Saturday, December 28, 2013

Help! I Have Chemo Brain!

Yes, "chemo brain" is a very real condition. The technical name is cognitive dysfunction - and I have it!!! I was so proud of myself during chemo for NOT having least not more significant than I already had. My family will testify that I can be a little scatter-brained and forgetful, and we even joked that we might not be able to tell if I develop chemo brain. However, since finishing chemo, we all agree that I seem to have several of the symptoms (more so than before chemo) found on the Mayo Clinic's website:
  • Being unusually disorganized - yes, yes, yes!
  • Confusion - sometimes
  • Difficulty concentrating - probably
  • Difficulty finding the right word - maybe 
  • Difficulty learning new skills - no motivation
  • Difficulty multitasking - definitely
  • Fatigue - not as much as during chemo but I still like naps
  • Feeling of mental fogginess - yes
  • Short attention span - yes
  • Short-term memory problems - Why did I come into this room?
  • Taking longer than usual to complete routine tasks - Can you say ADD?!?!
  • Trouble with verbal memory, such as remembering a conversation - yes
  • Trouble with visual memory, such as recalling an image or list of words - yes, but not as bad as with verbal 

Chemo Brain

Then throw in the hormonal changes of chemo-induced menopause and you have a mess!!! I find myself feeling like I'm losing my mind one minute and then wanting to cry the next minute. The worst part is feeling so unorganized - even just around the house. I can't seem to find anything I need when I need it!!! And when people start a conversation with, "Terri, do you remember..." Uh, NO! I usually can't tell you what I wore yesterday, so chances of remembering much else are pretty slim.

I've read that this can last from a few weeks (I'm a few months past that...) to 5-10 years or more (oh my...)! So, I guess I better get a good planner/notebook and write things down in ONE location. It's time to clean the house, clean out my purse, and organize my planner!

For God is not a God of disorder but of peace...
~ I Corinthians 14:33

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

My Husband's Perspective

I'm so thankful for my husband's insight and perspective throughout our journey. This is what he posted on Facebook marking the anniversary of the beginning...

It's been a year. One year ago today in fact. Christmas Eve 2012. It started out as just another Christmas Eve, but ended with a sense of worry and confusion.

One year ago today is when Terri's mom noticed the strange bump on Terri's neck.

The next couple of months were filled with what seemed like unending trips to Tulsa for doctor's visits, scans, biopsies, and surgeries. Days of waiting for results, and then finding out the news we were hoping not to hear…Terri has cancer...non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

We've learned a lot this past year. We've truly learned to cherish each moment we have with each other, our kids, our family and friends. Things like that happen when you're faced with your own mortality.

We've learned we don't know what the future holds…none of us do.

A verse I posted a few weeks ago has never been more "real"... more "alive" to us.

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
—2 Corinthians 12:9,10 (NASB)

We've also learned from friends who modeled how to handle a battle lost to cancer with faith, dignity, strength, and grace. It seems strange dealing with what we were dealing with and still feel like you don't know the words to say to others. Thank God we have His Spirit to confide in when the the words fail us.

We've grown closer as a family. Our trust in God has been stretched like never before, but never broken. We have been blessed like never before.

Thanks to all of you who have prayed with us and for us. Thanks to friends for providing meals and for shuttling our kids to and fro when we couldn't be there. Thanks for the hugs!

In a week (Monday Dec. 30) Terri goes back for another CT scan. A week after that (Tuesday Jan 7) we go back to Terri's oncologist for the results. Would you shower us with your prayers once more?

May God bless you all. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
—Galatians 2:20 (NASB)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Anniversary???

A year ago today, Christmas Eve morning, I was sitting at my mom's table checking Facebook and eating lots of goodies when my mom noticed a lump near my collarbone. It was the dreaded "C" word - non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The beginning of a new journey...

I have a lot of mixed emotions when thinking about how it all began. On one hand it seems like forever ago, and on the other hand it seems like I'm going through it all again right now. It's been a wild year where we've experienced everything from fear, doubt, and worry to joy, contentment, and unexplainable peace that can only come from God. (You can start reading about our journey here.)

