"Let's kick cancer's booty and take some names."
LORD, after this suffering, let it be said that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, make my Savior clear to all those around me. Because of my suffering and willing perseverance, cause others to be encouraged to speak the Word of God more courageously and fearlessly.
(Phillippians 1:12-14)

About Me

God is walking with me. This I know.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Couple of Observations and a Confession

Why is it that every time I make a bold statement about something it always comes back to bite me? For instance: "I'm going to eat a piece of fruit every day." And sure enough, the only thing I crave after that is chocolate. Sheesh! Hold that thought......more in a minute.

Observation 1: I love when I read something in the bible and it strikes me as funny. I'm so thankful God has a sense of humor. In Joshua 4, I'm reading along and it seems to be a very solemn ceremony of Joshua picking 1 man from each of the 12 tribes. He asks each of them to go into the middle of the Jordan River and pick up a stone. In the background are the priests holding the Ark of the Covenant in the middle of the river, holding back the waters so the people don't drown. In my mind I'm wondering how heavy the thing is and if they're saying, "Would you please hurry up! My back is killing me!" When I put my serious hat on I have to believe that God gave them the strength to carry out His will. Amen? So the men each grab a stone and Joshua makes his speech about how these 12 stones will be a reminder to them that the Lord stopped the river and the people crossed over unharmed. I started laughing at verse 10: "The priests who were carrying the Ark stood in the middle of the river until all of the Lord's commands that Moses had given to Joshua were carried out. Meanwhile, the people hurried across the riverbed." Now....I know it's not hilarious or a knee-slapper, but does it strike anyone else funny that here they are in this solemn ceremony and once Joshua gives the word the people "hurried" across? Can't you just see and hear some of them now? "Let's get on across honey. You never know how long that thang will hold!" (In my mind they all have southern accents!) Isn't it interesting that God Himself is present with them, almost in physical form and it seems that some of them still have doubts that He can do what He says He can do? Thank goodness it's not just me!

Observation 2: I'm not healing up as fast as I'd like. My bones hurt. I didn't realize until halfway through the chemo treatments that the chemo gets into your bone marrow. Therefore, you can feel as though you have flu-like body aches. Also, my hair isn't growing back yet. I remember my Momma saying to my Daddy over the years, "You can't take a pill and expect to see a miracle." I guess it's true about recovery too. After my last chemo I thought I'd bounce right back and be my ole, (not OLD) self again. **Sigh** If you see me get up out of a chair or at church and it looks like I'm 84, it's because I FEEL 84 some days. This too shall pass. I hope.

OK.....back to my confession. Remember when I said in one of my earlier blogs, "I hate the color pink"? Well.......I have to say it's not all that bad anymore. Now don't go buyin' me any pink stuff. I don't like it THAT much. But I found a cute background for my phone that's beige and light pink. Baby steps...... And I'm still not going to be wearing it ('cause it still looks horrible on me) but I don't detest it like I once did. And forgive me if I've already said this once before, but does anybody remember (I know you will, Angie Bowman) the line in Steel Magnolias about pink? "My colors are blush and bashful." "Her colors are pink and pink. The sanctuary looks like it's been hosed down with Pepto-Bismol." Love, love, love that movie. There are so many good lines in it.

Have a great weekend!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Radiation, Follow Up Appointment and Surgery....Again

Hi everybody! I hope you all are staying warm and have thawed out from all the snow.

Let me start out with another big thank you. Yesterday at church, Mark Adams preached on the power of prayer, hope and forgiveness. I have certainly felt the power of prayer over the last 9 1/2 months. I know without a doubt that I never could've gotten through this without the prayers, hugs, notes and support from my friends and family. I was looking for a scripture about prayer and I ran across so many that said, "God answered their prayer" or "God heard their prayer." God DOES hear and answer our prayers. And I cannot thank you enough for your prayers on behalf of me. I am completely honored and humbled.

I had 3 appointments today and I'll start with radiation.

