Counting ’em down

Happy New Year!  I hope everyone had a great time celebrating the New Year…..whatever that looked like for you.  For us……well, we celebrated it at home…….snuggled up in our PJ’s……catching up on shows we had DVR’d.  It was brutally cold here on Sunday.  I’ve been a hot box my entire life until this year.  Chemo changed all that and it seems that I am eternally cold these days.  We ventured out to church Sunday am, then went to town to grab some lunch and met some friends at the theater to see Pitch Perfect 3!  It was so dang cold when we left the theater, all I wanted to do was get home and get warm!  It was a perfect night for chili beans!

So……the New Year brought good news for me!  I got another 3 day weekend – which was wonderful for several reasons.  Last Friday I could really see some change in my skin after radiation.  There was a really pronounced “burn” area near my collarbone.  The doctor said it was to be expected…….and that I could expect this week to be a bit worse.  Ugh – definitely NOT music to my ears.  We’ve been diligent about moisturizing……but some things are inevitable.  Having an extra day away from radiation was a blessing…..it gave me another day to heal before getting back at it today and it allowed me, quite simply, another day to REST.  And that’s EXACTLY what I did.  Monday was a pajama day at the Vaughan household.  I had NO desire to venture out into the cold so I never left the house…….heck, I didn’t leave the couch too many times.

Here’s a few pictures to show the change in my skin this week.  It doesn’t really show up in the picture very well – but the area under my armpit it both red and very gray.  Thank goodness the nurse warned me about that Friday.  She said “don’t get worried that you may molding……it’s completely normal”!

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The area above that looks like a shadow is truly where my skin is very gray and “moldy”! 🙂
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My chest is quite red and I’ve developed a bit of a rash.  Yeah – it itches!
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The area near my collarbone is the WORST.  It’s definitely the most painful.

The best news of this week is that I am now OVER half-way done with my radiation.  Today I checked off treatment #17 out of 30.  That ONLY leaves 13 to go!  Praise God! As you can see…..I’ve been marking off my progress on the calendar they gave me with my schedule.  Wow it feels good to know that I’m getting soooo close to the finish line.

I experienced some pain for the first time over the weekend.  It wasn’t unbearable – but painful nonetheless.  It’s like a sharp, shooting nerve pain sometimes in my breast and sometimes under my arm.  It typically doesn’t last very long…..but boy, you sure know it when it’s happening.  Between the occasional pain and knowing that this week was going to be a little more difficult……I really dreaded going back to radiation today.  It wasn’t as bad as I anticipated.  I came home and put lots of moisturizing lotion on my burns in an effort to minimize the burning and discomfort.

So this morning as I was getting dressed……I picked up my magnifying mirror to see if, by chance, I may have any eyebrows or eyelashes coming in.  Well what do you know??!!!  I could see some really really short eyelashes coming out!  And yes – the eyebrows appear to be making their re-appearance as well!  How bout that!  And just as quickly as I got excited about my eyelashes and eyebrows…….I realized that this probably means the hair on my legs and my underarms may be reappearing too.  UGH!  I have to say I have enjoyed NOT having to shave!

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My mom and I were talking this morning.  Here we are in 2018……and if all goes as planned my radiation will be complete by Jan 23rd.  My lump was found at my doctors appointment on April 17th, 2017…….so I should be finishing up radiation a little over 9 months from the time this shit storm started!  In some ways it seems impossible that so much time has elapsed……but in other ways, it feels like it’s been a LONG 9 months.  When I stop and think about the endless blessings that I have received during this time….it becomes overwhelming.  I truly do NOT know how folks go through something like this without faith in God and a COMMUNITY of Christian friends surrounding them and praying them through the good and bad days.  I KNOW that folks have prayed me through this……and God has shown up in big and small ways……and it’s been my hope that I have given HIM all the glory.  Yes, I’ve come through the past 9 months with minimal setbacks, side effects, etc.  But that’s not because I’m any super hero……and it wasn’t because I was as fit as a fiddle……I can ONLY give the credit to God.  I’ve definitely learned to lean heavily on HIM and to trust in HIM to meet my needs each day.  And He’s shown up and showed off……time and time again.  I am thankful that He has given me this platform of my blog to share and this whole experience and hopefully to lift others up…….to encourage those who may be fighting a similar battle……and to just reassure folks that no matter what you are fighting…….you DO NOT have to go it alone.

Many of you have asked what you can do for me at this time.  Honestly – your prayers are the absolute best way you can support me right now.  Praying that I can get through the next 13 treatments with no complications and minimal discomfort.

I didn’t really make any New Year’s Resolutions (other than kicking this cancer in the a#@)……but I have made some mental notes of things I want to do this year.  If you’ve been following my blog since the beginning, you’ve read where several times over the past 9 months, I’ve had complete strangers come up to me in a restaurant and ask me if they could bless me and buy my lunch.  I can’t tell you how emotional that was for me – and how it was a perfect example of God’s amazing love and grace being poured out on me by folks I didn’t know and may never see again.  This random act of kindness has really impressed upon me the need to be observant of those around me.  It’s my hope that I will be able to pay it forward and do the same thing for other cancer victims that I may encounter.  And I’d love to challenge YOU to do the same.  If you see a cancer patient (or anybody for that matter who looks like they may be struggling whether it’s health related or finances, relationships, etc)…..I encourage you to bless them and pick up their lunch tab.  I’m sure you will BOTH be blessed.

Well I’d better hit the sack.  I’ve gotta rest up so I can check another treatment off the list tomorrow!

Wishing you all the best 2018 has to offer!

Sonja

Colossians 1:11-12 The Message (MSG)

9-12 Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.

 

Checking Them Off

Well it’s been 10 days since I last updated my blog.  Time flies when you are having fun.  Meanwhile….I’ve made great progress…..I’ve checked off the first 7 radiation treatments.  Wow!  Going every day sure does make a difference.  The numbers add up quite a bit faster than with chemo (which was either once every 3 weeks or once a week).

