Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The doctor's appointment yesterday showed relatively good blood results - well within normal range for chemo patients. My next chemo treatment remains scheduled for January 8. The most uncomfortable side effect so far has been my sore mouth. Since I haven't had the common side effects, I had to develop one of the less common ones. It's a little difficult to eat, but the oncologist said that should be getting better, not worse, until my next treatment. I have found some ways to minimize the discomfort.

Jon's family arrived safely and we're having a good time. The boys had the time of their life last night wrestling with Uncle Ben and Uncle Josh. At the moment, the house is quiet because Grandpa decided I needed a nap and took everyone on a walk.

More updates later ... I'm going to go take my nap.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

The last couple of days have been very good. My appetite isn't great, but at least I don't feel sick. The doctor said my hair is likely to turn loose this week, so I finally bought a hat that covers my whole head. I found out that I have a big head.

Jon's family will be arriving from South Carolina today, and we're looking forward to seeing them. We never thought we'd all get together twice in one year. (The other occasion was Ben's and Beka's wedding in May.) The only family members who won't be here are Kevin, Jessica, and their children. They live in Siberia and don't need to come to Colorado to experience Christmas weather. That is why they aren't coming, of course. (Kevin and Jess - we'll miss you all.)

Many of you have made this Christmas the most eventful our children have ever had. They received so many gifts, that we let them begin opening one each night since Sunday. They have loved it and are enjoying their gifts so much. Eliana (the five-year-old) noticed that Cara (11 years old) didn't get quite as many gifts as she did, so she chose her largest unwrapped gift and gave it to Cara. It turned out to be an 18" doll that Cara has wanted for quite a while, and one that Eliana would have loved to have too. I could see the disappointment on Eliana's face. She was seriously reconsidering her generosity. I pulled her into my lap and whispered encouraging words in her ear. She can be very sweet natured when she's in the mood, and at that moment she was in the mood. The next present Eliana opened was a doll very similar to the one she had just given Cara. What a sweet reward and lesson.

Merry Christmas to all of you. We hope you have very pleasant days with your family and friends. And may you be very aware of the love of our God.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

First Book Review - A Winter's Tale

I love reading too much to keep all my good literature experiences to myself. This first book isn't quite a literary masterpiece, but the art work is spectacular. Those of you with kids or in elementary education have probably heard of Robert Sabuda and the pop-up books he designs. I fell in love with his work the first time I saw it, and now I have three of his books: A Cookie Count, America the Beautiful, and Winter's Tale. These books are not for my children. I would never trust them with the incredible, delicate, pop-up work. I do read them with the kids and let them enjoy the fun but with tight supervision.

Winter's Tale has become one of our Christmas traditions. The book only has six pages, but each page folds out with an additional pop-up illustration. The text is very simple, but has the element of a riddle as you try to figure out who is doing the talking. The pop-ups are all of wild life, and often a page will combine a figure of an animal along with the animals who would normally be its prey but without violence. There is lots of glitter and sparkle in the papers used, but at the same time the art gives a peaceful feeling. The last page is the most elaborate with a nice little surprise - and you will solve the riddle if you're paying close attention.

I bought this book several years ago for about $25.00. Now, for someone who almost never buys books new, and almost never for more than $1.00, that is a fortune. (I even bought one of my other Robert Sabuda books, A Cookie Count, for $0.50 at a thrift store.) But the price I paid has been much worth it. It has appeal for all of us, and to keep it from getting to be old-hat or dog-eared we pack it away with the Christmas decorations each year.

Even if you only walk into a book store to take a look at one of Robert Sabuda's books, you will thoroughly enjoy it. You'll probably get hooked and have to eventually buy one to satisfy your new found hunger for pop-up art. I hope you have as much luck at thrift stores as I have.
My pictures are awful. I hope you really will take a look at the book itself and not let my photos be your only impression of this fun book.
Still feeling pretty good ...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

After Chemo

It's been almost 48 hours since the first treatment. Jon said I looked yellow-green at the end of the 4 hours, but I felt reasonably well. The nurses were kind. One of the nuns served us delicious sandwiches, and I was surprised I felt well enough to eat it. I had minor side effects during the treatment, but nothing big. I didn't feel very well at home that evening, but was up and about enough to do a clay project with the kids. The nurse warned me that nausea would set in on Friday and sent me home with 3 different medications to take if necessary. I held my breath all day yesterday, waiting. I was very tired and slept most of the day, but no nausea! This morning I still feel fine. The second chemo drug I received (Cytoxan) is supposed to kick in tomorrow or Monday, so I'm not out of the woods yet. Thanks to all of you who are praying.

