Archive | March 2009

When Our Strength in Gone

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This entry was posted on March 31, 2009. 2 Comments

A Legacy Left Behind…

james-blank-haze-in-redwood-national-park-californiaMy grandma Lottie passed away this weekend.   Lottie was my last living grandparent,  at age 97.  She had such a rich and full life.  A life with no regrets.  I imagine in this photo she is walking with Jesus, finally in the presence of the One who meant most to her on this earth.  I wonder what they will talk about?  I wonder how many are in Heaven to greet her today because she pointed the way for them there?  She lived her life to please only Christ, and nobody else.  She left a shining example to me and my children that what we do in this life matters and God sees it all.  A legacy I am grateful for.

She knew in her later months that I had cancer, but she knew I would be alright.  She called me “the younger one”, as she couldn’t quite remember names.  I’m sure she remembered the times we had all spent together through the years, though.  I was with her nearly a year ago when I went to see her in California.  Her mind was fading then but her smile was ever present and her zest for living, and people never wained.

My fondest memory is of the time she came to visit me in Virginia just 6 years ago.  There was a meteor shower taking place at 3 a.m. one night.  I asked her if she had ever seen one and she said No, that nobody had ever taken her to one.  She would never have dreamed of walking out her front door to view one in the middle of the night!  (That just wouldn’t be safe!)  So she and I got up in the middle of the night and laid in sleeping bags on my driveway and watched the stars fall from the sky like rain.  It was the most amazing site!  The most amazing memory – one I will forever treasure.  Now she is with the stars and their maker forever.

I will eat Cream of Wheat in her honor today – with raisins, of course!  Just like we use to eat in her kitchen when I was a little girl.lottie Lottie Brown Covher 1912 – 2009

This entry was posted on March 30, 2009. 2 Comments

Chemo #5 down!

Lincoln & Washinton MonumentsPassing the Lincoln (on left) and Washington (sticking up behind the trees) Monuments crossing the Memorial Bridge on my way to Walter Reed.

This is the view across The Potomac river to Georgetown as I pass under The Kennedy Center For The Perofming ArtsView of Georgtown from across The Potomac RiverQ-Sttreet Bridge

This is the Q street bridge <—which you can read more about here, but it was finished in 1915 on Christmas Day and is adorned with the sandstone heads of 56 indians. It is my favorite site on my drive to Walter Reed.  It is almost as if they are looking down on me with their strength.

Q-Street Indian HeadSigns of Spring on Rock Creek ParkwayRobin waiting for SpringSee Mr. Robn bird waiting for Spring along the Rock Creek? I almost missed him sitting there!Sun spills through the trees across Rock CreekPulling up to the hospital

Entering the hospital complex. Notice that as I walk up from the parking garage there is a sign -Walter Reed Army Medical center is 100 years old this year!  It says:  “Est. 1909”

Walking up from the parking garage into the hospital

I stop every week to get my free popcorn from the soldiers who are set up in the lobby – my weekly “fix” before chemo!

Me and my weekly popcorn fix!Me and my chemo buddy Ashlynn

My chemo friend, Ashlynn, whom I met when I first started 3 months ago.  She is finished with her treatment now (yeah!) and stopped by yesterday to say hello.

Me and my chemo nurse, Irene

Me and my head chemo nurse, Irene, who is moving next week. Boohoo.  She always was so thorough and could make the patients laugh.  She will be missed! Boy I am lookin’ worn out in this picture!

So today is my first day after chemo cycle #5.  I woke up every two hours through the night to use the bathroom – lots of bags of fluids yesterday, plus I am pushing more and more water to see if that helps to flush the chemo drugs out of my system sooner and keep me from dehydrating, a common problem for some chemo patients.  There’s someone in there almost every week coming in JUST for re-hydration, and sometimes have to be hospitalized for it.  I am tired, but hanging in there.  Only slight nausea so far, and that is controlled.   I just started the anti-nausea steroids and Emend today so that should help also.   With just one more major cycle to go in April, I am seeing the light near the end, and that is a great feeling.  I want to say thank you to so many people for helping us through. 019

Kiki, for walking Colby so faithfully during the week. He loves you as much as I do!

