celebrating!!

October 30, 2016

amazing, how much pure joy & gratitude can fill a day! and one that starts with radiation, no less. 🙂

thursday, october 27 marked the final day of 33 radiation treatments, every morning at 8:15am, and oh my gosh i was SO ready, so done. this morning ritual was a dark spot on every day and on my final drive there, i was beaming.

 

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(pick a robe every morning)

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(i always used this same dressing room – crazy creature of habit i guess :))

i felt the love and warmth around me even as i arrived alone that morning, as i had texts and messages and virtual hugs already surrounding me. and then, i was blown away when i walked out of the dressing room in to the waiting room to find a dear kindred friend there! waiting with hugs and joy! (and the gift of her presence in that place means even more as it was revisiting hard places she’d walked years back with her beloved). she recognized the tech, bruce, who came out to bring me back – and she reminded him that he needed to play “hit the road jack” during my final treatment. yes!

 

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i lay on the table, laughing and with tears rolling down my cheeks as that song blared and i was finished and gave hugs to bruce & kalvin. done!

next was our thursday morning bible study & preschool, followed by an invite from grandma to come to her house for a bowl of soup on that rainy day. perfect. as we finished lunch, my precious aunt nancy arrived with these beauties, and more hugs and love.

 

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when we arrived home, there was a note at the door that a flower delivery had been attempted … it arrived a couple of hours later and again i was just completely blown away. so much kindness from a friend who lives in colorado, who has walked this hard road.

 

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mid-afternoon, the crashing radiation fatigue hit and i tucked in to our cozy bed, sunlight and big puffy clouds out my window, and took a lovely short nap while hubby picked up maddie from school.

then it was time to get ready for our date – the most crazy generous gift ever from heather, offering to have our boys come over (plus kids of our other best friend) so 8 kids under age 9 for the evening while we got dinner out. oh yes!

 

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i sat in her driveway, smiling through tears reading her card filled with words of such deep encouragement and love … then hubby and i tucked in to a booth at a local restaurant and filled our bellies with yummy food, fabulous red wine, and heart-filling conversation, dreaming of things ahead.

 

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the celebration started even earlier than thursday … and thinking of it even now overwhelms my heart. one of my best girlfriends invited me and our other bestie out to a celebration dinner tuesday night. we sat for hours, and they spoke words over me, having seen me at my darkest and hardest and lowest, knowing this journey so intimately.  we cried and hugged and truly celebrated. i couldn’t have walked this hard road without them and i can think few things as life-giving and soul-lifting as being truly seen and completely loved. carried by love; such grace and gift, this kind of friendship.

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Wednesday, I love you.

October 19, 2016

the gift of a few hours alone each wednesday has become a pocket of such refreshment and refueling. i am not sure i truly understood the deep and real ways that deep relaxation, invigorating creative work and simple pleasures just for the sake of pleasure – how these things actually move my body toward healing.

intuitively and experientially, i now know this to be true. we need to pour in to and build and prioritize the beauty, the quiet, the joy-giving, soul-filling, creative around us and within us.

i am so thankful for today, for every wednesday when i drop my littlest loves off to play and learn with others for four amazing hours.

my first stop is the sauna, which is like a literal happy pill that energizes, fuels and invigorates me *every time, in ways i couldn’t have imagined.

then, i allow myself the treat of tucking in to a local coffee shop (often parking and taking a brisk walk first) to read, write & study. bliss!!

today, after leaving the sauna, i couldn’t contain a big grin and drove on the back roads of town, windows down, music blaring … singing and laughing and feeling the deepest soul exhale.

it’s been so beautiful to shift away from what felt like an empty call in our culture for “self care” toward an understanding of the deep richness of cultivating quiet, creativity, and restoration on this path of healing. these pockets of time are a gift & this mama feels no guilt, only gratitude.

 

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GoFundMe page :)

October 17, 2016

my beloved created a GoFundMe page early on in this journey, sharing thoughtful updates as i’ve walked through the chapters of this story.  his perspective on our life unfolding has been tender and insightful.

and the support i’ve received has truthfully been life-saving, as it has allowed me to take specific healing steps that otherwise would have been out of reach.

seeing an integrated oncologist at key decision-making junctures in this journey has been made real by this support and i know for sure that her input and guidance has meant a dramatically different trajectory for my life. it makes me tearful to consider.

healing foods to build my body and not support the growth of cancer;  sauna;  supplements to support me during chemo and now radiation; naturopathic and acupuncture support … and so much more. all of these things made possible by the deep generous support and i will live, forever grateful.

as i walk through radiation, and look ahead to a surgery in the coming year … i covet the support to continue to build and heal and move joyfully beyond this cancer valley.