A specific prayer request is for our health. Typically chemo patients receive a treatment to boost the production of white blood cells the day after each chemo treatment. White blood cells are killed in droves by the chemo. I can't receive that treatment because of the baby. My immune system will be very, very low over the next couple of weeks. I won't be going anywhere to speak of, and I'll have to go to a friend's house temporarily if the kids get sick.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's been a week since I posted anything. Those of you who check everyday must be wondering what happened to me.

Chemo starts tomorrow morning. We appreciate everyone's prayers so much. The last few days have been full of little things that need to be done before treatment starts. I needed to get some maternity clothes, we had run out of family pictures for Christmas cards, and there were a few final Christmas details to take care of. I think things are taken care of now. Wonderful, beautiful, gracious, kind, efficient ladies from church are cleaning the house tomorrow while we're at the hospital. More beautiful, talented people are fixing meals for us over the next week. I am so grateful for all the help. Jon's family will be arriving on Christmas Eve and will stay for a couple of weeks. The kids will be well cared for if I'm not up and about soon after the treatment.

I had my blood checked again yesterday. Maintaining good iron levels has always been a problem for me and is a concern with pregnancy and chemo combined. Yesterday's test showed higher iron levels than I have ever had - a good way to start treatments. The lettuce juice must be working. I know lots of people have been praying too. Thank you all so much.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

First Chemo Treatment

The oncologist outlined more specifics of treatment yesterday. My first treatment will be given on December 18. I'll receive both drugs (Adriomycin and Cytoxan) in one treatment that will last for about 3 hours. The treatment will be repeated about every 21 days if my blood counts are high enough.

To help keep my blood counts high, I am drinking a concoction of juices - one head of romaine lettuce, carrots, and one apple. All this makes about one 18-ounce glass of juice. It looks unappetizing, unless you're already used to Barley Green or something like that. But it actually tastes good. The apple helps a lot.

Baby is doing well. We had another check-up and ultrasound on Wednesday. Please pray that this little one will be protected from the bad effects of the chemo.

Many people we have never met have reached out to us in such sweet ways. One un-met friend, who recently finished chemo treatments for breast cancer, sent me her wig, shampoo, spray, books, hints, ideas, encouragement, and other things that are such a help. My aunt's church friends have been so kind with their cards, gifts, and care in different forms. You all are helping us see what a blessing we can be to God's children anywhere. You have been a wonderful expression of God's love.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Passing Time

About a month has passed since my surgery. My arm movement is almost back to normal, although completely straightening it out is still hard. My energy has been flagging very quickly, but that’s improving too. I felt a little guilty for having so much help with laundry, but we’ve realized how necessary it was. Everyone who has helped has been such a blessing.

Thanks to lots of help from my family, we finished the Christmas decorating right after Thanksgiving. The kids hung everything on the tree after my sister carefully strung all the lights on it. It was beautiful. The next morning, it fell over. We cleaned up the broken ornaments and set it back up. It fell again. We cleaned up more broken ornaments, then Jon screwed the stand right down to the floor. I think we’ll be enjoying this tree until February.

