My Cancer Blog

Friday, March 21, 2014

Another Anniversary!

Wow...two anniversaries in one week!

Our 31st Wedding Anniversary will be this Sunday, March 23rd...and

My beloved husband gifted me with a new Cannon digital camera! (He couldn't wait)

So, I am sharing some photos with you today...

This is where I study

This is the prayer shawl I received from the Cancer Society

Another gift from my dear husband many years ago

Birds and Dogwood blooms

A picture of my Mother and Grandmother

From where I often sit and pray

Looking up from my window seat where I pray

I did not let this sleeping dog lie!
 

Jeff took these two of Sasha in her favorite spot


An old church in our area, built in 1919
Somebody loves getting his picture taken
I had a hard time making him sit still for this one!
 
Most of the photos I have taken for this blog were with an old smart phone...How old? you might ask... (we were beta testers for the very first smartphone...that old!)
And it finally stopped working properly. The other camera that I sometimes used (a 35mm Sony digital) did not zoom very well, and it ate through batteries like crazy! ...So I was in need of a new camera.
 
Thank you Jeff....Happy Anniversary, My Love...
 
An Anniversary prayer from this morning's prayer reading:
 
O God, you have so consecrated the covenant of marriage that in it is represented the spiritual unity between Christ and his Church: Send your blessing upon Jeff and Lisa, that they may so love, honor, and cherish each other in faithfulness and patience, in wisdom and true godliness, that their lives together may be a witness to your love and forgiveness, and that their home may be a haven of blessing and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. leaf graphic
 
~Blessings & Love~
and remember, we are...
 
~NEVER FORSAKEN~


Monday, March 17, 2014

3 YEAR BLOG ANNIVERSARY!


 
This blog is 3 years old today!
So I have re-posted my first post...
~HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY~
Soon this will be the view outside our bedroom window...In the warmer months we also get humming birds visiting here..they will hover right in front of this window  and it will appear as if they are looking at the cross windchime hanging just inside!..I cannot wait!..Soon winter will give way to spring; And by the way, can you believe my husband wanted me to cut away the 'Rose of Sharon' outside this window?  I  just tied back the branches that were a threat to the window screen instead.

About the "Rose of Sharon" of the Bible

"I am the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valleys." (Solomon 2:1)

Jesus is often "symbolically" referred to as the rose of Sharon. (the New Testament never literally refers to him as such)

'Sharon' is a plain - it is one of the largest valley-plains in all of Palestine. Back at the time of Solomon, it was considered a wild, fertile plain that had a lot of beautiful flowers in it. Although the Sharon is mentioned only once in the New Testament (Acts 9:35), it is frequently referred to in rabbinic literature often with allusions to its fertility. The plain has been the main land invasion route of Palestine from the south throughout the ages, down to Napoleon (1799), and the British under General Edmund Allenby (1917–18). (Britanica Online Encyclopedia)

See the shamrock in my flower garden?

                                                           Happy St. Patricks Day!

For the True story about St. Patrick:
http://www.entourages.com/barbs/stpatrick.htm

Friday, March 14, 2014

Living Psalm 91

 

Psalm 91

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”
Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
    nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
    ten thousand at your right hand,
    but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
    and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
    and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
    no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
    I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
    and show him my salvation.

Since my diagnosis I have wondered why I have been cornered in this battle for my physical survival just now...I wondered did Father want me on the sidelines and not "out there" on the battle field? Am I placed in a weakened body just now, so as not to worry about what's happening in the world around me?
This whole time, even the time leading up to now Father has been communicating to me the need to expand my horizons, to relinquish my self righteous pride and prejudices...and to watch and pray, and to listen and draw closer to Him.
I was busy in a life lived in a small world of my own making, and He drew me out into places I would not have ventured otherwise unless my own survival depended upon it...This is not a corner that I am in...It is as someone once commented on my blog...A good vantage point in which to launch an effective attack on the enemy. In the name of Jesus, and not just for me but for whoever Father sends to me.
Arrows are aimed...poison darts (lies) hurled...
Stand firm then with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place. ( Eph. 6:14)
If it costs me my physical life...so be it. (The enemy tries to use that as an arrow to wound me), but I will say to him: "To be absent from the body is to be present with my Lord!"
So I will listen in humility and emptiness, not pride and fullness...waiting for Abba Father to speak His rhema Word into my spirit to fill and encourage me.
Last night as I lay wide awake...I longed for God's Word to calm me, so I opened the Bible to the book of Nehemiah, and began to read.
As I read how Nehemiah and the Jewish people re-built the walls of Jerusalem in order to restore the Holy city that lay in ruin, its walls broken down and its gates burned with fire...I found myself weeping at these words from the prophet:
"They said to me, "Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The walls of Jerusalem are broken down and its gates burned with fire."
When I heard these things, I sat down and wept."
And I wondered why I wept too, so I read further.
Nehemiah inspected the ruins, and then rallied the people saying:
"You see the trouble we are in: Jerusalem lies in ruin and its gates have been burned with fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and we will no longer be in disgrace. I also told them about the gracious hand of my God upon me, and what the King had said to me."
And then I read how Nehemiah and the Jews were ridiculed by their oppressors, and found the following commentary in my bible about this:
Satan will do anything to keep your faith in Jesus from growing. He wants you weak and susceptible to attack. As you grow and mature in Christ, the protective wall of faith guarding your heart grows taller, thicker and more impervious to attack.
Nehemiah found great opposition to building a wall. let's learn from him.

