Saturday, August 7, 2010

Chemo - the next stage of treatment

Thursday and Friday were days filled with doctors and lots of information. Football Friday was shortened (thank you Lord!) and I crawled into bed around 8:30 last night never to emerge from the room again that evening. My head was flooded with statistics and medical information. My body was run down from the last two days, as the Betties were filled in the morning, my pec muscles were tight and stretched, and my arm was tired from the exercises that evening.

My plastic surgeon, who has to be the funniest doctor ever (behind such much wisdom and medical knowledge and truly a heart for his patients), turned on me Friday morning with sternness to say that I had to get my right arm moving upward. There was no messing around. I was pretty proud of my movement when he asked me to show him the touchdown, two arms raised straight overhead. I thought I was there! He quickly corrected me saying, I needed to get there with no hesitation. Back to the exercises we go, pressing in harder. I am thankful for the increased range of movement, as I have seen great strides this week with pain and movement. So, I will work with more vigor and determination.

We started Thursday onto Jude Plum, the wig salon. Another dear and close friend, Allyson, has been helping me with this side of things. She lives around the block from the salon, and has so graciously offered to be my liaison with Jude and his sister, Theresa who run the salon. She also has come to these appointments with me to be the "second opinion" and her sweet baby Priscilla is in tow. Priscilla is nearing one and just a pure delight. She puts a smile on my face and a joy in my heart. My heart overflows with love for this family as God has knit our hearts together these past two years through first her own trials and now mine.

I must also interject that this whole wig process has opened my eyes to a reality of disease. That when disease comes, not only do you meander down the physical road of that disease....but there is a financial component. God has blessed our family beyond measure. To Him I am grateful for His provision. But unexpectedly, you are faced with co-pays and expenses that weren't there before. And for most cancer patients, the reality that if chemo is needed, you will lose your hair.

For a woman, at least me....this has been hard to think about. And as I began looking at wigs, synthetic versus real, there was the stark reality of the expense and the guilt of spending that money. But the reality that I just don't know if everyday I can walk out of my house bald? How is that for my children, the constant reminder that mommy is sick? How is that for me as a woman who first has lost first her breasts, and now her hair? And it has me thinking a lot about the whole vanity part of my existence. It is another level of the stripping down to what is important on the inside as opposed to what is seen on the outside. And I'll be honest, losing my hair on my head and body might be one of my hardest obstacles.

Jude Plum is sensitive to this transition for a woman and he works with you to go through the transition. I am grateful for what he does. I know that a real hair wig is a luxury that not every woman can afford and that breaks my heart. (to tell you the cost would cause your mouth to drop!) Not that every woman would choose to wear a wig, but that for some, it isn't even an option. Jude lowered the price for me on the wig chosen. We have it reserved and about a week into chemo, I will go to his salon, he will cut off all my hair and fit the new wig upon my head. He will style and cut the wig to my previous hair, and this will adorn my head for probably the next 18 months. I am so grateful for his generosity and trusting God for the provision. As for the inside part, God is still doing a work on my heart.

Thursday afternoon and Friday morning we met with two different medical oncologists. (chemo docs) A lot of data was given. Their personalities were quite different, but both gave the same information just presented it differently. My prayer has been that all three chemo docs would give the same protocol at the end of the day, making our decision much easier and clearer. They both had the same conclusions. The recommendation is a treatment called "dose dense ACT." It is a 16 week course, every other week, with 8 total infusions. The first 8 weeks would be a combo of A and C....Adriaymcin and Cytoxin. The last 4 infusions (or 8 weeks) would be of Taxol. The chemo will work systemically and toxically to kill all the microscopic cancer cells that may be still be in my body. While it kills the bad, it also kills the good. This is where I hope Dr. Bazzan comes in, to help rebuild as they destroy. This course of treatment brings my percentage of recurrence down to 10-13%, the national average for everyone getting cancer. My hope certainly is not in those numbers, and I hold little weight in statistics, but again, the survivors cannot be ignored.

I think the harder part, was that based on how quickly my incisions have healed, I could start the week of August 16th. Whew....that was a lot to absorb. It means traveling back to the OR to have a port installed for the infusions. I meet with a general surgeon on Monday to discuss this. It means another appointment in ambulatory care at the hospital. Another doctor. This surgeon operates on Wednesdays, and then my chemo could start the next day, possibly August 19th.