I’ve had lots of time to read. Reading has been my absolutely favorite pastime since I was about ten years old reading the Bobsey Twins, Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew. I’ve been tempted to pick up some of those mysteries again. I always seem to be working on several books at once. (That’s because we have several bathrooms.) I recently finished The Valley Is Bright by Dr. Nell Collins, a melanoma survivor; Eleanor of Aquataine, a children’s biography; and Eats, Shoots, and Leaves; the Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. I bet that last title raised some eyebrows. It’s actually a very fun book. You might enjoy it even if you aren’t a fan of English grammar. I’ve begun to get my feet wet in The World is Flat (don’t raise your eyebrows again – it’s about global economics) by Thomas Friedman and also a children’s book by a Newbery winning author. I won’t mention the title of that one yet – it could turn out to be a stinker. Two of my high school teachers, Mrs. Wynn and Mr. Hallberg, are partly responsible for my reading choices recently. How many of you had teachers who made English and Economics interesting subjects? I’m considering turning this blog into a book review spot. I’m tired of talking about cancer.

We participated in Desi Christmas last Saturday. This is an annual activity our church hosts for the Asian-Indian community in Denver. Desi is the name by which the Asian-Indians refer to themselves. We had a wonderful time. Our Indian friends surrounded us with love and caring. We were able to meet some “blog friends” whom we didn’t know before. Each member of our family had been given traditional clothing from India just for this occasion. The food was delicious, and our friends - Hindu, Christian, and Buddhist - were all a pure pleasure to be with. Jon has been the Indian pastor in our church for about two years now. Everyone there has made us feel very loved.

Thanks, Mike, for taking so many pictures of us lately.

Friday, December 5, 2008


Good morning! Not too bad huh? (Aside from the grainy upload...)

Amy spoke at the ladies' Christmas get together last night - her assignment was to speak on the subject of Peace (an assignment given before folks knew what was going on with us.) What an opportunity to witness to the wonderful comfort of the garrison of God's peace around our hearts and minds - Phil 4:7

Check out these others - and don't forget to take our appt today to the Prince of Peace. Thanks, Jon

Thursday, December 4, 2008

High Risk OB

Hi friends,
Yesterday was our first visit with the High Risk OB. We got some great pictures (as you can see) of a very active, healthy baby. Dr Farkouh got all kinds of ultrasound measurements and pictures and some blood work. Everything looks great! She wants to continue monthly ultrasounds and checkups as we go through the chemo even though we will also be seeing the regular OB. Pray that the team can come to a wise decision about a delivery date. The HR OB wants to wait until 34 weeks – she says baby will stay about 2 weeks in the hospital and go home normal. The Medical Oncologist (Dr Cook) wants to take the baby around 30 weeks so that she can switch to a stronger chemo. Dr Farkouh says that would greatly increase the risk of a complication (like cerebral palsy) and will take more time and treatment in neonatal care. Tomorrow we meet with the radiation oncologist and see what she (Dr Clem) says about all this.
The visit went well though, we like the HR OB (all of our team has been great).
Today’s adventure – getting Amy’s hair cut. Not my favorite part of this at all, but I have to admit Jen did a great job, she does look cute and younger – she looks great for a cancer patient. Maybe I will get a picture in tomorrow.
Pray for our morning visit – thanks


First picture!

Monday, December 1, 2008

From Jon...

As we wrap up this “thankful week” I can’t help but be renewed in my commitment to give thanks in everything – all year long. Our hearts are overwhelmed with gratitude – wish I had time to list all the wonderful ways we have experienced our Father’s love. When we count the ways, one of the things for which we are tremendously thankful is you. God’s love for us has become very evident through you. Many of you are more faithful in dropping by the blog than we have been in updating – some of you check several times daily! Many of you I don’t even know, and it is impossible to express the joy, comfort and blessing your faithful expressions of love and prayer on our behalf have been.

We are in a little lull right now – but as you can see by our schedule the check-ups and visits start again soon, and then before we know it chemo will start.

One the realities that has been impressed on our hearts is that this experience is not just about us – it is about all who surround us and observe, with whatever degree of curiosity or care, what God is doing. Amy and I have been filled with a passion to reflect what God has been doing for us. For those who know Him, our prayer has been that somehow through our experience you might see that God is everything that He claims to be – it may be impossible to experience outside of the fire – but if we can somehow serve as surrogates and share with you even a small taste of the greatness of God, that would thrill our hearts. For some of you, we pray obsessively that our experience would bring to the surface of your conscience those pesky questions about life, death, God and His love that will refuse to go away until they are squared with and answered to the satisfaction of your soul.