We opened our family gifts last night before going to my mom's house. Daryl and I decided our gift to each other is our cruise in February, so we weren't going to exchange gifts. As usual, He didn't follow the rules... He gave me this new coffee mug that is a perfect reminder of who God is and how His names have played out in our journey this year.


Battle Fighter


Giver of Peace

Ever Present One

Our Righteousness


Good Shepherd

It's like the mug was made just for us! Now each day as I enjoy my morning cup of coffee or my evening cup of tea, I will thank God for how He has demonstrated His names in our lives. And I will smile thinking about how Daryl picked out the perfect gift!

We're looking forward to how God will work in our lives in the coming year.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Thankful November - Days 12 - 30

I forgot to post days 12-30...

Day #12 - I'm thankful for my port. I had no idea what one was before February and hated it at first. However, after reading about how ironically toxic (as well as life saving) chemo can be if it touches skin or leaks from an IV or vein, I'm glad to have it...even if I keep it indefinitely for now...and even when the kids call it special names!  

Day #13 - I'm thankful for those who support Cookson Hills Christian Ministries (where I work). We had a wonderful Thanksgiving Dinner at First Christian Church in Grove, OK. Truly great partners in ministry!

Day #14 - I'm thankful for my doctors and their staff!

I want to give a shout out to:

Carleen Huffman, NP at Kansas Medical Clinical who takes care of me, prays for me, and referred me to my surgeon...

Dr. Stephen Bruns at Surgery Inc in Tulsa who has cut me open several times (hernia x 2, gall bladder, needle biopsy, lymph node removal, port placement, and someday port removal). He gave me the initial diagnosis of lymphoma with sincere concern and referred me to my oncologist.

Dr. Scott McHam and Julie Spears, NP at Tulsa Cancer Institute who gave me my official diagnosis and treatment plan with just the right amount of information along the way. They take the time to answer all of my questions and said my treatment showed "excellent" results.

And all of my nurses ROCK!

Day #15 - I'm thankful for weekends! After working all week, it's nice to have a couple of days at home.

Day #16 - I'm thankful for CT and PET scans that can see what's going on inside my body when there may not be outward symptoms!!!

Day #17 - I'm thankful for my Facebook friends who are a HUGE encouragement!

Day #18 - I'm thankful for easy access to the gym and weight room here on campus so we can still work out when it gets dark way too early!

Day #19 - I'm thankful for friends who let me vent and know that it's nothing more than venting.

Day #20 - Deep down I'm thankful for our crazy dog. Tonight I thought he was trying to give me kisses, but it turned out he just wanted the bandana on my head.

Day #21 - I'm thankful that in a world of inconsistencies, God is always faithful!

Day #22 - I'm thankful for a night at home on a cold evening with hot coffee, warm banana chocolate chip muffins, and checking in with my friends on Facebook. 

Day #23 - I'm thankful for the book of Psalms and a new perspective on God as my refuge!

Day #24 - I'm thankful for Sunday afternoon naps!!!

Day #25 - I'm thankful that my chicken partnership doesn't require me to dispose of the dead chicken I found this morning (and one found earlier this month)!

Day #26 - I'm thankful for my friend Marsha who is always there when I need her even when we live many miles apart and don't talk often enough.

Day #27 - I'm thankful for movie night with my girls - even if it was Catching Fire...when I haven't seen Hunger Games...or read the books...and it left me hanging for Mocking Jay.

Day #28 - I'm thankful for Thanksgiving at my mom's with my sister and her kids and being able to spend some time at my grandma's!

Day #29 - I'm thankful my daughter has a job this semester...even though it meant working horrible hours Thanksgiving weekend. Proud of her! 

Day #30 - "Thankfulness is a conscious response that comes from looking beyond our blessings to their source. As Christians, we have been forgiven, saved from death, and adopted as God’s children. There could be no better reason for a grateful heart!" - Henry T Blackaby & Richard Blackaby

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sing a Psalm of Praise

After posting my Thankful Day #23 on Facebook about being thankful for the book of Psalms and my new perspective of God as my refuge, I've been thinking about how the Psalms have just as much relevance in my life today as when I was first diagnosed with cancer.

