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Monday, January 30, 2017

Just a Little Compliment

Oh  there is so much to post! I am recovering today from an amazing weekend filled with amazing people. BUT...I am not going to post about that yet today. I didn't take a single picture although many were there taking them all over. I promise to share all the things that fill my heart following the benefit in the next few days.

Today, however...I want to talk GREAT things about the PaperMate pen company. I had to do some research when I tried to find out who to send a letter to. Do people even do that anymore? I had some things to thank them for and I knew it would be nice when most people only take time to share their grievences.

I praised them highly on their relatively new "InkJoy" pens. I used a couple to write out Christmas cards and in my journal. Having neuopathy and pain in my fingers, having a pen that writes smoothly that needs very little pressure was a good thing for me.

Guess what showed up in my mailbox today? A pack of PaperMate InkJoy gel pens! I will be writing effortlessly and smooth for a long time!

My lesson from this is, if there is something that you really appreciate, make sure you share your good report. I am sure companies receive many more complaints from people about a product than they do compliments. I really was thankful that I didn't have to push very hard to get the ink to flow out. Sometimes it is the little things that make life just a bit easier. Make sure those people who provide the tools are aware. We should spread more compliments.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Today is the Day!

See this girl here? She came over and hung out with me on HER birthday helping get some things ready for the silent auction at today's benefit. I am so excited to see and chat with people today! She and some of the other awesome people in my life have been working hard in the last few weeks to put together a benefit for us.

After the "business" was done of putting together some scrapbooking tool auctions she took me to lunch. Michelle is one of my longest (or we could say oldest) friends. We were besties in high school and I have been even more blessed through the years to get to meet once a month or every six weeks for dinner or lunch and shopping. She checks in regularly through this trial and makes sure that I have what I need in physical ways and emotionally too. She is a faithful friend.

It was a day back in late October or early November when talk of this benefit started. I was at lunch with another dear friend Angie who had challenged me after she asked how I was. She didn't settle for my answer "fine", she probed a little more in the way she does sometimes and asked "Don't say you are fine if you are not fine!" I had just gotten over being sick and in the hospital. Money was my main downer but we just don't talk about finances and money problems. Angie asked if we could use a benefit.

On the way home from that meeting I got a call from Michelle. She was in Detroit during a rain delay at the ball game. She too told me that I shouldn't say fine if I am not fine. Sheesh,,,what was in my voice today that my friends were hearing? All I knew was that I have some very wonderful people in my life. Even though I was feeling a bit embarrassed for talking so openly about money troubles, I knew that I was talking to people who loved me and really cared.

I have been feeling bad because I haven't been blogging as much these past couple of weeks. I have been getting ready for the benefit. (oh, and radiation started this week too...that is for another day) With a sewing room full of fabric I had decided last year to see how many projects I could make with what I already have. The three quilts I finished for the benefit were all made from what I already had in the sewing room.

I usually have a small snipping scissors next to my sewing machine to take care of the seams as I sew. I took a picture that shows what are part of my supplies now. I have a tweezers, ripper, small screw driver and a few other things. I didn't think about how different it would be to sew with bad fingernails and neurapathy. I am thankful for the tools that are available to help me. I have had to slow down the process, but at least I can still sew.

I would love to see you at the benefit this afternoon! There are a lot of things to see and I would love to be able chat and to hug and thank you all for the prayers and support through the last six months. Near or far, you all have meant so much to me through this all.

"Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light"  -Helen Keller

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

I Don't Feel Any Different Today

I had such a great blog post in my head sitting in the waiting room waiting to be called back to the radiation room. But now, sitting here at the computer I got nothing.

Going about my days in the next couple of weeks, I will be subconsciously wondering when I will start "feeling" like I have been going to radiation. It is a strange thing. There is a lot to do to get ready and make sure that the radiation is going to the right place and not the wrong places but it really feels like nothing happened except for the noise and the bright red light. It might take all of five minutes to actually zap me.

At wrestling practice tonight I looked down at my arm and saw this...it wasn't exactly this because this is the picture I took when I got into the van after yesterday's visit. But tonight, the very same indention took the same long amount of time to go away. This is from the mold that they made and where my arms go it is wrinkly so it leaves these fun patterns on both of my arms.

There was a little bit of emotion today on my way to the clinic. It was a heaviness and felt like the weight of all the things we have lived since June 16, 2013. I am kind of tired, a little weary and ready to be done AGAIN. It started when I thought "man, I am going to be driving this road ever single day!" I haven't had that kind of moment for awhile and I sure am glad that they don't come often but when I was laying there wondering what those beams of radiation were hitting and what they were going to do in there, I told God how big He is, how holy He is, how amazing it is this life that He has given me, and it is amazing every single day.