We love all of you – and want to communicate that if there is something worse than facing death – it is facing death without the one true God.

Thanksgiving was wonderful – we have already set up our Christmas decorations as well – that is Amy’s favorite time of year.

I have one more prayer for you as I close – I pray that each of you will have the opportunity to celebrate this season as if it might be your last one – that is an amazing experience.

Love Jon

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Chemo in Two Weeks

The oncologist has given me the chemo plan now. I'll be getting Adroamycin and Cytoxan in 4 rounds that will span 3 to 4 months. I'll be starting the first round the week of December 15. After the baby is delivered, I'll probably be doing a third kind of chemo that can't be given during pregnancy. Dr. Cook (oncologist) warned that nausea will probably be a problem since I won't be able to use many of the anti-nausea medications. That was disheartening - I love Christmasy, fatty, salty goodies. I'm not supposed to eat those things anyway. Maybe I won't even be tempted.

My risk of reoccurance after the treatment is said and done is still almost 50%. That is not a pleasant thought. I've thought so many times over the last few days of the Bible verse, Hebrew 9:27, "It is appointed unto men once to die, and after this judgment..." We all know that reoccurance of cancer is usually deadly. But I'm no worse off than anyone else. We all have to face death. I just know what form mine has a good chance of taking. Christ has taken care of the judgment that comes after death and prepared a place for me.

I would really appreciate your prayers during the coming treatments. I am not looking forward to feeling sick for months; I would love to be free from the normal side effects.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Final Pathology Report

The surgeon called on Friday to let us know the big final detail of the pathology report. The HER2/neu receptors that indicate the presence of a complicating gene in the tumor were absent. The additional testing that was done actually evaluated the DNA of the tumor to check for this gene. Those tests came back negative.

What this all means is that my cancer is not as aggressive as statistics for my age category indicated it would be. Initially, we were told that I would not live for another 8 months if we did not treat very aggressively. We were told that the baby almost certainly would not survive everything that was ahead.

My pregnancy is still a significant complicating factor, and there is still risk to the baby in the treatments. But the overall picture has brightened considerably since I was first diagnosed. My treatment options are limited because everyone is trying to protect the baby, but the options that are available look much more promising than they did at first.

I have been studying many treatment alternatives. The pregnancy limits those alternatives just as much as it limits standard treatments. We do have access to wonderful information and advice on nutritional support, and we're taking advantage of that. I would appreciate your prayers as we evaluate the information we'll be given this week. The Lord has put us in this place, and I know He knows what is best.

I bet some of you are wondering how I can continue to trust in a God whom I believe arranged this cancer and its complicating factors. That could require a long answer, and maybe sometime I'll try to say more about it. But for now I'll just say this: Everything I understand and control could be contained in a drop of water compared to the ocean of knowledge and power that God has. Also, I have become absolutely convinced of God's love for me (and for all of you too). When those two points of faith are combined, what's left to worry about?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Drains and Pathology

Today's been very full, and I'm tired, so maybe Jon will fill in more details tomorrow.

The drain was removed today!!! Several of you have told me you understand about those things - necessary, but truly a pain. Now I don't feel stomach-twisting movement beside my ribs and in my chest every time I move my arm, which still isn't very much.

We also got more partial results from the pathology tests. Estrogen receptors are positive; progesterone receptors are negative (a very good scenario). Cancer tissue is grade 3 (very deteriorated - been there a little while, but not uncommon). A test was being done on the tumor to determine the presence of a particular gene that can cause quite a problem. That test came back with an intermediate result (which really means indeterminate - they have to do more tests, and we wait some more days).

I found out that a resident surgeon who is very involved in my care is from Greenville, SC, and happens to know a high school friend of mine very well. Who woulda thunk it?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Up and About

This is Amy. Now that you all have had the husbandly perspective of this, it's my turn again.

