Saturday, October 19, 2019

Saturday's Scribbles

Good Saturday to you from our corner of the world where today's temp is going to be 65 !  A warm fall day starting with rain but ending with sunshine. I will be enjoying the weather from my sofa sanctuary due to yesterday's chemo treatment.  So thankful for our big windows, and the fresh air coming in.

It is also the weekend of our granddaughter L.'s confirmation.  Joel and I feel that a time to confirm and confess your faith in Jesus as your Savior is very important......just as important as graduating, but for different reasons.  It breaks my heart that I cannot be there to celebrate.  He was struggling with whether to go or not because I crash, especially the Sunday after chemo and often need his help.  He had just decided not to go when our oldest son, Matt, surprised us with a phone call telling us he was going to come up Saturday afternoon and stay overnight, going home Sunday afternoon so his dad could go and I would not be alone!  What a gift for us!

Speaking of gifts, as I sit or lay on my sofa I can see a ceramic plaque that says, "You Got This" from our oldest daughter.  I see a beautiful card with heart felt encouragement from our middle daughter, an angel from our son Matt, wife Michele, and kids, and a prayer bowl from my sister Janelle. I give thanks for the phone that brings in calls from our son check in with us.   I have a stack of cards to reread and a jar full of encouraging notes and Bible verses our youngest daughter Sarah made for me last Thanksgiving when I started this long hard journey.  She had everyone who was here write them for me.   All visual reminders of God's love notes sent by those I love and care about.  It makes me smile...........\

Speaking of smiling, yesterday I had a roommate for chemo.  A very small room with a cotton cloth screen between chemo patients.  They were full and my scheduled appointment did not happen until just two days before hand.  My roomie liked to watch old westerns.  It reminded me of my sister Jan who also likes old western movies.  A discussion with my siblings brought up the fact that most do enjoy old westerns.......especially Bonanza was a favorite!  All of us are over 60.....probably has something to do with it?  Or maybe the simpler life when the violence shown on TV was kid's play compared to today!

I am reading a David Rosenfelt mystery again.  I took a break for awhile as they sound the same after awhile.  I really need to expand my reading choices, but right now between chemo and steroid brains this is the best I can do.  Speaking of steroids, when I am put on them, I have several side effects including weight gain to the tune of gaining 4 lbs in just 24 hours.  Six pounds in 2 days.  I quit getting on the scale until this leaves my body.  It is fascinating to me....I lost 7 lbs the first 10 days of chemo last time and gained it back the final week........and then more.  Now, in my way of thinking a person should get rewarded for this journey, like weight loss if needed.  Don't you think?

The political drama is over the top and even though I hate to watch it or let it pull me in on any level, I am drawn to it in a strange way.  Drama.  The what can happen next?  Boundaries and limitations? Necessary.

The Hallmark Mystery Channel has gone to Christmas Movies ALREADY!  What is up with that?  Do that have a pact with businesses to get people to buy more stuff or are they just wanting to spread some joy early before Halloween!  We don't decorate for Halloween but do have pumpkins for Fall!

Hope you all have a good weekend filled with all good blessings!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

My Papa God Is Bigger

"Faith does not deny a problem's existence, 
it denies the problem a place of influence."
Bill Johnson

Problems can appear so BIG.  They can be so BIG!  And so often I find myself telling God and anyone who will listen just how big my problem is.......when I need to remember and declare to my problem and to myself and others just how BIG my GOD is!  He is definitely bigger than any problem.

Recently  I heard Pastor Bill Johnson from Redding CA talk a bout a friend of his who was going through a terrible situation.  One day he placed two chairs facing each other and he invited the devil to sit in one chair and he sat in the other.  He then, said to the devil..."You are going to sit here and listen to me praise God. You are going to hear how faithful, good, and kind my God is!"  This man made the decision to focus on God and His goodness in the midst of, and despite his circumstances.

I would imagine the devil hates to hear us praising God.  Yes, I am sure of it.  I would expect God loves to hear our praises to Him.  It says in scripture that He inhabits our praises!  And I know that when we give thanks and praise, focusing on God and not our, at times, enormous circumstances, we find a sense of peace in the midst of it all. Praise is an offering for what we know to be true according to God's Word, even in the midst of hardship and loss.  It builds our faith.  As Bill Johnson said, faith does not deny our problem but it denies it a place of influence.

I am good at visualizing.  God has given me a gift of "seeing" in the spirit realm.  Sometimes that gift turns against me when I visualize worst-case scenarios.  And let me tell you, I am good at that IF I listen to the lies of the enemy.  I decided to do what Bill Johnson's friend does and put two chairs together.  I put my "circumstances" on the chair and I speak to it of God's goodness, faithfulness, healing power.  Funny thing about that........when you speak to your circumstances, or the enemy, you are also speaking to yourself.  You shift your focus and it shifts your perception. 