Shortly after being diagnosed, I began reading a Psalm a day and posting at least one verse from each Psalm as my Facebook status. It was so therapeutic for me to read the parallels of David's battle (against enemies) and my battle (against cancer) and to be reminded of God's love and care for David...and me! 

Today I realize that God uses His Word to comfort us in our struggles everyday no matter the situation - watching the discouraging news from around the world... conflict with people around us... or any doubt and fear.

I didn't pay too much attention to the book of Psalms before January 2013 except for the familiar passages: 

Psalm 23 - The Lord is my shepherd... I memorized this in Whirlybirds as a kid.

Psalm 100 - Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth... Can you believe I memorized this in public school???

Psalm 119 - Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet... Remember the Amy Grant song?

Psalm 139 - I am fearfully and wonderfully made...

When I began reading through the Psalms daily, I was amazed at how it seemed to be so applicable to ME! I didn't have people trying to kill me like David, but cancer is still a very real enemy. God's promises brought me so much comfort during a scary time. I love all the reminders of God as my:

Wow! What do I have to fear when God is with me??? 

And there are so many verses that lead us to give thanks to the Lord, praise His name, tell of His wonders, be glad and rejoice in Him, and taste and see that He is good. How can we read this wonderful book and not have a great appreciation for who God is and what He does for us!!!

The Lord is my light and my salvation -
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life -
of whom shall I be afraid?
~ Psalm 27:1

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Thankful November: Days 1-11

Okay, this year I've decided to do the Facebook Thankful November thing and post something I'm thankful for each day. Let me just say, 30 days is not enough! I have sooooo much to be thankful for, it's almost ridiculous!!! Some are serious and some are light-hearted... just depends what was happening on any given day.

I was going to save all 30 things for one post at the end of the month, but when I add song lyrics, it gets a little long!

Day #1 - I'm thankful to be alive!!! I know that sounds cliche, but after this year, it's where I'm at!

Day #2 - I'm thankful for my wonderful husband who has been the glue this year and my biggest cheerleader!  

Day #3 - I'm thankful for my four kiddos! They have handled this past year amazingly well. They encourage me and take great care of me...and only laugh at me a little! 

Jenifer and Jordyn
Jessika and Jenifer (again)
And they love taking goofy pictures for me to find on my camera...which I'll post for the world to see!

Day #4 - I'm thankful for my parents who raised me to know and love God and for my sister who has been a faithful friend!

Day #5 - I'm thankful for my in-laws who love me like their own!

Day #6 - I'm thankful for those seemingly small blessings that are really HUGE! Like my fan at work, because dressing for the temperature outdoors does not make it comfy during my hot flashes while indoors! Thank you, chemo...

Day #7 - I'm thankful to only work until 3:00 on Thursdays!!!

Day #8 - I'm thankful we finally finished Jarod's 1,993 piece puzzle! Yes, we're missing seven pieces of our thrift store puzzle. Now, to glue...or not to glue...

Day #9 - I'm thankful for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and its research efforts to find cures for blood cancer (like the Rituxan that was part of my treatment). - You can still donate to LLS through my Light the Night Walk link in the sidebar!   

Day #10 - I'm thankful for my wig and make up! I didn't want to look like I was sick and an obvious cancer patient - although I have one picture of myself with no wig, no make up, and no glasses on a day I was running a fever and felt awful... and I looked awful... No, you will not see that picture! Yes, I'm thankful for my wig and make up!!!

Day #11 - I'm thankful for Christian music! November 11th was a bit emotional remembering my dad who passed away four years ago, thinking about our freedom on Veterans Day, and reflecting on our journey this past year. Never Once came on K-LOVE and sums it all up perfectly.

