt that she sewed herself?

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Hemming Blue Jeans...I FINALLY Figured it Out!

For 27 years now I have been hemming pants on a regular basis. It started in college somewhere during our sophomore year with kahkis and dress pants. It may not have been until after we were married that I started hemming blue jeans but I can say I have hemmed a lot over the years.

Blue jeans have been the worst but as of today I can say that I have mastered the art of blue jean hemming. It is working so well that I may actually hem Zachary and Matthew's jeans too instead of just letting them "walk off" the extra length.

Today I was down in the basement sewing with Dawn (more about that tomorrow) and trying to ignore the three pairs of jeans I had bought for David probably 4 or 5 months ago. Blue jean hemming is usually a disaster for me and takes most of a day and so I was trying not to pay attention to them. But, every time I have been down there since I have bought the jeans, I KNOW they are their waiting for me.

So, after I sewed over my finger (for the second time in my life) and broke my second to last stretch needle while working on something I thought was more exciting than blue jean hemming, I gave in and after bandaging my finger pulled out the blue jeans.

I have learned a few things as the years have gone by and I am thrilled to say that today I have finally figured it out. Let me tell you the tricks:
  1. MOST IMPORTANT: make sure that the person you are hemming for (no matter how many times they say "just take it up the same amount as you did the last time") tries each pair of jeans on and you mark them individually.
  2. Get yourself a "Jean-a-ma-jig". You can see mine in the picture and it is super helpful when working those two thick seams on each pant leg. I have had mine for awhile and I wouldn't even hem jeans without it. I think I got mine from Nancy's Notions but they may be around in stores, I just haven't looked. (check out the link with pictures to show how it works!)
  3. Get yourself a variety of gold/yellow thicker thread. I was able to match the three jeans I hemmed today with two of the shades I had. Check each shade you have against each pair of jeans to see which thread matches best.
  4. Cut your jeans off one inch longer than the hem length you measured.
  5. Steam press the extra inch up to the inside of the jean leg. Once it is pressed, fold under the raw edge to give it the finished look. Pin the OUTSIDE of the jeans so you can stitch from the front. (see the picture above)
  6. Change your stitch length to 3 which will match most stitch lengths of the rest of the jean seams. (This also makes it a dream to get past the thick folded over seams. If your stitches are too short, the needle will be bogged down in the thickness of the seam.) 
  7. Start about an 3/4 of an inch from the thick inside seam on each leg. Use the Jean-a-ma-jig to get past the seam and do the same when you get to the outside seam. Be sure to stitch from the right side of the blue jeans 1/2 inch from the bottom where you measured your hem. This should give you enough room catch the hem on the underside.
I have done some kind of combination of some of these steps many times. It wasn't til today when I changed my stitch length and stitched from the front that it worked like a charm. I finished these three pairs in less than an hour! The best part is I didn't have to take out any of my seams and do them over. Now I just have to get as excited about cuffed dress pants and I will be set!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A Little Money Saving DIY

I have had a few hats and bandannas in my Amazon cart for a week or so now thinking I should get them ordered because once the second round starts I could need them any day. Well...I come from a long line of people who don't like to spend more money than they have to on things. Some of these chemo caps or hats were $24 or more each!

Sunday afternoon I settled on two of them and then went searching for a pattern. Sure enough, McCalls has a pattern with a whole lot of different headwear and I could pick the fabric. So, for a whole lot less money I can make things that coordinate with my wardrobe.

Earlier this week I finished a project that I also refused to buy on Amazon because it would take almost nothing to make. As much as I love my port for access to blood work and chemo treatment, it is a sensitive spot that is right where the driver's side seatbelt lays when I am driving. Rather than buying a seatbelt cushion, I took some batting I had and some soft gray fabric (that I have used for baby blankets in the past) and made up a pattern.

This was one of those times that my first plan worked! Without any tweeking or "redo" I was out the door driving kids around in comfort. I was also surprised at how much better my driving experience has been the last few days. Definitely a win!

Friday, August 26, 2016

Friday From the Heart: Complete Armour

Years back when I was struggling with myself and how God sees me, I crossed paths with someone that I knew just briefly before she and her family moved from the area. But in the few months we spent talking over coffee or playtime with our kids, we knew we were kindred spirits. She like me, has a love of reading from the minds of great men and women of God who have walked this earth before us.