I have one family member who finds bedtime challenging at times because worry likes to visit.  This person has learned to pray the Lord's Prayer over and over and recently added singing "This Little Light of Mine" until sleep comes.  What a wonderful example of shifting the focus to WHO is this person's LIGHT....making God bigger than the problem!

It is not always easy, but it is possible.  Whether we put two chairs together and speak to the circumstance, whether we poke the devil in the eye with our praise, whether we sing a sweet yet powerful song over our worry, the result is the same.  God becomes bigger, things shift,  and peace flows. 

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Saturday's Scribbles

Good Saturday to  you from our corner of Iowa where we woke up to our first frost of the season.  We do not have snow, like Minnesota, South Dakota, and other states.  We do have the cold with wind chills but are avoiding the white stuff which is fine by us!  I am now enjoying my "Woolie", my wool comforter which keeps me nice and cozy throughout the cold seasons.  Like I have said many times, wool has some healing properties.  Joel has some arthritis in his hands/fingers and wears wool gloves which helps!  Love the wool!

Speaking of loving something..........did any of you see the video a mom took of her three year old son on his way to school.  When he was 2 she taught him an affirmation she hoped would stick in his mind.  It did.  On his first day of school he started to repeat the affirmation on his own.....

I am smart!
I am blessed!
I can do anything!

He is adorable and has a message for all of us!  I found myself adjusting the affirmation to...I am strong.  I am blessed!  And with God I can do anything!

Speaking of I can do anything, this journey with chemo is so unpredictable.  I like to say every day is different and sometimes every hour.  Like Tuesday I had trouble getting downstairs without feeling like I would pass out.  I rested awhile and by 11 am felt good enough to make a small batch of cookies!  I walked twice around the driveway that evening and crashed after.......unpredictable. Thursday I went to physical therapy, three stores for cards, and the library!  No problems.....and that was fun.

I was supposed to have chemo yesterday but it has been postponed for a week.  Last Monday I called the clinic and left a message for my doctor that I was having neuropathy in my feet and some in my fingers.  The doctor was gone once again and the nurse called me and said another doctor on call said I needed to see a palliative care team for pain control.  I was NOT looking for meds, I was looking to ask the doctor about this side effect as I know it can be permanent.  I was going to be contacted by the team....but nothing.....Finally on Wednesday I called again and said I wanted to talk to the doctor after finding out I was not even scheduled to see him before chemo on Friday.  At Joel's persistence I also called Mayo and left a message with my oncologist there.  The Doctor from our center here called me and decided to postpone chemo a week........and shortly after that the Mayo doctor called me....less than 2 hours after my call to him.  2 hours.  Not 2 days.  He felt waiting was okay but did not think my symptoms were telling him the neuropathy would be permanent so go ahead with the chemo .....only 2 treatments left.  So for now I am in limbo waiting for symptoms to go down and for next week.  I expect this is quite common but it was not part of the plan and I struggle with not pushing through it.  We have been praying about it of course, and twice in one day from different sources I heard words I had not heard before............WHEN YOU ARE GOING THROUGH HELL, JUST KEEP GOING!  Yep.  Just keep going!

Speaking of keep going........Yesterday we headed to the local grocery store to pick up some pumpkins for our deck and front porch.  After paying $5 for each one, no matter the size, I decided we would seek out a pumpkin patch next year!  There is just something about pumpkins that speak of fall and warm my heart!  Halloween is my least favorite day, but Thanksgiving is definitely a plus!  The colors, the smells, the food, the gatherings, the gratitude expressed.  It is the only holiday where our family celebrates on the actual day, and the only holiday where Joel does not have services on the day, so of course it is my favorite! 

Speaking of favorite.........last night we watched the first episode of the original Magnum P.I. series on Amazon Prime!  That show was a favorite in our house in the 80's.  It is amazing that I remember so much of that first episode!  Our minds really store a lot of information.......a reminder to fill it with GOOD things!

I have been reading again this week, picking up a Rita Mae Brown mystery at the library.  What are you reading? 

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Saturday's Scribbles

Good Saturday to you from our corner of Iowa where the word of the week has been RAIN!  Rain, rain, and more rain.  Dark and dreary days mostly with water water everywhere.  I'm guessing we have had 4-5 inches.  We could use a little sunshine!  It has been nice to turn on the gas fireplace!