Standing on this mountain top
Looking just how far we've come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us
Kneeling on this battleground
Seeing just how much You've done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
Every step we are breathing in Your grace
Evermore we'll be breathing out Your praise
You are faithful, God, You are faithful
It's true, You are faithful, God You are faithful

Never Once
performed by One Sonic Society
written by Jason Ingram, Matt Redman, Tim Wanstall

Friday, October 25, 2013

Amazing Night

We want to thank everyone who donated to TEAM TERRI for the Light the Night Walk and helped us walk to the end of blood cancer! You can read more about the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Walks in my previous post here. We've been raising money, Daryl designed t-shirts for us, and my mother-in-law and her sister joined us from Illinois! It was a special night! 

As usual for our outings, we got lost on the way to the Walk. I just tell my family we're making memories! We eventually made it - on time - and began by checking in, getting our Light the Night t-shirts and lanterns (for those raising $100), and taking a team photo.

Team Terri
I was so excited that my Light the Night t-shirt says SURVIVOR on the back! Woo Hoo!!! I carried a white lantern as a survivor, Daryl carried a red lantern for the family as a supporter, and my mother-in-law carried a gold lantern in memory of her mother who passed away from lymphoma. It was so pretty seeing all the illuminated lanterns as we walked.

Before the walk started, those with each color of lanterns were recognized (survivors, supporters, and in memory). I'll admit, it was a bit emotional to reflect on this journey and celebrate where we are now!

Recognizing survivors
The walk started at the Jenks Aquarium, went across the Arkansas River bridge, and back through the Aquarium parking lot. The weather was perfect, and it was a fun family walk. We can't wait to participate again next year and are already thinking of ways to recruit more people for our team and raise more money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and research!

Purple in memory of my friend's daughter
On the bridge
On our way home we stopped at Braum's for a treat. The kids wanted food, so we ordered theirs, and as they were getting situated, Daryl and I got in line for ice cream. While we were waiting, a lady went up to the cashier and whispered something, but I didn't think much about it. Then when we tried to pay, the cashier said our order had been taken care of already. WHAT! After getting over the initial confusion, I thought of the lady I saw whispering earlier. As we walked to our table, I mouthed "thank you" to her and tried to hold back the tears. That was just icing on the cake of our amazing night!

We are so grateful for those who have blessed us on this journey and supported us on our Light the Night Walk! We couldn't do it without you!

For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.
~ Matthew 18:20


Sunday, October 6, 2013


The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines endurance as:
  • the ability to do something difficult for a long time
  • the ability to deal with pain or suffering that continues for a long time
  • the quality of continuing for a long time
Endurance is becoming a theme for me. The most obvious way this year is in dealing with cancer. I've endured biopsies, surgeries, scans, appointments, blood work, and chemo. And true to the definition, it's been difficult, sometimes painful, and continuing. Unfortunately, it will probably always be a part of my life.... almost like a chronic disease.

I had my three month check-up (which is really almost four months since my last chemo) this past week. My blood counts are about half-way back to normal! Everything looks good! I'll just be watched very closely with appointments every three months and scans twice a year for two years, then every four months, then every six months, etc. If I only had the aggressive lymphoma (diffuse large B cell), I might get an all clear after 5 years. However, the slow growing lymphoma (follicular) makes me "difficult." The follicular lymphoma isn't really curable - but it can be managed. So follow ups and scans will be a normal part of life now.

One of the symptoms I need to watch for is night sweats. I guess as long as I'm having hot flashes during the day, then that's all it is at night. When the NP asked about experiencing chemo-induced menopause, she was quick to remind me to still use birth control or I might end up angry :) We got a good laugh out of that!

I asked about how long I'd have my port. As long as I have it flushed at least every three months (at my follow ups with blood work), I can keep it for a looooong time. My kids are more than thrilled - HA! They think it is so gross!

The reward for enduring cancer and treatment is much more than physical healing. Some of my previous posts explain the blessings I've received through this journey.