She told me about a set of books called "The Christian in Complete Armour". It was first published in 1655. I was intrigued. It has since been published many times and has been revised in a more modern form into three volumes. Written by William Gurnall, it is full of truth and as a "highlighter reader" I often find pages that are more highlight than not. As a Christian who knows full well the battles we fight in the spiritual realm, this set has been priceless for me.

Here I am in the chair where I told God I would meet Him
every day until it was no longer a duty. He was preparing me
to be a mom in so many ways during that time as I think back
on those precious meetings. It wasn't parenting advice I
needed back then, it was just knowing He was my God!
I love that the "commendations" that come in the introductory pages are from the likes of John Newton who says about it "If I might read only one book beside the Bible, I would choose The Christian in Complete Armour. J.C. Ryle also gives his commendation and the third comes from Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

The books I read alongside my Bible have become fewer and fewer as the years go by. As a young believer it was easier to spend time in the Word when I had someone give me an idea of what they thought is said. As I continued I found that I really wanted to be in His word.  It was the summer and fall before I was pregnant with the triplets that I told God I would obey Him and asked that the feeling of "duty" through my obedience would go away. I wanted to find joy in spending time with Him.

When you ask something like that of God, He will not leave you disappointed. I will tell you that it was at least three months of following through with my plan to get up each morning and spend an hour with him, reading only my Bible and letting Him lead me. It was around the three-four month period of time when I realized that the Holy Spirit was teaching me not just with my friends at Bible study but also in my time alone with Him. It was one of those times I remember in my spiritual life as being a life changer.

The thing I love most about reading these classic writings is that as much as I feel at times that the world is spinning out of control, I am comforted that there is still nothing new under the sun.
"We are commanded not to be conformed to this world - that is, not to compromise ourselves with the corrupt customs of our day. The Christian must not be such a compliant tailor as to cut the coat of his profession according to popular fashion. Instead, he must stand fixed to his principles, openly showing he is a citizen of heaven by clothing himself in the garments of truth. It takes great courage to disregard the abasement you will surely meet for your nonconformity. Sadly, there are many who cannot stand the strain. Too often we have seen a self-tailored cloak of pride tossed hurriedly over the heavenly garment of imputed righteousness by one who fears the derision of men if he dares 'confess Christ openly' (John 7:13) How many lose heaven because they are ashamed to go there in a 'fool's' coat!" Page 31 Volume 1
"As you receive the Word, pay attention to the doctrinal part of the sermon as well as to its application. One is necessary to make you a solid Christian, and the other to make you a warm Christian" Page 29 Volume 2
"Sin is what broke your peace with God in the first place; so now let your peace with Him begin a war with sin that will never end. Surely you cannot forget the inestimable damage you have suffered because of it. In fact, every moment you enjoy God's sweet love should be the catalyst to keep revenge burning in your heart against that cursed enemy who separated you from Him for so long." Page 297 Volume 2
Nothing new and the same God is in control yesterday, today and forever!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Supper From the Garden

Well I can say that I am catching up with life again while the kids have gone off to their first two half days of school. Catching up means that I can go through the day thinking of things to blog and then realize the day has gotten away from me and I haven't made the time.  Oh well, it has been a productive two days!

Monday night was our traditional First Day of School Eve sushi night. So Tuesday I decided to throw together some lasagna to make the first day of school a little "upscale" since it is not very often that my children get to enjoy lasagna. Zachary has been the one who constantly reminds me as he is the resident "Garfield the Cat" lover. He will often ask "Mom, are we going to have anything Italian for supper tonight?"

Well, Tuesday the answer was YES! My plan was to make a regular lasangna for the five members of the family that eat gluten. Then I planned on making another full pan with gluten free noodles so Zach could eat that and I could freeze the rest in individual servings to have when people bring meals to us or I just don't have the energy to make an extra gluten free something for him.

Since chemo I have kinda been more lax with  my own gluten free rule because right now it is important for me to eat well and lets just say, whole grains are things that I sometimes crave. I have been keeping it in moderation and just two or three times a week. But with all of the zucchini around from the garden I was craving my own vegetable lasagna made with zucchini. The BEST thing about that is NOT ONE OTHER SINGLE PERSON in this house craves that too! Go figure!

