This week was raw and real. I shared a daily journal of my journey to MDA.
Check in frequently for blog updates on what I expect will be a week full of medical information, splashes of humor, a squidge of emotion and acres of fun.
No, I am not mixing up a Halloween brew.
I am inviting you to join me on my roller coaster life for one week. You’ll enjoy the ride, and it won’t be boring.
Sunday, October 21
It is Sunday morning. I love Sunday mornings. They refresh my hope…especially this Sunday morning. Today is the first day in week that will grant a lifetime of experiences. I anticipate a range of emotions running through me from the highest of the highs to I pray not the lowest of lows. This week will be full of reality checks of what life is like living with the label of stage IV breast cancer. If I write about it, I hope you will read it and know all of us are terminal so make this week wonderful for yourself and the ones you love! Tick Tock.
10:30 am - We are headed to worship the Lord at Harvest Time Tabernacle, Fort Smith, AR. Pastor Marty is talking about decisions. I have made a lot of good ones. For instance, adopting Amanda, that one was the best decision of my life! She has given me purpose that propelled me to be a success professionally and now motivates me to fight cancer. She is a joy. I love her so very much. A decision I wish I had not made was to believe the doctor who told me in February 2005 that the pain in my breast was a pulled muscle. In May 2005, I found out it was stage III breast cancer. Days can count when cancer is aggressively growing in your body. If I had listened to my gut, I might not be in the situation I am in now fighting stage IV breast cancer. I wanted to believe I was ok but I knew better. I should have asked for proof. I did not. Now I live with a 3 inch binder of full of medical records. I go to MD Anderson this week to gather more proof. Tick Tock.
12:15 pm – After an AWESOME sermon, Prayer Warriors and church Elders gathered after church to give me a proper Christian send off to MD Anderson. I know prayer works. I have been on the front row seat of miracles. I know He has a plan for me. It is my job to have faith, stay close to Him and continue to show the joy of the Lord. This isn’t an always an easy assignment but to tell you the truth I find it more doable during the tough times because to be honest what real choice do I have. Tick Tock.
12:30 pm – Lunching with friends after church is something I always enjoy. Today the combination of laughter and conversation while chowing down on southern cuisine was indeed a treat. Take time to treat yourself.
2:30 pm – For me, preparing for a trip becomes a very well planned project. My house must be clean. My bills have to be paid. And I pack with purpose…. clothes, shoes, socks, underwear, jewelry, jackets and hats must coordinate, be practical and of course eye catching. Cancer I can’t control but preparing for a trip I can so I did! After 3 hours and 15 minutes, I am packed. My closet is organized. My bathroom is clean. My bills are paid. I am tired! It’s time to relax and watch Sunday night TV with Amanda.
6:00 pm – The phone just rang. It was an automated message from MD Anderson. After listening to the instructions, I selected one which confirmed that I would be reporting for “duty” on Wednesday. If only they knew, I am packed and ready to go!!!
Monday, October 22
7:50 am - Mornings are tough for me. I wake up slow and feel dizzy. Before I even leave the bed, I stretch and rotate my major joints as I talk to God. Seven years ago during my initial battle against breast cancer, I took four rounds of Taxol chemo. It does a number on cancer and joints. I tighten up when I am still for any length of time. After this exercise, I shuffle to the kitchen. My coffee is brewed and waiting on me. It takes at least two cups of coffee and one hour before I even talk. If you know me, I know you are shocked to hear that there are times I don’t talk but it is true. Silence makes it easier to listen to God. Words from today’s Jesus Calling really spoke to me. The last sentence was, Awareness of My marvelous Companionship can infuse Joy into the grayest day. The morning started out gray but the sun is starting to appear and yes I will be joyous. It’s time to bust a move. It is the only day I will be in the office before I head to Houston. Tick Tock.
I love my job. The City Wire runs on a fast track due to a team of talented, caring, fun people. We greet each week focused on delivering quality news and creating advertising campaigns. This week would be no different. I had to work ahead last week so I could be gone this week. Planning ahead has become both a gift and a curse. Professionally, being a strategic planner has served me well. Looking too far ahead when you are fighting stage IV breast cancer honestly is unsettling. I am learning to live one day at a time.
First thing, I finalized a power point presentation and met with an advertising client. In mid-morning, I was visited by a client and friend. She appeared with a pink bag containing a card and a custom made gift. It is a cool gift! Michelle is cool friend!
At noon, I rushed to have lunch with my parents at the Sizz! I was so happy to see them. My Dad wore a shirt that I bought for him and my Mother prayed out loud for me right there in the middle of the restaurant. The prayer made me cry. It feels good to have your parents pray for you. It makes me feel special. Sharing this moment with you makes my heart swell and my eyes tear up in good way.
I wanted to stay longer with Mom & Dad. It feels safe to sit in their presence but I had to break away. I just had too much more to do before I could leave for Houston.