The radiation process is quick and painless.  The hardest part is being still.  I get a total of seven different treatments from various sides and angles.  I have some awesome girls working with me each day and they do a phenomenal job.  This past Friday was the most difficult day yet…….they had problems getting my left arm aligned properly.  It took us about 30 minutes – but FINALLY they got things all worked out.  Fortunately, they have taken many pictures to help them know the exact position that I should be in each time.  I told them I had some tightness in my left shoulder the night before – it felt as if my muscle was all knotted up.  Ironically enough – they said that could definitely be the culprit.  My radiation oncology doctor confirmed it and even said that radiation itself could cause the muscles to constrict.

I’m still in awe of all the wonderful folks at Duke Cancer Center.  I seriously think the folks in HR have some way of screening the Cancer Center Employees so that they hire only the cream of the crop.  In ALL my trips to Duke I have to say that every time I walk out of that building, I comment on just how wonderful those employees are.  They are the sweetest, kindest, most patient and most compassionate folks I’ve ever met.  They work with cancer patients day in and out and they do it with a smile on their face and a lot of love in their hearts.  It starts in the valet parking line……those folks working there are so sweet and helpful and my buddy that parked my car that very first day now yells out to me every morning as he sees me walking in…….then the folks at the information desk are always so welcoming…..as are the folks in the lab, the breast clinic, radiation – you name it.  I’ve truly been blessed by their loving and compassionate personalities.  I’m pleased to say that I have NOT had a single unpleasant experience at Duke Cancer Center.  Those folks are top notch in my book.

So far I’ve not had any negative reactions to the radiation.  No skin rashes or burns……and for that I’m very thankful.

This past week I had some genetic testing done at the request of my doctor.  That was easy enough – they just needed a little blood.  Even though I had previously had the BRCA1/BRCA2 testing done in 2010 and was negative for any mutations, they felt that it was important for me to have the genetic testing done again because so much had changed over the past 7 years.

We were fortunate enough to sneak in a long weekend at the beach after my treatment on Friday.  Ahhh……the beach makes EVERYTHING better.  It was a wonderful time to relax, rest and recharge so I can rock out the rest of these treatments…….and as an added bonus……  This view NEVER gets old!

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So tomorrow we will get back to reality…….and checking off more radiation treatments.  Let’s do this!

Until next time!

Sonja

Psalm 116:7-8 The Message (MSG)

7-8 I said to myself, “Relax and rest.
    God has showered you with blessings.
    Soul, you’ve been rescued from death;
    Eye, you’ve been rescued from tears;
    And you, Foot, were kept from stumbling.”

And we’re off……

Well I enjoyed another small break from Duke Cancer Center and Doctor’s appointments…….I did have my 6 month follow-up with my surgeon last Friday (yeah – it REALLY has been 6+ months since my first surgery).  She was very pleased with my progress and all was well with my visit.  She said I will follow-up with her every 6 months for the next 2 years.  At the end of my visit – she wished me well and said “can I hug you”?  Now you know why I love her so much.  She is just a wonderful human being. I’m still thankful God directed me in her path.

On Wednesday of this week I had my “radiation simulation”.  Can you say LONGEST. DAY. EVER.???   Lying still is not easy for me – and lying still in an awkward and often uncomfortable position is even harder.  We had to re-do things on Wednesday because apparently when I coughed once, my body moved ever so slightly (they measure everything in millimeters……so even the tiniest bit off can be a problem).  So…..they let me get up and stretch awhile before corralling me on the table AGAIN.  Goodness.  I prayed constantly for patience, the ability to stay still……that nothing would itch……you know how it is when you KNOW you can’t move – something always happens.  One thing I didn’t have to worry about was my hair getting in my face!  Just a little peach fuzz up there right now!  Definitely not long enough to cause a problem.  I left there with my torso and chest looking like some sort of multi-colored road map.  They marked and remarked me – I still have no idea what all these marks mean – but I’m thankful there are folks that do! 🙂

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Because my tumor was in my left breast – I’m having to do “breath holds” during my radiation.  Because the heart is closer to my left breast – they have me hold my breath for 15-20 seconds while they radiate my breast.  Holding my breath moves both my heart and lungs out of the field of the treatment.  There’s always the risk of some residual damage – but the doctor says my heart and lungs move out of the way nicely – so that’s a plus for sure.  With my earlier pulmonary issues – she wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to do the “breath holds” – but my breathing has gotten much better, and it hasn’t been a problem in the simulation or in my first round of treatment today.

It took me about an hour today on the table – but the next visits should not be so lengthy.  They had to grab a few extra x-rays today as well as get me properly aligned and then my radiation oncologist came in to check me and make sure everything was just right.  On my future visits, I’ll just go in, get lined up on the table and start treatment.

If all goes as planned, I should be finished up by January 22nd.  I have a few weeks that I will be going 5 days a week – but with the holidays, I’ll have off Christmas Day and New Year’s Day and Martin Luther King Day – so that’s three weeks I’ll only have a 4 day week.  So it looks a little better on the calendar than it sounds!  The main thing is Round #1 is in the books……..1 down and 29 to go.  I plan to check off #2 tomorrow!  

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It’s amazing to stop and thing just how much has happened over the past 6 months.  How far I’ve come……how blessed I’ve been throughout this ordeal……and the many wonderful people I’ve encountered along my path.

One of those wonderful folks is my friend, Miranda.  Miranda finished up her treatment last November.  She has been a wealth of knowledge for me – and I am so thankful for her.  Well, earlier this week, Miranda put this on her Facebook page……

:: Heading to Duke on Friday. I’ve been having some issues and symptoms, so we are going to do an MRI. Any time a test or a scan is involved, I totally freak out!! It’s scary!! You try to stay super busy, so you don’t think about it. You try not to think about the worst case scenario, you try not to worry until there’s a reason, but it’s all IMPOSSIBLE!! So I just ask for your prayers, that it’s not a cancer related issue. ::

Please say a prayer for Miranda.  I completely understand where she’s coming from.  I hope I’m able to connect with her while she’s at Duke tomorrow…..but I know she’d appreciate your prayers.  She’s been heavy on my heart the past few days.

So that’s it for now.  The countdown is on.  Ready to get this show on the road!