So I put together a whole pan of zucchini lasagna and as I did with Zachary, I ate some for dinner and saved out one for lunch Wednesday and then froze the rest in individual servings. My problem is lunches. I don't really go out of my way when it is just me at home to make a regular kind of lunch for myself. It is usually granola bars or some kind of snacky thing if we don't have any leftovers from supper the night before. This way, now on occasion I will be able to heat up something good for me.

I picked a big bowl full of tomatoes from the garden Tuesday morning and worked on the sauce. The kids were home as it was going together and thankfully Mom had popped over right before the ortho appointment and she was able to get the rest of the sauce mixed up and cooking. So, what started on the vine in the form of tomatoes and zucchini was in our meal by days end.

What is pictured in the pot is what was leftover after I put together the lasagnas. That was packaged into two freezer bags for future spaghetti nights. Ryan complained "why do you get a whole lasagna to yourself?" When I answered him "because it is made out of zucchini instead of noodles" the look of horror on his face was priceless! He used to be my baby who ate everything when the triplets were little. Now the only thing that he eats that is green is broccoli. At least that is something! He was not at all interested when I told him I would share if it really meant that much to him!

I really LOVE this time of year!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

First Day of 8th, 8th, 8th, 5th and 2nd...Here We Go!

I am a little behind today getting the first day pictures out there...after dropping Matthew off I had an appointment downtown to get my bloodwork done for round one. Meanwhile, my treasures are out there starting their new school year!

Oh how I wish the excitement of the first day would accompany every morning throughout the school year! I will take what I can get this morning because it was exciting and fun to watch four of my kids walk into the middle school and then get a whole hour of time with Matthew before we walked slowly to school and got his year started too. The house is very quiet but in just a couple of hours I get to hear all of the excitement of the first day. Have I ever mentioned how much I love my job?

For all of you who are praying and keeping up with me, my week out appointment showed that things are going well after the first round of chemo. I get another week to strengthen up to do it again. For now, I am thankful for good white blood cell counts and platelets that are a little low but normal for now. I guess you could say I am the picture of "chemo" health!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Thankful for Traditions

Thankful to the organization "Aiming for a Cure" who blessed us with a Visa gift card to be used to help our kids find a little more "normal" through all of this cancer stuff. We used some of the money to continue our family tradition of sushi the night before school starts. The kids sacrificed and drank water instead of Japanese soda and are excited that we have plenty left over to shop for fall clothing!

We will be using the rest of the gift to update school clothing as we move into cooler weather. I can say that we feel especially blessed that there are people out there who are thinking of our children!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Bedtime Revelations

One of my nephews was here overnight Friday to spend the night and he and Ryan being older eighth graders were able to stay up and play some video games. It was past bedtime for the younger ones and so I was working on getting them to brush their teeth and get into their beds. Zachary has been letting Matthew sleep in the top bunk with him and I told them that for one more night they could do that. So, settled in on the top bunk, we were ready for the nightly routine.
Now bedtime for my kids has always been the time to talk about the the "big" stuff of life. (I know, we are one of those houses where bedtime can go a lot longer than planned). So, here we were, Friday night after a big week getting ready for school to start. Truth is, the "big" stuff of life the last couple of nights had been the whole concept of mom losing her hair and getting a wig.

I told them to hang on and went to grab the box I had gotten at the salon earlier that day. I figured as much as they wanted to talk about, we would. Matthew wanted to see it right away and Zachary's curiosity caused him to sit up and talk about what is in the box. The first question was "can we touch it"? Sure, they both did and the mom who has been a little worried about Zach's thoughts about the whole mom losing her hair thing was a little bit set at ease.

We left the conversation in a good spot as far as I could judge and moved into songs and prayers. I sang to Matthew and we prayed and then I went on to sing the song Zachary likes to hear before bed. I started singing his song and his eyes started to tear up and he was trying to keep himself from crying.

"Oh no...the wig was too much" I am thinking as I am finishing the last part of the song. He was sitting up by the time I was done. I finished and rubbed my hand along his arm and asked him if he was okay. I told him that he can say anything to me that he is feeling and that we will work through all of this strange new stuff.