I know that He will make this path straight.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Physical Therapy and Radiation Practice

Today I started at the physical therapist. I found out from her that in October they started requiring lymph node patients to see the therapist to learn more about care for the affected arm. I think back in July or August I wrote a little about how little I was told about my right arm after 24 lymph nodes were removed. I was happy to hear that they have changed protocol for people now and happy that I was able to learn ways to get rid of my fluid retention. I will be happy to get off of these water pills! They seem to be doing the trick. I had gained 15 pounds in three weeks and now I am back down eight so at least we are going in the right direction!

She showed me a massage technique that I can do to stimulate the lymph nodes that are there and then get the fluid moving out of my arm and hand. I was fit for a sleeve and glove which will help when I feel that it is building up. I feel good about that. If I have something I feel like I can do I always feel better than if I feel like I am relying on my doctor and really know nothing myself how to handle something that looks like could be a part of my new life.

At noon I made my way to radiation and it went well. There was no actual radiation today. They got me situated and ran the machine like they would just without the radiation. They were taking measurements and making sure that places that were not supposed to be radiated were out of the way. It wasn't too bad. Much more clinical than the infusion room, but much faster getting in and out.

I am okay with the plan. I feel like I am in good hands. It was a little overwhelming to have my actual schedule in my hand and see all the days ahead of me on a colorful little chart. As Zachary said "that's a lot of days".

The first thing I do when they take me back is put on my lovely pink gown from the waist up. You can see the drawer all full and ready with clean gowns for all us ladies.

After that I lock up my belongings and am taken back to the radiation room. There is a super thick door that looked like it may need two people to open and close. The technician today showed me my pictures on their screen and explained how they will be sitting here. Next, I was escorted in and saw the huge machine. I got up onto the table where my mold was and I still fit nicely in all of the grooves and folds.

Today the machine did everything it will regularly do except it didn't give me any radiation. We are going to save that until tomorrow. Yippie. All in all I got a pretty good picture of what to expect and got introduced to the technicians who were very nice although more clinical than warm and friendly.

Along with the tattoos they gave me last week, a permanent marker with a very sticky plastic-y circle over it so it doesn't go away. (I am glad they use permanent marker instead of tattooing that on too!) They okayed everything as "good to go" for starting tomorrow so it will begin.

I appreciate all of you who are still praying us through this. I feel especially blessed by the people who God has put in my life. There is a lot of talk about people needing "safe spaces" lately and I won't go into my thoughts on that here because I am so thankful to have people in my life who truly are my safe space in this world. When the day starts to be too much for me to handle and I have given it all to God, He reaches out to me through the people who love me all around. It is amazing to be a part of it.

So, if you are looking for specific prayer requests, we have a few:

  • Protection of my heart and lungs throughout the six weeks of radiation ahead.
  • Ease in getting used to this new schedule of everyday trips to PCI.
  • The benefit which is coming up on Saturday...more about that in the next couple of days.
  • Answers for Stacey's muscle issues in her right calf. Her tests were rescheduled for Feb. 2nd because we had to be out of town for Grandma's funeral last week.
  • Continued prayers for the kids to feel comfortable asking questions.
  • Praise that the boys and I baked a cake tonight, just for fun because everyday can be a celebration!
That is a few for now. Thank you for following my story...I feel like my brain has been mush these last couple of months but still so many of you read and write me encouraging notes and cards. So THANK YOU!

"And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee." - Psalm 9:10

Thursday, January 19, 2017

25 Years Ago Today...

because life isn't all about cancer...
It is late January 19, 1992. I am the happiest woman in the entire world tonight. I am getting married to the most wonderful man. He knows exactly what I need and possesses the power to blind me. It was noon today when he dropped me off - he told me that he didn't want to stay on campus for dinner. I was excited because I NEVER want to! I went back to my dorm, he told me that he would call me. I cleaned my dorm for a couple of hours and got tired so I took a nap. Setting my alarm for 5:00 p.m., I figured that he would probably call before then. Well, my alarm went off at 5:00 p.m. waking me up from my nap. No phone call.

I was starving so I thought I would go and call him to see if he was ready to come get me. The guy in his dorm who answered the phone said that he wasn't there. HOW DARE HE! I thought - I am hungry...where is he? I was a little upset so I got my fingernail polish remover to pass the time. Kelli, Sheleen, Loretta, and Edna were all in the study listening to me carry on about how I was hungry and David wasn't even home! "He'll probably call right in the middle of painting my nails and I'll have to stick my coat on and mess them all up!" I told all the ladies in the study. Lo and behold, as I was taking the polish off the second hand, the phone rang. Kelli answered it and informed me that it was David. "What did I tell you?" I replied as I walked out the door. He told me that he would swing by and pick me up in ten minutes. So I went back and informed everyone that I would not be finishing the nail polishing.