Sara, for all the meal coordination and to those of you who have lovingly prepared our family such yummy meals!

To those who pray – I feel God’s presence when you do and I am thankful to have you in this fight!

Please keep up the prayers!

-That the nausea would go away completely and that I would regain my energy through red blood cell hemoglobin and avoid a blood transfusion.

-Pray that my liver enzymes would remain lowered as an irritated liver causes me pain in my side.

-Please also  pray against infections which  have hammered me the last two months with bladder infections and skin abscesses. Keith is home sick with the flu today so pray I would stay well.

‘Til next time 🙂


This entry was posted on March 26, 2009. 7 Comments

Ruffles Have Ridges (and so do my fingernails!)


I am at the end of my 4th chemo cycle and have felt pretty good for the last 5 days. Tired and “severely anemic” (according to my bloodwork yesterday) but hanging in there.  Tomorrow I go for my 5th treatment. I felt like my big toe was sore the other day and looked at  it only  to find that there are blackish spots at the nail bed. Then I felt like I had smashed my middle finger in a door, but I hadn’t.   A look at my fingers showed that there is a bruise spot on that nail and ridged lines on all of my fingernails.  One of the side effects of Taxotere is listed as “fingernail or toenail changes”. The drug paperwork says the following:

Nail changes (Color changes to your fingernails or toenails may occur while taking docetaxel (Taxotere) . In extreme, but rare, cases nails may fall off. After you have finished docetaxel treatments, your nails will generally grow back.)

Lovely. Let’s hope this doesn’t really happen to ME!  That just souds like a real freakish side effect.

Laying in the heart scanner yesterday, IV attached to my hand, arms strapped down to the table so that I wouldn’t move, my mind wandered off .  The next thing I knew tears were flowing down my cheeks and into my ears, but I couldn’t wipe them because I was strapped down.  My mind was just thinking of how I didn’t want to be there and that every other patient in that waiting room was old enough to be my grandparent and I just didn’t belong there.  It made me angry and it made me sad, and it made me think of how unfair cancer is.  Another of the drugs I receive is known for causing heart damage so I have to have my heart output checked every 90 days for a year.  The good news is that my doctor called to day to say that my score was nearly an A+! Whew!

As we head in for treatment tomorrow PLEASE be praying that somehow God would see to it that the nausea would be controlled and that the drugs they give me for it would work.  Up until now I deal with uncontrolled nausea, day and night,  about 1/3 out of every month. But nothing is impossible with God!

This entry was posted on March 25, 2009. 3 Comments

How Low Can You Go?

press-birdToday was my weekly trip to Walter Reed. My doctor ordered lab tests just to see how I am doing and found my Hemoglobin very low, anemia, in other words. Normal is a 12. Mine was 9.6. He wants to watch things, and says that he will check it again Monday but that the shot he could give me to bring it back up has too many side effects and he would opt for a blood transfusion if it gets closer to an 8 in the coming weeks. Gear up prayer warriors! I need my red blood cell count numbers to come back up!

Many of you have asked about my breast cancer, such as prognosis and about why I have to go weekly for infusions. Fifteen years ago my prognosis would have been bleak because of my diagnosis of the growth factor gene called Her2Neu. Mine was “triple positive”, meaning an aggressive form of breast cancer. The infusions I receive every week target this gene factor’s proteins to stop their growth. I will continue receiving Herceptin (a target gene therapy, used in conjunction with my chemo therapy through April, then on its own through December.) How effective it has been is impossible to tell. They know from research that it reduces cancer recurrence/metastises (spreading elsewhere) by 52%, but until a recurrence occurs (or not) over time in my own body can’t be predicted with certainly. Because this in the only drug on the market, so far, to treat this growth factor, they are doing all they can for me.
Spring is in the air, birds are singing and that makes life feel a little more cheerful and hopeful as the next few weeks of chemo await me. It will all be behind me in about 6 weeks (the chemo therapy effects).
Here is a good video about Herceptin and it’s effectiveness :

This entry was posted on March 19, 2009. 2 Comments

Let me off this ride!

il_430xn_34541727Have you ever been on an amusement park ride that seemed it would never end?  The festivals in Europe have some like that…the kind that just twirl and twirl and twirl and make you sick.