And now here's my two cents worth on the matter:

The enemies strategy:
1. Satan will mock and harass you.
Nehemiah's response: He prayed that God would turn their insults back on their own heads. (Ne.4:4)
2.Satan loves to tell you how weak and defenseless you are.
Nehemiah's response: ...Our God will fight for us! (Ne. 4:20)
3. While we are in a weakened state from physical weariness ("strength giving out"), emotional frustration ("There is so much rubble"), mental discouragement ("We cannot rebuild") Satan attacks. ("We will kill them")
Nehemiah's response: He developed a great plan of action to protect their weak areas and pick up their weapons. (Ne. 4:13)
And he remembered that his God is "great and awesome"...
"Don't be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes!"
And it hit me...why this story touched me so deeply...
When I declared that this year would be my year of grace...and the Lord gave me the word 'Grace' for my special word for 2014...As I read the words of the prophet, I was especially struck by the word 'Disgrace'. (Ne. 2:17) and I realized that the enemy had been trying really hard to hit me there lately. So I pondered the meaning of the word grace once again:
Grace [T] [E]
The word "grace" in biblical parlance can, like forgiveness, repentance, regeneration, and salvation, mean something as broad as describing the whole of God's activity toward man or as narrow as describing one segment of that activity. An accurate, common definition describes grace as the unmerited favor of God toward man. In the Old Testament, the term that most often is translated "grace, " is hen [ej]; in the New Testament, it is charis [cavri"].
And then today, I found this gem which really seemed to tie it all together for me:
Grace, which is accessed only by faith, is the power of God by which He does righteousness through anyone who will yield to Him.
  • Grace is the only means by which any person can ever do any good works. It is faith that gives access to grace, and faith only comes by an utterance of God, that is, God must be leading and the person receiving faith must be in submission.
  • Grace, in Greek, is the word, charis. In addition to charis, there is the word charismata, which is a word related to charis, but it is only used in reference to what have become known as the nine gifts of the Spirit, which are mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12. Source:

Lately, while I have been in that protected place described in psalm 91, I have been resisting staying there...complaining and becoming restless. I wanted to forget that I am even in this battle...I wanted to go back to where I was before...I wanted to forget about cancer. I was not submitting to the Lord and therefore, the walls were coming down as I stopped listening to the Words of my Father...The poison arrows were penetrating the places of exposed flesh. Jesus wanted to carry me, but I wanted down on my own two feet...and then came the pain. (It's no irony that it was in my feet and legs!)
While my spiritual feet weren't ready yet...My physical feet felt the pain!

I NEEDED TO FINISH PUTTING ON THE ARMOUR, AND PICK UP THE WEAPONS!

 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

The "gospel of peace = God's holy Word...The testimony of Jesus Christ...gives us peace amidst the battle.

Today...

I have renewed grace and faith in His strength to carry me, and will trust in Him when He sets me down and tells me to stand firm with the "gracious hand of my God upon me."
And what the King has said to me:
 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you.”  2 Cor.. 12:8-9


~Blessings & Love,~
and remember, we are...

~NEVER FORSAKEN~


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Halfway!

This was me last Friday getting my third treatment.
Were they ever busy in there...We were there for eight hours!

Poor Pam, my nurse...she was running non-stop. It looked like the doc had at least three new patients that day. She said the problem was there were not enough chairs...I told her that the problem seemed to be that there were too many people with cancer.
Since the infusion rooms are private, the only chance I get to visit with people (aside from the staff), is in the waiting room. I always pay attention for the Lord to point me to someone that maybe just needs a listening ear, or a hug. That day I had the honor of meeting a young woman whom I had heard about back when I had my surgery last December. She is a nurse at the hospital there who found breast cancer while she was pregnant with her third child. What a sweet girl...I am glad to have met her and at the moment she needed someone to mother her a bit. She was alone and scared, so we talked about her fears...Cancer is very scary, and after chemo is finished, it can be even scarier since you worry that it may come back. During treatment you actually feel a sense of security since the likelihood of a new growth is almost nil.
She showed me pictures of her three little ones...so cute! And the baby boy with the full head of hair made us laugh at the irony of it.

