Thursday, November 22, 2012

Step One

November is officially over. Only by a couple hours as I am awake in the middle of the night, perhaps because Sawyer just randomly woke up, walked into the bathroom and picked up the hand soap, or because there is something on my heart. I know the latter is the real reason, but can we also hope my child is not starting a new sleepwalking trend. :-)

All month long, I wanted to sit down and write my 'thankful for..." post and well, you can see it didn't happen. Then I started to feel guilty, like I missed my only opportunity to do it. Alas, I am wide awake at 3:00am on December 1st, catching up on my devotions (car duty REALLY throws this girl off), deleting the 50 "cyber Monday" emails I didn't even open, checking in on my blogger friends, and inquiring on the Times News site to find out what time the parade starts in the morning, when I stumble upon a column written by J. Mark Fox that reminds me of this important truth:

"The word says these three things are the will of God for you who are in Christ Jesus: Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances."

To me, that was a nudge from the Big Guy saying, "Suzanne, it doesn't matter that you didn't post this on Thanksgiving, you can do it anytime!"

Mr. Fox goes on to give three steps to developing a heart of thanksgiving.

1. Make a list of the top ten things or people on your "I am thankful for" list.

2. Thank God for each one of your top ten.

3. Tell the people on your list how much you are thankful for them. They need to hear it. We need to say it.

So friends, since I love lists and can't seem to get anything done without them lately, I will use Mr. Fox's approach to tackle sharing with you, my heart of Thanksgiving.

Step One:

My Top Ten
1. My Almighty God
2. My boys
3. My family
4. My church family
5. My friends, old and new
6. My Roadrunner Rockers
7. My Facebook friends
8. My sisters in pink
9. My Cheerleaders
10. My new normal

The list could go on and on and in my heart it wilI, but for now I have completed step one and I have some long overdue thank you's to write. My plan is to dedicate a post to each of my top ten. I would like to say it will all happen in 10 days, but the reality is, it won't! I do hope you'll keep checking back because if you read this blog then you are a part of my top ten and since I am almost a year behind on actual thank you cards, I hope you'll accept my thank you blogs in the mean time.

**So after publishing this, I noticed that it says November 22, not sure what is going on. It is in fact December 1 and since I have already confessed to not posting on Thanksgiving, I will stick with my story! :-)

Friday, November 9, 2012

8 months or 243 days...

either way I look at it, it flew by! 

Sawyer was with me to whack the gong on October 22!  
He LOVED it!
Then my boys took me out to dinner to celebrate.

Silly Sawyer wouldn't open his eyes (we tried 3 pictures).
It was when I went to bed that night that I realized it was the 22nd, eight months to the day after I first heard the words 'breast cancer.'   I was awake that night thinking about the date, which to me was God's perfect timing, and all the good that had come from those 2 little words.    

*Having my first, second, and last EVER mammogram
*Going  from 1 doctor to now having a medical oncologist, a radiation oncologist, a surgeon, a plastic surgeon and even a gynecological oncologist who have all been a perfect fit for us
*8 chemo infusions which equated to lots of quality time with Jason, my Mom, Kelly and Mo and a whole list of folks who came to hang out with me on the days following
*2 "currently being expanded, soon-to-be-new" girls and 26 less lymph nodes and I honestly can't complain one bit about not having to wear a bra (I know, TMI as some would say, but we celebrate the little things around here)
*25 radiation treatments which meant LOTS of time in the car, but I got to spend that time either with good friends or singing at the top of my lungs to K-Love
*well over 60 meals all cooked by friends and family members, each delicious and appreciated more than you'll ever know
*243 cards, if not more (I have them all, but never counted them), because for a while I know I got at least 3 every day
*hundreds of phone calls, text messages, emails, and Facebook posts all of which I have saved (just like the cards) to pull out and read whenever I want
*more prayers than I can count from those I know and from those that I've never even met

This list could go on and on, don't get me wrong, those 2 words changed everything and I still get physically ill when I hear of someone going down the same path, but I honestly can't look back without seeing all the kindness, love, generosity and faith that surrounded us and think, it wasn't all bad!  We've come a long way in 243 days and I couldn't have done it without each and every one of you.  I am thankful to have all treatments behind me (even if there are a few more decisions to make), a little hair on my head just in time for cold weather, and the HOPE and FUTURE that comes from our amazing God!