Ten minutes passed. I grabbed my coat and purse and headed out the door. There was my man - standing in the doorway with roses!! I swallowed a couple of times...the note said "Thanks for putting up with my inconsiderate nature." What was I supposed to say to that? He brought roses! The worst part was going back into the study to find a vase to put them in - in front of the girls I was just complaining to about him! I felt really stupid! See, I'd been sick for a week, and he had forgotten to bring me breakfast once. We got into an argument about it. But today...he brought roses - SWEET! At that time, my roommates knew what was going to happen before I returned that night, but love is blind, as blind as I was that night.

After taking care of the flowers, we were on our way. He told me we were going to go to Tyler for dinner since we always go to Longview he thought we could do something different. (It didn't hit me that THAT was strange?) We talked all the way there about some silly things I had told my dad on the phone Friday night. I had warned him that David may be calling to ask for my hand in marriage any day now and he should tell him some wise things. We decided that David should call Dad tonight so that I won't have to keep guessing, then he would be ready to ask me anytime! 

We stopped at Bennigans. I didn't even question in my head that this is a little more than we normally spend for dinner on a regular Sunday evening. He mentioned at the meal that he will be kind of nervous to talk to my dad and I smiled, it was kinda funny (I bet David thought so too since he had already called Dad on the phone Friday night coincidentally minutes after I had talked to my dad!)

David had smothered steak and I ate Teriyaki chicken. Then, I had Death by Chocolate, and it was HUGE! I slowly finished and David asked me as if I thought it would be a good night for us to go to the park. There are swings there and I love to swing. (ding ding ding! I am the one who always wants to go and swing at the park and he is never too big on it...I can't believe I didn't see it! Of course I thought that would be a good idea! It was a rather cool evening but not cold so it would probably be nice.

We stopped by campus on the way since I had had six glasses of iced tea with dinner! He told me on the way to Gladewater Lake that I didn't know what I was getting myself into. I told him he could try to talk me out of it but I was pretty sure I could handle being married to him. When we got to the swings there were puddles of water under them and it really wasn't that much fun. I told David that it was already a big night for me after just being sick. He asked me if I wanted to go for a walk. Okay, a small one. We ended up down by the lake and the moon was shining almost full so it was pretty bright.

He asked me a few times if I thought I really knew what I was getting into. Then, being me, and being a little sick still and being tired, I told him to stop it, I didn't want to talk about it...it was actually getting a little annoying! I the middle of me getting riled up...there he was before I could think, on his knee, in the sand "Jody, will you marry me?" For some reason it was a huge surprise and my brain just stopped processing...I stood there in shock long enough for David to say "Well, are you going to answer?" It was then that I reminded myself that I have to try to form a word and I did four times...YES! YES! YES! YES!

We walked back to the car, and made our way back to campus. We called my parents and laughed about our Friday conversation. We called David's parents too. It was then that David dropped me off at my dorm for the night. My brother Jeremy was at my dorm playing cards with Loretta and Sheleen. They informed Jeremy of what was happening and so he knew before I could tell him. 

Love is a wonderful thing. As blind as it is, it is wonderful. It can take a woman's mind off of the number one concern of the entire last year (getting engaged) and on the night when it matters most, pull the wool over her eyes. You know you have found Mr. Right when he has the ability to completely shock you! Love needs to be blind...sometimes!

Monday, January 16, 2017


This morning through ice and rain I went to my appointment with the radiology team. It is not as warm and fuzzy there was my feeling after leaving Thursday morning after the consult. Today we did the simulation. I wasn't sure what to expect when I got there. They had said something about a mold and a scan. It was better this morning and I talked to a couple of the people I will see every day and feel better about it.

Here is my mold. I changed into a gown and came to this room. Today they marked the area and did a CT scan to get an idea of where the radiation will go. You can see in the mold where my head was. They fill this mold with air and then press all over so that it forms to my upper body. Once the air stops it holds its shape and they keep it for me each time I come in. It helps to put me in the same place each time I get positioned for radiation.

She put a bunch of stickers on me and a few Sharpie dots. The doctor came in to see if it was where he wanted it and then she did the scan. They take the information and make the treatment plan for me. They will send the plan into insurance to make sure they will cover it and then we will start treatment. As of now I am scheduled for next Monday the 23rd to start.