Looking back through this whole thing so far has me seeing everything in a different light today. It is easy to say sometimes that the enemy of our souls is achieving his plan to steal, kill, and destroy...

“the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; ...

But, when you step back a bit and take a broader look, you can see that he only has an arena in which to showcase his nasty stuff...And when he is finished with his act...The real show begins.
For every blow he strikes, The Lord has a counter strike...and more might, and he has the ability to bind the enemy.

...I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10 

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. 1John 3:11

I see a roaring lion in center ring terrifying the children of God,
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
(1peter 5:8)

circling them and pawing at the ground while he shows his teeth. He may get in a scratch or two...maybe even pin one of us down, but when the spotlight shifts and spans outward illuminating the darkness outside the arena...I see the Lion of Judah sitting regally, eyes fixed upon the enemy, his muscles flexed, and ready to deliver a powerful strike that will send the enemy reeling. His power has no match, and his heart is set upon his children.  


Sometimes we get roughed up during the course of this battle... we may get stepped on or kicked a bit as we are caught in the middle...But we know instinctively that we are safe while in His presence, no matter the circumstances surrounding us. He fights for us, not against us.  
So when I look into the eyes of a young mother who is surviving a terrible disease, I do not see the disease, but the miracle of life in the faces of her children, and a heart of love that comes straight from our Creator to conquer and destroy the threat to His children...to our children.
She and I are in agreement, cancer is not a death sentence...It's a second chance at life!
Love and life prevails. 
Back when I was in the hospital and talking with the Chaplin, I remember saying that God never intended for this disease to invade my body...it was never his plan. But the Chaplin reminded me that although it was not God's plan, it became one of the consequences of man choosing sin over obedience way back at the beginning, in the garden...This world is sick because of us...But Jesus gave us the ability to overcome the world and all its sickness if we have faith in the One who conquered death and cleanses us of our sins.



As always I appreciate your continued prayers as I go through treatment. It was especially difficult this week as I had severe bone pain from the shot that I get to raise my WBC after chemo. It works on the bone marrow to increase the production of white blood cells, and it landed me in bed all of yesterday. I am feeling much better today though, just in time to get my weekly blood work done.
My checkup went well, the doc is keeping his eye on the red blood cells and platelets, as these also continue to fall (which is expected). He said that I should be a cheerleader for the other patients as I am doing so well...It is because people are praying.
Even on the rough days...it is good because Jesus carries me, and gives me even more grace.

~Blessings & Love~
and remember, we are...

~NEVER FORSAKEN~

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Behind the mask… & Chemo: (my friend & foe)

Pacific Yew (Taxus Brevifolia )


After much thought and consideration I have decided to share with you what I wrote recently in my personal journal.
The reason I’m sharing this is because although I really am doing well, I want to be realistic with you…I am well in spite of the very real challenges that I am facing right now…Every one who reads this will be able to relate to how life can challenge us at times, though your challenges may be different than mine are, we serve the same awesome God…who gives us strength to overcome it all!

Tuesday, ‎February ‎25, ‎2014
As a chronic pain sufferer, when you ask me if I have had any pain, I may answer "no", I usually mean no NEW pain, but it can also mean that I do not register pain like someone else may...I have built up a tolerance to it, it is either regarded as a small discomfort felt either too seldom, or not severe enough to be considered pain to me.
But...Lately If you asked me the question, I would have to answer yes, that some days I am in constant pain.
It feels like I am being struck by lightening in various parts of my body...some are faster, more fleeting...while others linger for several seconds longer...this hits constantly all over, so random and without pattern...I do not know where it will hit next but that does not matter because by the time it is felt it is usually felt someplace else...like neurons firing ...lightening striking.
Meanwhile the duller throbbing pain that is my constant continues in the background...a baseline...like the deep rhythmic pulses of a symphony orchestra's base drum...
And then there is the neuropathy which is its own brand of pain....while the ovaries chime in as they squeeze out their last bit of life...they are dying and I can feel it.
I am either tired but my body will not let me sleep, or I am wide awake and my body wants to sleep...This is night and day for me now...I know not how to bridge the widening gap between them...body and mind.
I am so grateful that I have not suffered from any intestinal maladies as a result of the chemotherapy...aside from a bout with mouth sores last time...it was short-lived.
My taste buds remain intact as well and I am gaining weight.
My hair has fallen out, and my skin is sensitive...especially my fingertips...I cannot tolerate heat or cold.
I am emotional.
My mind remains sharp although there are some dull edges.
I have decided that I will make more of an effort to be an expert on me....Instead of leaving it all up to the experts in the field of oncology...Though I need their guidance and care...I am better able to focus solely on my own case...The greatest obstacle I have in this is to let go of the tendency to not want to complain too much to anyone...I feel a sense of bravado when I am able to tolerate and maintain a state of relative normalcy in the face of this daunting disease...of which I am resistant to accept its inevitable symptoms as a reality at all!
So now begins a journal of that reality...