Blessings,

Sonja

Joshua 1:9 New International Version (NIV)

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

 

Just Plain Thankful

What a wonderful week it has been.  I cannot tell you just how thankful I was NOT to have to show up for a chemotherapy treatment last Wednesday.  How awesome was it that I finished up treatment right before the Thanksgiving holiday.  That was plenty reason to celebrate and even more reason to stop and be thankful. Thankful that chemo was over……..thankful that step 2 of my treatment plan was complete……..thankful for some down time……..thankful to have a whopping 11 days of rest and relaxation before my next doctor’s appointment……thankful that I got to spend 5 days at the beach with my family.doing whatever we wanted (and lots of NOTHING)……eating good food……..and laughing…….thankful that that gosh awful mouth sore FINALLY went away and I could eat without pain…….thankful to Black Friday shop ONLINE from the condo in the comfort of my PJ’s…….thankful to be here…….and extra thankful that God has continued to walk by my side each and every step of the way.  Yeah – Thanksgiving has always been special…..but Thanksgiving 2017 made me stop and realize just how much I have to be THANKFUL for.

When you pile 9 folks up in a condo for several days…….there’s never a dull moment.  Lots of picking, joking, watching TV, EATING…..but one of the NECESSITIES of our Thanksgiving trip each year is to get a family photo for mom’s Christmas card!  Let me tell ya – we have a few photogenic ones in the bunch……but then there’s the rest of us.  It’s easier to get the kids to cooperate than the adults.  Some of them won’t quit talking long enough to smile……some ALWAYS squint their eyes……some are distracted by what’s going on down the beach……you get the picture (pun intended).  Add to that the fact that we have to get our crew together and get out on the beach after we have stalked the beach and we know other folks are out there because yeah – we are that family that just walks up to strangers and says “hey, would you be so kind as to try to do the impossible…..get a decent pic of this wild and crazy bunch”.   Oh, and it’s worth noting that it was cold and rainy on Thanksgiving day….which just made it that much worse.  Thank the Lord – there was ONE – do you hear me – ONE decent pic out of the bunch.  I’m THANKFUL we can say Mission accomplished!

While I won’t ruin Gran’s Christmas card photo – here are a few pics I can share!

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So what do you do when you are just sitting around wasting time until the movie starts?  You allow yourself to be a guinea pig!  Right after I started chemo and my hair/eyebrows/eyelashes etc started coming out……Hunter went with my mom to town one day and came back with me a set of super sparkly fake lashes!  We joked that I would wear them when I went somewhere fancy.  I never had long luscious lashes before chemo…..and I sure as heck had never put on any fake lashes.  Well – like a dummy, I sat there and let Hunter and Jalen attempt to put my fake lashes on.  Mind you – the lashes were only $1, so they were not high quality lashes to begin with – but it was all in fun and we wanted to see how hot I’d look with these glittery lashes on.  Let’s just say that sitting still trying NOT to laugh while those two crazies were all up in my personal space was not the easiest task ever – but somehow we managed.  They didn’t do too bad considering they’d never put them on anyone else before!  Oh well – it was a memory we will never forget…….and I had some sexy looking lashes for a short while……until my eye started watering and I dabbed the corner of my eye with a tissue…..and, then it just started to fall off!  I’m THANKFUL to have had these long lashes for awhile…….and we had fun doing it too!

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So today I had my appointment with radiation oncology to get “marked” for my radiation.  I can honestly say that today was the most difficult thus far.  They had to get my body positioned just right on the CT table first.  I had to lay on my back with my hands up beside my head.  My head and arms were in these brace-like things and I had to lay perfectly still.  They mapped me really good – marking my stomach/chest/side with permanent marker to help them get everything set up for my first treatment.  So you know how when someone tells you to be still – you can bet that within 10 minutes you’re going to need to scratch your nose, sneeze, etc.  I managed just fine for quite a while…..I even coughed and didn’t cover my mouth (no worries, I said “excuse me” right away).  They made notes of the position the head rest was in, the table – everything was very precise so that it will be set up exactly that way each time I go back for treatment.  I prayed ALOT during the marking and simulation – praying and asking God to please not let me have an itch or have to sneeze or do anything to undo what they had already done.  All of a sudden – the cloth that they had placed over me to keep me warm started to aggravate me…..like really bad……and as I lay there KNOWING that I couldn’t move – that I just had to endure this – I don’t need to tell you that the itching got WORSE.  I kept my eyes closed most of the time – but I opened them then because for about 10 seconds, I was planning my escape.  I was all ready feeling guilty for ruining their efforts but I was certain that in the next minute I was going to come up off that table.  I prayed again saying Lord, I really hate to do this, but I’m about to bust out of here….. and in the next second, a voice came over the speaker saying “when you are ready, take a deep breath in and hold it for me”.   Thank God that she spoke to me right then.  She distracted me and forced me to concentrate on taking a deep breath and holding it and I forgot all about the blanket itching me to death.  She had me hold my breath a few more times and then politely said “we are all done”.  Goodness!  I have never been so THANKFUL to be able to wiggle in my life!  I was probably in there an hour or so today……but the remaining visits should not take nearly as long.  Now I go back next Wednesday for X-rays, etc and I should get the schedule for the rest of my appointments that day.  Here’s a pic of my stomach and side where they “marked” me today!  I’m THANKFUL there are doctors and docimetrists and technicians who understand the ins and outs of radiology…….they speak a different language……but they get the job done!

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Oh……I have to share this story.  Friday night we were out eating dinner and I had worn a sweatshirt that night in place of a coat.  After we got in the restaurant, I got a little warm, and when I took the sweatshirt off, my hat slid off my head – exposing my peach-fuzz hair do.  I didn’t think anything of it – I grabbed my hat and quickly put it back on.  Later during dinner, a nice gentlemen (who had been seated behind me) stopped by our table on his way out.  He said that he just wanted to let me know that 13 years ago, he had been where I was and although it was a long an tough road – he made it through and he knew I would as well.  He asked me my name so he could pray for me.  I told him my name, and we talked for a few more minutes.  He went on to say that he was a scientist – but he was now a scientist that shared with people how science backs up the Bible…..and he’s been busy sharing Jesus with folks over the past 13 years.  I commended him on making his cancer count for something.  Before he left, he asked if he could pray for me – and there, right in the middle of Benito’s Brick Oven Pizza – this complete stranger prayed over me and prayed for my healing.  What a beautiful witness.  What a wonderful sight for my son and niece and nephew (and the rest of my family) to witness.  God sent a complete stranger to be my Angel that night.  I’m THANKFUL for that kind man at Benito’s who shared his story with me and cared enough to pray for me right there.