To complete my visit, I received five tiny permanent tattoos so they can see them each time and radiate the proper areas that are on my treatment plan.  You can see one of my lovely tattoos here...it is the little dot under the marker line. One is actually right at the top of my scar which goes above some of the necklines of v-neck shirts. So, maybe I will have a tattoo that I can show off after all! 

So, now I know a little more of what to expect. It was during the scan when I was moving in and out of the machine that I remembered my thyroid. I haven't reported much on that the last few months but I have started choking on saliva every so often and having trouble swallowing. "There is more after all of this" went through my head. Then, I started thinking about that and found myself getting a little fretful. I don't like to feel fretful and right at that moment, the hymn "Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken" which was a hymn in our church hymnal growing up came into my head. Don't ask me why except that I can say I have a great and loving God who loves to help me in my fretfulness, but every time I am laying on a table and moving in and out of a machine I have found this hymn in my head. "With salvation's walls surrounded, thou may'st smile at all thy foes". My foe right now is this cancer that has come back but I can smile, I can do what God has put before me because salvation's walls surround me. I know that my future belongs to Him. It is very comforting to have that reminder in the fretful moments.

It started when Zachary was little and I had an MRI of my head to see if there were any visible reasons I was suffering headaches. That was a fully covered machine and I was in it about 20 minutes. (Have I ever mentioned that I am a little claustrophobic?) That is when this hymn first came into my head. I love the words and how they minister to me. I didn't go in thinking this morning that I was about to get into this machine, didn't think twice about it. I have had a few more CT's PET scans and every time it is Glorious Things...in my head. 

A little funny thing to share about this great hymn is from back when I was in high school taking the ACT. You know the dreaded vocabulary section? Yes, the question was "what is the meaing" or "pick the best meaning for the word ASSUAGE". Oh man! I couldn't have picked it out of the A,B,C,D choices. BUT, I remembered "wait, assuage is in a hymn". After remembering it was Glorious Things of Thee are Spoken, I made my way through the verse and put it in the context of the line of lyric and easily found the right definition! I haven't forgotten what it means!

This song is in my top three list of hymns, probably number two after "Crown Him With Many Crowns" or three after "Holy, Holy, Holy" it is hard to say. The next time I have a scan of any kind I may just set my phone on repeat and listen to it all the way to the doctor!

Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God;
He whose word cannot be broken
Formed thee for his own abode:
On the Rock of Ages founded,
What can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation's walls surrounded,
Thou may'st smile at all thy foes.

See the streams of living waters,
Springing from eternal love,
Well supply thy sons and daughters,
And all fear of want remove;
Who can faint, while such a river
Ever flows their thirst t'assuage?
Grace which, like the Lord, the giver,
Never fails from age to age.

Round each habitation hov'ring,
See the cloud and fire appear
For a glory and a cov'ring,
Showing that the Lord is near:
Thus deriving from their banner
Light by night and shade by day,
Safe they feed upon the manna
Which he gives them when they pray.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Grandma Bushlack

This afternoon we got the call we were expecting now for the last few weeks but not really ready for. My mom and dad were up in Minnesota with my Grandma. She has passed away. I can't say that she has had the best life these last few years. Dementia had left her fearful, angry and not sure of very many things in her life. I wrote some about that when the girls and I went to visit her last summer.

I was finishing up a quilt that I am sewing when Dad called. It wasn't long after that when I came upstairs to get supper ready. I had put a roast in the crock pot so I pulled it out and Dawn helped me get the potatoes and carrots out while I made gravy. I never make gravy, especially when it is just our family eating. I always just tell the kids "pour some of the juice over it". I was about half way through waiting for the gravy to thicken when I remembered "Grandma always had gravy".

There are many things that I remember when I think about my Grandma. I have pulled out a few pictures that are some of my favorites...
This is when we first met. I was born in Biloxi, MS and
Mom and Dad had come home to visit.

I smile when I think about when Grandma and Grandpa came to visit us in Georgia. Of course we had to take them to the best fish house in Georgia!

This will always be the favorite picture I took of my grandparents...

Grandma drove down to Georgia with Mom and Dad the weekend that the triplets were born in September of 2002. I remember well when they arrived in the hospital room the day we were going to be discharged. Grandma with her trusty Polaroid camera came cocked and ready to start snapping pictures.

I was in the process of trying to get Ryan to nurse with the lactation consultant and Grandma was all over snapping shots at every angle. I have never seen those pictures but it makes me giggle every time I think of it now. She was so excited to be able to help. There was always something to do with the babies but when they were quiet Grandma was busy in the kitchen getting a meal put together or cleaning up after one.