Next stop was Dr. Stiles’ office. I needed to pick up contacts. Then I had to dash off for my final work out with Tina at Elite Fitness. I have been dedicated to working out 3-5 times a week for the past 90 days…..so why have I gained weight? I think the monthly chemo shots in each hip have made my butt bigger. Medicines do have side effects and I am here to “bare” witness that by back side has had an enlarged effect. Lol
By 2:30 pm, I was chatting it up with Krista at the American Diabetes Association. The City Wire is going to be a media sponsor of their 2013 Kiss a Pig fundraiser. How exciting! If there is a blood test for helping nonprofits, MD Anderson will discover my DNA contains a philanthropy genetic code.
Once I finished visiting with Krista, I was delighted by another surprise visit. Liz dropped in to give me a pink shirt that has “check your headlights” written across the ….chest / breast area. Oh yes, I am going to wear it!!!
Good thing I wore tennis shoes today. I had 30 minutes to go to the bank, copy my medical records, confirmed the hotel reservation and printed boarding passes.
Finally, it is 4:00 pm and time for our weekly conference call with The City Wire Account Executives. I now know that I am leaving the advertising and sponsorship sells in good hands. They are a can do team!
I made it to Zumba a little late but it was fun to dance like there is no tomorrow at the end of today.
All southern girls have that one friend who serves as their fashion consultant. Luann is that friend for me. Before every trip, she has to come over to see what I am taking to wear. She took one look at my new "check your headlights" t-shirt and decided she had seen enough. I was ready to go get'um in her eyes.
Luann, Amanda and I watched the debate. Later on the phone, I discussed life stuff with Vonda. And wrote this blog entry.
It's time to take my vitamins, brush my teeth and say my prayers.
Tick Tock, it is midnight as I set my alarm clock....tomorrow morning, I travel to Houston.
Tuesday, October 23
Time to go to Houston, Texas. I am soooo excited!!! Weather looks promising and so do my medical reports!
Vonda is going with me. She is one champion friend and warrior. Vonda is smart and she isn’t a push over. She gives me a sense of security and offers sound advice. We will pray and laugh and talk to everyone we see. Going anywhere even to MD Anderson is fun with Vonda! I am blessed to have her at my side as I travel this road towards a cure.
Wheels were scheduled to be up at 10:15 am but the flight has been delayed....looks like it will be a long day! But think of all the new people we will meet. It was a long travel day. Lets just say we got to the Fort Smith airport at 9:15 am and we arrived in Houston at 5:45 pm? Our luggage arrived before we did on another flight. Here is the blessing received during the delay, my sister called. I haven't heard from her since my last trip to MD Anderson. If the first flight had been on time, I would have missed the call. She has been fighting her own alligators. The chat was good for both of us. I was happy the flight was delayed.
Upon arrival in Houston, Vonda and I took a $75 taxi ride to the Rotary House. The Jesse H. Jones Rotary House International is a full-service hotel, dedicated exclusively to serving the needs of MD Anderson patients and their families while in Houston visiting the world-renowned MD Anderson Cancer Center.
As soon as I checked in, I was able to get my LAB WORK at the Rotary House and go over to the main MD Anderson building and get a chest X-ray. Now that is what I call real service.
The sights and smells of the hospital started getting to me. Seeing so many people fighting for their lives is troubling. I feel so sorry for them. Then I stopped and thought, I'm one of those people. Crap! I don't feel bad. I do look bad. I do NOT want to join the population of sad looks. Is this my destiny? Well I am here to tell you, I will not go down a path of hopelessness willingly.
Star Light Star Bright I Wish My Tumor Markers Go Down Below 38 Tonight! Thank you Lord Jesus for delivering Vonda and me safely. Nite Nite!
Wednesday, October 24….TICK TOCK…..my life is officially on MD Anderson’s clock!
6:00 am – Wake-up call! I was so sleepy when I woke up. No coffee. No food. By 7:00 am, I was decked out in my cattitude orange shirt and pumpkin faced ghost earrings.
7:30 am – After two sticks, she finally got the IV going in my hand. It hurt a little. I just thought of Jesus on the cross. The BONE SCAN – dose / injection was given of a radioisotope solution that will accumulate in my bones so that those areas can be seen on the bone scan. It took about 2 hours for my bones to absorb the solution. During that time I had to drink 30 oz of water.
Vonda and I spent the two hours confirming that she is officially accepted in MD Anderson's Cancer Prevention Program. We also found out what we needed to do to get a skin screening. They signed us up! MDA is so big and has so many resources. You could be here a month and not see it all. It is pretty, too. Garden patios are everywhere. We have given it a secret name. The Spa.
9:30 am - The BONE SCAN will give a detailed picture of all my bones. It will detect bone tumors….I won’t be surprised if the scan is clear of cancer. Praise the Lord!
10:00 am – P.E.T. SCAN PREP & INJECTION of a dose of radioactive material was given via a small IV tube place in my arm. It allows the P.E.T. scanner to “see” where sugar metabolizes in my body. I had to rest quietly until it is time for my scan. I had to be quiet for 90 minute. – That is tough for me. LOL. I prayed myself to sleep.
