Monday, March 29, 2010

On the Dark Side

Okay, I know it looks like I am headed off for some inter-galactic space mission.  But, I am not being loaded into a space shuttle in this picture.  That would be MUCH cooler.  It also may look like I am set to take a little siesta:  just kicked back, relaxed and ready to snooze.  That is not what is going on here, either.

This next picture gives a better view of the real story:
And, I may look like I am smiling; but it is only for the camera.  Meet Tomo -- that is what I call this lovely machine that has become my arch-enemy in the last week.  Meet the machine that I am supposed to be grateful for, but am really trying to decide if it is a blessing or a curse. 

Tomo is mean.  Tomo looks harmless.  Tomo looks kind of cool and space-agey.  Tomo seems friendly as I get to interact with Tomo while laying on a pillow and have my leg propped up comfortably.  There are even kind, compassionate, adorable people who push the buttons on Tomo to make him come to life.  But, as soon as these lovely people leave the room and Tomo comes to life, the REAL Tomo appears.  This is the Tomo that makes a clicking noise that makes you think of a sprinkler and a broken record stuck on the same pitch.  But that is not the worst of it.  Tomo even gets your stomach on his side.  So by the time you are finished, your stomach is a mass of twisted, churning gunk and your equilibrium decides to take a vacation.  By the time you get home (a short 25 minutes later) you are so violently ill that even water is a detestable sight.  And, getting things to stay in that stomach that is now on Tomo's side?  Impossible!  Water, soup, salad, juice, fruit -- Tomo is no respecter of food.  All of it has gone to the enemy's side.  Or, maybe it is not the fault of the food.  Maybe my taste-buds have gone to the dark side. 

I have decided that I HATE radiation.  This is supposed to be the "easy"-er kind.  This is supposed to be the kind of radiation that targets the tumors only and doesn't get any healthy tissue (or very little), allowing for a major reduction of all or most side effects.  Maybe I should be grateful --- maybe this IS good for radiation.  Just think.  It only took 6-7 hours at the Dr.'s on Friday to get re-hydrated and re-mineralized.  Maybe that is good for most people. 

Maybe I have something to look forward to in all of this:  maybe I will get super skinny and be able to fit back into all those old clothes. 

Hopefully, we can get this wrinkled out soon.  In the meantime, I am trying to look at the good side of Tomo -- what is that?  It does LOOK cool and since I have to see Tomo 5 days/week, by the end, I am determined to come out on top and TAME that beast! 

Friday, March 12, 2010

Spatchcock Link

It is not a bad word, I promise............  :)

Check it out!
Simply Scrumptious

Here is the unveiling to a new blog I have been wanting to start (just for fun) on fast, yummy, cheap, (and hopefully -- MOSTLY) healthy meals. I welcome suggestions.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Can March Showers Bring April Flowers?

I know how the rhyme goes, "April showers brings May flowers", but we have had plenty of rain here lately and are ready for some flowers sooner than May.  As grateful as we are for the rain, it has felt a bit like living in Seattle lately.  Today, though, as I sit on the couch with the sliding glass door open, listening to the birds sing in the leafy tree tops, I am grateful for the sunshine that is here today.  We need both rain and sunshine to help us grow.  Our family has been reminded of this lately.

One reason that I have not been good at keeping up the blog the last few months is that I really haven't wanted to complain.  The cancer is growing again and we are in a pretty rough patch at the moment.  We were so thankful last week when the PET/CT scan showed no spreading of the cancer, but the 2 tumors we have been fighting since last summer are each 20 cm.  I have been in an incredible amount of pain on an almost daily basis and I have worried about how tough it would be on my kids go through this again - or still.

I am impressed, grateful and humbled by my children's and husband's courage and compassion through all of this.  They treat me like a "normal" mom, while yet watching out for me constantly.  Caleb is always there, not just willing to do what I ask, but jumping in and saying, "Mom, let me do that."  Emma is there with chatter to talk about her day, tell me about her book or just to be sunshine for us.  Rick has taken time off work, fixed dinners, shopped, cleaned, done laundry, run errands, slept on the other couch by me when I was in too much pain to sleep in the bed, and has made such an effort to be cheerful and playful with the kids when I know he has been worried sick at times. 