We ended up eventually back in Iowa and the kids have some great memories of when Great Grandma came to visit. She always had a kid or two in her lap!

One winter she was here during a power outage at our house. We were hanging out over at Mom and Dad's where she was staying during her Iowa visit.

These pictures of Grandma with Dawn will always be special to me. Dawn has always had a little something special with Great Grandma.

She always wanted to sit on her lap or be close when she would visit. This is one of the afternoons when we were at Mom and Dad's. Grandma liked to tickle and as you can see, Dawn has those times to remember. The last picture that Dawn took with Grandma was just a couple weeks ago after Christmas on December 27th. Dad was going up to visit because Grandma took a turn for the worst. Dawn asked me if she could go and I knew that Dad would love her company and that it would do Dawn's heart good too. I knew that Dawn would represent our family and she did, holding Grandma's hand and singing to her.

Matthew hasn't gotten to know Great Grandma as well since she was already in the nursing home and not remembering as well when he came around. It was the annual Christmas party and I had a three-month-old (and four others under eight). I remember it being a struggle to get things together to attend.

I am so glad that we did. As soon as we walked in I went over to give Grandma a hug. She wanted to hold Matthew right away. I remember how much she loved holding him. It was a special memory I will never forget because in the craziness of getting everyone ready and down the road, the visit with Grandma made it all worthwhile.

I will close with the last picture I have with Grandma. I rode along with Mom and Dad on a trip to Minnesota. We stopped in at the nursing home to visit with Grandma. She wasn't having the best of days. Eventually though, we were able to sit and talk and I remember it as the last time we had a conversation where I am sure that she knew she was talking to me. It was three and a half weeks after my double mastectomy in August of 2013.

She was a breast cancer survivor too and we talked about that as we sat. As you can tell, we shared other topics that were not so serious. It was fun making Grandma smile or laugh. Dad was good at that and I would like to think that I was too. I think that I have been missing Grandma already these past years since then. It was hard when we visited the last time last summer and we couldn't really talk or share life. Grandma lived a long life and I am glad. She has missed Grandpa every day since he has gone. I am thankful for a grandma who has left me with so many fond memories and I pray that like her I can be a survivor who lives til I am at least 96!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Still Here...

This week was full. There were appointments, housework and boys basketball started this week with an away game in Independence. I had made a list of dinners for the week and the grocery shopping. We have been very thankful for meals this fall and into winter from so many great friends. This weeks schedule was empty so I planned meals accordingly.

Tuesday morning I got a text asking what time I would like supper? It is funny what happens to me when I know supper is taken care of. Whether it is someone bringing it, or putting something in the Crock Pot (which is the case today!) I was sitting in the living room looking around at the mess on top of the Christmas decorations. The beauty of the Christmas season seams to have worn off with dirty socks, coats, shirts, gym shorts, any number of things that I found in the living room.

With supper coming I decided to tackle the Christmas tree and move a few pieces of furniture (the ones I could easily slide) to new places. I got the decorations in their tubs and downstairs and then I put in a movie while I took ornaments off the tree. I was able to get the ornaments put away in their tubs and downstairs. That is when I looked at the tree, looked at the rest of the living room and decided to push the tree out of the way and have the other people in the house take that down.

So for the rest of the afternoon, the living area of our house looked pretty good. It was time for me to rest. So I did.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


So, my aunt blogged about me today.

I haven't been blogging much this past week because I will be honest, chemo is still controlling what I can and can't do. The neuopathy has gotten so bad I can't feel the tips of my fingers at all and for every word I type I have to delete about two because my breakneck speed typing is not so breakneck and about half as accurate. I actually upped my meds for that yesterday and will up them again on Friday since I am allowed to add two more at three-day intervals. That along with the dreary rainy days is what I suspect is making me blue this week. On a happier note, I am not at chemo today and I am crocheting a lot more loosely so maybe a hat pattern will actually fit me when it is done!

All of that is overwhelming but I have to say, reading Jo's blog turned me into a puddle on the floor. I couldn't even send her a text to tell her how much I appreciated all of her kindness and her words of encouragement. I didn't know what to say. Not to mention her blog readers who have always been so gracious to her and now me with their words of encouragement and their donations on our GoFundMe page. I don't have to tell them why Jo is so great! One thing I did notice on her blog was a lack of vintage pictures. But have no fear...I know where to find some!

Here we are in the dining room of my grandparents house. We both are carrying our matching dolls on the far left of the picture. My three uncles are there too with Mom and my brother. I would say this may be circa 1972. I have blogged about Jo before back when it was her 50th birthday celebration over a year ago now. We have come along way.