That sense of bravado that I described, is the mask I hide behind. It feels safer, less vulnerable than putting my true thoughts and feelings out there…But, truth should never be hidden.
For one thing…Someone reading this might find comfort in knowing that when (not if) they face a pain in their life that seems unbearable at the anticipation of it…The reality of it is God really will never give us more than we can bear…and we do not bear it alone…Jesus lends His strength to us…comes up beside us and carries us through.
Another thing…As I experience this pain, I am reminded that the Savior bore all our pain on the cross…and also before as he was beaten and abused…He understands how we feel, and He is willing to give us hope, joy, and peace in the midst of the storm…When I feel the lightening strike…I am held by the Light of the world who comforts me, and calms my body and mind …He is the connection (the bridge) between the two. He is both the Great Physician (of the body) and Wonderful Counselor (of the mind)!

I also want to share with people what (besides prayer) is working to either alleviate some of the symptoms I am experiencing, or to avoid having some other common side effects…
Keep in mind that everyone is different, what works for me may not work for you…there are too many variables.
First of all, I started out pretty healthy. My pre chemo blood work, chest x-rays, and echocardiogram bore witness to the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. All my doctors have shook their heads in disbelief after going over all the tests…I was THAT healthy!
But, nobody’s perfect … (Except JESUS!)
As most of you know, I have suffered from osteoarthritis in my back for several years…with a severe form of degenerative disk disease, resulting in chronic sciatica and sclerosis of the facet joints (misshaped joints in the spine)…I have always had a healthy immune system, and aside from borderline high blood pressure and cholesterol, no other diseases or physical disorders.
I was relatively active, always preferred to eat healthy foods and maintained a good weight until the cancer showed up and I started losing weight.

So, with a pretty decent start…This is what I do to help with my side effects of chemo:

Bone, joint, and muscle pain: (the chemo drugs and the Neulasta shot can all cause this pain as well as the pre-existing arthritis).

I move my body….Something I learned through the arthritis is that no matter how much I hurt…I mustn’t allow myself to stop moving…The result is losing more mobility because of stiff joints and weakened muscles. This also helps with the fatigue from being anemic. (the chemo lowers the red blood cells and platelets causing anemia…This gets worse with each treatment)
This is what I take to relieve pain: Tramadol (Ultram) A narcotic-like prescription drug that acts by changing the way the mind perceives pain. I do not take narcotic drugs…Not because I think they are bad, but because I have a low tolerance for them.

For skin and nails: (the chemo drugs I use can damage them)

I use Johnson's Baby wash and Aveeno Baby Lotion on my skin. I avoid using anything with alcohol or other drying agents in it. I avoid hot showers and gently dab at my skin to dry it instead of rubbing, and I wear gloves to wash dishes and clean. I keep my nails trimmed and soak  them in olive oil and wear latex gloves for an hour afterwards and then polish them with a clear nail hardener to protect them from damage. (per advise from my oncology nurse)
I am meticulous about keeping my hands clean. I always wear gloves when its cold outside, and never go barefoot or wear tight shoes to protect my feet from sores and damage to the toenails. *I wear slippers around the house because Buddy and Sasha sometimes step on my feet and dig me with their claws! I have to be careful of sun exposure, as the skin is sensitive and can burn easily. ( though not a worry yet at this time of year!)

For oral care: (Chemo severely dries out the mouth…and can affect the entire digestive system beginning with mucus membranes by killing off the healthy bacteria that lines our digestive tract)

I had my teeth cleaned before chemo.  I use Biotene toothpaste and mouthwash which is formulated to restore the p h balance  for dry mouth. (I brush several times a day with a child’s soft toothbrush). I floss, being very careful to not cut into the gums, I drink a lot of water and rinse often with a solution of baking soda and water to help with mouth sores which can lead to infections. I eat yogurt with active cultures every single day. I use a lot of chap stick and lip gloss. (careful to keep these clean and replace often as they can harbor bacteria)

For eyes and nose: (Chemo causes changes in vision and also dries out the tear ducts, and you lose the hair inside your nose which helps to filter stuff).