NOON – Time for my P.E.T. scan. P.E.T. is a technology that combines the fields of medicine, computer science, chemistry, physics and physiology to study the function of organs such as the heart, brain, and bone. It provides information about how tissue functions. I had tumors in my lungs on the June P.E.T. Five Faslodex treatments later could shrink them to nothing…I pray.
1:00 pm – I was starving!!!! I couldn’t eat or drink anything after midnight. Ugh and I have all this radioactive material going through my body. Time for fried chicken!!
2:30 pm - Waiting for the test results. Tick Tock!
I was scheduled to see a different doctor on Thursday because my oncologist, Dr. Alvarez, would not be in the office but the power of Facebook informed Dr. Alvarez that Vonda and I had checked in at MD Anderson. He likes us! Time was made in his schedule for him to see us. I am glad! He delivered good news. Early reports demonstrated that the cancer is under control. The tumor in my hip appears to be smaller. There was no change of the tumors in my lungs. I will return in November for a biopsy of the tumors in my lungs to see if it is cancer for sure......maybe not. If it is cancer, then they will have molecular data to determine the best way to treat it.
After the cancer conversation, it was time to get down to the serious questions! Why is my face breaking out? It's the medicine. Why is my hair turning a pretty shade of silver? He didn't know. Why is my butt getting bigger? I am taking in too many calories. He prescribed an 1800 calorie diet and continue exercising 3-5 times a week.
It is fun to be able to laugh with a doctor especially one who is in charge of saving your life. As Dr. Alvarez was walking out the door, he turned around, pulled out his iPhone and asked for a photo. I told you he likes us!
What a day. After 12 hours of back to back tests requiring my poor left arm to be stuck over and over, it was time to chill. We walked outside in the beautiful weather on the hunt for a hamburger. The mission was accomplished! During our evening exercise, we met the most interesting people. One guy developed vaccines another gentleman was fighting lung cancer. He told me that my up coming biopsy would be a breeze. I believe we were destined to meet both of these dudes. I truly have my eyes and ears peeled at all times looking for God's messengers or people who may need an encouraging word from me.
By the time I crawled into bed, I was exhausted. I even fell asleep before Duck Dynasty was over. Good thing the show is recorded waiting for me back in the Fort.
Thursday, October 25
I slept almost 12 hours. No, I did not take a sleeping pill. I was just that exhausted!
Vonda and I enjoyed room service while I wrote my blog entry, checked Facebook and answered emails. Then we went to get a copy of all my test results. After reviewing them, we were concerned. The preliminary reports said the tumors have grown a little. The tumor markers have elevated to 54.8. The summary labeled my status as stable. Time for deep breaths. Welcome to the roller coaster cancer ride. It isn't for the weak in attitude. I choose not to worry. I have faith and want each day to have the maximum amount of joy possible.
The rest of the day we worked on getting my biopsy scheduled just before Thanksgiving, explored educational options offered at MDA and wondered their halls and gardens.
After a laid back day, I found myself reading about stage IV breast cancer. I discovered a web site written by a women who has lived 17 years at this stage. That gave me hope! Then I tripped across a statistic that said the average life-expectancy for stage IV breast cancer is 30 months. Time for more deep breaths. Maybe it is time for a sleeping pill. Tick Tock!
Friday, October 26
Late last night I received an email from MDA notifying me that I was schedule next Thursday for a biopsy of the tumors in my lungs. That would be hard to do. I would barely get home before I would have to travel right back to Houston. Plus Dr. Alvarez had told me that he wanted it to be done the week of Thanksgiving. I had to get this resolved before I could enjoy my day.
Vonda and I headed to the cardiopulmonary department at MDA. Employees go out of their way to help patients. By 5:00 pm, they had my biopsy rescheduled just like Dr. Alvarez had suggested.
While we waited, I decided to find the marketing department to see if they would send high resolution images of MDA to me for this blog. As I was asking a guard directions to the department, a young lady dressed in an angel costume overheard my question. Sara (the angel) asked me what I needed. Upon hearing the answer, she told me the person I needed to talk to was attending a Halloween party for MDA kids. She told us to follow her and she would introduce me to Lucy. What are the chances that an angel from the marketing/communications department would be standing by the front door at the very moment I wanted to know where how to find the marketing department? How many people who come to MDA would even care to know about marketing? Let me put this in prospective. 18,000 people work at MDA and in 2011 they will treated over 100,000 people. To me, it was a divine appointment. Lucy said I was her answer to prayer. She was in need of a MDA breast cancer patient who blogged. Hallelujah my battle has purpose!
We needed to get outside the hospital for a breath of fresh hour. Two miles later, we arrived at Hotel ZaZa. It is a swanky place with an enclosed patio complete with twinkle lights. It offered comfy furniture and All the servers where wearing pink bow ties to support….the fight against breast cancer. TGIF
We totally enjoyed the rest of the day. Vonda treated me to a trip to the beauty shop and dinner at an upscale restaurant called Tony’s. The night officially kicked off the beginning of my greatest birthday week-end ever.
Dr. Alvarez called. He left a message. Good news! He is not convinced that I have a "progressive disease".