That is when he said this between his tears "Mom...now that I am in middle school like three OTHER kids in this house...I don't know why I have to go to bed with Matthew!" In a few more words he put it out there...what was troubling his heart. Why were Ryan and Thomas downstairs playing video games while he was stuck going to bed with his little brother?

It took a little bit of time to talk this big life question out and move on to sleep, but he finally got that 5th grade and 8th grade were still three years apart and Matthew needs a bigger brother to go to sleep with him so that he isn't alone.

Zachary wasn't 100% convinced I am sure, but some of these kinds of conversations take a few nights to sort out!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Survival Files: I Have a Wig

The girls and I met my sister at the Jeffrey Scott Salon in Cedar Rapids. We didn't know what to expect. We brought our voucher from the group called Strands of Strength that is taking care of the cost of this endeavor. I will tell you something, I have been educated quickly through all of this about so many things!

There were a couple of women there getting their hair done and so we sat in the wig room and looked around, the girls and I wondering what was actually going to happen today. We were surprised at the expertise and how easy it was for him to measure my size and find a wig that was almost perfect to my color and cut.

As I had it on my head and he was explaining all of the ways I could wear it, my sister arrived. She was shocked at how natural it looked. We all were surprised. We saw how the wig is woven and that the material under the hair will show through whatever my natural scalp color is. These wigs look natural for any woman because our own skin color shows through the part.

If I wear it every day, he said bring it in for a washing once a month and every two months if I wear it less often. He also explained to me in great detail how to put it on and store it. It was actually kinda fun. Surprising to us, he boxed up the wig, we filled in the paperwork and we were on our way. It all happened so efficiently that we didn't have a chance to take any pictures. There will be more pictures once this becomes a regular part of my wardrobe I am sure.

As far as my week has gone? I can explain it quickly this way. I have felt since Tuesday that I am either coming down with something or getting over something. It is wonderful to report that I have not had to miss any of our planned events this week and I have had some down time to rest too. I have been taking my meds like I am supposed to and there are a few little things but overall, sleeping has been great. We are still staying up way too late rebelling against the fact that the summer is quickly drawing to a close.

Stay tuned, in upcoming weeks I can't wait to report on another "hair" adventure that has been developing this week!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Friday From the Heart: Sifted Through His Fingers

It was 1995 and we had just moved into our very first home from the apartment where we spent our first three married years. We were excited about being homeowners, excited about making it our own, and spiritually we were excited about what we were reading and learning in God's word that was new and true.

I signed up to have a Pampered Chef party not long after we had moved into our home. The woman who came was named Sandra and she was excited about more than Pampered Chef that night. Her women's Bible study group had just gotten back from a weekend trip to Chattanooga and the Precepts ministries campus. They had attended a weekend women's conference and heard Kay Arthur and other speakers and were very inspired.

She invited me to come to their new women's study starting in a couple weeks on "Spiritual Gifts". So I was wondering, is this something that we take a inventory test and find out where your spiritual gifts are? No...it wasn't. We would learn how to study God's word inductively and hear the Holy Spirit teaching us and leading. I had read a couple of books by Kay Arthur and knew that I wanted to study more.

Wow, that was very different than my understanding but I knew that if God's word was going to be studied, I would grow. I signed up and I started attending. The facilitator of our study was amazing the very first night. She was real! She shared what she was going through in her life. Slowly, surrounded by these ladies, I was getting a picture of what it is like to be a real Christian and not try to hide behind our shiny Sunday clothes, it was so real.

No one had ever told me that I can know God's word without a pastor or some leader telling me what it meant. For the first time the word was coming alive for me. I was trusting God to show me what His word said.

One of the studies I did back in 2001 with these precious ladies was in Philippians. Back then it took 16 weeks to get through the course and as much as I loved Philippians it was wonderful. So this summer when the group of ladies I study with here in Iowa wanted to do the study in Philippians over the summer, I was excited to do it again a little further along on my walk.

Precept ministries has revised it since then and we had a 9 week study this time. With my health this summer and missing a few of the videos and some of the homework, the study went too fast for me to keep up. Now that it is over I have spent the last week bringing my notes from a 16 week course and my notes from the 9 week course together so I can go through it all again in my own devotion time. I will finish the things I didn't get to thoroughly go through the first time this summer and back in 2001.