If this is the chosen path, I would be done with chemo the first part of December. I would have December off (which looks quite appealing!) and then if radiation is chosen, would start that in early January for 28 days.

I was told a couple months ago by a breast cancer survivor, that breast cancer steals a year from your life. From the time of finding the tumor to the time of final plastic surgery, a year goes by. That will be my same walk. But instead of looking at a year being stolen, I am praying each day that my eyes will see the gift that this cancer has brought into my life. How many people I have met along the way, the gift of allowing others to use the gifts God has given them to bless our family in the body of Christ, the gift of a deeper relationship and intimacy with my creator and Father. The gift to share the love of Christ with others, the gift for my children as a family we are brought to our knees, the gift of growing and learning, being transformed. There are many gifts.

"The thief does not come except to kill, to steal and to destroy.
I (Jesus) have come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly." John 10:10

Last night I had a fitful night's sleep. I awoke 2x with a dream that still haunts me this morning. I awoke Barclay in the middle of the night to pray for me, as I felt Satan looming so ever close. There was a door in my bedroom that lead to a porch. In the dream, I awoke and the door was open. On the other side of the door were two (thugs), one armed with a gun the other with his arms across his chest. They had these smug looks on their faces and they were leaning against a railing, as if there was a porch outside my door. They didn't move. But they were armed and ready. I became frantic and got out of bed (in my dream). I awoke Barclay to get the gun in defense, that these men were going to come in and get us and hurt us. As I was frantic, Barclay just stood there, doing nothing. Not in an indifference, but in a steadfastness. I kept looking out the door. The thieves didn't move. And I awoke feeling an oppression and Satan's lurking like never before. It sends chills down my spine.

This morning, Barclay and I talked about the dream. And what it could mean...and I picture those thugs and say...they couldn't walk across the threshold of that door! They couldn't take me. As Satan wants to bring me down. He can't! I am held by the hand of the living God. I am sealed by the power of the Holy Spirit. And I know that a war ensues. As Barclay stood in that dream, so I pray that I will stand firm in Christ that He will bring clarity and unity. He is my protection and holds my heart in His hands.

There it is, a snapshot of the last two days. Next week is packed with appointments....general surgeon, physical therapy, Fox Chase, Integrative Medicine, Plastic Surgeon....touches in the lives of many along this cancer path. For each of them, I am grateful, just as I am for each of you walking beside me! Thank you.

Much love,


tab said...

Oh, and you are! Satan can't touch you and I find such comfort in that each and every day. Love you, love your husband for the tenderness and support he is giving you.

Anonymous said...

Stacy, We are praying for you. I loved your message about "Does God allow these bad things to happen?". What a beautiful way to explain that Question that the world has continuously. It was a simple as... It was not meant to be that way... thank you!

Mom to 9 Blessings! said...

So sorry for the dream! I'm so thankful you know without a shadow of doubt that NO ONE can snatch you from His hand. That you are protected by God and your earthly covering of Barclay. We will continue to pray for your hearts protection against the foolish plots of the enemy! Praising God for your heart so tender and seeking to walk this journey with so much grace! You are a blessing Stacy! Thanking God for you this morning!

Love, Jill

Peggy said...

Blessings Stacy... We do not know each other but I have been closely following along with you and your story (actually your blog before your story also in my Google Reader) and I feel like I know you or at least I'd be honored to know you.

My own sister battled this long ago and thankfully she is over 60 and a survivor. Praise the Lord! Yet she never shared that journey with me.
In fact, though we are sister by blood, we are not that close and I do miss that and yet I think in part, she pulled away on purpose.
(We are totally different!) I guess
I share this only to let you know how much, as difficult as this is for you that you are sharing this.
I am blessed greatly! I lay hands and pray each time I come to read your journey or words...over your precious family also.

Our adopted daughter, though not from cancer, went through the hair loss from her meds, also and I can so remember and relate to this! She had beautiful long thick black hair. But now almost 15 yrs. later, her hair is back and she's in remission and doing fine... does just about anything with her hair
once again. Yet when I finally decided to go from long hair to short hair due to the heat factor, I remembered this and donated my hair. Makes one humble to read or think on this!