Radiation is quick and painless. There is nothing invasive about it. In fact, I don't even know when it's happening. I get undressed from the waist up. Then I go to the table and lie face up. They put a ring around my shoes to keep my legs still and then proceed to move the table and the radiation machine around until it's in the correct spot. The radiation tech (not sure what to call her) says, "I'll be right back." Then she leaves the room. I hear some noises and the machine moves around to behind my shoulder blade. The machine makes some more noises, then she comes back in and says, "Ok. You're all done." It literally takes less than 10 minutes. So far I can't tell any difference in my skin. They say that after about 2 weeks you start to get a burn on your skin or even a rash. It can also make you tired after a couple of weeks. Today was my 5th treatment. 30 more to go. If all goes well I will be done February 28th. That's a great way to start one of my favorite months, March.

One of my other appointments today was a follow up with Dr. Yardley. I had my last chemo 3 weeks ago tomorrow. They drew blood, as always. My blood counts looked great except for the red blood cell count. She said it was a tad low, but sometimes that happens with radiation.
She wasn't concerned. She gave me a prescription for Tamoxifen. It's an estrogen blocker that I will take for 5 years. She said the main side effect was hot flashes. I'm already having those due to the chemo. She said they might get worse, but there are medications I can take if they get too bad. She asked if I'd like to go ahead and get a prescription for the hot flashes, but I said I'd wait to see how bad they get. I don't want to take another pill if I don't have to. I go back to see her in 8 weeks. Following that, I'll see her every 3 months up until 2 years after the diagnosis, which was April 12, 2010. After that, it will go to every 6 months. At the 5 year mark, I will only see her 1 time a year.

I asked about having a breast reduction. I was considering it before I was diagnosed but with the cancer, I had to wait. She said I would need to ask Dr. Hunt, the radiation oncologist. Evidently the radiation takes awhile to get out of your system and can cause the breast tissue to harden and become hard to work with. She said as far as the chemo goes, I could have it done now. But I need to wait until the radiation "damage" has cleared up. As I recall, Dr. Cooper said I'd have to wait 6 months to a year. I'll see what Dr. Hunt says and make my decision then. I'd like to have it done this year. With the radiation and another surgery on the horizon, I will most certainly meet my deductible and out of pocket maximum with the insurance company. Therefore, a breast reduction later in the year won't cost me anything out of pocket.

I am having yet another surgery next Monday. But I'm more than happy to have this one. I am having my port removed. And can.....not.......wait! The port site, at least 1 time a day, either itches or throbs. It freaks me out a little to think of a foreign object sewn to my chest wall. I'm very happy to have it removed. I went to the hospital this morning to have my pre-admission testing done. Which means more blood drawn. I also had to have an EKG. I'm not sure why and I didn't ask. But the results normal.

So......after 2 pricks with a needle, I'm not drinking much water today. I'm afraid my arm will turn into a watering can. :)

My next appointment with Dr. Yardley is March 15th. Until then, all I have to do is go downtown Monday-Friday at 11:30 for radiation and have my port out next Monday. I am very happy to have this break.

The next thing on my agenda is to plan my "after cancer" party and plan a vacation for the Spring. I'm ready for warm weather and the beach in some tropical location. Hawaii? The Bahamas? Not sure yet, but where ever it is, I'll have a smile a mile wide.

Everyone have a great week! -

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Chemo #6 and Radiation

Hello and Happy New Year!

I hope you are looking forward to a new year. Many of you are looking back on this last year and thinking it was a pretty good year. I'm not one of those people. I'm ready to get this last year as far behind me as possible.

Chemo #6 went off much like the others. Dr. Yardley seemed pleased with my progress. Nothing was mentioned about my blood counts so I'm assuming they were fine. She talked about her Christmas and how her family all converged on her house and how she was rushed to get home the night before Christmas Eve and how she never gets out of work on time. It made me wonder why we do it the same way year after year. Every year I think I will take more time to visit with people and focus on God more during the season and every year my focus gets lost in buying gifts and cooking and working hard so I can take a day or two off.

I asked her when I could get my port removed. I've heard people keep them for 6 months to years after chemo. I expected her to say 6 months. She said a couple of weeks. I was thrilled! She said as long as I'm recovered from the chemo and get by the point where my immune system is low (7-10 days after chemo) I can have it removed. I can't wait. It's itching and starting to bug me. She also said I would come back to visit her in 3 weeks and at that time they will start me on Tamoxifen, the drug that blocks the estrogen that caused the cancer in the first place. Her office has called Dr. Cooper's office to schedule my port removal. His surgery scheduler was on vacation last week so I should find that out next week.