When I get through (re-watching the videos a friend has let me borrow) I want to get the whole thing bound so that I have a reference to always go to when I need a reminder of all of these gems that have been gleaned from the great book of rejoicing...Philippians!

I re-watched the first video this morning that was actually taped back in 1992. It was today I was reminded of one of the very first truths I didn't just learn, but have lived on my way. It was back in this video that was recorded in 1992 and I heard for the first time in 2001 where Kay Arthur said "every pain, every trial, every suffering, every circumstance of life is filtered through God's fingers of love - it could not come into your life if it did not have a purpose." 

Remembering that through so many things we have been through and watching God be true to that very fact and loving us through every moment, good and bad is my hope. He is the truth no matter what else is going on around me.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The New Middle Schooler

Summer is coming to a close. Tonight the 8th graders went to their open house and dropped off their school supplies and met some of their teachers. It always takes awhile because Stacey likes to go down every hallway and check in with most of her old teachers. There are no pictures of 8th graders at open house because they just don't do that anymore!

But there is a 5th grader who had an open house too! So I got some pictures. I dropped the 8th graders home and told Zach to grab his stuff. We were going up a little early to get a chance to try out his locker combination. It took a few trys and just a little frustration but after about the third time working hard to get the arrow on just the right tick.

Once he got it he did it over and over and over. I had to almost pull him away to remind him that we also were going to talk to his teachers. He LOVED working his locker. I was so thankful that his combination was an easy one for him to remember.

In the meeting Zachary got all of his questions answered about what time school started in the morning and that for the first week or more the teachers will bring them from one room to the other so they will know where they are supposed to go. He seemed very comfortable seeing each room and hearing a little bit about what they were going to be learning.

Then there were the things I learned that helped me to know what I need to help Zachary with the new transition and keeping track of homework and class responsibilities. I am thrilled the the locker worked well and that it actually is something he looks forward to. After meeting his teachers I feel like he is in good hands. After leaving and heading home I was comforted to know that this whole transition could very well be harder on me than it is on him!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Survival Files: Chemo Day 1

What a huge day this has been today! I don't know if I can get it all in one blog so I will touch the highlights and I am sure there will be more details in the days to follow for those who like the details. I figure I am learning a lot, might as well pass it on.

I slept surprisingly well last night. David and I talked about it and I think because I didn't want him to have to sit there for hours with me I told him he didn't have to come. He had been to all of the other appointments and he does have to work. I had planned to take my playlist (and then there are the podcasts I am behind on) with my headphones and just pass the time. I brought along some crochet and my "adult" coloring book with colored pencils in case I wanted something for my hands to do.

Mom came over last night and asked what the plan was for today. I had been reading my chemotherapy handbook and was a little overwhelmed at the time. To be honest, I didn't know anything about the process other than everyone is different...different than normal, different for each person, etc. I wrote a little about that in yesterday's blog. She said she didn't have to be anywhere today so if I wanted, she could go with me. The more I thought about it the more I liked that idea. 

She was over at the house a little before 8 this morning and we were off. Blood work was first and WOW! I have to say the port is AWESOME! Compared to all of the attempts to get blood from the veins in my left hand it was so nice! The nurse prepared the tubing and took two vials of blood and the butterfly needle just stayed in the port for the rest of it later. I kid you not...I did not feel a thing!

We talked for an hour or so with the education nurse and she answered pretty much EVERY question I had about what was going to happen to my body, and we covered it ALL! She was so professional but personal at the same time, treating us like people and understanding that there are a range of emotions in the whole experience. I won't go through all of the side effects, maybe I can address any that come up in the coming days.

Speaking of the obvious side affect I was a little bummed to hear that all three of the meds that I will get will cause hair loss. (Some only cause thinning) Surprising to me (and a little panicked) she told me that by two weeks or my next treatment I will probably already feel like shaving whatever is left. That was a little shorter time frame than I expected so I asked about the wig person that I was supposed to talk to at my last iron infusion. She said she would send her to me.