I really am feeling pretty good. I can only raise my left arm over my head with a lot of help from my right hand and only about once a day. It doesn't work very well on its own yet. At first my fingers were pretty useless, but that's back to normal now. Pain truly has been minimal - I haven't been being stoic. The worst part is that now that swelling has gone down and anesthesia is completely worn off, I can feel all the tubing that's still inside me. It doesn't hurt, but it's making me a little batty. The surgeon hopes to remove it on Wednesday if recovery is progressing sufficiently.

I did not go to church today. Some folks thought I was going because of Jon's comment about my being back at the keyboard soon. He wasn't talking about the musical keyboard (which I don't play very well), but about this computer keyboard. I had a relaxing day at home with my parents and a couple of friends who stopped by. I don't plan to go anywhere for quite a while, except doctors' appointments. Maybe I'll even skip those. The kids do have a play next Sunday night..... I'll be doing a lot of reading, as long as I can stay awake.

It's embarrassing to have details of my cancer and treatment spread all over through this blog, and I sure don't want to be offensive to anyone. I hope you all will understand that lots of people have the same (embarrassing) questions, and this is the best way to answer them. I guess that's the nature of my kind of cancer. As long as I'm the one posting, you can be sure I will skirt those questions as much as possible, but I can't say the same for my to-the-point husband.

So many of you have sent us cards and notes via this blog, CaringBridge, FaceBook, and email. I won't be able to respond to all of you, but I have read every note and appreciate you all so much. Thank you, thank you, for your care and concern for all of my family.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Visitors OK

Sorry, I meant to mention last night for our local friends who have been asking - brief visits at home today will be OK. We had a great night's sleep and I only had to get up once w/ a sick child last night. Maybe that is passing away. Amy is doing incredibly well - looking forward to finally getting a shower - in a few minutes.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Moving along

Wow, you prayer warriors are really at work. Amy took ½ pain pill this morning at 7:30 and hasn’t wanted one since!

Our morning visit with the Drs went well – to a degree. Sometimes it feels a lot like Ping-Pong. They did remove the bandages and one drain; the other is still going to town. We were told that this was just going to be a 15 minute checkup, but when the whole surgical team came into the room (and brought a box of tissue) we knew something was up. (Actually that was a little bit of hyperbole).
They told us that part of the pathology report had come back already and contained some information that would be important to us. I will try to break all the technical stuff down into some simple info.

First of all the type of cancer found was one that finally takes the right breast out of the woods – that was a relief. For those interested in the stage of the cancer we now have a an official score. Five of the 15 lymph nodes removed tested positive – that moved us into a stage and treatment category. Officially stage IIIa and because so many lymph nodes were involved, radiation is a definite must after chemo.

There are still several test to be run that will clear up the treatment picture – basically to check on the hormone receptors and genes in the cancer. Those could come back in such a way that treatment and delivery could go on as previously thought. Please pray to that end.

We should know more by our appointments early next week. There is a whole gamut of meetings and appointments scheduled in the next couple of weeks – see the upcoming dates box on the right as you pray.

I won’t go into all of the what ifs and possibilities in front of us, just please continue to pray for the right results on the remaining pathological tests.

The surgeon also recommended some exercises for Amy to keep her shoulder from locking up ( I guess a fairly common problem after this kind of surgery) and she is already able to get her arm above her head. In fact she got her pajamas on alone tonight! What am I here for anyway? She is doing incredibly well on the physical side. Drs were pleased w/ what they saw today and we are aware of the wonderful prayer structure that is lifting us before the throne of grace in many ways.

Amy may even be doing well enough to take over at the keyboard tomorrow.

Thanks again to all of you, the notes and comments are more blessing than you can imagine and are truly treasured.

Be back soon, Jon

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Well. not as shortly as I thought.

Amy is soaking in the tub (thank you Mrs. Senn for the bath basket) sipping tea (thank you Diana) and enjoying music (thank you Grinnells) – while her drains sit in a floating bowl. Her hair was washed earlier in a proper beautician’s chair (thank you Jen). And her stomach (and the rest of ours as well) filled w/ a wonderful supper (thank you Alicia).
God has gifted us w/ such wonderful friends – thank you to all of you. The picture hanging over the bed was a pleasant surprise when she came home – thanks to our Indian friends.