 

counting the kindness

October 15, 2016

i’ve kept a little journal, logging moments big and small where i was given a gift of deep kindness and generosity. i am so thankful already that i have this record because rereading it brings back such appreciation and gratitude.

just this week, i was blown away by kindness-out-of-nowhere; 2 surprises arriving a day apart that brought me so much joy. i feel humbled and also it makes me think how much it means, deep in to this journey, to have faithful support still rallying around. particularly walking through this home stretch of 33 radiation treatments (6 to go!), the gifts of love mean so much.

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this totally adorable gift arrived from my precious lifelong girlfriend, jaina. how completely adorable is all of this, with her handmade card and personalized bag? and the pink and gold polish? love.

the next day, this arrived: 

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the picture hardly captures the beauty of this hand-quilted pillow … colors that i love, and that verse,  “i know that my Redeemer liveth” (job 19:25). such a beautiful, thoughtful gift.

((kind of a funny story of how it arrived:). it was after lunch, the boys were watching their requisite one cartoon before rest, hubby was working away in his office and i snuck a bathroom break (gasp). from inside the bathroom, i heard hubby calling “babe” so i came out to see what was going on, pulling my pants up all the while. lo & behold, standing there in our living room was darling bonnie, a lovely lady who was in my bible study small group last year. hubby was decked out in his fabulous robe! lol. apparently, josiah heard the doorbell ring and rushed to greet our visitor, inviting them in. 🙂 ))

such kindness honestly enveloping me every step of this journey and i feel a gratitude words cannot capture.

when i walk in those doors

September 21, 2016

i remember that first appointment with my main oncologist on january 18th. one of my best friends was with me, and i felt complete revulsion in my spirit as i walked through the doors of that building.

the Factory.

i don’t belong here, amongst these people – this isn’t me! i am embarrassed to share those initial thoughts that screamed within me.  i don’t want to smile and meet their eyes; i want to sink down and sit in the hard dark feelings engulfing me.

i am so thankful that my heart has softened to the many that are walking this journey beside me, and i now love to look up and meet eyes and whisper hope even in my smile.

but i still detest walking in that building. and now there is another Factory – their second location where i typically received my infusions after chemo ended, and where i currently go every morning for radiation.

every morning.

i underestimated the hit it would be on my heart and mind to start each morning at that place. i assumed that i could breeze through this, walk through those doors, quickly finish my radiation and be done for the day.

but the reality is that starting each day surrounded by and immersed in an environment of CANCER feels crushing. the physical aspects of radiation are real and increasing (that fatigue? it’s pretty unreal. and after the last few treatments, i am super dizzy when i stand up … which lasts for an hour or so and then hits later in the day or when i’m laying down for bed) … but those feel manageable. certainly the physical side effects are not as devastating as chemo.

but chemo was every 3 weeks; i only had to enter that place every few weeks. now, every day, the air of cancer treatment is smothering. the other morning, i sat in my van just tearful with dread and sadness.

i am literally counting this down … today was #12 of 33. october 20 cannot come soon enough.

one of the most miraculous aspects of this journey has been the frequency of moments of great clarity and resonance; times when pieces start fitting together and i have an unmistakable YES in my heart and mind about my healing path. often, it comes first in the form of a nudge to perhaps reread a book that i put down a few months ago … i then reread a section that suddenly is a perfect fit for the place i am now walking out and i begin to dig and other sources confirm the information and ideas.

this happened last week and once again i feel so grateful. knowing is so beautiful … doing can be more difficult. 🙂

rewinding a bit: i made a seemingly hard but actually very easy decision last week to discontinue a medication that has been causing pretty intense side effects. in email correspondence with my integrated oncologist about that decision, i concluded by sharing my deep and overwhelming priority of building and strengthening my immune system. her reply contained so many nuggets of truth but one stood out – she urged me to “strenuously” avoid sugar.

strenuously.

it reinvigorated my thinking and commitment to that aspect of my eating … i needed that zero-ing in because my clarity in that area has been a little foggy lately. there are many things i know i want to avoid and many that i want to include in my eating and somehow, the sugar decision had not been top priority lately.

in the beginning, right after diagnosis, i immediately and entirely eliminated sugar. all sweetener, all the time. in my mind, sugar fed cancer so it was very simple for me: no feeding cancer.

and now, my understanding has grown. and the sugar piece actually and interestingly, is more about the systemic affect it has on my body – not just specifically “feeding cancer.”

i needed to  start from scratch and relearn these basics about how sugar impacts my body, and i found some information in one of my most cherished and invaluable books (“The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Breast Cancer”).