Here’s hoping each of you have a wonderful week…….and I encourage each of you to stop and take time to find even the smallest things to be THANKFUL for.  Tonight, I’m thankful for a warm house, this fuzzy blanket and a full tummy.  And I’m THANKFUL to enjoy the rest of this evening at home with my two favorite fellas.  What are you thankful for?

Blessings,

Sonja

Isaiah 12:4-5New Living Translation (NLT)

In that wonderful day you will sing:
    “Thank the Lord! Praise his name!
Tell the nations what he has done.
    Let them know how mighty he is!
Sing to the Lord, for he has done wonderful things.
    Make known his praise around the world.

 

Rounding Third and Heading Home

So……it’s been awhile since I’ve posted……my apologies…..but between life/exhaustion/work/rest/repeat……well, it just hasn’t happened.  And this dang time change – who’s bright idea was this anyway?  I am sooooo not a fan.  I literally want to come home, put on my PJ’s and do NOTHING!!!  Full disclosure:  I’ve done quite a bit of NOTHING over the past few weeks!

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Since my last post – I’ve checked off 2 chemo treatments (#10 and #11)!  Hallelujah!  I am so close to the chemo finish line!  I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.  When I went for treatment yesterday – I actually got in and out in record time!  Once I get in the infusion room – they get my vitals and give me some compazine.   Then I have to wait 30 minutes for the compazine to get in my system.  Every other time we’ve had to wait extra time for the Abraxane to be delivered to the infusion room.  I’ve learned that the Abraxane has to be thawed out before they deliver it…….and even though they know I’m coming for treatment, they don’t start thawing it out until they get the ok from the doctor or the charge nurse that my blood work is okay for me to receive treatment.  Yesterday everything went like clock work.  The chemo was delivered timely and 30 minutes later we were headed out the door!  What a blessing.  It was only fair that my shortest day happen yesterday.  It was sort of a balancing act.  The last time my friend Pat took me to treatment – I ended up having to have an emergency CT scan and had to hang around MUCH longer than originally planned.  How fitting that Pat took me again yesterday, and we got to record the fastest get away yet!

It’s kinda weird to think that next Wednesday should be my last treatment.  In some ways – it seems like it has taken FOREVER to get to this point……and then in some ways time seems to have passed faster than I imagined.  My very first treatment was on June 28th…..and my last (hopefully) will be next Wednesday November 15th.  Just a few days shy of 5 months since chemo started and a little over 6 months since my first diagnosis.  God has been awfully good to me – as well as my family, friends and community.  I could NEVER have done this without the support of all of them.

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Sunday I celebrated my 51st birthday.  It was a pretty low-key day.  We went to church and I came home and hung out on the couch ALL day resting up.  Then we celebrated with a birthday dinner at the Old Country Club with my family.  I’ve never been one to dread birthdays or have issues with getting older – but this year…….I was absolutely thrilled to be able to add another candle to my cake!  Here’s what I posted on my Facebook page in regards to my birthday!

Thank you all so very much for the wonderful birthday wishes! I’m always thankful to log another year around the sun……but this year definitely more than ever before! For all the drama that social media can create…..Facebook is a wonderful thing on days like today! Getting birthday wishes ALL day from new and old friends and those near and far! I am thankful for each and every one of you and I appreciate you taking time out of your day to send me well wishes! It was a perfect day……church with my fellas……and a wonderful relaxing afternoon spent resting on the couch with full control of the TV remote!😂 📺 and dinner with the family at Old Country Club! While this has been an unforgettable year in many ways……it has not been all bad. I’ve learned some very valuable lessons. I have learned to lean on God more than ever before and realized that I’m blessed beyond measure with friends, family, church and community that have walked with me through this challenging year! I’ve learned that God puts the right folks in your life at just the right times! I’ve learned to truly 🛑STOP smell the roses 🌹 and not to sweat the small stuff! This year hasn’t been all fairy dust and unicorns 🦄 but there have been many hidden and unexpected blessings even on the worst days! I know that I could not have survived this year without my faith and the good Lord and wonderful Christian friends and family. Of that I am certain. And if any of you reading this don’t know Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior…..I beg you to get to know Him! Ask me…..ask a friend….a pastor…..but if you don’t know Him, please make it a priority! You will never regret getting to know Him…..but you will regret it if you DONT! Amen!

Thanks again for all the birthday wishes! I’m blessed to be here for sure and I’m looking forward to a healthier 2018! Blessings to all of you!  💕💕🙏🏼🙏🏼💕

 

Folks continue to extend kindness to my family in so many ways.  That kindness the past few days has come in the way of FOOD!  Yesterday I had a scrumptious cake delivered to me and it’s been frozen to save for Thanksgiving.  Yeah, I’ll be nice and share it with my ENTIRE family for Thanksgiving.  Trust me though – it was VERY difficult NOT to cut into that cake yesterday!!! 🙂  Then last night I get a text from a neighbor asking if I’d like some chicken soup.  With this yucky rainy weather we’ve been having – that sounded perfect.  Of course I said YES very quickly…….and they made sure to deliver it to me this morning as I made my way to the bus stop!  Can’t beat that!  Then today another neighbor texts and says “when are we going out for dinner to celebrate  your birthday?”  I responded “tonight would be GREAT!” and we got picked up promptly and treated to dinner.  Oh……and I can’t forget the Krispy Kreme doughnuts!  Folks have been soooo good to us – and I am positive that I will never be able to thank them properly.  I just hope they know that we have appreciated every single act of kindness shown to us over the past 6 months.  Whether it was a phone call, prayers, cards, texts, visit, gifts, meals, transportation for me or helping get Hunter here and there……we have been thankful for ALL that’s been done for us.  There truly are Angels among us!