The surgeon’s reports this morning were encouraging. They are sure that they got all the tumor from the breast – there was good separation from the chest wall and also from the skin. They lymph nodes are more difficult, but they got all they could find. Now we wait several days (at least until Monday) for pathology reports. That will determine the kind and intensity of follow-up treatment. There is still a possibility that radiation may be indicated immediately which is a problem for the pregnancy. Please pray that this will not be the case.

The drains (installed in/for the lymph system are already slowing dramatically – a good thing. When there is less than a 30 ML collection in a 24 hour period they can be removed. I just emptied 43 ML from drain 1 and 10 from drain 2 (that one may get to come out in our morning visit w/ the surgeon).

We go in early tomorrow to check the bandages (no showering until those come off), incisions and drains.

The doctor also prescribed half doses of pain medication (because of the pregnancy) and Amy has been doing fine, even stretching the time between pills already. Thank the Lord for help and relief in that area.

Doc says that the first 48 hours are the most critical to baby – keep praying about that.

We still have not heard about the lung x-rays – maybe tomorrow.

The children were thrilled to see Mommy home and everyone is tired and will sleep well tonight I am sure. As soon as she can get back to this Amy will give you her side of things, but the left arm and hand aren’t exactly working properly so we will see.

We are again and again overwhelmed with gratitude to the Lord and to His wonderful body around us. Praise to Him and thanks to you all.

Good night,



We're home - more shortly, Jon

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

From Jon

Hi friends,

Thanks so much for your expressions of care and intercession on our behalf. Someone must be praying while we are sleeping because we have been sleeping well.
Just a quick update on today then Amy will pick back up and fill in details.
This AM was a little tough emotionally, but God is great and His presence and care are great stabilizing anchors.
We were called at home w/ results from the blood work – everything looked great so the liver is safe. Once at the hospital the surgeon reviewed the biopsy w/ us and those results were negative so we get to keep the right side for now!
These were two exciting encouragements for which we praise the Lord. Pray that the lung x-rays and the pathology reports on the removed tumors will be as good – thanks.
Surgery went well – no complications and no premature contractions – so one hurdle is over. Amy is physically stable – pray for the rest and recovery. If all goes will we will be released in the morning.
Amy sends her love and gratitude to all – I do too.
I almost included a picture of Amy in her pre-op outfit w/ the little silver warming cap – but… well, we don’t want any other amputations so...
Talk to you all again soon, love, Jon

Out of surgery...

Thank you so much to everyone who prayed throughout the day...

We heard from Jon a little bit ago. Amy is out of surgery, and the doctors feel it went well. He had not seen her when we spoke last. They will most likely not recieve the pathology reports until Monday.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What Was I Scared Of?

To all those who prayed today - thank you. When the office called to schedule these procedures (core needle biopsies), they assured me their doctor is very skilled and I would be very comfortable. I assumed they were just trying to relieve my nervousness. I've already had fine needle biopsies, and that was uncomfortable. But the doctor truly was very careful, and to my surprise, I didn't feel a thing. But that needle thing sounded like a staple gun!

I went back to the oncologist's to complete preliminary tests. Yesterday they drew eight vials of blood, and today I had chest x-rays. These tests will help determine if the cancer has spread to my lungs or organs. I'm not having symptoms of that, but it's good to make sure.

Tomorrow, we check into the hospital at 12:00 p.m. and surgery is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. I should be released by 12:00 p.m. on Thursday. Healing is required for a month, then chemotherapy.

Yesterday, we got to see the baby pretty clearly. Its heart is beating, and its growth is normal. Seeing our child made me feel like I'm really pregnant.

I don't know when I'll write again. Maybe Jon will update this blog to let you all know how things went and if we have any more answers.

Biopsies Today

A very quick update before we head back to St. Joe's. Yesterday we met the OBGYN for a run-of-the-mill initial pre-natal visit. I'll be seeing the high-risk doctor another day. Today I am going to have those biopsies I thought I had avoided. There will be at least five, probably more. More later...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Some FAQs

How far along is the pregnancy? 8 weeks. The due date is June 20, but the baby will probably be taken early, perhaps as early as 30 weeks. That would put the baby’s birth sometime in April.

