Sunday, August 31, 2008

God's Grace is always more than sufficient and amazing!

Thank you Lord for another amazing day to live for you!

I thank God so much for all the people who reach out to touch me in such a special way. As a friend stated, "people are the hands and feet of Jesus Christ here on earth." That is how I feel today.

I was physically having a very rough night last night. Everything hurt, including my eyelashes which were heavy and hurt. I always ask Steve to pray for me when I'm feeling really low. He prayed for me and after going to bed within a few hours, I was feeling so much better.

I felt too weak this morning to go to church which I had really looked forward too....but it was also the fear of feeling bad and being around someone sick. For some reason I couldn't get out of mind the warnings of the not even be around a runny nose...for some reason I couldn't get that out of my mind. So, I opted to stay in this morning since I wasn't feeling well and get the DVD. I missed church so much though.

My cousin was having a 40th birthday party after church. After asking mom if anyone was sick in the family decided to venture out of my prison to spend time with family. It was such a joyful day sitting at my aunt's house in another chair visiting with my family. I was able to visit with my aunt and uncle visiting from Indiana and hear about their new church being built, etc. It was very exciting to think of something else, sickness, cancer, chemo....

My grandma who is also going through chemo came over to visit and wasn't feeling very well. It is nice to have someone to relate with...even though I feel so bad for her and she says the same for me.

So many have made comments, called to encourage, etc. that I feel bad for even had a bad day yesterday. However, how would I ever have an appreciation for all the good days if I never knew a bad day? If Adam and Eve hadn't messed up...we could all just be living in a garden, wearing fig leaves and eating the fruit from the trees too....but guess what....didn't happen that mind get over it! ha. Besides that...knowing what we know....can you imagine your neighbor running around with just fig leaves....ugh....??? ha.

Tomorrow is Labor Day and my family is getting together at my aunt's house again. I pray for another great day tomorrow to get outta here. I can't believe that I may actually be able to get out of here 2 days in a row. So far, I haven't felt that much energy. I keep getting told that my worst days are coming up this Wednesday (white blood/red blood cell counts dip to their lowest a week from chemo). Lord, your grace and mercy is sufficient....please let all those reports be wrong.

I'll close for now....praying tomorrow is another wonderous day! It is your prayer that gets me through. To those reading this, thank you for your prayers of faith and Thank you Jesus for your touch today! :-)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Time does not fly (be forewarned, this is not a happy blog today)

First of all, I want to tell about all the wonderful things that have happened since I've last blogged.

We've had wonderful families from the church bringing us dinner. It has been such a blessing to my family. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for your selflessness.

Secondly, Friday after going back to Emory to have my infusion pump removed (they made me stay until every drip was gone....not that 50+ hours wasn't already enough), I had visitors from work visit as soon as I got home. I was so sad and happy at the same time. They brought some normalcy into my day. I was so excited to see them and visit that I didn't even realize how bad I felt until after they left.

They came on behalf of my local Atlanta office bearing gifts of paper goods (plates, cups, napkins, plastic dinnerware, etc.), flowers, drinks, a card that represented funds that were donated in my honor to the American Cancer Society and then left me with a gift of American Express Cards! I was so overwhelmed after they left after reading the cards and the awesome words of encouragement! Again, words are inadequate to express gratitude to any and all who have been there for us in prayer, concern and helping to meet our practical needs. No about all I can muster. Thank you everyone.....never expected a thing but everyone has given so much from their hearts! "-)

Even after all the wonderful things that have occurred....last night after everyone left, I lay on the couch feeling so bad physically that all the thoughts about this journey came flooding in.....

I debated whether to share my thoughts but realized that no journey is perfect and how does anyone relate without knowing the obstacles you go through and over to get to where you utlimately have to be.

Today, the hours have just eekkked by....normally I would be running around buying all the things we would need for our Labor Day Family Party. We always have a party or something going on around here....and what am I doing? Sitting in a granny grump chair in the corner watching the minutes, tick, tock, tick tock......this all starts my human thoughts which try to undermine all the promises of God, words of encouragement, etc.

