In Sickness and in Health

Battling cancer with love, medicine, and the Giver of both.

8

Eighth treatment down.

Four more to go!!!

And there was light at the end of the tunnel…

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I couldn’t wait to get this day over with so I could say “Four more!”  Thank God it went without a glitch and faster than normal.  My poor nurse got a devastating call while I was there.  She came sniffling in to do my chemo and I could see her eye shadow was skewed.  But she was hiding it well and I was debating within myself to ask if she was ok, not wanting to intrude.  Before I could decide she said she got a call saying a friend of hers was diagnosed with a fatal neurological disease.  One thing I like about my nurse is that she’s strong but she can’t hide her emotions very well. 🙂  It’s beautiful!  So, as she began pushing in the syringe of bright red Adriamycin, we talked and cried.  (I was sincerely hoping she was paying attention to what she was doing. 🙂  For the pushes [the chemo drugs given through syringe] she needs to pull back at certain intervals until she’s got blood in the line, then she can keep pushing.  I was worried about distracting her with our conversation, but realized she’s been at that infusion center for years and what she does is habit.  At least, I came out ok).  Her friend doesn’t have long to live.  I assured her I’d be praying for her and her friend.  It was refreshing to give to her, after all she’s given to me.  At the end, she said, “We are the ones supposed to be supporting YOU and here you are supporting me.”  It was a fulfilling day.

A random fact: Vinblastin (Isn’t that a cool name for a chemo drug?  Sounds very destructive!) always gives me a weird taste/smell when it’s pushed into me (the port in my chest).  I had noticed it one time and thought perhaps it was coincidence or just in my head, but today completely confirmed its effect on me.  I was ordering my lunch menu, not paying attention to what my nurse was doing.  All of a sudden I tasted it and looked over.  Sure enough, she was pumpin’ in the Vinblastin.

I was feeling fairly good after chemo.  Decided to make some cookies.  Amazing what globs of dough can do to bring some joy and fulfillment.  And no, I was not eating them…the globs of dough, that is. 🙂

Two more things:

1. My appetite has simmered down to a dull roar.  Thank God!

2. I still have my eyebrows and some top eyelashes.  Yes, thinner, but the brave things still there are hangin’ on for dear life!  He has been good to me!

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Food

Steroids are nice…sometimes.  Doctors smile and say, “They’re anti-nausea.  They’ll increase your appetite.”

“How nice,” I think.  How handy.  How convenient.  Just pop a pill, or a few, and you don’t have to puke and get really sick with chemo.  Ingenious!

They (the doctors) tell the half-truth.  What they don’t describe is the nearly insatiable desire to eat and eat and eat.  No kidding!  I don’t recall EVER having this much appetite.  I take these anti-nausea steroids every chemo round, but for some reason this time it has affected me more than normal.  Perhaps because I am still on other steroids for my lungs.  I don’t know.  The crazy thing is that this time I took less of the anti-nausea than I’ve ever done.  My doctor gave me permission to experiment and not take so much ’cause I hate them and didn’t feel I needed them.  Maybe I eased off too fast??? I haven’t taken any since Tuesday and I still feel ravenous.

The appetite and desire to eat is hard to describe.  The actual process of eating becomes pure existential bliss.  It’s like having your taste buds on…well…steroids. 🙂  Food is ten times tastier.  So sometimes I sit down to a meal and eat more than Josh and I still feel hungry.  Or at least, the leftovers still look as appetizing as at the beginning of the meal.  Groan!  Try saying “NO” to food then.  Not easy.

At times my mouth literally tingles just thinking of food.  You know how sometimes you’re hungry for something but can’t pinpoint it.  Nothing quite grabs you.  Well, think the opposite where almost anything you can think of sounds heavenly and you want to scarf it down.  Bizarre!  Then sometimes I get cravings for specific foods.  Today I wanted to eat a bite of sweet pepper relish…just plain.  Totally weird and a bit disturbing.  I didn’t because I didn’t have any.

And you think, “Great!  So what’s the big deal?  Enjoy the extra appetite.”

Yeah.  Well.  I don’t mind gaining some weight.  I really don’t.  I can’t tell you how grateful I am to be gaining some rather than losing like sometimes happens to chemo patients.  That truly is a blessing.

However…the problem becomes an insatiable “mouth” with a very full “stomach.”  A body can’t be eating all the time.  And I don’t have to tell you that a bloated stomach is less than desirable.  Some of the bloating is probably from the chemo.  It affects the whole GI.  But I’m sure it’s also from eating more.  And how miserable it can be!  My mouth says, “Mmmm…what a lovely morsel,” all the while, my stomach is screaming, “Don’t you dare put anything more in me!”  A most inconvenient predicament!

Here’s my little disclaimer: As much as I hate the steroids, I’d much rather face this than nausea.  So, for now I guess, hurrah for steroids!

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The Count Down is on

Today marked my seventh treatment which means I have five more treatments to go.  FIVE MORE!  That sounds delicious to me.

