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.

 

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our first day :)

September 12, 2016

so many lovely “firsts” today!

our first official morning homeschooling … so much planning and dreaming and preparing and the morning was FANTASTIC! the boys (and mama) were so excited for every detail. i busted out the big bright velcro-date-attaching calendar and we began to really learn all about the date … we counted, we observed and charted the weather, we practiced our shape of the week (octagon). then i pulled out the standing pocket holder and we learned our sight words for the week,  number recognition, and math addition equations.

the boys needed to get wiggles out at this point so we took a snack & wiggles break 🙂

we then did some math worksheets- caleb loves these, josiah not so much but both boys did fantastic on their pages and we wrapped up today with some sweet time cuddling on the couch reading winnie the pooh (chapter book with very few pictures … a first and i wasn’t sure how long the boys would be interested but they surprised me with how focused they were … so sweet).

i’ll be adding more (phonics & reading practice with josiah, handwriting with both boys, bible memory, etc) but today felt great seeing how long some things would take, how long our attention would last, what tweaks i may want to make.

it feels fantastic adding this level of structure and focus to our learning time. the boys are such little loves!

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being SILLY!

 

our next big first … took the boys to their first day at a friend’s home daycare. they will go there 2 afternoons a week while i have time to do that which is healing for me (writing, reading, sauna, exercise, quiet … anything my heart desires! SUCH a gift for this season).

after droppng the boys off, i got to start my first day volunteering at my girl’s school – SUCH fun! i loved being there & am so thankful to get to do it each week. those high schoolers are precious!

and now … i find myself alone at starbucks, with my coffee, my book, and my laptop … with 2 hours spreading before me. the definition of bliss? i think so.

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.

 

this weird in between

August 24, 2016

last week felt different, felt like a turning of a corner. i’d been sailing along, feeling healed from surgery in july and just cruising along with my every-three-weeks herceptin infusion.

then the heart palpitations hit, the day after my last infusion. for several days, i was sidelined, hesitant, worried. what was going on, why was my heart pounding and racing and skipping?

was it the herceptin (which has as it’s main side effect, impact on heart function)?

bigger than that, and underlying really all these next treatment steps, is this: if i believe that i am healed, and the post chemo breast MRI said “complete response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy” and “no visible residual abnormalities” and “completely resolved”

and the pathology from my surgery (lumpectomy and 12 nodes taken) revealed “no residual invasive carcinoma seen” – NONE!

and the surgeon said the pathologist only sees this maybe twice a year and used the word “miracle”

then do i walk into unknown and potentially huge side effects from continued treatment?

i am thankful for the question – for the hard pause this last week represented and the grappling that feels inextricably linked to this healing journey.

more questions, more seeking, more praying, another invaluable consultation with my integrated oncologist, more revealed.

 

 

 

this weekend

August 14, 2016

it’s been a tough weekend. not in a catastrophic, acute crisis way but just in my heart & mind. i woke up saturday morning feeling overwhelmed, weary and depleted. i think that the multiple intense doctor appointments last week, the infusion of herceptin thursday, going fast, having had to grapple with another huge treatment decision last week, hubby having been out of town then back home and working nonstop, the relentlessness of parenting demands and household maintenance and feeling like i’ve neglected many of the essential pieces of my healing protocol – i think it just hit me. sunk me a bit.

i struggled with feeling – and even heard this sentiment – that shouldn’t i be feeling better; shouldn’t i be feeling more relief and space and hope? what’s my problem??

and of course, my reasonable self knows that yes, these things are true. i AM over the worst of my cancer treatment; i AM healed and well!; i AM around the bend and looking over the new horizon.

yet, when i step back and give myself the compassion i’d give a dear friend, i know that yes … i am weary and it makes sense. this season has been more dark and full of turns and dips and aches and heavy. of course i have days of deep fatigue; of a struggling spirit and overwhelm.  of course.

and then there are the real side effects of herceptin that i take via infusion every 3 weeks, until january. this weekend, that has looked like heart palpitations, fatigue and the ever present runny nose and split fingernails and aches.

yesterday i felt desperate for solitude — and not the kind that has a one hour time limit and kids knocking at my door the whole time. i wanted to escape for the weekend to somewhere quiet, maybe even near water. alone.

i didn’t get away and my heart still yearns for that quiet … that time away. for now, for this moment, i am giving myself grace to rest and feel the feelings and prioritize healing over tasks and do my best to love my people.

 

celebration in june!