What about the lesions on my kidneys and lungs? What about the 2 nodules of tissue they found in my breast that I have to have checked? Why is everyone coming and going and I'm still sitting? Why can't I muster up the strength to go and do something? My dog, Dakota starts throwing up and becomes lethargic and sick so Steve has to take him to the vet....I was so upset last night that he was sick that I started praying for him. Oh, Lord do not let something happen to my dog...he comforts me in the middle of the night when I can't sleep. All these crazy thoughts....this is only 1 treatment down and I'm eeeekkkking away in the corner doing nothing.

What good am I sitting in the corner? I get up and walk around the room several times (my marathon) and the thoughts are just running through my brain.....I'm ready to go Lord so if this is going to be the way I live the rest of my I really want to live this way? What can I do like this? I'm still not asking why? Why would I think anyone else should have this journey? I'm just trying to figure out what I can do for anyone else if all I can do is sit here helplessly? I've never sat at home....I don't know how to do it....and frankly, I don't really want to.

So, after all the thougths run through my head today, I am reminded through cards that have just arrived through the mail how God's hand is unchanging, people are with me in prayer and concern, and that God is going to take care of me with rainbows after this storm. I guess I'm feeling very human today.

It is beautiful, warm and sunny and I'm sitting in flannel pjs in the house energyless.....I just want normal....

I can understand how they say your mind can be a prison. My brain has never been confined, it is always on the next thought even before I get out the last thought....I pray for those who are confined in their minds and spirits, as it must be hell on earth to be so bound.

Tomorrow will be a better day I, I'm feeling low because it is a beautiful long weekend and I'm trapped....but God has blessed me with so much that I feel guilty for even thinking this way.

So, I will leave for now and not give another minute to endless worry which will not get me anywhere and dwell on the awesome wonders of what I do have vs. what I can't do.....

Thank you again to all who care enough to make comments, write a card, say a prayer or just be really does help keep me motivated and focused on the journey....I have just lost the meaning of the journey today....
Love to all,

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Down but not Out!

Not feeling so well today. I have the flu aches and pains and nausesa keeps trying to set in but I have so far managed it with the strong steriods and medicine. Nonetheless, it has been a restless day from very cold to hot.

I took my body temp. which usually runs around 97.5 avg. and it has run from 95.5 to 95.9 today, which is probably a big reason I don't feel so grand (my nose is cold to the touch). I've still managed to eat toast, crackers, and such today to try and maintain my energy.

I tried my marathon a couple of times to make myself feel better. I just think it is going to take time, after all this is the second day I've had chemo pumping into my veins with another day to go. Weirdest thing, Dekota (the youngest and most protective dog) was laying on my lap most of the day (very much enjoying the new recliner) and he gets up and gets sick on the floor! Go figure.....he is supposed to be supporting me, not paving the way. ha. Check out Dakota resting in his new recliner below....

Although today hasn't been the best, I know it could get a whole lot worse so I thank God for another great day! :-)

I also want to thank all those who took time today to e-mail, leave messages on my blog, send cards, etc. As I stated, this is the first time I've looked at anything today but I do look and it is very encouraging. Also, I want to thank all those who have brought food and are bringing food. At first, I was having a hard time accepting all the help but soon realized that I can't do it and it really is a huge help to my family. I just hate being the reason for all the energy.

Anyway, I read over my pathology report again and they actually found two different tissues in the same breast that has to be reviewed. Again, these may only be cysts. It isn't anything I've noticed on my own. Whenever you have colon cancer it raises the risk for other cancer, most notably breast cancer. Again, this is only a concern not determined and I'm not going to accept it to be anything to be concerned. The only concern now is how in the world do I have a mammogram with the port cath right at my collar bone? I don't feel like having another exam either. Oh well....another day to figure that all out.

