My Inspiration

My Inspiration

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Two Ships that Cross--Occasionally

This is the love of my life.
I waited and searched for what seemed like a long time to find him.
He's perfect to me and for me!
Some may argue, that he is just plain perfect!  I agree with that too.
Today we have been married for 11 amazing years. When I told my good friend it was our anniversay this weekend, she commented, "My, what you two have accomplished and experienced together in 11 years.  Can't wait to see and hear about the next 11".  As I think back, we have kept it lively.

We had our first son, Garrett, 9 months and 1 day after we were married.  Shortly after that, Keith graduated with his PhD from U of A, and we moved across country to Virginia to start our new job. Over the next few years we had four more kids, Kendall, Taryn, Alina and Landon.  When your youngest was 6 months and our oldest had just been baptized, Keith was made a Bishop in our church. Then somewhere through all those years, Keith received tenure at George Mason University and accomplished many wonderful things in his career.  Along with making babies, I have planted and killed a lot in our yard and managed to fill this house full of junk.  Not to mention all the fun and happy memories we have made on our many vacations and adventures together as a family
And now, our latest and biggest adventure together is facing this thing called cancer.  Before all of this, our lives had become a necessary, but happy routine.  Keith kept busy in his world, teaching at the university and doing all that was required of him to magnify his calling as the Bishop of our ward.  I would drive the kids from preschool to baseball to dance, wipe their noses, feed their bellies and then start the whole thing over the next day. Ocassionaly, our paths would cross and we would get a moment to eat dinner together or maybe see a movie.  But all in all, we lived in our own worlds, each of us taking care of our seperate responsibilities and we had, out of necessity, become two ships that ocassionally crossed in the night.
But that all changed the day I got my diagnosis.  When the weight of the realization of a cancer diagnosis hit me like a speeding freight train, I burried my face deep into the chest of this man I love and we wept together.  In that moment, there was no one else I wanted to hold me and nowhere else I wanted to be than wrapped up in the strong embrace of my eternal companion.  In that same moment, I realized that this togetherness, this oneness, was what we needed to be striving for all along.  Why did it take such a huge wakeup call like the C word to pull us out of our individual routines and back into a relationship that is fully focused on each other? 
Maybe that is one of the lessons we are to learn at the hands of this harsh taskmaster called cancer.  That beyond all the have to's and need to's of life, the one all important need we must fill first is to love and cherish and nurture each other. The cancer may have forced my hand on this, but it helped me remember that I have been blessed with an amazing, loving and faithful husband and partner.  Alone I may be week---but together with this man I love---I can do anything!  Happy Anniversary, Keith.  I love you! 



Wednesday, November 20, 2013

It Isn't Pretty

Everyone keeps asking me what's chemo like.

And I think to myself, every single time someone asks, do you really want to know?

Because, if i'm honest, it isn't pretty.

Chemo is like being pregnant and having the flu at the same time, but worse.

The day of the treatment I felt fine. But, the day after the treatment I started to feel sick. Nauseous. Headache. Aches. Chills. Shakes.

And the third and fourth days were dark. Very dark.

And I keep thinking to myself, I'm going to do this at least five more times. Really?

Now that I'm a week out from the chemo, I'm starting to feel like a human being again.

I've made a list of foods that I can handle: tomato soup, hot tamales, white bread.
And things I never ever want to eat again: meat, peppermint, and pretty much any vegetable.

I've also made a list of things to do next time.
Start taking imodium before I even start the treatment. Take tylenol every four hours without fail.
Don't shower unless I'm prepared for a horrendous case of the shakes.

So, what's chemo like?

It sucks. BIG TIME.

But, I continue to be uplifted and I'm desperately trying to focus on the good things.

And I remind myself often that I am lucky. I have a very treatable kind of cancer.

I have all the love and support that I could ever need.
I have family who is laying aside their own lives to come and pick up mine.

And I have faith to keep me going, even when I am not entirely certain that I can.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thank You Again

Today, I really wanted to say thank you.

Thank you for the prayers.

Thank you for the love.

Thank you for your generous offers to help our family, and in particular our children.

Thank you for the gifts you've sent.

I feel so badly that I haven't been able to personally thank everyone who is on our list. Someday, I will try and actually write the thank you notes, but for now, please know how deeply grateful we are for you.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sleepless in Manassas

Doctors are awesome and thank goodness for them.

My oncologist constantly cracks me up.

When I had my last appointment I thought I should tell him that I was having some anxiety and I couldn't sleep at night.

He said, "Well, of course you have anxiety. You have two cancers. If it were me, I wouldn't be able to sleep either."

I love a doctor that can deal with it all so honestly and help me keep on going.

Friday, November 15, 2013


Chemo went okay. It took about 8 hours.

The whole thing was a little surreal.

As we sat there, we had nurses coming to administer each medication, one at a time.

They would check the bag, check my name, check my date of birth, sign the bag and put it in.

There was lots and lots of saline.

And an odd assortment of other medications.

When it came time for the chemo, the nurse brought a big bag of green fluid.

And she brought two friends.

They had me look at the bag, checked my name, checked my date of birth, they signed and I signed.

And then they started the drip.

All three women surrounded me and stood there.


They were worried about the side effects of the medication and they wanted to be ready should anything happened.

As I was sitting there, they kept asking me all these questions.