So it’s my hope that the next post I make will be one CELEBRATING that chemo is complete.  Stay tuned because this girl has rounded third and is heading home!

Blessings!

Sonja

Philippians 3:12-16 The Message (MSG)

Focused on the Goal

12-14 I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

15-16 So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.

Rest is Best

And just like that…….we have checked off chemo #9!  Praise the Lord!  Wednesday was the first time I just had to report for lab work and chemo (no doctors appointment in between).  It made for a much shorter day!  However, I did miss seeing some of my “people” that I usually run into on chemo days.  You sorta become like family with these folks and we enjoy catching up with each other week to week!

Gosh – it’s been a wild and crazy week for sure.  I had a super busy weekend……Saturday I attended one of the most beautiful weddings I’ve ever seen.  It was an outdoor wedding with a very “rustic” theme.  The decor was simply perfect.   It was a perfect day for an outdoor wedding!  The bride was stunning and it was truly one of the sweetest weddings I’ve attended.  Congrats Mr. & Mrs. Denny!  Much love to both of you!

We left the wedding to rush over to my mom’s house where we were throwing an 80th birthday party for my dad.  Yep – that’s right – I said 80!  Those that know him will attest to these two things…….1) he doesn’t look 80 and 2) he sure as heck doesn’t act like he’s 80! We had a wonderful turnout and a fantastic dinner and we all enjoyed celebrating my dad on his milestone birthday!  He was surrounded by family and friends with lots of fellowship and probably a few lies thrown in for good measure!

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This guy sure doesn’t look 80!!!

That was the absolute LONGEST that I’ve been “on the go” (and I set the record for the most hours I’ve worn my wig)!!!!   I was truly exhausted on Saturday night.  But I’d do it all over again – the exhaustion was well worth it for me to be able to attend the wedding and the birthday party of these very special folks!

I’ve been able to maintain working half days which has been great.  It’s felt good getting out and about and I do enjoy catching up with my customers.  I’m not trying to push it though – trying to keep my work days to 4-5 hours max and sometimes less.  It all depends on the day and how I’m feeling.  Thankfully – my customers have been very understanding.

Friday was a busy day.  A couple of appointments in the am, then off to Durham to meet an old friend and some new ones.  You may remember me posting earlier about a former co-worker whose mom was diagnosed with cancer not long after me.  Well, they were in town from Tennessee and New York for a family wedding – so it provided a wonderful opportunity for me to catch up with Allison and meet her mom……my new friend and fellow breast cancer warrior.  We had a wonderful lunch (even if the circumstances surrounding WHY we met were less than ideal).  There’s something about cancer – it instantly bonds you with complete strangers.  But strangers no more!  I’m thankful that my blog allowed our lives to intersect – and it was delightful to meet her (as well as Allison’s aunt and sister-in-law)!  God works in mysterious ways!

I left our lunch date and headed to Duke for my follow-up appointment with my radiation oncology doctor.  Now that I’m down to 3 chemo treatments left, it’s time to start making plans for the next phase of treatment……Radiation.  I admit that while I know it will be easier on my body than chemo – I’m dreading the radiation worse than I did chemo.  Chemo was once every 3 weeks then once a week.  Radiation will be 30 – that’s right THIRTY days which comes out to 5 days a week for 6 weeks.  EVERY.  SINGLE. DAY.  With weekends off, of course.  Just knowing that I HAVE to be there every single day is enough to make you crazy.  I know it’s all a part of the treatment plan – but knowing that I can’t really make any plans for 6 weeks kinda stinks.  All of this is subject to change – but assuming I am able to take all 3 of the remaining treatments as scheduled, then the plan is for me to go back to the radiation doctor on November 27th to get marked and scanned and do all things necessary to get me ready to begin radiation the first week of December.  Yeah – that means I’ll be doing radiation over Christmas holidays and into January 2018…… BUT I will get a “pass” for Christmas Day and New Years!  Even though those days have to be made up!

The blessing in all of this?  Well, there are many.   I get the week of Thanksgiving off – no chemo – no radiation (if all goes as planned).  I am thankful for that.  Thanksgiving has always been a favorite holiday for me – but this year, I think Thanksgiving will have even more meaning and significance.  I DEFINITELY have a lot to be thankful for.  Secondly – it’s truly a blessing that I am just 45 mins away from Duke Cancer Center where I’ll receive my radiation.  My friend Miriam, from TN, has to travel 1.5 hrs one way for each of her appointments.  It’s really all about perspective.  I feel very blessed to live so close to a world class cancer center.  However…….I’m going to put radiation out of my mind until after Thanksgiving……..One hurdle at a time.

So my doctor’s appointment took longer than anticipated on Friday –  and I ended up having a very full day.  I was toast by the time I got home.  I literally put on my PJ’s and crawled into bed even though it was before 6pm.  I was exhausted.  Slept decent Friday night and woke up Saturday feeling like total CRAP.  Coughing (AGAIN), congested, just felt awful.  I spent the entire day on the couch…..medicating…..trying my best to feel better.  I mighta cried a little bit when I realized I just wasn’t well enough to go watch my RCS girls volleyball team play in their 4th round tournament game.  I had looked forward to that all week.  But it wasn’t to be.  Praise the Lord our local radio station broadcasted the game, so I was able to hear what was going on.  Not as good as being there – but I was thankful for the blessing of being able to keep up with the game from the couch!

