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!