"There is unlimited grace, mercy, forgiveness, healing and newness of life for anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord.  So, keep pressing on in the journey to which God has called you." 
Doug Fields
Homeward's Daily Devotional

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Me, really?

Today was day 14 of radiation.  I was trying to celebrate yesterday as a "half-way" point  (we really celebrate just about anything these days!), but was told that they may do a "boost" of radiation at my incision site when I am done, which would mean 5 to 8 more days.  In the words of my friend Corea, fry, cancer, fry! We still celebrated, Sawyer style, on the trampoline.   I am starting to get pink, and tight afterwards, so I stay lathered up, stretch and am wearing my compression sleeve quite a bit these days.  Some days I think they are frying brain cells but we are surviving.  I am tired, but what Momma isn't?

This afternoon I stopped by Bloom, one of my favorite new (to me) stores to pick up a birthday gift for a party this weekend.  I noticed the lady's hair because I check out all short hair styles lately.  It was cute, longer than mine, but still really short. When I walk up to check out, she says to me "I think you have inspired me to go shorter with my hair next time, I love your haircut." 

Me, really? You are complimenting my "haircut?"  She continues on to tell me about her past few haircuts and I was chuckling on the inside and finally shared with her that I had never had short hair before, this "haircut" was courtesy of chemo.  By the look on her face, I could tell she was surprised. She didn't see me as a cancer patient, I clearly still think I have that look about me. Then it hit me.   She REALLY WAS complimenting my hair.  Get out! I am calling that my first real compliment on my short 'do style #1.  Don't get me wrong, my family and friends say it looks good all the time, but come on, they aren't going to tell me what they really think!  It could look like ca-ca on me and they would still compliment me. ;-) 

At first I was chalking that encounter up to one of the many "awkward" cancer moments I've had, but after realizing that she really did like my short hair AND that I didn't look 'sick' to her, it made my day!  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Rinse and Repeat

Last week was a whirlwind, on the heels of Sawyer's 5th birthday party, I started radiation on Monday. Jason went with me for my first visit, and the countdown has begun. 20 more!

We have a rockstar parking pass, right outside the radiation oncology entrance and wait for's FREE! Are you amazed?!?!? Parking and free in the same sentence! ;-)

I scan my card, and as long as the screen doesn't look like the picture, I walk to the women's dressing room, change my top half into a gown and then wait in a smaller waiting area. If I am accompanied by another lady, they may wait back there with me, but the gents have to wait in the main lobby.

The machine I use is called the 'artiste,' which is run by three sweet ladies. I get a warm blanket and a pillow under my knees, but my head has to be turned to the left and rests on a pretty hard surface. With arms over my head, I assume my position! They mark the area with paint markers, so the green and pink marks have made for interesting conversation with 3rd graders at school. I can't blame them because it looks like I have drawn all over myself! I explained that it was like a map for the doctors to use during my radiation and they were satisfied! Once I am set, they walk out, closing the door that looks like it should be on a vault! There I am, just me, a huge machine that makes lots of funny sounds and the big guy up above!

The machine doesn't run for long periods of time, one day I could see the screen and it would run for 2 seconds, then 3 seconds and then 6. There is one spot where it seems to run a good 20 or 30 seconds. It moves all around me, but from start to finish (me walking in the room, getting situated on the table, drawn on and then shut behind the huge door) it only takes about 20 minutes.

I never know what to expect until I get there! The machine may be on time, running late, or like Wednesday, it was completely out of commission! Friday's include a "status check" with Dr. Zagar.

All in all, it's not so bad! You sweet folks have been asking what you can do and you know us, we had to live it for a week to see what we might need help with. We always covet your prayers for safe travels, successful treatments, and energy to do it again the next day! Lori's been wanting a "Driving Miss Suzanne" calendar and I think it would be great! I drove myself two days this week and I can do it, but by Friday, I was wiped out and thankful to be a passenger! I will work on updating the care calendar with that info tomorrow. My appointments are at 2pm in Chapel Hill, so we try to leave the house by 1pm to give us plenty of time.

You all continue to bless us by covering us in prayer and supporting us every step of the way! We are forever grateful!

Now it's time to get ready to rinse and repeat for week 2!