And I mighta cried AGAIN when I received a sweet video message yesterday afternoon from the RCS Volleyball team.  I love those girls…….they are some kinda special!  I tried to share it here but just couldn’t figure it out! 🙂

I slept til 10 am again today.  I guess my body truly was EXHAUSTED.  I’m feeling a tad bit better – but nothing to write home about.  But, God gave me a wonderful rainy day to spend on the couch and just rest.  And did I mention that Christmas Movies are already on The Hallmark Channel?

countdown to christmas

So here’s to feeling better by tomorrow………better get back to my movies! 🙂

Hugs,

Sonja

Exodus 33:14 New International Version (NIV)

14 The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

 

Giving Thanks

Well……it’s been a whirlwind week and then some!  Can’t believe it’s been almost 10 days since I’ve posted on my blog……but in this instance – it’s a GOOD thing!  It appears the Abraxene is agreeing with my body.  I’ve had two doses of it and so far – no side effects other than fatigue.  I can handle that!  I’m pretty good at “resting”! 🙂

The inhalers appear to be helping with my breathing and that nasty cough is still hanging around, but not nearly as bad as it was.  All in all – it’s been a great week.  I got my 4th treatment out of 8 in this round, so I’m happy to report that I’m HALF WAY DONE!  Gosh – that sure does sound good!  The Chemo finish line is really in sight now!  Dawn continues to be amazed at my blood work each week – my levels have all been right where they needed to be – no low white counts, platelet issues, etc and I can only say “Thank you Jesus” for that.  I’ve done so well, in fact, that she told me on Wednesday that for the rest of my treatments, I don’t have to come and see her…..I can simply go for my blood work, and if all is well, proceed to the infusion room for chemo.  She did, however, say that I needed to schedule an appointment on my last chemo day because we would have to have a dance party.  Dawn loves music – and is quick to whip out her phone and blast a tune or two during my visits.  One day – there was a commotion in the hallway – I heard music playing (“Celebration” by Kool and the Gang).  There was lots of cheers and laughter and I had no idea what was going on.  When she came in my room, she asked if I heard the music and I said yes.  She told me there was a 70 y/o lady in the room next to me who had just completed her chemo treatments like a BOSS – so they had an impromptu dance party/celebration in the hallway!  Now that’s a doc after my own heart!  You’ve gotta love her!

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This has been a crazy busy week.  I went back to work for the first time since my first surgery.  This is my busy season (Medicare Open Enrollment) and I had prayed that I would be well enough to be able to take care of my customers when the season started.  I’m taking it slowly…..I’m only working 3-4 hours a day…..and that’s definitely enough right now.  I’ve came home several days and took a nap.  It’s exhausting but good.  I enjoy seeing my customers (many of which I only see during this time of year) and it feels good to be out and about somewhere other than Duke Cancer Center! 🙂  I love my customers…..and seeing them and catching up with them has been good for my soul too.  God is good……He continues to see me though!

Remember a few weeks ago, I posted about the volleyball team at my son’s school (Roxboro Community School)  hosting a “Dig Pink” night to raise money and awareness for breast cancer?  Well, turns out the event raised $3,204.00 and the girls donated the proceeds to the Belk Boutique at Duke Cancer Center to support their self-image program!  These girls continue to amaze me.  I am so proud of them and honored to know them!  They are kick-ass on the court……but they are some of the most wonderful human beings off the court.  I love their sense of community and I love that they have a heart for things bigger than volleyball!   They are wonderful young women!  I’m also extremely thankful for their coaches (volunteer coaches, I might add)….who have not only taught them the fundamentals of the game……but have been great role models and mentors for these girls.  They may NEVER know how much they have affected the lives of these young ladies.  Kudos to all of you!  Thank you Lord for all of these girls and how they have touched my heart!bulldogs 2

bulldogs

I had a late night dinner “date” with my awesome son.  I do enjoy spending one on one time with him.  Thank you Lord for these treasured times!  He just completed his driver’s education bookwork training today.  How can this be?  Difficult to think my kid will get his learner’s permit in March!  Time sure is flying!  And before I can even wrap my head around this learner’s permit – he is already talking about colleges!!!  That will be here before we know it too!  Just knowing that these next years will probably fly by faster than the first fourteen years makes me want to (a) put him in a bubble and (b) soak up every single minute that I can with him.  Time, please slow down!

Well, this girl is about done for this week.  It’s time to hit the sack and watch some mindless TV!  Here’s hoping you have a great weekend!  Make the most of it – and most importantly, make some memories!

Hugs!

Sonja

Psalm 92:1-3 The Message (MSG)

A Sabbath Song

92 1-3 What a beautiful thing, God, to give thanks,
    to sing an anthem to you, the High God!
To announce your love each daybreak,
    sing your faithful presence all through the night,
Accompanied by dulcimer and harp,
    the full-bodied music of strings.

 

 

 

 

Re-calculating

Well, as you know, Taxol #3 did not happen last week.  It was just too risky.  Otherwise, I had a good weekend, spent some time at the beach with my favorite guys……went to the NC Seafood Festival (ate WAY too much seafood) and spent ALOT of time resting.  (I may or may not have taken some extra-long naps)!  The beach is ALWAYS good for THIS soul.

vitamin sea

I saw a pulmonary doctor on Monday.  They gave me a breathing test and then I met with the doctor.  My breathing tests were okay – but showed that I was only inflating my lungs to 80%.  There could be many causes.  The doctor felt like my shortness of breath and constant coughing could be a form of asthma that is induced by acid reflux.  I was being treated for acid reflux way before chemo……but chemo can exacerbate acid reflux, so I had to increase my medicine almost immediately after starting treatment.  He prescribed me an inhaler to use morning and night and a rescue inhaler to keep with me for emergencies.  My oxygen saturation has not dropped to 80 any more – so that’s a good thing.  The lowest it got on Monday while I was exercising was 91 and they were okay with that.

The echocardiogram that they did on my heart last week came back normal which was fantastic news!

So today, I was unsure what my appointment would bring.  Labs were great, my visit with Dawn was good and she said that after conferring with my medical oncologist, they felt that it was in my best interest to stop the Taxol and put me on a “sister” drug called Abraxane.  They felt some of my respiratory symptoms could be related to the  Cremophor base of the Taxol.  (Cremophor is a chemical solvent – a derivative of castor oil — that is used to dissolve some insoluble drugs before they can be injected into the blood stream)……and that along with the early appearance of neuropathy, a tell-tale Taxol rash on my arms No matter……the end result was to start me on a new drug.  So in my mind I could hear the cool British guy on my GPS saying “Re-Calculating”………just like he does when I miss a turn!

recalc

Good news is, they kept me on my schedule – so I was able to get the Abraxane today.  No premeds to get with Abraxane…….only compozine for nausea! The new drug looked nothing like the other meds.  It looked a lot like skim milk!  And it was by far the fastest infusion I’ve had…..it was done in 30 minutes! No IV benadryl to make me loopy in 2.3 minutes (which was a good thing, because I’m sure my caregiver today would have snapped a few pics for blackmail purposes)!

chemo

So all is well that ends well.  I pray that I can tolerate this Abraxane better than I tolerated the Taxol.  That being said, I’m thankful that the doctors have an arsenal of “options” for me.  And I’m so very thankful to live so close to Duke University’s Cancer Center.  What an amazing place!