Lately, endurance has taken on a new meaning while training to run in 5K races. My current Bible study (Walking by Faith - Jennifer Rothschild) focuses on the Biblical theme of training and running a race as a parallel to how we run our spiritual race. I've never related to those themes before as I wasn't a runner... and didn't even like much in the way of physical activity... but now I get it. Running takes training and lots of endurance! In fact, it's the word I wrote on my hand for motivation during the Tulsa Zoo Run 5K this past weekend! with endurance...
Hebrews 12:1

I finished the race with NO WALKING! I was so excited! I had picked out a spot on the map as the point I wanted to make it to before walking. I got to that point and still felt good, so I kept on running. Then before too long I saw a sign that said 100 yards to go. Wow! Through the whole run, I kept thinking about the word on my hand and this verse: with endurance the race that is set before you... 
- Hebrews 12:1b

So my reward for enduring training is finishing a 5K without walking! We look forward to participating in 5K runs that benefit cancer research!

My ultimate race is the one God has set before me, and heaven is the finish line! In this race I'm running for the prize - not just to finish without walking!

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 
- Philippians 3:14 (NIV)

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart
- Hebrews 12:1-3 (NAS)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Finish the Race

That's what I did this past weekend. I finished a race! Daryl and I ran in our first 5K - The Tulsa State Fair Corndog Classic. We started training with Couch to 5K on August 1st and had just started our final week with a 30 minute run two days before the race. We probably weren't quite ready for a 5K, but proceeds from the Corndog Classic benefit The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, so how could we not! Well, our 30 minutes of running/jogging evidently did not equal the distance of 3.1 miles, because it took more than 30 minutes to finish the race. And I'll admit to a little bit of walking, but I finished with a time of 37:54. Daryl did great and finished with no walking and a time of 34:54. 

After completing chemo and getting my energy back, I told Daryl we should do Couch to 5K so we could participate in some cancer runs. He put me off for awhile and then became the best coach and cheerleader ever! I sometimes... a lot of times... have big ideas but not the discipline to see them through to the end. This would have been no different if Daryl wasn't such a concrete-sequential person! 

My Race Encouragement

About 2/3 through the run, I was ready to quit. I started walking and didn't care if I started running again, finished the race, or even participated in another race. But not too long after crossing the finish line - yes, I gave it my all running across the finish line - I was thinking about what training we still need to do so I can eventually run the whole 5K!

I have to admit, this is the hardest I have ever pushed my body - well, besides the cancer and chemo thing - HA! I've never done anything that was very hard physically (having babies doesn't count). I was always the band/choir geek but didn't even push myself as hard as I could with music. Honestly, I'm kind of lazy. And if I don't have time to complete a project from start to finish, I may never start it.

Training for a race has been a great experience even though there have been times I thought I wasn't going to make it! It's been fun to have a goal and watch the progress of our training. Now we're looking for the next race to enter that will benefit cancer organizations. It's been fun training with Daryl, otherwise I'd be sitting back on the couch after the first week!

I'm sure without going through cancer and chemo I'd never even consider running a 5K. Now I realize I'm stronger than I thought, and I have a drive I didn't have before. Whether I ever completely run a 5K or even improve my time, in so many ways, I know through God's amazing grace, I'm an OVERCOMER!

You're an overcomer
Stay in the fight ‘til the final round
You're not going under
‘Cause God is holding you right now
You might be down for a moment
Feeling like it's hopeless
That's when He reminds You
That you're an overcomer
You're an overcomer

Friday, August 30, 2013

Life After Chemo

It's been over two months since my last chemo treatment. I think the thing people ask about the most my hair! YES, it's growing!!! It's the same color as before - mostly white. Seriously, it's white! No one (besides my family) saw how white my hair was before except my friend Robin who shaved off all the color-treated hair. There's a tiny bit of pepper mixed in with the salt...but not much. So far it's very soft hair and flat to my head. You can really see all my cowlicks!

I told my husband the other day that I'm tempted to keep shaving my head because not having hair is soooooo easy. The wig literally takes seconds to put on, and it's permanently styled. At home a bandana is perfect. He didn't say "no" - but his look spoke volumes! I guess I'll keep growing out my hair. And if it doesn't make me look too old, I'll keep the white. It's the perfect time to stop coloring! That also got a look from my husband!!!

