Tuesday, June 12, 2018

H&P 40

I did not expect to be so emotional today.  I should have been prepared.   
It's an emotional thing to tell people you love that you soon will be leaving them for the far-off lands of the Dallas area.  And, there were many tears today. 

A new job will soon take us away from Aggieland, and what's hitting me hardest is leaving my medical care behind.  Sure, there are most likely a few good health care professionals up north, but I already have more than a few amazing people here.  

I still have time, but it felt like the hourglass tipped today, and that time my with my cancer clinic family is slipping away.  Thank goodness for hugs and prayers and the love I feel for them being returned.  It's a special thing to know that people are not just doing their job to help you stay healthy.  Here, I've felt true care, CHARITY.  

I don't now how anyone gets through difficult times without love like this.  

Recently, I've focused on faith and hope being necessary to my survival thus far, but I left out charity,   the greatest of these. (see 1 Cor. 13: 13).

"Charity suffereth long, and is kind; 
Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Charity never faileth:"
(see 1 Cor. 13: 4-8).

This team, which I am saddened to leave, has never failed me.....in the three years I've been with them.  They are in the business of healthcare, but they accomplish this care through an amazing use of faith, hope, and charity.  

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

H&P #39, Zomeda, Zoladex

"...if a man have faith he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope."
(Mor 7:42).

Much of my life in the last few years has been about building faith, and also hope.  These qualities work best hand-in-hand, cultivated together.  My outlook and my focus have shifted in the process into one with less worry, less fear, and more vision of joyful times.  I've improved greatly from adding these spiritual gifts to my life.  

Hope and faith are often all I have to keep me going.  The six weeks of waiting for a follow-up MRI flew by. I was not fearful or hopeless.  I was able to focus on love and faith and life.

This week, I crashed.  I don't know if the anticipation of news had me at an adrenaline high, and once I could let it go for another few months, my body took a break.  I have been tired and low on energy.  A couple of annoying headaches have knocked me down, too.  Maybe I've just finally had a break with soccer practice and games coming to an end for the season, and I've needed to rest.

Life isn't always light and carefree.  Somedays are difficult.  Sometimes it's hard to get motivated to get out of bed.

Hope and faith are sometimes all you can do to get through the day until you can move on to what's next.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Follow-up with Hoover

 Dr. Hoover had nothing but good news about my follow-up MRI results.

There's no swelling, no new spots, and less definition on the MRI

Here's a comparison from last year's MRI to the most recent.  You can see how the swelling in the image on the right was pushing on my left ventricle so much that the blood vessel was hard to see, compared with the image on the left, with much less swelling and a much larger area of blood vessel

Still kicking cancer to the curb, complete with a smile on my face!

I am so grateful for these miracles in my life!!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

MRI Follow-up--GOOD NEWS!!!!

Leave it to Fleener:
My first appointment of the day was with Dr. Fleener.  I hadn't heard anything from her office, which was weird.  She usually calls herself or has a nurse call me with news, good or bad.  Hearing nothing could mean everything was fine, and she didn't call because I was coming in today.  It could mean she didn't get the results until later than expected. OR....it could mean the results were too messy to discuss over the phone.

After my vitals were taken, I went into the room and waited.

When the door opened, in walked a smiling doctor, doing a celebratory dance, arms having the MRI report.  "It's good news!" she proclaimed!

"Punctate enhancement involving the cerebellar vermis is redemonstrated, though is somewhat less evident.  The overall location is unchanged.  The degree of enhancement is less intense.  The lesion measured 1-3 mm.  No new areas of enhancement."

Basically, the spots are less prominent on the MRI, some smaller, have not grown, and there are no new areas.

The changes could be due to treatment, so if that's true, the treatment I'm on has done some good.


Prayers work and God still sends miracles.  I swear the prayers from my boys, specifically that "Mommy will not have cancer the year," along with the many, MANY prayers from countless family, friends, and unknown acquaintances of these have made an incredible difference.  Thank you!

As for moving forward, we will continue the Letrozole, a drug to fight estrogen.  We will continue to try to to fight to get my insurance to cover Ibrance, but I won't start taking it on an irregular basis, as that may do more harm than good.  I will have my ovaries removed, an oophorectomy.  We will do another MRI in eight weeks, to make sure things are still looking up.

There is another patient of Dr. Fleener's who also has had to think about cancer trying to creep into her brain.  Dr. Fleener told me that we are in a small club of people who "we don't know if these results are due to treatment or just a God thing.  And we don't care either way, as long as it stays away."