I had visitors today. My sister-in-law was so kind to rub my legs with lotion since I was in so much pain and my sister was kind enough to keep up with my medicine and the little lunch I was able to get down. They left when I fell asleep on them. Sorry about that....this is why it is all called a by blind faith, not knowing what's around the bend but knowing that whatever it going to be worth the time on the road.
Thank you everyone for your constant prayers and concern! As I state many times, it is your love, prayers and concern that keep me motivated and focused.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Home from Chemo! YIPPEE!.Got my recliner and received CT scan results....

Our day started off in traffic on the way to Emory at 7 a.m. in the morning. Boy, I was really missing my morning in the world could I be so foolish to let something as simple as cancer keep me from sitting in "stop and go" traffic for 3 hrs. daily? Road rage, wrecks, broken down vehicles and congestion were the highlights of my morning and evening. Now what shall I do with all that productive time?

I was a little nervous about the lab work initially....nail pricks have started getting to me but this lady did a great job and started off my morning awesomely. I saw a Nurse Practioner vs. my regular Medical Ongologist and she was such a blessing. She saw how much my bandages cause alot of undue pain, understood how awful the nausea was going to be and added more steriods in my IV for nausea and prescribed something for me to take on my way home. Other than pain in my right hand veins, cold senstivity and tingling in my far, so good! They said if I get sick it will be in 24 to 48 hrs. and additionally I may get sick 7 days out.....but God is going to control that so I'm not going to worry.

They hooked on the infusion pump to my port cath to be detached on Friday. I have 46 hrs. in my fanny pack. The port cath was very painful. Another lady came in right beside me and said she had done absolutely fine with the same chemo cocktail and as soon as she told me that she started vomiting. I felt bad for her because I could tell she was embarressed but she couldn't help it.

Well, we asked for the results of my CT scan. It was a little confusing, as it talked about lesions on my kidneys and lungs but only said they would need further follow-up. The one area that was bothersome is that they found a 1.2 cm soft tissue nodule in my right breast. They requested that I go get a mammogram just to be such everything is okay. They think it is a cyst but it showed up on the scan so they felt it was important to get it checked now! With Christ, everything is going to be CLEAN and CLEAR!! I rebuke this from my body in Jesus Name!

Now for the really good news! I got my new recliner today...YEAH, YEAH, YEAH......see pictures below....I had to try it out and now I think that I'm hyped up on all the steriods, I need to get in my jammies and enjoy the comfort while I'm in a sane frame of mind....well, I'm not sure if that is going to I'll just enjoy it any ole' way I can!

Thank you for the prayers today and over the next few is going to determine how well this journey goes...everyone looks for the figuratively beautiful sunsets, lazy hammocks, refreshing ocean tides in their life....thus, that is what I pray today..not for just me but for all those that read this! "-)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Today is a great day! Chug, Chug, Chug....

Today I'm trying to prep for tomorrow. Of course, I've gotten all kinds of advice on what to do but not really knowing what I should do. However, I've heard from many that the more water I drink the quicker I can flush out the chug, chug, chug....I've been trying all day to drink water. I am using a cup Emory gave me while I was in the hospital to measure my water so no cheating for me! I thought drinking 30 ounces today was enough for the month but I have that much and more to go.

I'm yet again blessed with cards , e-mails and gifts. I owe so many people. I don't know how in the world I'll ever be able to repay those who have been so thoughtful, kind and prayerful. I'm reminded that this is my test in my testimony but "God, couldn't it have been something a little less painful, such as a stubbed toe or something of similiar caliber?" Of course, I've never asked that...all in teasing. Not sure why my car detoured but there must be beautiful scenery that I would have missed on my journey. "-)

I have read over and over about red meat and the corelation to colon cancer, especially the re-occurance so....I've totally cut red meat and pork out of my diet. This much pain and aggravation does not even begin to equal the taste of steak, I used to enjoy. This is the only contributing factor I have for colon cancer. Come on, I ate red meat but I didn't eat that much! :-) Nonetheless, I love chicken and turkey so it isn't that hard of a compromise.