“the pancreas secretes insulin in an effort to decrease blood glucose levels, particularly after eating.  it helps transport glucose in to muscle cells to be used for energy or into fat cells to be stored as fat.  when we are overweight, we can develop ‘insulin resistance’, whereby the insulin less easily carries glucose to its destination, and both insulin and glucose levels rise in the blood, setting the stage for diabetes and increasing breast cancer risk.

… the number of receptors for insulin on breast cancer cells is 5-10 times greater than the number on normal breast cells, making breast cancer cells very sensitive to the growth-promoting qualities of insulin.  insulin is high when blood glucose is high, and we know that glucose is an energy source for the growth of breast cancer cells.

dr. pamela goodwin, a breast cancer specialist at mount sinai hospital in toronto, monitored 535 women with newly diagnosed breast cancer for up to 10 years, and found that those with the higher insulin levels were about 8 times more likely to develop a recurrence and die of the disease than those with normal insulin levels.”

!!!

i think back to my meeting with an alternative practioner last december, a couple weeks before getting my diagnosis. her tools revealed some concern in the area of my pancreas.

i think of the nauseated, upset tummy feeling that persisted last spring and summer.

about how hard it has been during some seasons, to truly kick the sugar habit.

and so today, i am reminded. and i know for certain, that my healing path includes decisively keeping my blood insulin levels low. this means not giving my pancreas reason to secrete large amounts of insulin which happens after eating sugar, sweets, and high glycemic carbs, omega 6 fatty acids (vegetable oils and the like) … high glycemic foods.

oh, so many pieces to put together! so thankful for grace along every step of the way; for information and encouragement that sparks changes that bring more healing.

 

updates & radiation

September 9, 2016

i sit here to write, with my  mind racing even as my body begs for rest. but when i lay down, my heart palpitations kick in to high gear. they are back with a vengeance after this latest round of herceptin.

it has been a hard few days. i started radiation tuesday and that night, had several hours of keep-me-awake-on-the-couch-should-i-go-to-the-ER heart pounding, skipping, racing. the next morning it continued, even as i lay on the radiation table, so i walked up to the 3rd floor to the office of the lovely cardiologist that i saw a couple weeks ago. her nurse hooked me up to an ekg and they were able to capture multiple ‘events’ which she says is premature atrial complex – not necessarily a sign of heart malfunction but unsettling (understatement). she prescribed a med to reduce them.

and again, i am walking through the jungle of decision-making. seeking counsel. researching. praying.

because, is the 2 percent difference in benefit of continuing herceptin for 12 months vs 6 (i’ve done 7) worth the increasing side effects? the numbness in my hands this week, the nails that continue to split, the cracks in my nose and lips that haven’t lifted since starting regular chemo february 4, the slowing of hair regrowth, the fatigue, the heart issues.

again and with words that will never be sufficient to capture the depth of my gratitude, i am being faithfully guided and given insight and specific counsel for *my treatment by my beloved integrated oncologist. the one who texts, emails and called me from her home phone this morning to see how i was doing and to advise of her most recent recommendations.

recommendations that resonate as YES! YES, of course, checking my blood levels of herceptin because the half life is 28 days and my infusion is every 21 days and i likely simply have TOO MUCH IN MY SYSTEM and thus the increase of side effects … of course that makes sense. and of course i will not take one more drop until this has been evaluated.

this is in stark contrast to the counsel of my local oncologist, as expected.

and so, i navigate. and listen and ask questions and pray for wisdom.

i am so thankful for my hubby who reminds me of the HOPE that I KNOW … the reality that is beyond and above this particular step in this journey. i step back and i know: it is all good and this will all be good and used for good and i will be well. i *am* well.