Turns out we just took a little detour……and I’m okay with that.  No harm no foul.  So today we crossed off treatment #3 of 8.  This girl is making progress! 🙂

Thank you all for your calls, texts, prayers, cards, etc after last weeks “delay”.  I appreciate all the pep talks and encouragement.  I was only slightly disappointed.  This girl believes in planning and if you write it in your calendar – then it HAS to happen!  Well…..not so much with chemo.  I’m learning to have the white out handy as we may have to “re-calculate” again!

Blessings & Hugs!

Isaiah 48:17New International Version (NIV)

17 This is what the Lord says—
    your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the Lord your God,
    who teaches you what is best for you,
    who directs you in the way you should go.

No Bueno

Today was chemo day!  My appointments started at 11:00 am for blood work, 1:00 pm for Echocardiogram, 2:30 for my doctor’s appointment and 4:00 pm for chemo.  After suffering through this awful cold all weekend……and not REALLY feeling any better until late yesterday afternoon……I was a little concerned that my blood work may not be where it needed to be for them to give me the go ahead for chemo.  There’s always that chance that something could be “off” and the doctor not let me proceed with chemo.

When I got to my 2:30 appointment with Dawn……she had not received the results from my echocardiogram (even though they had asked for a STAT reading on it……it just hadn’t happened).  That being the case, she wasn’t able to know if my heart could be the cause of my shortness of breath (sometimes chemo can cause the heart to NOT pump as fast as normal and cause breathing/lung issues).  Strike one.  Secondly, I was STILL short of breath……walking from the parking garage to the clinic, or walking and talking at the same time…..I still get very winded.  Cause for concern.  Strike two.  Was my cold/respiratory issues in any way related to my shortness of breath?  Was it random?  Was it totally unrelated?  Hard to know.  Strike three.  Was my body not responding well to the Taxol? (you know that 1% of the population that might not respond well……could that be me)?  I think you see where I’m going with this.  Today was clearly a strike out where chemo was concerned.  Too many unknowns to proceed with Taxol #3.  Dawn was probably more disappointed than I was – but I clearly understand WHY she made the call.  Too much on the line to make things worse instead of better – especially before she had test results.

Sooooo……this week, I got a ticket to see the pulmonologist…..ASAP……as in before my next scheduled chemo on next Wednesday……that way, if things were GOOD, we could move on with my weekly Taxol treatments……..and should there be any cause for concern, then we would need to re-evaluate my treatment plan and see if we needed to take Taxol off the list of treatment options.  I quickly asked if Taxol wasn’t going to be an option – would I have OTHER options……and she responded “absolutely”.

As always……Kyra in scheduling worked her magic……and I have an appointment with the pulmonologist next Monday afternoon for a pulmonary function test and an appointment to see the doctor.  Hopefully that appointment will give us some needed answers and we will know how to proceed.

Was I disappointed?  Kinda – but I think God had really prepared me for the fact that chemo MAY not happen today.  While I was concerned it may be because of blood results, the root cause was different – but the end result was the same.  Taxol #3 put on hold……pending further investigation.

And……as I promised in my very first blog…..I wanted to be able to go back and see how God had blessed me during this entire process……well, here is how he blessed me today.

Just yesterday, I had a visitor who brought me a card and a beautiful floral arrangement. I opened the card after she left.  I was surprised to find several vouchers for parking at Duke.  I said to my mom that I hated she had spent money on the vouchers – because every time I have chemo, as soon as they walk me into the infusion room, they ask “did you park in the parking deck today” and when I say “yes”, they hand me a parking voucher to comp my parking fees for the day.  So I’ve never had to pay for parking thus far……I’ve always used the vouchers that they give me at chemo.  Well……TODAY……chemo didn’t happen.  And I didn’t get the voucher.  Guess what – that gift of parking vouchers yesterday was NOT random.  That was God, yet again, “going before me” just as he promised in Deuteronomy 31:8

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you:  He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

He looked after even the smallest detail of the day……the parking fee.  Ya’ll……you can’t make this stuff up.  It’s yet another example of just how good our God is and just how intricately He takes care of our EVERY need.

So who can really be upset when God winks at you like that and reminds you that He is still in control…….and I just have to trust Him.

And in happier news……I just have to brag on the awesome folks at my son’s school.  For several years, the girls volleyball team has hosted a “Dig Pink” night, where they sell t-shirts and baked goods in an effort to raise money for cancer awareness.  Each year the event has gotten more attention and a little larger and last night, they hosted their “Dig Pink” night.  These girls, along with some wonderful help from Mrs. Hawkins, their coaches and school staff and volunteers pulled off a phenomenal event.  Over the past year – several members of the volleyball team had members of their immediate families diagnosed with breast cancer.  The mother of two sisters on the team was diagnosed late last year, one of the team’s grandmothers was diagnosed earlier this year and somehow…..they included ME – I have no “direct” connection to the team other than (a) being from a small town and knowing most of their families all my life and (b) the girls being friends of my niece and son.  Well – these girls celebrated the 3 of us and others who are fighting or who have fought this nasty disease last night.

It was so awesome to see the gym filled with folks wearing their “Bulldogs for the Cure” t-shirts, pink balloons and banners everywhere……..pink roses for those effected by cancer….just a truly awesome night.  Even the volleyball they played with was pink and white!

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Photo-op with the RCS Varsity Volleyball Team

While being honored by these folks was awesome – what warmed my heart even more was the fact that these young middle and high school girls were “all in” for a cause that had touched them personally.  And while these girls make a big impact on the court, the impact they have made on the school and our community and myself is HUGE.  At their young ages, using their sport and something they love to bring cancer awareness to others and raise money to for the cause……..well, that’s making an impact on the community at large.  Not only are they great kids and wonderful athletes……they are AWESOME human beings as far as I am concerned.