My eyebrows and eyelashes are getting thicker, but my poor eyelashes are going every which way. It's like they each have a mind of their own, but I like having enough lashes for mascara. And I'm back to shaving - ugh! I'm telling hair was kind of nice! 

My kids have decided that chemo actually helped my brain. I can be forgetful, so we were worried that it would be awful during treatment. However, I think I was actually more organized while on chemo. Now I seem to be having more issues - like forgetting Jarod's dentist appointment or even what day of the week it is. Thankfully, Daryl is usually filling in the gaps for me!

Now that I have more energy and am doing more physically, my post-chemo muscles are letting me know they haven't been used much since January. Just scooping chicken feed has pulled something in my back. Daryl and I were walking when we could during chemo - when it wasn't too cold and I wasn't too tired. Now we're walking the dog daily and also doing the Couch to 5K program. Yes, we are jogging! Never say never, huh! We're on the last day of week 5 (a 20 minute run)! One of these days we'll run a cancer 5K! 

C25K - 20 minute run!

The worst part of my post chemo recovery is the chemo-induced hot flashes. Whoa! I've heard women talk about hot flashes, and they weren't kidding! They are not fun - especially during the summer! And really, 24/7 is a bit much! So if I spontaneously combust, you'll know why!!! My doctor said it's 50/50 whether or not this will be permanent menopause. Hopefully my age will work in my favor! 

Isn't it amazing how God has designed our bodies! And He has given people amazing abilities to find treatments for cancer. I'm so thankful for the advances in medicine and science that allow toxins to kill my cancer but not destroy my body. I am blessed!

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
~ Genesis 1:27

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

It Pays to Make a Phone Call

There's a lot to think about when dealing with cancer. One thing I never considered is that there are resources to help with the expense involved in cancer treatment. Hopefully this blog post will help other cancer patients find organizations that can relieve some of the financial burden.

I figured since I had insurance, I was stuck with the deductible, out-of-pocket expenses, and all the co-pays. However, a few weeks ago at the Light the Night Walk Kick-Off, I met a representative from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society ( who told me about their Co-Pay Assistance Program. I wish I had known about it earlier, but at least I qualify from this point forward for a year.

And since I qualify for the Co-Pay Assistance Program, I am also eligible for their Patient Financial Aid Program (state level) that offers $100 per year to help offset expenses related to cancer care. Considering we've driven over 2,200 miles back and forth to Tulsa this year.....

Obviously, the two programs through LLS are just for leukemia and lymphoma patients. A google search will show other organizations that focus on specific types of cancer. There are also programs that help with other conditions besides cancer.

Another nice resource is through the American Cancer Society ( where they issue a $50 Visa gas card yearly if you drive over 50 miles to receive treatment. Why didn't we call them earlier??? But we are thankful to have it now! The American Cancer Society also sponsors the Look Good Feel Better classes and hat/wig rooms.

Thank you, American Cancer Society!

Another organization I called is Cancer Care ( What caught my eye on their website is that they have limited funds to help with travel. It just took a short phone interview to find out I qualify for a $100 grant. The lady asked if I was interested in it. Hellooooo! YES!!!

Thankfully most of our out-of-pocket expenses happened early in the year when we had our tax refund. But eventually all of those extra expenses of co-pays ($50 just to go in for a shot that only took a few minutes) and travel (155 miles round trip for appointments/treatment) add up and mess with the budget. I'm almost out of sick time until June, and in a few short months our deductible and out-of-pocket amounts start all over again.

Don't think I'm just calling organizations and telling them I have cancer in order to get a handout! Each place has it's own guidelines, qualifications, and application process which involves diagnosis documentation from my oncologist. It just takes a little homework and a few phone calls. Besides, the worst they can say is, "No, you don't qualify."

And I haven't just been searching for financial help. I've read great articles and have listened to a couple of webinars on my two types of lymphoma, treatment options, and current research. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society ( is a wonderful resource for information on blood cancers and keeps me updated on legislation that affects blood cancer patients. If I'm going to have cancer, now is a great time in history to have it!

