Thursday, May 23, 2013

It's a Blessing, and a Curse

We are big fans of the TV show Monk. In fact, the kids still watch reruns. And really, isn't there a little bit of Monk in all of us??? We are always repeating his phrase about different things that are happening - it's a blessing, and a curse.

That phrase is kind of how I've looked at this whole cancer journey. Only I would turn it around and say, "Yes, it's a curse...but mostly a blessing!"

Chemo #5 this week had it's cursed moments...but was still a blessing. Before each treatment, blood is drawn to check all my counts - white blood cells, neutrophils (most important infection fighters of the white blood cells), hemoglobin, and hematocrit. Chemo kills all fast growing cells, including blood cells that are produced in the bone marrow. Bone marrow suppression is the most frequent side effect of chemo and can cause the body to not fight infection, nourish tissues, or clot blood. Thankfully, my red blood cells (hemoglobin and hematocrit) have been fine. However, my white blood cells, especially my neutrophils, have continued to drop.

A normal white blood cell count ranges from 4.8 to 10.8 thousand. Before my first treatment, my wbc was 8.0. Then it dropped to 5.0, 4.4, 3.3, and 2.5. In relation to that, my neutrophils started at 6.2 and dropped to 2.4, 2.4, 1.6, and 1.1. My latest count was too low to receive chemo without a shot of Neulasta to increase white blood cell production. Without it, I'm too susceptible to infection that would probably land me in the hospital. Also without it, I would have to delay chemo and maybe even have the chemo dose altered.

After my doctor gave us the options, we went ahead with chemo #5 on Tuesday, and then I went back on Wednesday for my Neulasta shot. I was hoping to avoid it throughout my treatment because it can cause bone pain from mild to severe (depending on who you talk to). But, no pain, no gain - right! If it's hurting, it's working. And if it's what will keep everything on track and keep me out of the hospital, then it's what I need to do.

5 down, hopefully just 1 to go

So, back to cancer being a curse...but mostly a blessing.

Yes, cancer stinks, but...

  • the encouragement from family and friends is priceless! 
  • reconnecting with friends who are surviving and have survived cancer is invaluable!
  • my own growth spiritually is wonderful!
  • my husband and kids are the best cheerleaders!

Yes, chemo stinks, but...
  • it's killing the cancer... and I'm NOT PUKING!!!

Yes, the Neulasta shot is somewhat painful, but...
  • it's boosting white blood cells to fight infection!

Yes, I'm bald and hardly have any eyelashes, but...
  • the chemo is working!

I am one blessed soon-to-be cancer survivor! God is good!!!

So do not fear, for I am with you;  
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;  

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
~ Psalm 41:10

Friday, May 17, 2013

Accentuate the Positive

I'm over half way through my chemo treatments and thought it would be fun to list my side effects (the negative) with what is positive about them. There have just been minor changes since my "Blue Book" post (see here). Decreasing the Vincristine dose has taken away the intense jaw pain and abdominal pain. What a blessing!

Stomach/Digestive issues - indigestion, burping, heartburn, and constipation

POSITIVE: I'm not puking!

Mouth/Nose - cotton mouth with a weird taste and hypersensitive sense of smell

POSITIVE: I'm not puking!


POSITIVE: Tylenol...and I'm not puking!

Aches and pains with skin sensitivity

POSITIVE: Only lasts two days...and I'm not puking!

Hair loss - with thinning eyebrows and eyelashes

POSITIVE: New hair style and better shaped brows (thanks to eyebrow shadow)!

Skin - dry, flaky, and itchy

POSITIVE: No shiny face by the end of the day!

Nails - brittle, ridges, and quick line is receding

POSITIVE: No pain when nails break past the quick!

Lack of energy


The biggest positive of all: I'M NOT PUKING!!!

So, those are my minor side effects from chemo. It will be interesting to see if there are any long-term effects. I really have nothing to complain about and am VERY blessed! I know I've mentioned this before, but the prayer support we have is INCREDIBLE! I'm sure that's why I'm doing so well!!!