Chemo went without a glitch today.  Well almost.  Everything was fine except for my temp.  I had a slight fever…99.4.  The nurse decided to wait a bit to make sure it was coming down.  No such luck…99.9.  She said, “I just don’t want to give you chemo when you’ve got a fever.”  I thought, “Oh great!  Not another delay.  I’m feeling good otherwise.  Surely I’m not getting sick.”  And I prayed.  She told me to take my hat off and bout ten minutes later it was down to 98.3.  Thank-you Jesus!

One less drug today.  Good-bye Bleomycin!  Nice knowing you…or not so much.  Sort of a love/hate relationship.  How can the same drug fight cancer and attack healthy lungs?

I had one less drug but was “blessed” with more steroids today than I’ve ever had to take.  I’m still on 50mg of Prednisone/day for my lungs (tomorrow I go down to 40).  Plus I had to take the normal 20mg of Decadron for the chemo today.  I was nervous about how 70mg would affect me.  The Decadron at least always affects my heart rate (faster and harder) and I was pale by the time I went out of the center, but that’s not unusual.  Fears of the unknown can torment.  What if my body just can’t handle this?  Today as I sat in that chair I thought, “Well God, you’re just gonna have to come through with some grace here like you’ve done in the past.”  And He did.  I came out fine…at least so far.  We will see how I sleep tonight. 🙂  That’s one thing He seems bent on teaching me: Leaving the vulnerable situations up to Him and His goodness.  I think I might be getting the hang of it a little bit.  I hope!

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I can’t believe I failed to mention in my recent posts how my dear Mother was with me for nearly a week.  She came the weekend I was hospitalized and stayed until the following Friday.  A balm truly!  Not to mention a clean house and new dress out of the deal.  I can handle that!

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I Have This Moment

I forgot what it’s like to feel just down right good.

Today I feel it.  Despite being on steroids and one antibiotic yet, I feel normal.  But normal has come to mean something less than really good, so I should say I feel uber-normal. 🙂  I am basking in the goodness, trying to take in every moment before going back into the world of chemo tomorrow.  It gives me hope…hope that one day maybe I can feel this good all the time.

With the delay this week, I think my body just had more time to recover from the last chemo treatment.  And even with the added glitch and sickness last weekend, God has given me a “bounce back.”  He has been working all week to heal me.  Though I still feel my lungs are not quite back to normal, they are hugely improved.  Praise Him!!  I just say, “Thank-you Jesus!”

My husband and I were marveling today at the difference between this Sunday and last.  How can it change so much in one week?  He reminded me, “Jean, if it hadn’t been for how low you were then, we wouldn’t realize this goodness now.”  The contrast is startling.

Everything is so vibrant.  I feel so alive!  I want to go dance or jump up and down or shout, “World, do you know how good life is?  Do you really know?”

Oh the highs and lows of this life!  They’re about to do me in.

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There’s no place like home

I am oh so glad to be home in my own surroundings.  Sleeping in my own bed, eating good food, having long 10-12 hour nights without nurses poking their heads in and taking vital signs or drawing blood.  Sigh!  So good to be back to a normal of sorts.  Speaking of food… lets just say hospital food leaves quite a bit to be desired.  I declare, every tray that came in smelled the same no matter what I ordered.  Gross!

I am feeling quite good.  Slowly gaining my strength back.  I’m trying to manage a high daily dose of steroids.  So far, so good.  I feel a little jittery and hyped but really it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.

I absolutely LOVED all my nurses and doctors, for the most part. 🙂  But I was absolutely furious by the time I was finally discharged on Monday evening.  I know…discharges can take a long time and you have to be patient, but I was fed up.  We finally left about six hours beyond the time we were told we’d be out.  I won’t go into all the details.  I’ll just suffice it to say that this feisty gal did NOT like her discharge nurse…AT ALL!  She was unprofessional and seemed to be inefficient.  I know…where is my charity?  I confess at that point I was not asking the question, “How do I bring Jesus into this?”  I was quite happy being a little immature. 😦  Groan!

But besides the discharge scenario, I felt so incredibly taken care of by personnel who really showed genuine love and concern.  Thank-you Jesus!

There are two things I want to say yet to two people I hardly know:

1. Janita Zimmerman, I keep marveling at how we met.  When you walked into my ER room and I saw a skirt and veil, I about flipped.  I racked my brain.  Who in this area is a Mennonite nurse that I do not know?  It was so neat to talk with you and meet you.  For the rest of you, Janita is in schooling at Mountain View and was taking a day of observation at my hospital of all places.   (Do I have this right, Janita?)  So, what a shock when in walks this Mennonite who says, “Yeah, I know you guys.  I follow your blog.” 🙂  So cool!  I wish you the best in your schooling and training.  You’ll make a marvelous nurse!

2. Andrea Wagler, you posted on our blog here.  And I was curious about you, so I went on your blog.  I couldn’t stop reading.  I haven’t nearly exhausted it, so I only have a sketchy outline of your story.  But you’re blessed by ours????  You’ve been through so much more.  I can only say that God’s grace must be carrying you through, as it is us.  You are very, very brave.  I wish you the best–His healing!