Why is my case considered a-typical? I technically was not at risk for breast cancer, and I have some protective factors. The risks indicators I don’t have: a family member who had breast or ovarian cancer, over 40 years old, overweight, diabetic, hormone treatments. The protective factors I do have: regular exercise, nursed 6 babies, excellent health over-all.

How are the kids doing? Generally, pretty well. Cara has shed the most tears, but she also is able to soak up comfort easily.

How is Jon doing? He has been wonderful. We’ve both had our hard times, and we both turn to the Lord for comfort and leading. I’m thankful for him.

How long will my treatment last? It’s hard to know until all the biopsies and surgery are done, but the oncologist thinks about 12 months.

What is my prognosis? Won’t know until all the tests come back.

Am I going to donate my hair? I’ve donated my hair three times already to Locks of Love. Do I have to do it again? When the time comes, I’ll donate it before it all falls out. My sweet sister (on the left) has offered to shave her head and donate her hair to my wig. picture – May 2008

How long will I be in the hospital after the surgery? The mastectomy is actually outpatient surgery. I was envisioning a two-hour procedure and then being packed off home to recover. Although it is considered outpatient, I will be in for at least 24 hours.

Is any family going to be here? My mom is flying out on Monday and will be here until December 2. My dad will come too, but he’s still working on tickets. Teresa (my sister) will join us for Thanksgiving week. We’ll be well taken care of.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Shopping is always fun

Cara and I went shopping last night. She had some birthday presents to get, and Jon and I are working on brightening up our bedroom. We had a really good time and were able to find what we were looking for. We also went to see some friends - a very pleasant time of fellowship.

The evening out helped to calm some of the knots in my stomach. The Lord helped me to see again that He has planned every tiny detail of the path we are walking. Maybe you'll laugh (I did), but a Scripture passage that jumped out at me yesterday morning was Matthew 10: 29-31. Now, I know you'll all run to look it up to see what made me laugh.

Okay, okay...I'll save you the trouble. Jesus was talking to his disciples. "Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall to the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are numbered. Fear not therefore; you are of much more value than many sparrows."

So, a new take for me on numbering my hairs. Losing my hair has been a touchy subject. And God cares about that. By the way, I found out that the American Cancer Society will provide me with two free wigs. I wonder if God counts fake hairs?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Surgery is scheduled

The surgeon's office called this afternoon to let us know the surgery is scheduled for Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. I will be in for at least 24 hours. It doesn't look like biopsies will fit in before then, which is fine with me. Those are done without much anesthesia - ouch. I will be having blood work and possibly x-rays on Monday morning.

The thought of this surgery is turning my stomach. It's a hard step to take, but everyone I've talked to (both traditional and alternative) has agreed it's the best thing to do considering the complications of pregnancy.

First Visits at St. Joe's

We started our appointments yesterday at 8:00 a.m. and continued until after 5:00. The first appointment at the OB's ended up being entirely paperwork, but we have another visit scheduled for Monday. We wouldn't have been able to get in until later December, but there was a cancellation.

The surgeons were next. This was my first meeting with these surgeons, and it was very encouraging. Their outlook on the chances for both me and the baby were brighter than what we had been hearing. Their greatest warning was that general anesthesia this early in the pregnancy could cause me to miscarry. They are planning to do another series of biopsies, hopefully before the end of the week, and then surgery would be scheduled for sometime next week. Everyone agrees it would be unwise to delay the mastectomy another 5 weeks to give the baby time to develop more. The head surgeon was so kind to me when she told me not to be hard on myself for not having the arm lump checked out sooner. (The lump that was biopsied has been there for about 2 1/2 years.) She feels like this cancer is relatively recent - probably appeared shortly before I noticed that lump enlarging. She said slim people, especially women who have been nursing, tend to have more prominent lymph nodes. If she was just trying to make me feel better, it worked.