Speaking of sunshine, we were hoping for sunshine today as Joel headed off to his "national holiday" of Rendezvous Days about 45 minutes from here.  He has gone nearly every year, life and weather cooperating!  The weather has not cooperated this year.  He called me a couple of hours in and said there was water everywhere.  Sloshing was the way he described walking through all the tents, food places, etc.  Sounds like he will top off his breakfast flatbread with lunch before heading home early.  So disappointing.

Today is our granddaughter Abbi's birthday.  Next week our son-in-law Greg will add a year.  Our oldest son Matt and his wife Michele celebrated their wedding anniversary this week, too.  We have a lot of family birthdays and anniversaries in the fall.  I enjoy fall so much, but sure miss being with our family for special occasions.  For any occasion.  If you live close to your kids?  Treasure it.

There has been so much political drama on TV this week.  It is like a soap opera where each day brings more craziness than the last.  Years and years ago I used to watch those daily soaps......I quit and I am glad I did!   Too much drama.....just like now.  No matter which side of the aisle you are on, or whether you walk down the middle, it is all a mess.  There are times I am not only shocked or disgusted, but also embarrassed by it all.

This week I made it to physical therapy twice as planned.  The scar tissue is breaking up and my muscles are stretching more and more.  That is good news.  I have had more energy, but what we have noticed is that I can feel fine and then instantly not be fine and in need of laying down ASAP.  It just leaves or changes so quickly.  I wish the pain would go away as quickly!  Six more days til we head back to the cancer center for another infusion.  Oh, joy.

Speaking of joy, I have been working on that intentional gratitude again.  I am thankful for texting!  Such a fast way to be in touch.  I am so grateful for kids who walk in faith.  Grateful for feeling stronger, being able to taste some foods again, and knowing there is an end to the chemo.  Grateful for a warm house, a gas fireplace, the TV to distract, online ordering,and grilled pork chops and baked squash made by my hubby.  Delish!  What's on your list?

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Chemo Chat

I have debated with myself over how much to share of my journey with chemo.  I have learned in the past few weeks that each person has their own story to tell.  I expect one day chemo will seem barbaric as a treatment for cancer, but for now it is one of the weapons used by doctors against a formidable foe ~ cancer.  One doctor told his patients, "I don't know what chemo will do to your body, but I do know what will happen to your body if we do not do what we can to get rid of the cancer."   I was told by the Mayo oncologist that for me the chemo is for prevention purposes.  Having the double mastectomy is the number one thing I could have done to rid my body of cancer.  Chemo should take care of any random cancer cells, etc. in the body.  Chemo is part of the battle plan.

Chemo affects each of those who reluctantly join this club in different ways.  Yes, there is knowledge that how the chemo drugs affect the body is in some ways universal ~ thus the  extensive Chemotherapy Resource Guide I was given.  But in other ways how the chemo drugs affect the body is individual.  There is a "we don't know" aspect to pumping poison into your body. 

When we had our "chemo class" the nurse went over all the side effects and how to manage them.  What side affects were dangerous, what ones required a trip or phone call to the doctor.  What was considered "normal."  I listened, but tried not to keep a running list in my head.......or heart.  I tried to take a "wait and see" approach.  Four weeks in I ordered a short book entitled, "Chemo: Secrets to Thriving".  It pretty much covered what was in the spiral notebook I had been given, plus a few more side effects that were in the "hard to talk about" category.  Both guides have been helpful.

It was not until the second treatment that I was hit hard with a number of side effects that kept me horizontal.  When the 2nd infusion knocked me off my feet, I began a google search for those who had personal stories to share.  I did this because the few people I knew who had gone through chemo either did not talk about it, or said "it was not so bad".  I did know of one person who spent a lot of time in bed and someone else who's only symptom was severe fatigue.  I needed more info.

I learned that there were plenty of people who were suffering through the treatments.  One younger woman remembered feeling so ready for chemo to get started!  She had a fighting spirit!  And then she became extremely ill and remembers that after one session where she spent 6 days in bed, she walked into the kitchen and said something to her husband and he actually cried to see her up and hear her talk.  Everyone has their own story to tell and the one who "breezes through" is no different than the one who suffers greatly.  Getting to the other side............that is the goal.  Just getting through to the other side.

One of the biggest symptoms I have had to deal with is pain.  I was told by a nurse that I would not have pain.  She was completely wrong and even though it is not one of the more common symptoms, it is a side effect of the chemo I have been given.  And then there is the OnPro injection that helps your body produce white cells in the bone marrow.  The bone pain from that was intense.  After three days of it I called my doctor and was told to take Claritin.  It seems the On Pro produces high histamines in the body and the Claritin reduces those, thus reducing pain.  That has been helpful to take the edge off of the bone and joint pain so I can sleep at night.  The muscle and nerve pain fluctuate.  There is a concern that the nerve pain will be permanent so that is watched closely.