It's so nice to have an answer AND that the answer is so positive!
I mentioned that I didn't really feel a lot of worry while waiting for these results, even though it's great to hear good news, I'd be glad to hear anything that would help us make a plan to fight.  It's not crazy to be in limbo sometimes, as much of my life is always in limbo.  We try not to focus on it, but stage IV cancer comes with a permanent dark cloud above my head.  When will cancer return?  Where will it be, and how will we fight it?

Dr.  Fleener reminded me how good I am at having that cloud, but continuing to live and try to enjoy whatever time I have.  That is what helps me keep on keepin' on.

Goble this cancer:

After lunch, I had an appointment with Dr. Goble.  He added to Fleener's opinions about the MRI results.  He just kept saying how "optimistic" he is about them.  He is optimistic that these spot are not malignant!  Necrosis, more likely. There was really nothing to say except to plan another MRI in two months. (Which is exactly what Fleener recommended.)

It was good news, and I LOVE good news!!!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

H&P #38 (One Week Until Follow-up MRI!)

For the last five weeks, I've tried to move forward with hope and faith, waiting for another MRI, the one which might answer questions about the two small spots in my brain.  I know it seems crazy, but I haven't felt much fear while waiting these last few weeks.  Because much of my life is already clouded with cancer and the knowledge of the possibility that it will most likely return, ready to battle again, it has just become my way of life.

Honestly, I don't like that I have no true way of knowing how many more days and years I have with my family and loved ones.  It can feel overwhelming to continue on without getting down, to continue to dance in the rain without complaining about being wet.

It hurts me that my husband, children, and all those close to me have to take on the heartache, as well, but I've also learned so much about positivity, patience, and prayer, as well as not shrinking in trials through this battle.

As I reflected last Sunday on many of these thoughts, as well as on the prayers, kind words, and concern so many others have sent my way in the last 5 weeks (and the last 5 years),  I was given a little moment of a tender mercy from one of the hymns for our church service.

It's always been hard for me to feel sad while singing "There is Sunshine in my Soul Today," (LDS Hymn #227)---often because I can't help but think about my husband belting out that first line in Spanish:  "HAY GOZO IN MI ALMA HOY!!" I'm smiling now, even as I write this, even with a needle in my chest.

I have both heard and sung this hymn hundreds of times in my life, but what truly hit me personally this time were the words from the fourth verse, which seemed to speak directly to me:

"There is gladness in my soul today,
And hope and praise and love,
For blessings which he gives me now,
For joys “laid up” above."

It's amazing how the words to hymns, or scripture, or any written word, for that matter, can hit you so differently depending upon your stage in life or your present concerns.  I put one foot in front of the other everyday.  I try to press on without fear and with purpose and positivity, and this verse described this path perfectly.

When I live in gladness, hope, praise, and love because of the many blessings God has given me, I need not worry about the hard things.  I can also learn to be free of fear about what happens next, as there is countless joy waiting for me when I return home with Him.

The scriptures that correspond to this hymn hit home, as well.

"The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory." (Isaiah 60:19).

(My hope and light is in the Lord, my God.  That is how I'm able to smile and feel light in the storm.)

"Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.
Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore." (Psalm 16: 9,11).

(All the hardships of this cancer battle can rest in hope.  God has a path for me, and even when things are difficult now, He is helping me along the path toward a fulness of joy.)

Thinking these things/seeing and feeling their truth and actually living them are two completely different things.  It's so hard, many days, to completely let the sunshine drive out the sadness, but then again, the song reminds us to take it one day at a time.  Find the sunshine TODAY.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

H&P #37, Appointment with Fleener

I met with Dr. Fleener before treatment today.  I've been bleeding since my IUD has been out, so we basically just decided to talk to Dr. Jansky and now we are all leaning toward just removing my ovaries.  I'll discontinue the Zoladex shot and hopefully have less to worry about with estrogen.   We will wait until after my next MRI, just to be sure I'm good to go for surgery.  (This is really an easy one, especially with everything I've had!)

I am still doing Perjeta, for now.  I'll finish the Ibrance sample I'm on, but most likely not take it, as insurance won't approve because it's only FDA approved for breast cancer patients who are NOT Her2+.  I'll stay on Letrosole, though.  We are also trying to take away the benadryl I usually take to see if that will cut out a little on my treatment time + my tiredness.

And, the sweetest thing of all:
Before the end of the appointment, my sweet angel doctor complimented me.  She smiled and expressed that she was so grateful for my sweet spirit and that I was able to smile and laugh and bring some lightness to the office, as it's a rarity.  Even though she knows that I'm probably not always like this, she was grateful for my outlook and positivity.  I just really love her.

I was so touched that she brought this up because I was pondering today's appointment late last night and thought of a passage of scripture:

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; 
but of power,
and of love,
and of a sound mind.
{2 Timothy 1:7}

I'm also so grateful for my faith in God, who knows me and knows the path He has for me.  There are so many things I want to be here for, so many special moments that won't be the same if cancer takes over, but I am so much better when I don't worry, stay positive, and remove fear from my outlook.