Do you have a headache?

Do you have a tickle in your throat?

Do you feel like you need to throw up?

It was not comforting. What if I had to say yes?

After about 10 minutes they didn't see any kind of reaction, so they left me to finish.

After the actual chemo medication was administered, they came and changed out the needle before giving me the next medication.

It seemed strange, so I asked them why? They said that the chemo medicine was poison and corroded the metal of the needle as they gave it to me. They changed the needle after it was finished because they didn't want to risk it breaking off and entering my body.

What the heck?

And it occurred to me that I had made this conscious choice to put poison in my body. Actual poison. That has the possibility of doing some serious damage to my body.

All so I could kill something that the doctors say might eventually kill me. Let's be honest, I'm just taking their word for it. It doesn't hurt. It isn't causing me pain. I have no symptoms. It's a dark spot on medical test.

I guess I am realizing so much of this is about having faith. Why is that so hard?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Rock the Pink

We wanted to have a photo shoot before everything got crazy, so we could capture a few memories of the family. Here's a few we love:


My sister, Randa, is here with me now. And getting my life in order.

Thank goodness for family!

Chemo starts today.

Let's get it done.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Let's Go To Vegas

We got the biopsy back on the abdominal lymph node.

I wish I could sugar coat it, or say that it was nothing, but at this point in the journey you had to know it was coming, right?

Turns out I have cancer. Again.

So the worst news we could have gotten was that the cancer in my abdomen was breast cancer that had metastasized. This would have meant that my breast cancer was far worse than we had previously imagined and had in fact spread to other parts of my body.

Good news. This didn't happen.

The bad news is that in addition to breast cancer, I also have lymphoma.

Since we only have the preliminary results back, we don't yet know what kind of lymphoma.

Did you know there are 87 different kinds of lymphoma? No, me neither.

Luckily...and I use that word loosely here, the lymphoma is not as aggressive as the breast cancer, so we are moving forward with the current treatment plan.

I will do chemo for the breast cancer, and after a bit of healing, I will move forward with a different kind of chemo for the lymphoma.

As I meet with the doctors and learn all that I can about what's going on inside of me...I try to process it. And deal with it. And when I can, try to find the funny in it.

The doctors are so hopeful and optimistic. One of them said to me, "If I was going to pick two kinds of cancers to have, i'd pick yours."


I'm feeling lucky enough for someone to take me to Vegas right about now. We could win a bundle.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Plan For Now

So, I am starting chemo on Thursday.

I will have chemo on the same schedule as I originally thought.

A treatment on Thursday. 5 days of feeling cruddy. A couple weeks to recover. And then another treatment 3 weeks after the first one.

Right now I am scheduled for 6 chemo treatments -- this is to address the breast cancer.

Depending on the results of the abdominal biopsy, I could have another couple months of treatment, followed by radiation, surgery, recovery and then reconstructive surgery.

This is the plan for now. Stay tuned. It could change tomorrow. : )

Thank you so much for your prayers and love. I feel so cared about.

Everyone has been so kind and generous. I know that when someone you love is sick, the first thing you want to do is help - right then.

I just wanted you know that we are being taken care of right now. We are good for meals and for help.

And for those of you who have asked what you can to do help - I really am learning to take help when I need it and I promise that I will reach out when there really is a need. We even have someone coordinating all that for us.

But please know, for right now, we are okay.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

There No One Like Mom

Monday morning my mom flies home.

It's been such a blessing to have her here. The kids and I both have needed that consistency of having the same person here every day to help us out.

Why is it when we're sick that there is no one who brings as much comfort as our mom?

How lucky I am.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Congratulations, It's a Cantaloupe

I had the abdominal biopsy today. It took about an hour and again, it was much more than I thought it would be.

I don't know why I ever expect things to be easy, because they really never are, but I guess that the optimist in me.

The surgery itself wasn't too difficult. The doctor had seen my CAT scan and thought that the mass in my abdomen looked unusual. He thought that when he got inside things would make more sense, but you already know what's coming don't you? It was just as crazy in there as it was in the pictures!

The funny thing is that the tumors in my abdomen had sort of clumped together. They had blood vessels and lymphatic fluid and had sort of formed a mass the size of a cantaloupe. My motto is slowing becoming go big or go home.

The doctor was actually able to remove an entire enlarged lymph node. The bulk of the surgery was laparoscopic, so I just had a bunch of tiny incisions, but because the doctor was able to get that one lymph node removed, they had to make an additional, larger incision to get it out.

I had a hard time coming out of the anesthesia. No surprise there. I was actually curled up in the fetal position when I awoke.

The nurse kept telling me to stop doing that or I would be cramping up. But of course, I was already cramping up, hence the reason for the fetal position.

The worst of the surgery was that they had to blow me up like the goodyear blimp. My abdomen is still so full of air, it's a wonder I don't float away.

And wouldn't you know, it's the one side effect they didn't tell me about, so I was completely unprepared for how cruddy I feel.

And now, as I lay here, I am comforting myself with the fact that try as I might, with all the diet and exercise I've done, I could never get my belly to be flat. Well, no wonder - I've got a cantaloupe in there!

We should get some preliminary results from the biospy on Tuesday - at least if it's cancer or not. But, the full results will still be a few weeks out.

As it stands, I will start chemo this Thursday and go from there.