Riding one the hay wagon. Me, my brother and Jo
(my uncle Jay is driving and uncle Jim is on top
in the wagon)
I don't think that I have ever really said out loud how much Jo has been a constant in my life. I can tell stories for hours about us and the adventures we were into growing up. She let me tag along to so many things with her as she grew older and it occurred to me recently as I am looking through old pictures that we really have no pictures to show for it. It was long before the days of selfies and when we took pictures you sent them away in hopes that there would be one or two good ones that came back from the 24 exposure.

So you could say the pictures I do find of us are pretty special. Back in those days I wanted to be just like Jo. Through her teen years I wished that I could be less serious and more fun like she seemed to be from my younger vantage point. (I am a firstborn of five, she is a fifth born of five. I think I envied her lack of overlythinking "firstborness") After we had moved from the farm, we would come for a visit and she and I would stay awake talking in bed until one of us would fall asleep. It was usually her.

During my teen years, there were some tumultuous times and she was there. During my college years being her early marriage and motherhood years she and my mom's relationship strengthened since they had more in common. I was away in college and then married a southern boy so just by reason of geography we didn't see each other much. I missed her a lot during that time.

Moving back to Iowa and me being in the throws of early motherhood it was great to be around my mom and aunt too. Now we live about 2 hours apart and I am thrilled that my kids know and love "Auntie Jo Gracie" not just because we are related but because they have shared life experience. Jo's kids and my kids are quite different in age since I was married ten years before mine came on the scene, but every one of her five have shown their love to each of mine and they have fond memories of time with Jo, Uncle Roger and the whole family.

I am overwhelmed by all of this because Jo started out as "larger than life" to me. How could she not? She was bigger, she knew so much more, like one day while we were playing dolls under the big tree, she told me how babies are born - I had to confirm with my mom later because in my young mind that didn't make any sense at all!) I just remember having that huge sense of "WOW" when I was with her.

Since the younger years I have experienced EVERY. SINGLE. EMOTION in her presence and she has continued to be there. As the years have gone by, I know that she is not some kind of superhero. She would be the first to tell you that as well. As we have both gone through a rough 2016 with cancer and a few other side health issues, our goal has become to grow old. Something very important she has taught me is that when life is tough you hold on to those people who "get" you!

Monday, January 9, 2017

So Many Books, So Little Time!

Many more people than I remember on social media are talking about the books they are reading for the new year. I am not one to usually make these kind of announcements because then somewhere I feel accountable to someone, or everyone who sees my list.

I have already finished two books this year (it stinks to not be able to knit or crochet right now but it is helping my reading goals tremendously!) and because of this "week and a half into the year" confidence I thought I would pull out some of the books that have been in my pile for awhile. Actually, eight of these books I have already started. I usually have multiple books started which makes it hard to finish them in a timely manner.

But, here they are, my book list for the first part of the year anyway. I can't add my Nook books in the picture but I am currently reading "The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case", "Franklin Pierce" and "Slouching Toward Gomorrah". I will be reading a biography of James Buchanan before I dig into the "Team of Rivals" because I read the presidents in order. I will probably read a few on Lincoln before I go on to Johnson  because there are so many good ones to choose from. I didn't include my "Life After Breast Cancer Book" either in the picture but who wants to ruin a good pile of books by including that one! I should be done with that one in a week or so anyway.

So, there it is. No pressure, just working my way through.

(Oh...and guess who is NOT going to chemo tomorrow?) Yeah...me.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Friday From the Heart: Remembering the Dating Days

This Friday from the heart isn't so much the deep thoughts and feelings I am experiencing but a different kind of post...still from my heart.

When we gave the kids their Christmas ornaments and did our drawing for Christmas Eve gifts, I once again picked my husband's name instead of one of the kids. I drew his name last year too. The purpose of the Christmas Eve gift is to give something you have paid for or made yourself that is special for the relationship you have with that person. At least that is how it started out when we first made it a family tradition.

I was struggling with what to do for David. I love him and have loved him so long I don't remember not loving him. Thankfully, I came up with the idea of going back in my mind to our dating days. Would it be too corney after all of these years to channel my "first love" days? I was willing to chance it.

I love to create so when I decided to really try and come up with something from the heart for my husband in the middle of chemo treatments and all of the other ordinary things we do in our life after being together for years, it took me a bit to get the creative juices flowing.

It popped into my head one morning "you're a candle in the window on a cold, dark winter's night". These words from the song by REO Speedwagon called "I Can't Fight This Feeling". David once told me that is the song that reminds him of me.