I finally took my bandage off my port cath. Well, the good news is that the incision in my shoulder is about 1 to 1.5 inches and is totally grown together....the bad news is that it is supposed to be that way. I have had so much pain in my shoulder which I didn't expect. The nurse at Emory called me to check to make sure that it was healed. Other than all the bruising and puffiness, I guess it seemed fine. I thought I would have the port (opening) that I could see and that they would attach my chemo bag to it ....well, the nurse tells me, it is supposed to be closed up because they will put a needle into the port through my skin each time to hook up. YIKES, ARE YOU KIDDDDING ME??? I thought the whole purpose was so I wouldn't get stuck over and over again. I told the nurse, "I'm already about over all these needles, they never used to affect me but I somehow always seem to get someone who is training". She laughed and said, "I know how you must feel, I'm so sorry but you will have alot of needles coming your way."

No more to say, gotta do what you gotta do.....but somehow what they say is going to happen, always tend to happen the opposite way. My Surgeon told me that I would be bored in the hospital....well, he forgot to tell me the incision would be an interstate and that I would be bored only because I was hitting the pain pump and wouldn't remember anything!! ha.

Well, right now I gotta worry about what to wear to chemo tomorrow. They were a bit suprised when I went in for post-op surgery Friday in my heels. Hey, you said dress comfortable...this is comfortable for me....until I have to dress like a sad little bag lady, I want to dress in heels and be joyful. Too many reasons to get down...I'm looking for all the reasons to get I'm sure tomorrow when I walk in with heels and long hair, I'll get the stare and under the breath comments, "yeah, you can tell she is new....we'll have to teach her a thing or two".....I'm sure these people will become my best friends for a few months! :-) I hope I don't have to change anything but if I do....I want the hair or get sick....sorry, gotta go...there are awful nice hats and scarves out there. Bring it on Sisters....!!!!

Tomorrow I get my recliner! Now that is something to look forward to after chemo. I realized after being home that we don't have lazy furniture. Nothing to get really comfortable in so I'm really excited to have a recliner with a heater and massager. Now if someone will just come over and do my manicures and pedicures!

Make today a great day! Love to all, Leah

Monday, August 25, 2008

Dreading the Inevitable!

The day started off beautiful and sunny and ended up rainy....possibly the reason that I'm so tired today. I try to start off my mornings with a marathon around the kitchen and through the living room around the coffee table for approx. 30-40 minutes to build up strength. I know how excited that must make those who are reading this....don't try this at home, it is being done only by a professional and you could get hurt....ha.

However, today I know that I'm going to the dentist so I'm conserving my energy for that. Dental Hygentist said that I'm in excellent shape so no worries right now. I ask the dentist for the "magic mouthwash" I keep hearing about for those who have the same chemo treatments as I will be having. He prescribes the medicine and says that I should get it filled prior to my chemo treatment on Wednesday....just in case....:-(

I finally sent out my blog address and have received very thoughtful and sweet e-mail responses in return. Again, I'm feeling very blessed to have such a support system.

In the back of my mind, is the first dreaded day.....Wednesday, 8/27....! The nurse calls me this morning to change my doctor appt. and I ask her if I will immediately get nauseated after the 1st round of chemo prior to them hooking up my infusion pack to go home. She asks how far I live from the hospital. I tell her 1 to 1 1/2 hrs. depending on traffic. She tells me that I most definitely will be nauseated. Oh why did I have to ask? My worst fear of being nauseated and in the car! So....everything I do today makes me wonder about Wednesday? I know I'm going to make it through this but without God's intervention, I may have some pretty sick days. I remind myself of the precious e-mails I received just today telling me that they will be praying for me specifically on Wednesday. Okay, I allowed 'self' to get away with those thoughts....I'm going back to the initial thoughts of, "everyone handles it differently and the Lord is going to protect me"....why am I dreading this....chalk it up to the planner in me....I had planned on taking grandpa to the Calfornia Redwoods in 2 weeks, not hooked up to a tube infusing medical life preservation fluid into my body.