We then went back to the infusion room. I won't go step by step other than to say, they hooked the saline to the tubing that was already there from the blood draw (how totally cool to not have to deal with anymore "sticks") The meds started with two steroids to help control nausea. (the two chemo drugs are known to cause a lot of that) That took a little over a half hour. Then the first chemo drug has to be administered through a syringe over a 15 minute time period. The nurse came over with four large syringes and did that to watch for any immediate reactions. This drug can cause blisters on the skin if it leaks. All went well though and we were on to the next drug. Unlike a regular IV I was surprised how LITTLE I felt as these powerful drugs went in. The iron was awful through the smaller veins in my arm.

Then it was back to the drip in the IV bag which took another 30 minutes. The day after each of the first four rounds I will have to get a shot to help boost my white blood count. They gave me the option to wear a little device that will administer that over 45 minutes tomorrow. I have to be sure that when I hear the beep that I am not doing anything strenuous during that time. I took the option. It flashes a green light every five seconds so the boys thought that was pretty cool.

After that we were done and on our way. BUT...that is the "clinical" and "sterile" description of the day. I can not leave it at that because there were also many blessings and answered prayer today that so many of you have had a part in and I don't want to leave that out! The time went so fast mainly because on my first day there were a lot of people who came to see me. There is a nurse who has gone through breast cancer and chemo. Her chemo ended in December (she had super cute hair eight months out) and was a wealth of knowledge when making decisions about my soon to be bald head. We talked a long time about her kids and how it is when you are sick and you have to help your kids get through it. JUST what I needed!

The social worker stopped by and she brought a certificate for a free wig through the group Strands of Strength at two of our local salons. I was blown away by that and now have an appointment on Friday to try on and order a wig! The thing that almost got me teary was when she also gave me a Visa gift card from a group called "Faith Family Friends" out of Central City and the local group "Aiming for a Cure". She explained that their goal is to help children who have cancer or children who have a parent with cancer.

I can not explain the reaction from the girls when I told them. See, over the weekend in a discussion with the family one of the kids told us they knew that we would probably not be able to do our traditional sushi the night before school starts. Shoot...yea I thought...that stinks. Well, that discussion ended quickly because no one really wanted to ponder that. It was sad. But today I told them that we got this gift card and they nodded like that was good. Then I said "that is plenty and then some for sushi!" (and I have a coupon and we have points on our Oyama card) The girls both squealed and hugged me and I felt so excited that like we can keep some things semi-normal. Praise the Lord for taking care of my little people's hearts!

All in all when everyone had made there way in to talk to me about this new life I am temporarily leading, Mom and I sat just the two of us for all of 20 minutes of the whole thing. Not every time will be like this but now I feel like I know what I am doing and everyone knows me by name. Mom and I were talking this afternoon about how everyone there was so awesome! It is true, it takes a special person to come to work and be able to make an unpleasant experience tolerable for the people who are going through a very hard time in their lives. Every person there was so compassionate so those of you who have been praying for that THANK YOU! Prayers have been answered!

A little too lengthy today but I will leave you with some specific prayer requests for those of you who have made it this far.
  • Prayers for the kids as my hair falls out...especially Zachary. This is the rough issue for him. I am hoping the wig will help. We will be looking for something as close to what I have looked like in the past year or so.
  • Prayers to help my digestive system. I can already tell my intestines have now joined the "fight". I have been working naturally for the last couple months to build up the good fighting bacteria and will keep doing that.
  • Please pray that I can stay on top of the side effects. I don't want to hesitate to call the 24/7 phone number when I am worried or not sure of something that is going on. (I am kinda one of those people who doesn't want to cause anyone trouble so I will sometimes wait til it is unbearable. Today they said don't do that numerous times).
  • Please pray that the neoropathy (not sure about the spelling but neither is spell check) that sometimes comes with these drugs (especially the one I start in October) will skip me all together. I already have some of those symptoms without chemo. If they don't skip me then that they will only be temporary. (some people have struggled permanently with some of this after chemo is over)
  • Praise Praise Praise for my port!
  • Praise Praise Praise for the awesome blessing of a wig and the continuing of a treasured family tradition of sushi on "the first day of school eve"! God is SO good!
As I go to bed I realize that this may be the best I feel for the next few days. Just know that I am praising Him as I fall asleep for the GOOD that has come from this day and for all of you who have read down to the bottom and are praying for me! It is an inspiration to me knowing you and then hearing about all who are praying who I haven't even met in person. Thank you! There really are no words to describe how humbling it all is and the realization that God is orchestrating our lives in this very real way is so comforting.