David has been that candle in the window through these years, I can't tell you how much it means to have a man that will step up and step in and do the hard things. Especially when I am not always very nice to be around. So yes, when things seem dark like a winter's night, I have a lifeline...that candle in the window.

Armed with those thoughts, I went down to my sewing room and pulled out some felt and scrap fabric. I found a picture frame that wasn't being used and started the plan. A simple candle and a little free motion writing (which I am not great at yet but maybe just good enough) I came up with this with inspiration from the days we were dating.

I smiled this morning when I went into David's office to print something and saw it sitting up on the shelf. Just a little reminder of what he means to me.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

I Have a Dream

I got on Pinterest tonight to try to find a couple of knitting/crochet patterns that I had already printed but misplaced between the printing and today when I wanted to start the project. I got sidetracked.

It was probably because when I got ready to get out the door this morning I was curious about  the fuzzy hair that is growing slowly out of my head. Digging for a fine tooth comb I can report that this morning I combed MY hair. It is very uneven and very fuzzy and not very attractive but I look a little less like Darth Vader without his helmet!

The funny thing about my Pinterest rabbit trail is that when I looked at my "Hair" board there weren't any of these styles. Back before chemo these would be too short for me. Today though, I was drawn in to finding a few that I can make as my goal! Interesting how our perspectives change with a little life experience.

Wouldn't it be great if I made it to one of these styles and loved it so much that I stayed there? My style before was a little bit longer because I was never "brave" enough to try anything shorter even though I knew it would grow back.

Now that I have been "brave" enough to have my head shaved, it doesn't seem so brave to go for a short hair cut. In fact...now I dream of one!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Bell Has Been Rung - LAST CHEMO REPORT!

ZERO...big FAT ZERO is how many more chemo treatments I have. Whew! What a mix of emotions as I arrived with Mom, Stacey, Dawn and my niece Kylee. What a sweet morning. Let me tell you why with a short little backstory. Back when I was going in for daily antibiotics, I passed a man pushing an older lady in a wheel chair. I looked down at the face of the woman and had instant recognition. At least I thought I saw someone who looked familiar. As we walked out of the oncology office I turned to Mom and said, "I think I just saw Mrs. Jurgens"

Now, Mrs. Sharon Jurgens was my third grade teacher. I had seen her a few times since then but have to say she is a special lady in our family. She taught every one of the Bushlack kids as they each passed through the third grade at Emerson Elementary school in Marion. So there's the backstory...this morning who do you think walked into the office while I was starting to get a little impatient about having to wait so long to get back and get going? Mrs. Jurgens and her husband.

I sat a few minutes before I looked over at them but again, I recognized her right away. Sitting there I know that I was going to try to go over to her and introduce myself, but she was working with her husband on filling out papers and I didn't want to interrupt. I sat waiting. Then Mom caught my eye and mouthed the works "that is Mrs. Jurgens" I said "I KNOW!" She mouthed "you have to go talk to her!" but I didn't want to interrupt. Sure enough, there seemed to be a little break and so I walked over and sat beside her, put my hand on her arm and said "are you Sharon Jurgens?" For a moment she was a little confused but she nodded and I told her I was Jody Bushlack. Right away she looked over at Mom and recognized her right away.

We probably chatted between 5-10 minutes before it was my turn to go back. She has fought cancer three times now since 2010. We talked about teaching and it was ironic that she said "do you know they don't even want to teach cursive writing anymore?" I smile now when I think about that. She taught me cursive and I remember thinking as she would do her examples on the board how beautiful her cursive letters were. I had a good teacher that year and can remember a lot about that classroom...the first one on the right when you come in the front door at Emerson Elementary.

Okay, that was a little long but it was something pretty special to be able to tell your 3rd grade teacher that you are praying for her and hope that this is the last time she will have to fight this awful disease. We did make it back to the infusion room. There was a room on the end that was open so we took a private room for the first time. There was a couch and coffee table all set up for the "colorers" and the card players.

I was more tired than normal as the infusion started. The girls stayed busy the whole time between Stacey's bag of goodies and my own. They colored in the color books for awhile and then played a VERY spirited game of Sushi GO! I could hear the voices as I dozed. It made my heart smile even though my eyes were having trouble focusing or staying open. Very uneventful time during infusion which makes me happy. I was up and to the bathroom before I knew it (I am still taking the water pills to try to reduce the puffiness a little faster)

Reading the verse out loud

Ringing the Bell! Good-bye to chemo

The nurses gathered around the bell, my loved ones gathered there with phones/cameras and I read the plaque out loud that said:
"Progress against adversity is not measured by leaps and bounds. It is the small steps forward that ring the bell against misfortune as you pass each hurdle in your journey to wellness. Ring this bell to celebrate your accomplishment."