After lunch we met with Dr. Cook, the oncologist. Again, because of a cancellation, we were able to get in right away. Otherwise, we would have had to wait until next week. She was gentle and informative. The information she gave us was even more encouraging. Several types of chemotherapy are available during pregnancy, although radiation is not. Having surgery next week would work perfectly with the timing she has to observe. Surgery requires one month of healing before beginning chemo, and she can't give the chemo anyway until I'm in my second trimester. The timing would work together so I can start treatment at the earliest possible point. She also told me that since my case is very a-typical, it will be presented next week at a conference of surgeons and oncologists at St. Joe's, so lots of doctors will have their eyes on it.

Last of all, we met with the cancer patient navigator. Her whole job is to help us get around the twists and turns of cancer treatment and take advantage of available resources. That also was a very encouraging meeting.

I don't have an official prognosis yet. I am supposed to be having blood work and limited x-rays to help determine how far the cancer has spread. They know it is in at least two lymph nodes, because we can feel those - surgery will tell more. The stage of the cancer will be determined after all the tests, biopsies, and surgery. The oncologist thinks it is at least stage 2, very possibly stage 3. She was calling it a grade 3 cancer (which refers to something different), but then kind of backtracked because of the lack of information on the pathology report.

Our friends and family have been so helpful in every way. Amy Bixby, the first, (there are two of us) got this blog set up for me. Several people have offered their frequent flyer miles to our families so they can come out here. Someone loaned me an iPod Shuffle loaded with Jim Berg's "Quieting a Noisy Soul" and lots of music. A friend gave us a CD changer with remote control for our bedroom. We've received several uplifting CDs. And so many people have written to tell us they are praying. That is the best of all. Until you are facing something like this, you don't know how good it is to know that others are praying.

Ambertose, Xango, hyperbaric therapy, volcanic clay, red grapes, vitamin C therapy, others I can't remember at the moment: these are alternative remedies that have been recommended to us. We are checking them out. I'm already taking Ambertose, Xango, and a friend has a hyperbaric chamber. I won't tell you who it is in case all of you want to come use such an incredible health booster.

I apologize to those who have sent me messages on Facebook. I can't reply to messages consistently because of some kink. But I've read all of them and wish I could respond. And to everyone who has left us notes here - Thank you. You are all a blessing.

Monday, November 3, 2008


Yesterday, our church friends were such a blessing. Everyone made us feel surrounded with love and care. We went to sleep listening to a CD given to us by a friend, and we listened to another one this morning right after we got up. Thanks for all the comfort you all are offering us.

The significant happening of the day was that THREE of our children lost teeth (Cara, John, and Eliana). The tooth fairy, who has taken up permanent residence in our home, slept late this morning. Recently she has been somewhat overwhelmed at the possibility of becoming the fairy for additional lost body parts. Anyway, she had to quickly recruit help to reach the recently de-toothed children in our home. Everything was cared for in good time.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Beginning

A while ago I found a lump under my arm that seemed to be growing. I wasn’t very concerned – after all my risk of breast cancer is practically non-existent. Dr. Roland was concerned though, and helped us schedule an appointment with a surgeon. He also told us that I’m pregnant. For those who have lost count, this baby is our seventh. (I got rid of all the baby stuff almost three years ago.)

The surgeon called last Sunday afternoon (October 26) to let us know that the biopsies he had performed showed malignant cells. He also took the time to let us know that my pregnancy provides the worst possible complication to cancer treatment and survival. He provided more details than I care to share, or even than I remember. Monday was filled with tests that confirmed the biopsies.

My care has been referred from Lutheran Medical Center to Saint Joseph Hospital (St. Joe’s to everyone around here). St. Joe’s is one of the few hospitals that receives funding from the Susan G. Komen foundation (the pink ribbon people) for breast cancer treatment, and they offer high risk obstetrical care. This transfer of care has slowed the initial process of determining the stage of cancer progression and treatment plans. I have several appointments at St. Joe’s this Wednesday, November 5. We hope to gather lots of information that day. Many complex decisions lie ahead. The Lord has made Himself so near to us during the very difficult moments of the last week. Please pray that I will keep my focus on Him; everything else is too overwhelming.

Our church and friends have leapt to our assistance. We are amazed at the care and love that everyone is offering to us. Thank you.