Another continual side effect has been fatigue and exhaustion.  For the first 6 days it has been major to the point that I needed help getting around, my legs would not hold me at times.  After day 6 (so far) weakness improves enough that I can be up more, help myself more.  Eventually energy has steadied 2 weeks in so that I have one week that is more normal before the next treatment.  Will that continue?  We are hopeful. 

A variety of other side effects have popped up.  Nausea was minimal with the first treatment but pretty strong the first week of the second treatment.  I have not vomited at all and felt like I was eating enough, although I lost 6 lbs during that time.  Smells are strong to me, taste is mostly bland.  Textures are difficult.  You find what you can tolerate and you eat it.  Food is medicine for your body! For me, the essential oils of ginger and peppermint put into a carrier oil has helped.  I rub it on my stomach as often as needed.  There are meds that can be used also.

I started losing my hair just 10 days after the first treatment.  We shaved my head 5 days later and I have been wearing headcovers since.  My eyebrows are thinning out and most hair is gone on my body. 

Tinnitus has increased and in my right ear at times there is a "tweeting bird" sound.  Not kidding.  My vision is blurry and I blink a lot.  That should improve later.  I have had "chemo brain" to some degree.  I can tell mostly when I try to pull up words or I am watching Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy!  Slowwwww reactions.  I can tell when I sit down to write on my blog.  The words don't flow as easily.

I have had sore throats, runny nose, sore mouth, oral thrush, and everything, including water tastes metallic. There are salt/soda water gargles, meds to kill thrush, and I put just a small amount o 100% white grape juice in my water to make it drinkable.   I have had mild fevers, headaches, soreness on skin from chemo leaving my body through urine and stools, nightmares, and sadness and anxiety.  The short amount of time I am on steroids, sleep is hard to come I am thankful it is brief.  After the first few days, I sleep 9-10 hrs a night and usually take two naps daily.  My skin has reactions to the chemo and the dermatologist was helpful for me as I had radiation "memory" reactions plus the severe reaction to the tape used during surgery to have the port put in. 

Mostly, this is my journey with chemo so far.  One thing I am learning?  It changes from day to day and often hour to hour.  The body is doing what it can to function and I am doing what I can to help. For me the first 6 days are the worst, and I try to just breathe, rest, and pray my way through it. It is good to remember, this too will pass!  We will get to the other side.

What helps to get to the other side?   Information is a good place to start.  Good support, a loving caretaker, and the prayers of family and friends are so important.  And be sure to advocate for yourself.  Be kind to yourself.  Make sure you keep your eyes on that light at the end of the tunnel.
In the midst of the last "chemo crap storm", as our oldest daughter calls it, Jesus reminded me I was not alone with this image and message.   

He is the Light

I hope this has been somewhat helpful for those who are curious and for anyone who is going through, has been through, or will be going through treatments.  Our daughter Beth's words, "chemo crap storm" define it quite well, but like any storm, it will end.  In the midst of it all it we may be tossed by wind and waves, but it will end.  This too shall pass.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Saturday's Scribbles

Good Saturday to you from our corner of Iowa where fall is showing off and bringing us a beautiful day.  Oh how I love fall.  I am in my living room sanctuary with the back door open just loving the sounds, smells, and sights of fall. 

It is nice to be back in the land of the living.  I am in the midst of jotting notes when I can to have a little "chemo chat" in the future as this past 5-6 days has been a test of my endurance.  The infusions went well but by Sunday I was sleeping off and on all day and waking every hour of the night.  Chemo hit me harder than the first time around and the next few days are a bit of a blur.  Times where I thought I was going to die and other times where I was thinking Heaven sounded sooo good.  I remember repeating often, " Lord have mercy".  Friday I woke thinking something feels different.  This morning I was strong enough to shower.  It took all my energy, but I did it!  I felt my brain could put a few words together so I picked up my laptop to do a little scribbling.

Our granddaughter Grace celebrated a birthday this week, along with our sister-in-law Betty.  Joel's brother has a birthday coming up and our oldest daughter Beth and son-in-law Kevin will soon celebrate their 25th Anniversary.  When I think about that beautiful fall day in Duluth, MN it makes me smile.  It was such a great celebration with family and friends.  I can still remember the two of us walking Beth down the aisle into the arms of a man who has loved her well.  So grateful.

Grateful.  So what are you grateful for this day?  I am grateful for a phone call, a bowl of cereal, a TV to get lost in, the sounds outside the door, a hubby who walks with me, the prayers of friends and family,  animal videos, silence, the laughter of children, and so much more.  Enjoy your Saturday.  Practice intentional gratitude.