You can also bet that I was praising and thanking the God who has carried me through this and continues to do so. I choked up a little. I couldn't help it, even on anti-depressants! We all hugged and said our good-byes. I think I mentioned in my Friday post that I will definitely miss these ladies. They have a special calling and do so much to make the whole experience just a little better.

So, how do I feel? My legs will be like noodles today and tomorrow and I will have an awful taste in my mouth until Friday. I will not be able to fall asleep tonight easily and on Friday and Saturday I will have bone pain in my legs, joints and neck. I will have occasional nose bleeds and my fingers will continue to be a little numb and my nails will keep pulling away from the nail bed until the yucky chemo grows out and I cut it off with my nail clippers.

THIS week that is...but next week? It will be a whole new story. Some of the above things will go on for awhile. Meanwhile, my hair is growing back slowly but surely. The bone pain will slowly go away and I will continue to make meal plans and cook for my family (I say continue because I have planned everything we will be eating this week - 15 bean soup in the crock pot as I type). I will be on my way to well from now on.

God is faithful and I am here with His help and His love for me. Here are some of the promises He has kept to me over the past five months:

  • His shield of faith has helped me to "quench all of the fiery darts of the evil one" especially the thoughts that can take over and overwhelm me just like He says it will. (Ephesians 6:16)
  • He has reminded me that I am His workmanship...even with a body full of chemo and without much hair and on some days a confused mind. (Ephesians 2:10)
  • He has shown me over and over that I am greatly loved by Him (Ephesians 2:4) many times by the hands of those who He uses to bless me.
  • I am His child...He is my Abba Father, my "Daddy" and I can laugh, cry and give him my anger in times of distress and fear. (Galatians 4:6-7)
  • His grace is all that I need..."therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me" and it does. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
  • Nothing can separate me from His love, not death, nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, and certainly not cancer! (Romans 8:38-39)
  • He keeps the steadfast in mind in perfect peace because he trusts in Him (Isaiah 26:3)
Oh there are so many more but that is just a little bit going through my journal the last few months! Some of you might have read Friday's blog and are wondering about a plan. I do have a plan as of today. Although I was mostly expecting this, I did find out today that after a consult with Mayo radiation is recommended. The report that came from them is mainly doctor talk but I went through it pretty thoroughly with my nurse who explained it in a little better way for  me.

The main concern is that one of the lumps was actually growing in a muscle on my chest wall. Since that tumor has grown in something other than breast tissue, it is of a concern that it could occur now in other tissue. They want to do radiation onto the chest wall to do everything they can to keep anything from growing in other places on the chest wall. You know, with that explanation I am good with the plan.

So, next Thursday we will consult with the radiation people and two weeks from today I check back into the oncology lab for blood work and to see how my body is doing. Then after a 3 or 4 week break (from today) I will start on the radiation regimen which will be every day (M-F) for six weeks. So there is celebration and a plan tonight. I am looking forward to putting on my red and gold and cheering on some girls as the Indians have a home game tonight. Normal...it will come in small steps.
Lunch fun

 Mom took us all to lunch at Country Kitchen in Marion. It was fun to have the girls with us talking about their middle school girl things. It was certainly a celebration! Thank you all for your prayers as I am putting into practice a more active lifestyle in the next few weeks. Slowly but it will be something. I love you all!

Psalm 103:1-3 "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases.

Monday, January 2, 2017

A Little Fall Knitting

Betsy once told me while I was working on a very elaborate afghan for my living room "when you are done with this one, you can make me one!" She had that joking twinkle in her eye knowing that there was a lot involved in the pattern I was working on.

Not long after I had finally finished the afghan for my living room, I found another difficult pattern that would challenge me. In fact, I started it the summer of 2013 in July as I was recovering from my very first breast cancer surgery, the lumpectomy. I worked on if for awhile and then it ended up being thrown aside for the time being.

Fast forwarding to this fall, we are still paying medical bills and Christmas was coming. I had picked Betsy in our family Christmas drawing and I remembered what she said and the afghan that I had started. Hmmm, I wasn't that far a long with it, but going through chemo and sitting in a chair a lot, there was the opportunity to work on it and so I got it out and jumped back in.

I was able to finish it in time to give it to Betsy for Christmas. I don't know if she remembers saying what she said years ago, but she sure did love it when she opened it. It is a very thick blanket and very cozy.