I am quickly reminded....I have options and God is my umbrella in this storm. It may rain but God is right over protecting me as I walk through this storm. My favorite quote, "This too shall pass!"
So, let it will all soon be over.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I feel very blessed! Thank you for all the encouragement!

Today I woke up not feeling well...but everyday is like I got up and got dressed for church. I receive the most encouragement from going to church. I don't arrive early to service because being around people makes me nervous since both my surgeries. I'm worried someone is going to fall into me or grab and hug me and physically I'm not up to that yet. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings either. The doctor told me that I could not even be around a runny nose as soon as I start chemo this this might have been my last Sunday for awhile....time will tell. :-(

I've received unbelievable love, support, prayers, visits, cards, flowers, gifts, etc. from family, friends, co-workers that I could not ever begin to mention everyone's name. Although physically I'm still not quite well, mentally I grow stronger and stronger. It is to all who read this blog that have gone out of your way in some small or big way that has made this journey bearable.

In your prayers, please also pray for my grandma. She was recently diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer and has to have chemo and radiation. I will be at Emory on Wednesdays for Chemo and she will be there on Tuesdays. She has a much shorter duration than I so we couldn't coordinate schedules. Ugh! What is up with this ugly thing, "Cancer?"

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Clean and Clear and Much Stronger!

My motto yesterday was "C and C....Clean and Clear". My colon and body are going to be Clean and Clear of Cancer when my CT scan returns. I know they still have to put me through chemo to kill microscopic cells but I expect "C & C" results on my CT scan.

I woke up at approx. 1:30 a.m. I got up and had energy that I've not had since before my colon resection surgery. I even felt like eating. I heated up leftovers and ate it in the middle of the night. "-)

Even with the pain I have from the port and my back, I feel physically and mentally stronger. I just started rejoicing in the Lord again. He has given me so much strength. Every day is a great day. Every day I thank him for the added bonus of living for him. I told Steve yesterday that I'm so glad that I have lived for God my whole life....I don't have control of the current journey I'm on but I'm so glad that I know my destination when my life ends. I don't plan on ending anytime soon but having my family, friends and the can't get any better than that!!

The port cath is in, CT Scan run....all ready to go!

Yesterday was another long day at Emory! We were supposed to get there at 11 am. for pre-op and surgery at 1 p.m. We didn't leave until 6:30 p.m.

As usual, when I check in for surgery and survey the room, I'm yet again the youngest one around. I feel like others are looking at me and wondering why I'm there? We check in and I wrap my pink cozy blanket around me (mom had it embroidered with my name, a cancer ribbon and the words, "you can make it" in the corner) and it seems to draw attention. It makes me feel comfortable just having something cozy around me but makes Steve see others around notice me. I tell him not to worry if people stare, it is a great opportunity to tell others about my story and God's assurance.

The nurses also seem to want to question me more than most because of my age and condition. The anesthia nurse that came in immediately began with, "how did you know, you are so young, couldn't believe it when I read your case and since I'm your same age am very curious". When I explain that I had no prior symptons of anything that would typically draw your attention to colon cancer from any point in my life, it just makes those more curious. Well, I should say, "me too". I could see other cancers by my family history....but colon cancer?

The nurses questioned me all the way into surgery and then continued to question me until they totally put me out. Surgery went well, no nicks on my lungs they said......and off in a wheelchair I went to another building for my CT scan. By the way, it does hurt to have a port cath. Dr. Staley said the stiches would desolve. My back pain, which started approx. 3 days ago is still there even with pain killers. It feels like I'm sleeping on a hairspray cap jabbing my back.

The CT scan was the most painful. I used my mental, "God if I take the first drink you drink the rest" to chug down all the prep liquid for the test. They kept in my IV from surgery to use for the radioactive dye. The guy who flushed the IV pushed it through so fast, I was yelling before I knew it. I never hurt like that through major surgery. Once they finally took me back for the scan, I mentioned again how painful, not realizing he was the one putting in the dye in my IV.....and I ended up yelling in pain again. He said it was because they had put my IV in a small vein and it was alot of dye to flush through...