Friday, September 7, 2012

My fight song

There are several posts churning in my head, but I will start with today and hopefully before Christmas, I will have time to recap recovery, tissue expanders and the emotional roller coaster I am riding! ;-)

Life is good and God is Great! I am back at school (half a day everyday), Sawyer is back in playschool, Jason is burning it at both ends, and we are attempting to get our groove back! If you know me well, you know I fly by the seat of my pants and a routine, well that isn't really how we roll! Oh but we are putting on our skates because radiation (and kindergarten) are coming and we've got to figure this out!

My CT Simulation was today (the same day Jason was having fluid taken off his knee and was being given a cortisone shot). It turned out to be quite the adventure. I was in the machine, it did it's thing, I came out of the machine. In walks Dr. Zagar, with his big smile and bow-tie, to tell me that I will need to be deflated on my left side in order for that tissue to not be in the way of radiation and potentially damaged. Since they are the experts, I get dressed and go back out into the waiting room and wait for my plastic surgery nurse to come down. Sue arrives, they find us a room and out comes the saline they have been expanding me with over the last 4 weeks. Have I mentioned this is tinted saline, Carolina blue! LOVE that! Back to the situation, I get dressed again, go back out in the waiting room, then back into the CT machine. It does it's thing again and then I come back out to see the nurse who says, "we have to take out more." At this point I wasn't sure if I wanted to laugh or cry! I wanted to cry because this was taking forever, I cannot stand being in machines (which this one isn't bad, so I shouldn't complain) and it, for a moment, seemed like we were moving backwards, not to mention one girl is perky, one is now deflated! :-( Instead, I laughed and became the the center of the circus show! To keep me from getting dressed, finding another room, and repeating the above scenario, Sue came in and took out more saline while I was in the CT room with an audience! I laugh because the folks seemed fascinated and asked lots of questions. I am sure they see lots of ladies with tissue expanders, but perhaps never see them being expanded or in my case deflated! (See, there is another post because it is pretty fascinating!) While still attached to tubing, just in case they needed to take out more, I go back IN the machine to come OUT to smiles saying we are finally finished! A little lopsided, but ready for Dr. Zagar to map out my radiation!

I go back next Friday for X-rays, then Monday, September 17 the countdown will start! 25 days until it's my turn to hit the gong! After chemo they sing and clap, after radiation you hit the gong. Today walking out of my over 3 hour tour of radiation, I see a nice gentlemen taking his celebratory whack at the gong, but then all of the sudden comes the UNC fight song from two members of the band! AWESOME!! Doubting I am considered a important enough alumni to receive that special treatment, but oh well, it was fun to watch and be reminded that we are oh so close to our turn! If the room was big enough, I would take you all with me to celebrate, but as long as these two (check out my new favorite picture, wherever it may be) are by my side, my fight song is playing in my heart!

**Our computer bit the dust last weekend, so overlook any errors and auto-corrects that were courtesy of my iPhone.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Let my words be few...

The lyrics to that song, one of my favorites,  have been playing over and over again in my head ever since my phone rang yesterday afternoon and my surgeon was calling with my pathology report.

No cancer in my left breast (which we knew, but still removed because I am a BRCA 2 carrier).
No residual cancer in my right breast, it had completely responded to treatment!
Only 1 of the 26 lymph nodes removed had residual cancer and it was 1.8mm!

Prayers have been answered and the God we serve reminds me once again how good He is, all the time!

I stand in awe!

**There are lots of folks who sing the song, my favorite is Phillips, Craig & Dean!


Friday, July 27, 2012

God's Promises

As my sweet sister left the hospital tonight, this is what she saw over the Cancer Hospital at UNC.

A rainbow:

"When the rainbow appears in the cloud, I'll see it and remember the eternal covenant between God and everything living, every last living creature on Earth."
Genesis 9:16

Does anyone else see the cloud shaped like the letter 'S' to the right of the rainbow? Well, I do and it's just another reminder of how awesome our God is! He held me in His hands yesterday as a blanket of prayers from my family and friends covered every inch of me. God is good, all the time and I am forever grateful for your love, support and prayers!

Today was full of naps, physical therapy exercises, and pain meds. I finally felt like eating around lunch time and walked around the 6th floor. I am extremely sore, but was able to tackle my PT exercises and am now catching some of the Opening Ceremony for the Olympics.

Our hope is to be checked out by lunch time tomorrow! Everyone here has been wonderful, but there is no place like home!