I’m due for a vision test, but will have to postpone it until after treatment as it can (and has) changed my vision. I have to use artificial tears to help with dry eyes. I have a dry stuffy nose, but am told that I may soon develop a chronic runny nose as one possible side effect…I met a woman on this same regimen who is further along in treatment who has this problem. I use a humidifier at night, and have nasal spray which I have not used yet. I carry tissues all the time as my nose sometimes bleeds.

And most important: At the advice of my oncologist as well as other patients…I stay hydrated…Especially the day before, the day of, and the day following chemo…My doc told me to drink sports drinks during those three days to help flush the toxins from my system and reduce side effects. I also eat popsicles before and during chemo…So far I have not suffered from problems with my taste buds, nor do I have a metallic taste in my mouth which is associated with chemo. (but I do not know if keeping my mouth cold during treatment is helping or not…The idea is that just as some people wear a cold cap to keep their scalp cold in order to save the hair follicles from being targeted by the chemo drugs…or keeping hands and feet in ice to protect the nails…Keeping the tongue cold can have some success as well.)

I am also given drugs before, during, and the day after chemo to help eliminate or at least minimize the side effects. These drugs include a steroid (which among other things I am told will help reduce tissue damage especially to the hands and feet…known as hand and foot syndrome), Benadryl (given during chemo)…to help reduce any possible allergic reaction, and Zophran…an anti-nausea drug. (I also get Emend another anti-nausea drug in my IV) Good stuff that works really well.
As far as the neuropathy is concerned, I am told there is nothing that can be done about this…I must notify the doc if it gets too bad, as it is reversible unless it becomes too severe and causes permanent nerve damage. (This too gets worse with each treatment)
Of course I also take quite a few supplements recommended by my doctors…This includes a daily multi-vitamin and a Carnation Breakfast Drink every morning with my breakfast.

And now for the second part of my post...

You know me...I need to know how things work...It's a geek thing!



 


 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
In him was life; and the life was the light of men. John 1:1-4

Praise the Lord for modern medicine and for the minds that discover these things, the hands that make and administer them…And the hearts that care enough to learn how to use medicine in order to help people…All these are gifts from God who created everything.
Speaking of God’s creation…here are some interesting facts about the chemo drugs that I am taking…In fact one drug has only been around since the early nineties and was found quite randomly:  Link: The discovery of a major cancer fighting agent



Chemo: (My Friend & Foe)

The story of  Taxotere


 The Yew :
(Taxus Brevifolia )


Also known as: Chinwood, common yew, Pacific yew, taxus.
Potential uses: The drug Taxol (chemical name: paclitaxel) is made from the bark of Pacific yew trees. The drug Taxotere (chemical name: docetaxel) is made from the needles of European yew trees. Taxol and Taxotere are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat breast and other cancers. Yew should not be taken as a supplement.

Link: The Pacific Yew  


Basically, the needles from this tree are used to make turpentine...which is what my doctor says is being pumped into my body in order to kill any unseen cancer cells that may be forming inside me. Turpentine has been widely used for medicinal purposes for centuries....One of the most common side effects of it is skin irritation. This is why I need to take the steroids when I get chemo.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:


Turpentine (also called spirit of turpentine, oil of turpentine, and wood turpentine) is a fluid obtained by the distillation of resin obtained from live trees, mainly pines. It is mainly used as a solvent and as a source of materials for organic synthesis.

Carboplatin:
 Carboplatin is a platinum chemotherapy drug that acts like an alkylating agent. It stops the growth of cancer cells, causing the cells to die.

Platinum is a precious metal.

So there you have it, I am full of turpentine and platinum!

I told my doctor that I do love pine trees, but the thought of turpentine coursing through my body?
I also told him that I could think of better things to do with platinum!
Saving my life, I guess is the best use for it right now.

To be honest, it does help me to know that the chemo drugs that I am on do come straight from nature...(Even though nowadays Taxotere is a synthetic material created in a lab) God does provide... first the substances needed, and then the knowledge of how to harvest (synthesize) and administer them.

~Blessings & Love~
and remember, we are...

~NEVER FORSAKEN~



HAPPY BIRTHDAY BUD!

HAPPY 8TH B-DAY, BUD! I think he's had too many birthday cookies already today!