I went to the chemo room and was greeted by some of my favorite nurses, Kelly and Lindsey. I have pictures to post but can't seem to locate the cord for my camera to download the pictures. I sat in my usual corner chair and got all hooked up. The thought of going back to do it one more time makes me want to throw up. I was given a large IV bag of Benedryl. The next bag was being hooked up when I felt a very sick feeling come over me. I told Kelly I was feeling sick and I stood up. I had to grab Angie's hands to stay steady. I rushed to the bathroom and there, for the 1st time since chemo started, I threw up. Afterward, I felt fine. I guess it was the excitement of it being the last chemo or maybe it was the breakfast I ate. I went on with the rest of the chemo. Several of my family members came to celebrate with me. Momma and Daddy stayed home because it was going to be so crowded but I know they were there in spirit and so thankful it's over for me too. Greta, Jennifer, Angie, Tim, Sloane, Megen, Scott and my friend Carolyn all came to visit. Greta and Jennifer made cookies and snacks and signs that said, "To Celebrate Candy Grissom's last chemo!" The food was excellent and I slept through most of it.

I went back the next day to get my Neulasta shot. I hugged my favorite nurses and even cried with one of them. But it was a thankful cry. Thankful that I never have to go back. I have vowed to never have chemo again. My life will have to depend on it. And even then I'll have to think about it. Chemo is ugly business.

After I got my shot, I drove over 1 block to the doctor's building and saw Cathy, the lady who does sample scans and gets patients ready for radiology. I was taken immediately back to a CT scan machine and asked to take everything off from the waist up. She had me lay in the machine and proceeded to position me in the machine the way I'll have to lay for radiation. She marked on me with some kind of marker. I'm pretty sure it was a Sharpie. She marked me in 3 different places around my waist: left, middle and right. She said they were so I could be lined up in the machine correctly. She then called the doctor in. Dr. Hunt was on vacation so Dr. Gray came in. He marked my right breast in 3 areas. So I have 6 marks on me. Cathy marked over them with 'indelible' ink (I had to look it up; it means cannot be erased). Then she put tape over each mark. She said as I bathe they will eventually come off, but to keep marking over them with a sharpie. She doesn't care what color it is or how big the markings are; I just need to make sure they stay on throughout radiation. She then placed my right arm above my head and took some sample scans. She said Dr. Hunt would look at the scans and be able to make a mold of my arm to lay in during radiation. She said it would take him close to a week to get it made, then I'll come back to test it out with her. After that visit, I can begin radiation immediately.

I will have 35 radiation visits. I asked about having my port removed while on radiation and they said it's not a problem at all. If I have to miss a visit, they will add it to the end of treatment. The important thing is that I get 35 visits in. Each visit should last 15 minutes. It will take me longer to get downtown than for each visit. But I'm not complaining. Radiation should be a breeze compared to chemo.

I cannot tell you how grateful I am that the chemo is over. And I'm anxious to get radiation started and finished as well. Even though it's been a tough year, it has gone by quickly. Thank God. If it had drug out much longer I don't think I would've lasted. I have had it so much easier than some folks. But as I've said all along, it's all relative. What you are going through at the time may seem like nothing compared to what I've gone through, but if it touches you and makes your life hard, then it's hard. Period. I can't wish for your battle and you certainly don't want mine. I read one time that our God-given tests have our names on them. If I thought I had a leg to stand on, I'd have a bone to pick with God about this one having my name on it. As it stands though, I have almost made it through and my determined purpose will be to use it for His glory and to learn to live in His presence. I have finally learned the meaning of Psalm 27:4, "One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life..." It's all I really have. And without it, I'm done.

So, the new year is right before me. There is much to look forward to: new hair, a celebration after radiation is over, a vacation, church camp, and hopefully not nearly as many days in doctor's offices and hospitals. I am looking forward to Spring more than ever before. Fall used to be my favorite time of year, but after this last one, I'm not so sure anymore. It will take awhile for me to make friends with that season again.

Happy New Year and may God bless you all richly. -