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.

~ Lamentations 3:22-24

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Showers of Blessing

I was showered with blessings this past weekend! I was able to see our oldest daughter perform in Singin' in the Rain - the spring musical production at Ozark Christian College ( It was a wonderful show! But more special than the show was that I was there, feeling great, and able to watch my daughter! She got the lead role of Kathy Selden the same week I was diagnosed with NHL. That week was definitely a roller coaster of emotions. I think we were all wondering if I'd be able to attend the show.

Jordyn - aka Kathy Selden

We were also blessed to have family come from Illinois, Kansas, and Oklahoma to see Jordyn in the show...and I'm sure to also see the rest of us! Another blessing was reconnecting with some sweet friends from our college days at Ozark Christian College and our young married days in Joplin, MO. An Ozark friend (going through her own cancer journey) gave me flowers and had the cast, crew, and orchestra sign a card for me. That's a lot of sweet autographs! I love how our family and friends are the hands and feet of Christ to us! God is good!!!

Flowers and Autographs

From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another.
~ John 1:16

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Project Life - My Way

This isn't a typical cancer update, but it still has to do with my journey. Before I knew about my swollen lymph node, I was working toward finding a better way to document our life and actually scrapbook. Project Life ( is a way of keeping a scrapbook by using divided page protectors and keeping a two page spread per week. Well, there's no way I could keep up with that! So, after searching the internet for ideas, I decided I could maybe do a two page spread a MONTH. Also, I'm using an 8 1/2 x 11 album instead of 12 x 12. My plan was to create at least one page using My Digital Studio from Stampin' Up! ( and then a divided page protector for smaller elements. I picked up a package of baseball card page protectors and other supplies, made my own planner so I could keep track of things in one place, and was ready to go.

The front - SU paper and Verve stamp

The front cover with pocket

Month at a glance

Week at a glance for notes

Then my mom noticed the lump in my neck and life got turned upside down. Project Life took a back seat to doctor's appointments, needle biopsy, surgery, oncologist visits, port placement, scans, and chemo. Once things settled down and we knew what we were dealing with, I got motivated to work on January's layout - only three months late :) I did one page digitally and one page with the baseball card dividers. It was fun and good therapy!

My Project Life - January 2013

Once I finished January, I was excited to keep going and started on February. I love that I can use whatever style I want and it's okay - digital, page protectors, or whatever. There's hope that I can keep up with this and actually finish a scrapbook :)

My Project Life - February 2013

Since this has already been such a crazy year, I want to have something to look back on and see all the GOOD things that are happening. Just like God told the Israelites over and over to teach their children what He had done...

...we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, His power, and the wonders He has done.
~ Psalm 78:4b

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Chemo #4 and CT results

PRAISE THE LORD! Chemo is working!!! A large lymph node in my chest is down to normal size, and a large lymph node in my abdomen has shrunk in half. WOO HOO!!! My doctor said I'm responding very well to treatment!!!

My white blood counts are low - especially my neutrophils, but it was still a go for chemo. I just need to be extremely careful about germs. So I spray down my desk and phone at work every morning (and after others use my phone), use Germ-x 100 times a day, avoid shaking hands, and definitely avoid people who are obviously sick. 

Chemo was another typical day of chemo. I didn't get Benadryl until before my last medicine, so I was able to read for awhile. Daryl brought back Steak 'n Shake for lunch, and then it was nap time! I'll have two more treatments and then a PET scan. Hopefully after that I'll be done, but if they want to do two more treatments, that's fine. Whatever it takes!

I don't always sleep well the night of chemo even though I'm super tired - must be the Prednisone. I woke up singing this Rich Mullins song:

Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom, power, and love
Our God is an awesome God

I also like a quote I saw on Facebook by Beth Moore:

"When the Spirit of God moves within us, we must move with Him or be miserable."

I'm glad I serve an AWESOME GOD whose Spirit moves within me!