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My people

With such a full heart from last night’s event…….it’s hard to be too disappointed in my week.  I can ride high on the emotions from the “Dig Pink” event for awhile.  It surely made the news to of today much easier to bear.

So girls……if any of you are reading this…..please know that I love ALL of you and I love watching you do your stuff on the court…..and while I’m proud of you guys claiming your 4th straight conference title…….I’m MOST of proud of you for the wonderful human beings that you are…..for the CHARACTER that you display not just when you’re on the court, for your actions outside of school and in the community at large.  Don’t EVER let anyone tell you that you cannot make a difference…….that your voice can’t be heard merely because you’re YOUNG.  Last night is a beautiful example of how each of you helped make a difference.  Keep spreading your wings and following your heart and I know that you will continue to do great things.

young people verse

And that’s a wrap.  Hope to have more answers by this time next week.

Hugs!

Sonja

Psalm 27:14 New International Version (NIV)

14 Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord.

Stinking Cold

Well chemo last week went well…….it was uneventful and I had no complications afterwards…….Praise God!  I had told Dawn (the PA) on Wednesday that I had a sore throat and felt like I was trying to catch a cold.  Well, no matter how hard I tried to avoid it, “the cold” kept chasing me and finally kicked me in the rear by Friday evening.  I was coughing, congested, just plain felt like crap and went to bed with the chickens Friday night.  I had recently purchased some DoTerra Oils and I was diffusing oils in my bedroom to try to help me breathe and sleep.  I was pulling out all the stops to try to outrun this mess.  No such luck.  I woke up Saturday morning feeling like I’d been run over by a truck…….and coughing like someone with tuberculosis!  Goodness……I got out of bed, made some coffee and settled in for a a day of rest, rest, rest.  I nestled into the couch with my coffee, tissues, cough drops, thermometer, blanket and TV remote.  I was all set for the day.  Thankfully – I never ran a fever!  I finally felt up to getting a shower late Saturday afternoon.

Still not feeling great today.  I skipped church this morning and just stayed home and rested some more.  I didn’t want to share my germs with anyone else……and I sure didn’t want to risk feeling any worse.  Thank goodness there’s a new lineup of Fall movies on The Hallmark Channel!  And it’s been some wonderful, crisp days to sit out on the screened porch for awhile.  No matter how bad you feel – I think fresh air always helps!  Hopefully these two days of rest will help me recover pretty quickly.  Of course, my biggest fear is that something like this might cause me to have chemo postponed.  We surely don’t want that.

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This Wednesday is shaping up to be a very busy one much like last Wednesday.  I’m scheduled for labs, doctors visit, echocardiogram and chemo……hopefully in that order.  Because of my low O2 saturation levels last week, I had to have a CT scan.  Thankfully, Dawn called me last Thursday afternoon to tell me that the CT scan was normal and showed no indication of any blood clots in my lungs.  After getting my results and talking with my medical oncologist, they agreed that since the CT did not give any explanation of the low oxygen sat issue, that another echocardiogram was needed.  I had a baseline echocardiogram done before my first round of chemo…….and I’m scheduled to have another one done this Wednesday BEFORE my next treatment.  While I don’t want anything to be wrong – I pray that if there is something crazy going on, that the echo will give us some answers.  I’m still very short of breath at times – and it’s difficult to try to increase your stamina when you plain out feel like crap!

So that’s my weekend in a nutshell.  It’s been a quiet and restful one so I can’t complain.  I pray that this cold tries to go catch someone else – I surely don’t have time for this.  I am anxious to check off Taxol #3 on Wednesday – and really don’t want anything interfering with me getting my treatment as planned.  Here’s the a swift recovery!

Oh, and today is a pretty important day.   It’s my dad’s birthday.  He turns 80 years young today.  Those of you that know him, know that a)he doesn’t look 80 and b)he sure as heck doesn’t ACT 80!  He’s a hot mess……but I wouldn’t trade him for 10 more just like him.

pa

He’s one of the most selfless people I know.  He’s a people person and if he’s your friend – you’ve got a friend for life.  He likes to pick and poke fun…..an eternal “instigator” – but it’s all in good fun.  My dad has been a fighter – he’s shown me time and time again what it takes to look sickness in the face and say “game on” and come out a winner.  He’s suffered from Coronary Artery Disease since 1989…..had triple by-pass surgery, a pacemaker, numerous stents and more heart catheterizations than I can remember (although I’m sure if he were here, I could ask him and he would spit out the number in an instant).  He’s had some setbacks here and there……but his comebacks have far surpassed any of those setbacks.  While we don’t always like the cards that life deals us  (sometimes we just get a crappy hand, ya know) – he’s shown me how to take the hand you were dealt and make the absolute best of it.  Doesn’t matter if you were dealt heart disease, diabetes, cancer or asthma…….whatever the illness…….just remember that it doesn’t DEFINE you as a person!  He never let his heart disease stop him from living.  He may have had to do things a little differently – but he has packed a lotta living in the past 28 years!  And I intend to do the same.  This stinking cancer is not going to keep me from living and doing the things that I love!  If you see this guy around – make sure to wish him a Happy 80th Birthday!  Pa, I hope you have a fantastic birthday today!  Celebrate BIG!

cards we are dealt
Love Randy Pausch and his attitude!

**side note** if you don’t know who  Randy Pausch is or know anything about him, I strongly urge you to view his “last lecture”.  I’m supplying the link below!  It’s long but oh, so worth it!

 

Oh…….and one more thing……I can’t close out this post without mentioning that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month!  Please please……if you (or someone you know) have NEVER had a mammogram, I cannot stress enough just how important it is!  Do me a favor – schedule yours this week!  Don’t put it off.  Early detection saves lives!

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Have a great week!

Sonja

Psalm 147:3-6 The Message (MSG)

2-6 God’s the one who rebuilds Jerusalem,
    who regathers Israel’s scattered exiles.
He heals the heartbroken
    and bandages their wounds.
He counts the stars
    and assigns each a name.
Our Lord is great, with limitless strength;
    we’ll never comprehend what he knows and does.
God puts the fallen on their feet again
    and pushes the wicked into the ditch.