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Discharged

After an excruciating wait, Jean was finally released this evening soon after 6. She is, to put it bluntly, wiped out. Actually I think we all are. She is relaxing and doing well, though. The road to complete recovery will include a stout regimen of antibiotics for 10 days and steroids for about a month. I think our prayer is that her body would be healed efficiently and completely with minimal collateral damage.

One of the big bummers about this weekend is that today’s scheduled chemo treatment was postponed until next week. Meaning not only is The Final Treatment even further away, but all long term events planned around the two-week cycle are jeopardized and in some cases vaporized.

But I think we’re learning that life with chemo teaches you how to hold things with an open hand and live in a sort of hopeful existentialism. Today we celebrate today.

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Getting there

Hopefully, one more night in Hospital Hotel will be our last one for a good while. By all appearances Jean is responding well to the treatment. The most exciting piece is today’s chest x-ray results showing her lungs in the clear. Three cheers and a celebratory jig for God, doctors, and nurses for that one.  Yesterday Dr. Ali assured us that recovery from lung damage is a long road filled with a lot of steroids, but thankfully it won’t take constant IV and observation.

So unless anything shows up overnight, we will most likely (doctors are maddeningly noncommittal) be out of here sometime tomorrow.

Thanks for praying and please continue.

 

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The latest unexpected twist…

…in this unexpected journey is that Jean is hospitalized for the weekend or until her lungs get better. A brief history. Over the last week or so she has been struggling with coughing fits. Tuesday evening she started with a fever and more of the coughing. Wednesday we called Dr. Ali, and he prescribed an antibiotic. Yesterday we met with Dr. Ali and had a chest x-ray done which indicated some lung issues. He diagnosed it as lung inflammation due to the Bleomycin chemo drug and prescribed a steroid. This morning Jean woke up without much of a fever but with increased shortness of breath. We called Dr. Ali about it and he said come to the emergency room. After being poked and prodded and stuck and CT scanned and observed and interrogated by a host of doctors and nurses and everybody in between, Jean was admitted to the hospital under the orders of Dr. Ali. The CT scan reaffirmed lung damage/fluid, so she is receiving a regimen of steroids to combat the inflammation and several antibiotics to combat potential infections.

So. Here we are. An unscheduled weekend getaway of sorts, albeit not very private or posh. I think we’re okay with it, especially considering the seriousness of what we’re dealing with. The staff here is great. Despite all the poking and prodding.

Here is our lovely patient.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please keep us in your prayers.

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What about when there are no miracles?

I seem to have entered a mid-chemo funk…emotionally.  I figured when I hit the half-way mark I’d be dancing up and down, but instead I find my mind straying to the length of the road ahead.  Minus that day I posted about the miracles, I’ve been facing quite a few moments of discouragement over the last several weeks.

The old optimism seems to have escaped me and instead I cry a lot.  Or fume.  Or doubt.  Or fear.  It may be in part because I haven’t felt as good physically lately ’cause of the added virus the last round and now I feel the tickle reappearing in my throat though not as intense.  Discouraging, but not the sole reason for my discouragement…

The day after I posted about my brows and lashes I nonchalantly looked up at myself in the mirror as I washed my hands and I stopped short.  Do my brows look thinner or is it just my imagination?  God, NO!  Surely not.  I just got done telling the “whole world” that You’re preserving them for me.  I’m not okay with this.  I examined them a bit more and then went back to the living room where Josh was.  After I told him my suspicions I sat contemplating.  I was confused and not a little angry.  What’s the big deal, you might ask?  Brows are brows and lashes are lashes and to lose them for a time is a small sacrifice.  True enough…but I felt like a little girl cheated out of a promise from her Dad.  Or was it a promise?  Rather like a thunderbolt, the thought came to me that I was given three whole months of this miracle and it was never promised in the first place.  Huh!  The truth of the thought was comforting (It meant that God was still trustworthy…He hadn’t gone back on His word), but my stubborn spirit wasn’t very ready to receive it.  I was still confused and upset.  I was uneasy.  What did this mean about the other “miracles”…about other things I had so much hope He was preserving or sustaining, like my fertility?  Will He take that away too?

And hence I fell into a funk of sorts, fed in part by this instance.  I feel a little sheepish…I still have my eyebrows and eyelashes, albeit a bit thinner.  I really don’t know if I’ll keep them the whole time or not.  Maybe I’m over-reacting, counting my losses before they hatch, as it were.

At any rate, I’ve done a lot of thinking the last while.  Ironically, the verse that keeps playing over and over in my mind is, “The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord.”  Not always translated with zeal from my brain to my heart, but I think I am arriving…slowly.

Faith is quite simple to achieve, really, when you have things figured out.  Right now I feel a strong call from my Father to live in peace in the unknown and simply trust Him.  God so help me!

 

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