True, I've had sad days and days of worry, but I've been at this battle long enough to know that hope and peace and love bring much better results.  I've always been so grateful for the blessing of an alert mind, and love that this passage adds that into something that can help me not have fear for my future, but to rely on the power of God and on His love and the love of others.

As I continued reading, this passage had even more meaning:

Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord,
but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel
according to the power of God;

Who hath saved us,
and called us with an holy calling, 
not according to our works,
but according to his own purpose and grace,
which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began,

We all have afflictions and trials.  The phrase "afflictions of the gospel" was new to me.  I've heard it said over and over that "trials are for our learning and growth" or "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."  To me, this scripture summarized that trials are part of life and of the "good news" of God:  He is teaching us and testing us to make more out of us than we could without Him.  Sometimes it hurts, but when we focus on His love and power, that's when fear leaves.

Thinking of my own trials....
When I endure those afflictions without fear and with the power of God to help me, I am helping to build and share my testimony of the Lord's influence and power in my life.

He has saved me in many ways and has a purpose for me in this life.  I pray that I can continue to follow it.  

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

MRI, CT, Results

I had an MRI of my brain, with and without contrast, on Monday, March 26th.  I was able to come to the Cancer Clinic prior to that to have my port accessed.  The MRI went fine.  I even joked with the tech: "Should I expect any bad calls about this?"  He didn't really say.  (Thanks to an amazing friend, Jenn for bringing me and keeping me company.)

The next day, Dr. Fleener called me at lunch.

The was no evidence for acute infection and no evidence for intracranial hemorrhage.  However, the MRI found two small spots of abnormal enhancement in the cerebellar vermis, at the back of my brain, around 3mm each.  Because of the size, the doctors aren't 100% sure what these spots are.  They are suspicious for early recurrent intracranial metastatic disease, but there was no swelling or other sure signs.  

Dr. F said she was going to get the opinions of Dr. Goble and Dr. Hoover, a neurosurgeon to make decide how to proceed.

The next morning, I received a call that I needed to have an appointment with Dr. Hoover.  (This is probably NOT nothing, I thought to myself......excuse the double negative, fellow teachers and grammar gurus.)

I had a scheduled CT to scan the rest of my body.  This procedure uses the *delicious* vanilla shake I just *love* so much!

I do want to add how grateful I was for the tech who took the time and truly listened to my concerns about my veins and an IV.  She searched and searched and found a winner.  Best IV experience ever!

Lunch, then another appointment.  (I forgot to mention that Dr. Fleener wanted me to remove my IUD, so I'd already done that the day before after hearing about the spots.)

I went to the appointment expecting bad news, something that would interfere with my April plans.  I was pleasantly surprised.  I liked Dr. Hoover quite a bit.  He explained that these two tiny spots, these two lesions were only discovered because this was an oncology MRI, using smaller, 1mm cuts.  The best news is that this MRI, even with the spots, is significantly better than last year.  I can attest to that, as he took me back to view them side-by-side.  Last year, my brain looked like a foggy day inside a skull.  Now, it actually looked quite normal, with a few battle scars.

Dr. hoover would not recommend any surgical options for me.  The spots are too small to biopsy.

There are two ways to proceed.  1) radiosurgery:  This involves a blast of focused radiation to those spots.  The problem lies in the unknown.  If they were to radiate these spots, and they weren't cancer, but perhaps radiation necrosis (dead cells), the spots could potentially grow, leading doctors to believe that they are cancer, and that the radio surgery was unsuccessful.  Basically, that option could lead to a false diagnosis and more damage.

2) wait, and repeat an MRI in 6-8 weeks.  This was Dr. Hoover's suggestion.  And, while we were finishing our appointment, he got a text from Dr. Goble, which said practically word-for-word what he had explained to me.

The next day, Thursday, I met with Dr. Fleener.  She went over Dr. Hoover's and Dr. Goble's recommendations, as well as some opinions of other colleagues'.   The waiting for another MRI before doing anything was unanimous.  The results from my CT came back clear.

Dr. Fleener did say that perhaps these spots were a "God thing," a reason to review my treatment.  Herceptin doesn't cross the blood-brain barrier, but estrogen does.  So, maybe we should do more to try to block that.  She gave me a sample of 2 drugs: Ibrance and Letrosole.  At some point, we will probably take away the Perjeta, since it may not be doing enough.  She would think on that and decide before my next treatment.

Overall, this news is not the best, but also not the worst.  My April plans are still on track.  I don't need to worry for 6 weeks!