And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
~ Philippians 4:19 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Happy Anniversary

Today is our 25th Anniversary. Wow - we're getting old! It's been a great time of celebrating. We're celebrating 25 years of marriage and celebrating life and health after a scary year! 

Here's a picture on our wedding day... 

August 13, 1988
And here's a picture of our anniversary weekend get away...

August 9, 2013

We haven't aged a bit - HA! It was so nice to get away for the weekend and just relax! We went to Medicine Park, OK and stayed at the Stardust Inn. We had a great time doing nothing! The innkeepers are long-time friends and totally spoiled us. We loved sitting in the rocking chairs on the back porch that overlooked the grounds and the river. And our room was named Good Medicine - how fitting! 

What a blessing to be married to my best friend. Although this past year was not what we ordered, it's been a joy to go through the journey together. God is good!

God gave me you for the ups and downs
God gave me you for the days of doubt
For when I think I've lost my way
There are no words here left to say, it's true
God gave me you

On my own I'm only
Half of what I could be
I can't do without you
We are stitched together
And what love has tethered
I could never undo

~ God Gave Me You by Dave Barnes

Monday, August 5, 2013

A Puppy, Bunny, and Chickens... Oh, My!

Last year we were pet-free, and it was sooooo nice. I don't know what happened, but now we have a puppy, bunny, and chickens! I blame part of it on cancer - HA!

When we were at the beginning stages of this whole journey, we all had trouble sleeping. We were not having fun. Our second oldest daughter had the hardest time and might have gone a week straight with no sleep. She knew of a bunny that needed a new home and caught me in a moment of weakness. I thought it might help her focus on something other than my health, plus she promised to take care of it.

Well, the silly bunny is down right noisy hopping around in his cage. And he seemed to be most active when Jenifer needed sleep. So, he is now in our living room... and Daryl and I are taking care of him... for a fee, of course! He's the cutest lop-eared bunny ever :)


Then towards the end of my chemo treatments we were asked if we wanted to help with chickens. Our science teacher raises chicks in the spring for a 4-Him class (think 4-H). The class ends and those cute little chicks grow up. We take turns letting out the chickens and feeding them in the mornings, gathering eggs, and shutting them up at night. Yes, I'm getting up earlier than usual to let out the chickens and feed them! I've always thought it would be neat to have chickens and fresh eggs. Now I really get to do it! They're the funniest chickens ever :)

Three of the newer chickens

And then there's Lil' Buddy - our new 1 y/o Beagle mix. He was a stray and found our neighbors...who already have a dog... They tried so hard to find him a home, but no one could take him. They would even bring the dog to our door trying to play the sad-puppy-dog-eyes card! We were strong for several days, but then just like the bunny, I was caught in a moment of weakness. We now have a cute puppy who likes to chew on anything and everything... even my Chaco sandals... not the cheap Walmart flip flops! He's the craziest puppy ever :)

Lil' Buddy

It feels like things are getting back to normal - feeding the bunny, letting out the chickens, gathering eggs, and walking the dog! But not exactly like before lymphoma. I have a different mindset now - I don't want to take things for granted (like each day of life), I don't want to let the little things get to me (like the dog eating my shoe, digging up my flowers, and taking a bite of my son's birthday cake), and I definitely don't want to forget WHO has given me this good life - this great life!  

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
~ James 1:17

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Light the Night Walk

A big fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is their Light the Night Walks that take place across the country. We went to Tulsa's kick off dinner/program this week and learned more about LLS and the Walk. Our family is walking on October 19th at the Oklahoma Aquarium because, well... I now belong to a special group of people touched by blood cancer. We invite you to join our team or donate and help us walk to the end of cancer! You can donate by clicking on my fundraising page on the side, or you can visit our team fundraising page here.

I was blown away by some of the survival statistics shared at the kick off that have increased drastically just in my lifetime. LLS has been instrumental in research and funding with the goal to end blood cancer. Wouldn't that be amazing!!! Besides being a great educational resource and advocacy group for blood cancer patients, their research and funding have helped develop the targeted bio-therapy that was part of my treatment plan. Rituxan was approved for treatment in 1997 and has contributed to doubling the survival rate of non-Hodgkin lymphoma patients - like me!!! It's sobering to think that if I had been diagnosed in the early part of our marriage... or even after the birth of my first two children... the outcome may have been different.