I remember my third son  got on a ride in Germany once that was a long train type car, on a hilly up an and down, wavy track.  Seemingly harmless fun for a 7 year old, right?  All seats faced forward, but some sadistic – minded car operator grimaced, and  the thing began going BACKWARDS  for what felt like hours on end, faster and faster!  Children were screaming and crying for it to stop.  Parents waiting on the side rails , like me, felt helpless.  (And cheated out of what was supposed to be forward, harmless, fun).

Well I have now been on this chemo ride for 2 and a half months exactly.  I’ve had all the side effects I was warned of, some to lesser degrees than others, nothing very unexpected, some yet to be fully realized, but a ride I am ready to get off now.  But I can’t.  It won’t stop.

I have never been very good at endurance.  I have quit most difficult things I have begun in my life.  Private schooling.  Piano lessons.  Jogging (my husband says I tricked him into thinking I was athletic by jogging with him while we dated, then quiting). Truth is, I hate to sweat , but hey I looked the part!  (22 years later I hope he has forgiven me this one thing!)  I have quit jobs that got too messy, quit letters I never finished, quit projects that overwhelmed me, and quit diets that didn’t yield results fast enough. One thing I have never quit on, though,  is relationships.  They are precious to me and irreplaceable.  So I press on, through thick and thin – they matter most in my life.  No matter how tough.

My relationship to cancer is not a nice one.  He hates me and I hate him.  But I am not quitting my fight until he is gone.  I might FEEL like quitting, but then I am reminded that many people in my life are counting on me and believe in me even when I don’t believe I am strong enough.  Somehow I have convinced them that I am, and they remind me of it daily.  People told me this would be hard.  I guess I just didn’t know how hard.  I thank God every day that the sun goes down and tomorrow is another day, and often proves to be a better day.  He is so wise like that!  And I am glad He’s in my corner cheering me on, pressing me back in the ring!

James 1:2 – 5

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,

knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.

And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

This entry was posted on March 13, 2009. 4 Comments

A Day in the E.R.

rootsToday I had to call my doctor about this boil that had abscessed on the back of my neck.   I had noticed it a few days ago, but things went from bad to worse over the weekend and by today it was terribly painful, swollen and RED.  He recommended I go to the Emergency Room, since he didn’t think my primary care doctor would want to do anything about it, my being on chemo therapy and all.  So I was admitted and promptly taken to a back room with a private bed, isolating  me from all the sick, coughing patients flooding the E.R. waiting area.  The nurse practitioner who saw me had been through chemo therapy herself 4 years ago.  She fully understood the risks of lancing the abscess while my ability to fight infection is low right now.  She shared her story, I shared mine.  It was nice to have someone there who understood. 

They drew my blood to check my white blood cell count and had me wait.  An hour and a half nap did me well!  I walked in there so weak.  They told me that my cell counts were too low to lance it, and they sent me home with oral anti-biotics and topical anti-biotic, and I will see my oncologist in the morning.  My temperature was 99.6 F* while I was there, which is something to watch closely while on chemo.  Not alarming under normal circumstances, but a sign that I am fighting infection.  Ibufrofen seems to help the pain.  4 hours for all of THAT!

Tomorrow I go for my weekly Herceptin infusion and hopefully my oncologist will be able to address the abscess and get it to drain.  Three other small boils seem to be forming around it.  I can’t imagine if they go full blown into infections! 

Today was the first time I went in public without a wig on – just a bandana.  People stared everywhere I went through the hospital.  I hated it.  I wish I’d just had a big sign across my chest that said “YES! I have cancer! Now mind your own business.”   If you can’t be in a hospital with cancer, where can you be? I have felt so crummy the last few days that my happy side is hiding! 😦

This entry was posted on March 11, 2009. 6 Comments