August 12, 2016

(and a post without the word “surgery” in the title – glory!)

there is so much of life that is awesome and continues along and as always, there are amazing moments & sweet memories. i want to capture some of those recent ones here, and take a break from the big C! ha.

when i look back over june, i see a sort of visual rollercoaster – ascending up, then a dip down, then a glorious and prolonged swing back up.

weeks before chemo ended (may 19), my heart drew me toward gathering some of my loves in a celebration – heart bursting for many months with the innumerable kindnesses, the overwhelming grace and love shown, the gifts, the hugs, the deep soul-nourishing friendship. i *knew* i needed to gather some of these loves together and celebrate *them and the completion of chemo – their love having buoyed me through this dark chapter.

i am SO glad we gathered! the timing also ended up being a God-send: my hubby decided to spend that evening with papa in the rehab facility, watching a basketball game, helping papa eat and just being there for those hours. that was papa’s last night and we are so SO grateful for the gift of sweet togetherness that evening.

there is something about a large group of women gathered together, some kind of magic that my heart loves. june 5, you were awesome!

 

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(my precious lifelong kindred girlfriend and member of the family, really – kristi … with my grandma and lovely aunt nancy)

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these girls, so dear to my heart, so many prayers and miracles and life shared – ernestine & lori

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i love the love captured here – you are so loved, gretch!

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so much love and kindness right there! several dear friends that were out of town and were missed …

 

it’s  after 8pm – boys are bathed and tucked in bed and i’ve snuck outside with a glass of red wine, a couple squares of dark chocolate & my computer … to soak in this amazing evening air and allow space to sit with my thoughts of all that has been happening. so much to rejoice and allow gratitude to soak in my heart and mind.

i had surgery last friday – 6 days ago. oh, how glad that it is done! it really all went so well but the little pieces like getting sick as i was about to leave (and again in the van driving away); pricks and pokes and 5:30 am arrival and the *operating room … yeah, it was a lot. but oh my, the grace and love and goodness: the hubby who so faithfully is always beside, loving and being present and making me laugh and being steady & strong; the lifelong sister/friend who came super early to sit with and advocate for and hold my hand going in to the operating room … and the initial news: that the sentinel node tested negative for cancer. glory!

this week has been full of the haze of recovering …the throbbing pounding ache of incision sites and bruising and sutures, the bizarre yuckiness & discomfort of the drain (the tube that literally comes out of your body and drains stuff – eck). each day has gotten better. the fog has totally lifted (or maybe that was the side effect of the wonky percocet, lol). shooting pains like a bee sting still keep hitting the incision area – nerves, recovering? i am being vigilant to not lift which, with 2 kiddos, is super hard. no cuddling on mama’s left side, for now.

the initial plan had been for me to have my second surgery (the plastic surgery part) tomorrow – friday, one week after my first surgery. but this immediately didn’t feel right, felt too soon. the standard time frame, i’m told, is 2 weeks between. but the plastic surgeon will be on vacation that second week so his staff pushed for one week. my instinct told me that waiting longer made good sense; that my cancer-fighting immune system (the thing that will continue to ensure my body is inhospitable to cancer, not drugs) needed more time to recover to remain strong. 2 surgeries in 7 days is a lot. so as i do, i called my team of doctors, seeking  counsel and collaboration in considering this. some said the timing was fine but a few said waiting was the best so with great peace, i’ve scheduled that surgery for august 15. exhale. 🙂

yesterday i saw my oncologist and was super nervous before the appt, expecting to hear results from my pathology done from surgery. however, the path report wasn’t done. our appt was interesting as i continue to feel some discord around my choices that haven’t been what she has recommended (ie, partial mastectomy vs full mastectomy), but it is good to push through those moments, continue to speak truth, ask questions and increasingly just appreciate and recognize the very limited yet specific role she has in my healing journey.

today, TODAY i had a follow up with my surgeon and again, had some mild anxiety wondering if he may have the final path results. hubby and i sat in the room, waiting for him to come in. the door opened and he said, “there’s my miracle girl.” huh? then he said, and at this point the world was swirling and i started crying as i hear him saying that he doesn’t have the final official pathology report but he spoke with the pathologist and of the 8 nodes and breast tissue that he took, that NO CANCER WAS FOUND! that this is very “rare”, that the pathogist sees this maybe twice a year.

there are pretty much no words.

giggling, crying, hubby smiling, the doctor saying how great my incision looks, that i’m healing great, that i am an inspiration to him (??!).

just thankful.

and so now, i press on with the end of this cancer medical healing piece (surgery, then radiation plus herceptin infusions every 3 weeks til january – today included). and i continue to move strongly forward with my healing protocol, thankful for the tools GOD has shown me, more  determined than ever to steward well this vessel. there is so much ahead that i feel inspired and stirred to walk in to …

and tonight, i’m grateful. weary & tired but oh so grateful.