When you watch this video, picture me holding the sign - RESEARCH SAVED MY LIFE!

Please donate here!

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Nitty Gritty

I did it! I requested my records from Tulsa Cancer Institute. I've read over them three times already and will read over them many more times! I feel a little more educated about what I've been through the last six months - especially in the beginning.

It all started with an ultrasound on my neck that showed abnormal appearing enlarged lymph nodes. Biopsy was recommended. My surgeon did a needle biopsy that day on the prominent lymph node at my collar bone. The results included the phrase highly worrisome for malignant lymphoma. It's a good thing I didn't see those words until now!!! I'm so thankful that my surgeon didn't tell me exactly what the report said! Dr. Bruns was so kind with what he told us and how he took care of me!

Since the needle biopsy wasn't definitive, I had surgery to remove the lymph node for biopsy. It showed non-Hodgkin lymphoma - diffuse large B cell lymphoma (aggressive), likely arising out of a follicular lymphoma (indolent). I wonder how long I had the follicular lymphoma...

So, all my progress notes show the diagnosis as:

Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma with a component of grade 3 follicular lymphoma, Stage III disease above and below the diaphragm.

I learned that two lymph nodes were removed from under my arm where I thought it was just one. They were not positive for lymphoma, but a component of minimal involvement by follicular lymphoma is not excluded. Again, I wonder how long I had the follicular lymphoma...

Actually, I'm thankful that it progressed to the aggressive lymphoma so I could get treatment. The aggressive lymphoma has a higher rate for cure! Both the large diffuse B-cell and follicular respond well to the targeted monoclonal antibody treatment of Rituxan! Plus I would hate knowing I had the indolent follicular lymphoma where nothing could/would be done until it became aggressive. I did all that waiting without even knowing it!!!

My first PET scan showed the cancerous lymph nodes were from my neck down to my abdomen. If you want the technicalities: Multiple hypermetabolic enlarged lymph nodes are seen involving the lower left neck, superior left mediastinum, periesophageal region of the lower mediastinum, and periarotic and pericaval nodes. It also gave specific measurements and SUV (glow) on the more prominent lymph nodes.

A bone marrow biopsy was also performed while I was knocked out for the lymph node surgery. Thankfully it did not show lymphoma!!! However, it did point out that there is virtual absence of bone marrow storage iron placing this patient at future risk for iron deficiency anemia. Good to know!

And my echocardiogram before starting chemo showed mild-to-moderate mitral valve regurgitation, mild tricuspid regurgitation, and trace pulmonic valvular regurgitation. At least my aortic valve is fine! Goodness!

Oh, the BEST lab result from my pre-op work up was a negative pregnancy test! Woo Hoo!!!

After three rounds of chemo, the CT scan showed encouraging findings:
  • No mediastinal mass or mediastinal lymphadenopathy
  • Previously seen superior mediastinal lymph node is no longer identified
  • Lower periarotic lymph node is decreased from previous exam
  • No retroperitoneal mass or adenopahy is seen

And then after three more rounds of chemo, the PET scan showed "excellent" results. I'm glad and relieved to read Dr. McHam's notes after he talked to the radiologist:

"I discussed the case with the radiologist and he felt like the degree of remaining hypermetabolic activity is not clinically significant showing excellent response to the treatment that was given previously."

So that's the nitty gritty of my medical records for this cancer journey to date. As I read over all the reports, I can't help but notice how many people have been involved in my care. Of course I have my four main doctors - Primary Care, Surgeon, Oncologist, and Oncologist NP. Then you add in all of their medical staff, chemo nurses, surgery staff, those who performed tests/scans/labs, those who interpreted tests/scans/labs, office staff, transcribers, etc. It's a little overwhelming! I'm thankful for all of them! And I'm thankful for those who have researched my disease in order to identify it and find a treatment for it. 

Give thanks to the LORD, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done.
~ I Chronicles 16:8