I will end with a quote from my mom who in her quiet way inserts her wisdom every once in awhile, never meddling but always comforting. As she left last night to go back home after letting me know she would be happy to go with me today she said "well, you can't reach the end until you start." I would say that today was a pretty good start if that can even be said about chemo.

"For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end." Hebrews 3:14

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Survival Files: A Little Something More for My Pocket

August 16th has had a special meaning for me ever since 1988. Twenty-eight years ago today I was sitting waiting to speak to my college adviser for the first time.

Waiting outside her door with me was one of the many new people I met during orientation week. He said "My name is David Sloan". And that is where it all began.

So today already has a special meaning for me and I will go off to chemo for the first time this morning playing some Chicago from my playlist and smile.

Last week I received this treasure. A mini "pocket prayer shawl". I am not a huge believer in charms or tokens but I am very blessed by the hands that created this and prayed for me.

This will be with me today, the feel of filet crochet is sweet and the thoughts and prayers that come with me as I start this new and not so great adventure are humbling. Thank you all who are on this team with me. It is well with my soul.

I have brought along a few other things to keep my mind busy for the three and a half hours this morning. I have been reading up on some of the things to expect but really, I don't know.

We will see what I have to report in the days ahead. There is one thing I know, every regimen is different, every body is different. I am trusting that the Maker of this body is going to bring me through this with every step having high hopes that in another twenty-eight years I will be celebrating fifty-six years with my best friend!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Survival Files: A Pocket Full of Promises

This one started the tears...
There hasn't been much "from the heart" this week as I have been busy trying to catch up with the stuff around here that gets put aside while I am recovering from surgery. The "from the heart" moment this week came a little too late on Friday for me to post about it yesterday.

Dawn did a thorough job cleaning her room yesterday and what do you know? She found a Hobby Lobby gift card! We got online to see if she could find out how much was on it but it didn't recognize the number. So, off we went to Hobby Lobby!

In the busy-ness of the week I have pretty much been ignoring that next Tuesday I start chemo. It has been nice. I still know that the day is coming in the background of everything else. I always get a sinking feeling as we get closer to the start of a new school year. I miss the kids when they go back. It is a quiet house.

This year, there is just a little extra added on top of all of that. So, I shouldn't have been surprised that I found myself in the Hobby Lobby framed art aisles tearing up as I was surrounded with encouragement that I didn't even realize I needed. It was fun to take an outing with Dawn. She found out that she had $10 on the card! What a treasure to find in a clean room. (I will remind her of that when she doesn't want to clean her room next time)!

We realized that we were needing to shop for different things and so we split up for a bit. I found the fabric and the velcro that I needed pretty quick (I may post about this new project when it is done) and so that is what led me to the framed art area where I found that they were 50% off. I wish there was one that I loved best but there wasn't any way I could choose, so instead of choosing one I took pictures so that I can look at them a little longer.

Somewhere in my "window shopping" I realized that with all of this encouraging artwork on my phone camera, I can pull them out and look at them whenever I need them in the next four and a half months. I got a little more teary then and kept snapping pictures of anything that I knew would encourage me later down the road.

Meanwhile, Dawn came back and with her three treasures and we figured out how the 40% off of one regular priced item would affect the total cost. She had her gift card and two dollars in her purse she said. She was pretty sure she knew that she was ready to go but it takes forever to get to the register at Hobby Lobby with so much to see along the way! In fact, she put two of her things down and picked up something new and then ended up at a kiosk with necklaces. She picked up a pocket watch that was on a necklace chain and it was time for the big decision.

She ended up deciding on the watch necklace and keeping some of her money. She was pretty happy with her unique purchase.
It is the perfect thing for her. We got done there and
went to Menards to pick up some tools for my "green thumb girl". I will have to report on that when she gets all of her new plants potted and growing.

We both needed a little time out of the house. Dawn got home with just a little over a dollar on her gift card so she didn't even spend it all! That made her excited. It is fun to find a treasure and have a little money left over. She was happy and so was I with a pocket full of promises to take with me on my phone.

God is good to keep me in His grace with reminders all around that He is here and He knows my heart. I love spending these moments with my kids too. It helps me to keep tabs on how they are processing all of this. We take it day by day and some are better than others. This was one of the good ones!