The Doctors and Nurses at Emory have been excellent! The administration is lacking but if you can patiently get through the front desk, they do give you excellent care.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My Story

I guess I need to back up and give a little bit more information about what happened and why I'm here (rather than at work where I've been for the past 20 years)!

July 16, 2008 was a life changing moment for me. I woke up after a colonscopy to hear the nurses trying to find Steve. They immediately whisked him off to a room and closed the door with the doctor and two assistants. I knew something was wrong. Very quickly he came out of that room towards me with a face I'll never forget. "Leah, they found a tumor, it's bad, you have to have surgery, I'm serious". Those who know Steve knows he likes to joke but I never thought for one minute any of it was a joke. I immediately was sent for all the post operative testing, etc. to prepare me for surgery.

It was at this time we began searching for most experienced doctor in the area in this field. I ended up at Emory with a Surgeon (Dr. Charles Staley) that came highly recommended from his peers. Thanks to my cousin, Becky who while on dialysis, was researching the best doctors for me.

I had an anterior colon resection surgery on 7/23/08. They removed about 10-12 inches of my colon and left me with an incision starting with a few inches beyond my belly button, down and around my belly to the lowest point they could cut. The Surgeon mentioned that it was a good thing that I was young and flexible, otherwise they would have had to cut more than double my current incision (guess I would have been cut all the way to my throat) ha.

My tumor was the size of a large apple which had grown all through the colon walls into 1 lymph node of 11. They determined that I'm in Stage 3 Colon Cancer with only a 50% survival rate without chemo (basically a matter of time). With chemo, my survival jumps to 70-75%.

They aren't really sure where this came from because I do not have family history of colon cancer. Only polyps that formed after the age of 50 in my grandfather and uncle. The Surgeon told me that I had an old person's disease but aren't sure why? The doctors made it very clear that my siblings needed to have colonscopies. It is much more aggressive in younger people. They think mine grew in 6-9 months and to think I thought I was having side effects from medicine I take for restless legs.

My great physician is the Lord but until he determines the time for me to be healed or to meet him, I'm doing what the doctors tell me to do. My family, friends and Co-workers have been unbelievable with their support, prayers, cards, visits, gifts....I feel so blessed and ultimately guilty for putting my family through this. This wasn't a journey I chose for myself, however some things are out of our control. The one thing in my control is to decide where I want to be when my journey ends. I think you know the rest of story....

Next comes the port and then the CT Scan

This Friday, 8/22/08 I will have my port put in for my chemo treatments. I will also have another CT scan to insure the cancer has not spread. This will also be a baseline throughout my chemo treatments to determine if the chemo is effective or not.

I will have blood work each week to insure I'm healthy enough to partake of another dose (52-54 hrs. chemo). This will be administered every other Wednesday starting 8/27/08. I will have the blood work, meet with the doctor, and then start 4-5 hrs. of chemo. I will then leave with a infusion pack all neatly tucked into a fanny pack so the chemo can continue to drip for another 46 hrs. I will then take steriods for 3 days trying to combat the nausea that is supposed to be a directive of the last chemo cocktail I receive. In my cocktail, I have 3 medications. The last is supposed to be the worst.

I've received conflicting comments from Doctors on the side effects. The doctor who sent me to a Colon Surgeon told me it will be hell and that I will lose alot of weight, have no energy, lose my hair and will want to quit. She said that I must keep taking it no matter what or the cancer will beat me.

I was told by my Medical Oncologist that he thinks that with all the drugs he is giving me to supplement the side effects that I will be okay. I want to believe him because I believe that the Lord is going to get me through this as unscathed as possible. Somewhere in this lesson will be the purpose for the journey I'm on. I still have never asked why? It is not important. To me, the most important is question is, When? When will this all be over?