There have been too many moments in the last few weeks when I have cried, feeling completely inadequate as a mom and wife and person.  This is not the life I wanted.  I wanted to be the one to serve and help, not the one to be served.  Serving is such a part of our testimony of and love for the Savior.  I kept thinking that I don't know of any scriptures that say, "It is blessed to BE served."

Then, Caleb did some planting.  I love watching plants grow.  There is something about gardening (vegetable gardening) that just makes me so happy.  And Caleb loves it, too.  Thank goodness, because we wouldn't have anything growing this year if it wasn't for him.  Anyway, we have some plants growing; tiny little seedlings poking their heads up through the dirt.  And, I had an "a-ha" moment.  Plants need water/rain and sunshine.  They will not grow without it.  They cannot give it to themselves.  They cannot weed themselves.  They cannot even plant themselves.  We must take care of these little plants by giving them what they need so they will grow and "fill the measure of their creation."  Seeds must fight to break open and to push upward through the dirt to the light.  Lately, we have gotten more rain than I ever expected living in Arizona.  I am sure some of these little baby plants wanted to scream, "Enough!  I have had enough rain!  I don't need that much.  I don't need any more!  I can grow now with what I've gotten!  Make it stop!"  But, when the sun came out, they felt warmed and refreshed.

I am not saying that Heavenly Father "sent" the rain into my life.  I do not believe it.  We live in a very mortal world where bad things happen.  Sometimes bad things happen because of choices we make and they are consequences.  Sometimes bad things just happen.  But, we DO need that rain.  We cannot grow and become stronger without it.  We cannot have only sunshine.  We cannot have only rain.  We want to be like the Savior; we want to live with Him someday and to be worthy of all He has for us.  Yet, we don't want to sacrifice, be betrayed, be hurt, suffer, be humbled -- because it is hard!  How would we learn persistence, determination, courage and FAITH without moments that challenge us?  Without having a little "dirt" to fight through to get to the light?  Without "rain" that comes?

When the sunshine has come - and it has and does continue to come -- I feel so warmed.  I have such a great family, such wonderful supportive friends, and a Savior who continues to hold my hand so I can face the storms.  He walks with me, teaches me and has taught me that, alone, I can do nothing; with Him, I can do all things that are asked of me.  He gives me strength to handle and do more than I thought was possible.
A few weeks ago I was asked to introduce Brother Mark Mabry (Reflections of Christ) who was coming to speak to our stake Relief Society.  (see link) As I listened to him speak that night I again was touched to realize that, even as little as I have to give, if I am willing to give it to the Lord to use, He will find a way to increase my offering.  I still feel like what I have to give is a widow's mite compared to most others, so now I am learning to enjoy what others have to offer because it truly strengthens me.  I have been way too self-centered!

Here is a link to a medley of songs I love and it describes so much of what carries me through each day.  Hopefully, someday, my voice will feel like "mine" again after doing so much chemotherapy, but it was still a treat to sing this:  arranged and played by Brent Jorgensen.  Such a kind person (and talented)!  I am grateful for the Savior and for the ultimate Service He gave and that we must learn to accept.

As far as the cancer goes, to answer questions:
1.  I have a new Dr. I am working with whom I L-O-V-E so far.  He is running tests that I think should have been done 2 years ago.  He does the same chemo treatment, although, so far it has been easier to get through and they monitor me much better throughout the treatment.  Fewer side effects and I am already noticing a difference after 2 treatments.  He also does a few other things that I feel like may get to some of the root issues
2.  Rick and I meet with a Radiation Oncologist tomorrow to discuss a new(ish) form of Radiation called TomoRadiation that is supposed to target tumors more specifically -- not just blast an area with high amounts of radiation.  Hopefully, less side effects and it is supposed to be way more effective.  We will see what we think.
3.  It is great to have family here.  We have been spoiled and are grateful.  I am grateful that families are forever!
4.  Our ward has been amazing.  I miss Texas and all our friends (who we feel are family) in Round Rock,  and I never thought to find that kind of support here, but here it is.  We are constantly being told, "We are on stand-by." 

Thanks for the sunshine you all give our family.  We love you all!