I am so sorry about the tormentor in your nightmare... be bold & strong Stacy, God goes with you and before you and behind you. Keep all access around you covered with His Protection. I can clearly see your strength is in the Lord so hold on to your armor & sword! I am so blessed by your attitude and the GIFTS that you share right here.
Your own words move me right before the "thief verse" so I stand with you & declare him defeated. This will not "steal" a year from your life though with all the appointments it may feel like it, you continue holding on to each moment as you wrote & declared
your prayer is to have eyes that will see the gift... hard one to swallow but ohhhh so well written and filled with life breathing HOPE! Stay strong & courageous in your battle, sister in Christ...
it is well worth it!

Veronica said...

Hi Stacy, so sorry it's taken me this long to come back and visit you.

You continue to bless me with your courage and strength. You are right...Satan cannot touch you as you have the Lord on your side. I will be praying for you as you come to my mind that you'll have strength to get through this next phase in your treatment!

Sara said...

Wow, so much to take in just reading... I am sure living it must be somewhat overwhelming at times. I am so glad that you have such a supportive hubby to stand along side of you and pray with you in those times... I remember nightly waking Greg to pray with me in the deep deep valley of my grief.

I love that you can look at the cancer and think of the blessings that will come or already have come in some small way... When my hubby had cancer when we were dating he said the same thing especially looking back... he sees so much good. I pray that the Lord blesses you with so many little blessings along the way that they just encourage your heart greatly when needed. You encourage me by your steadfast faith.

Praying for you!... thanks for sharing in our joy and excitement! You are too kind!

In His Hand<><

Kari said...

Oh Stacey - We have never met but your words pierce my heart and I physically feel your thoughts and concerns and fears...I am going to follow you with prayer throughout this next year and then CELEBRATE with you when it is over! March 2011 will be YOUR month!

I do believe without a doubt that God chose you to be the warrior for all of us who will one day be touched by cancer in one way or another...ourselves, a spouse, a parent, a child. You are making cancer "real" and helping to take the sting out of it.

I am so sorry it has to be you (so sorry) but I thank you for sharing your story so candidly.

It is clear to me that God chose YOU because He knew you could make it through the next year and He knew you would touch many, many lives in the process. You have touched mine and for that I thank you and will hold you close to my heart.

We have never met but I feel like I know you - I could only hope to be half the person you are if I was wearing your shoes!

You are beautiful woman inside and out and God clearly has you in the palm of His hand - I pray you can rest easy in Him. The enemy is no match for the team you and God have formed. You and God are headed for nothing but victory!

Cheryl Jones said...

I found your blog...well...the Lord led me was by no coincidence. I am a 3 year cancer survivor this August 28th when I had my lumpectomy. I have so much to share with you sweet sister in the Lord and also a book to send you. I need your address or can you email it to me if you feel comfortable doing that. I would love to share some things with you. I also read a blog that she just posted her cancer story on it today and I think you will be encouraged by it.
(You might need to copy and paste that into your browser)
I am standing in the gap!
Cheryl (Ohio)

babyrndeb said...

oh my - the things that you have had to deal with the past couple of days...makes my heart hurt for you.
One of my good friends that went through chemo said that the loss of her hair was the hardest party...not just the hair on her head but her eyebrows. I remember sitting with her and just holding her hands as she told me that cancer was a "cruel, cruel disease" She was so right. But thankfully - there are many treatments out there and I will keep praying for you as you walk down that path of medical treatments.

I wish you weren't having the nightmares...they can seem so real and scary. But God is in control - not Satan. I know that you already know that.
Know that I am praying for you and think of you often!

Reflector of Light said...

Beloved Sister,
This so reminds me of the Garden of Gethsemane as I am walking through cancer also with my mother and brother. This scripture has come alive to me personally, "My tears have been my food day and night." Jesus too sobbed in this garden and He is with us and promises never to fail nor forsake us. As Amy Carmichael writes, "The end will explain it." I am asking the Lord for a great harvest of Righteousness through this your season of suffering and mine as well, and the grace to continue to endure moment by moment.
Love and hugs and tears with you dear sister!

The Montgomerys said...

It was so nice to see you this morning! You are so beautiful!!!!! You looked radiant! I am praying for you friend! I pray that God would continue to lead you on the path of treatment that is right for you. I have been praying since the post about natural treatment vs. Chemo. You are on my heart. Our family is continuely lifting you and your family up in prayer. God Bless you!

Emily said...

Have been praying peace for you as you make decisions. I know you have a busy week- lifting you and family up. God is using you mightly girl! Thank you for allowing us to join the ride!

Warren Baldwin said...

God's blessings to you.