Saturday, January 28, 2012

January 26th will forever be ingrained in my mind!

Well, my first FAC chemo is history! When I heard that my first FAC chemo was on January 26th, I somewhat laughed inside at the irony and also just how God works in mysterious ways!

On January 26, 1998, my daddy was killed in a car accident. I was 10 1/2 years old, and of course was one of the worse days of my life. I am a daddy's girl and I miss him every day. When I think of what I missed most about him, it always comes back to his hugs and sitting in his lap...such little things that mean so much.

God brought us through that tragedy that happened on that day and He will bring us through this current hardship. I couldn't write on the blog about what happened on this January 26th, without at least mentioning was happened on January 26th, 14 years ago. Here are some pics with the best daddy in the entire world!!!!

I am feeling good after my first FAC chemo! I was sooo tired after chemo though. Today, I had some stomach cramps and felt a little nauseous, but mostly I just feel blah. That is really the main difference I am feeling from Taxol to FAC. I am just a lot more sleepy, but after I catch a quick nap, I feel much better. Josh took this picture of me in the car on the way home after chemo...I was so drugged! Pun intended!

My doctor's appointment went well and we got to ask Dr. Morrow lots of questions that had been on our mind since our last visit with the interim doctor. The main question that she answered for us had to do with the status of my lymph nodes. She said that it is good when they remain stable, but we do still want them to shrink. If they don't shrink and the matter in the lymph nodes look like a fatty substance, that is good too. According to my past ultrasounds, the things that look different about my lymph nodes compared to regular, non-cancerous lymph nodes are that my lymph nodes are both enlarged and filled with cancer cells and not fatty tissue. So, we need to be praying that the lymph nodes both shrink and/or fill back with regular, fatty tissue instead of cancer cells. So, those are some specifics to be praying for. Especially, since I have an ultrasound and mammogram this Tuesday!

I literally have the best doctor in the world. Thank you to all who prayed for the doctor God would hand-pick for me...she is amazing.

The administering of this FAC chemo was much like Taxol, except for the extra hour and that one chemo would get done, and then they would administer another. The first chemo they gave me was the "F" and my nurse had me eat ice chips while this one was being administered, because it is likely to cause mouth sores. Then came the A chemo, which is nicknamed "the red devil" because it is actually red, and then the C. When chemo was done, I felt a little dizzy and woozy, kind of like you would after a surgery. So, that was weird, but I was just so thankful I wasn't nauseous. I was put on so many pre-meds before chemo was administered, and I am taking my anti-nausea medicine every 8 hours on the dot!

We videoed some of our experiences on Thursday that we thought we would share with you. So many of you have literally walked this journey with us and we want you to feel as involved as possible over our blog. So, I have posted some videos below. If you have a weak stomach, you may not want to watch as one or two of them has my port being accessed.

So, we are continuing to stay in Houston until my appointment on Tuesday for my mammogram, ultrasound, appt with surgeon and appt with radiation doctor. Our plan is then to head home on Tuesday. I won't have to go back to Houston until February 16th! That is crazy- I won't know what to do with my self. The first time since October 26th, that I won't have to be in Houston once a week. Each treatment from here on after will be preceded with an ultrasound to see how I am responding. My belief, hope, and prayer is that the cancer will be gone before surgery. Even though they will be removing my breasts and lymph nodes, I am praying and believing the cancer will be gone before then and the surgery is done preventatively instead of necessarily.

I am so thankful I am not throwing up and feeling terrible, but I definitely feel much differently on this chemo. Please pray that I get to feeling like my normal self very, very soon! In the meantime, we are enjoying staying at the Stanfill's house once again. Last week, the Knotts opened up their condo to us and that was amazing as well. We are so blessed.

Thank you for all the prayers...we will update again this week after my appointments on Tuesday. Love you all!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Done with Taxol- FOREVER!!!

Yes, it's true!! I had my 12th and final treatment of Taxol. It is hard to believe that 13 weeks ago I was told that I had stage 3 cancer and I began chemo. Hearing that one chemo would take 12 weeks and another would be another 12 weeks seemed like an eternity, and I already have the first one done! Praise the Lord!! It really has seemed short and Taxol wasn't all that bad to me- in fact, it played a part in my cancer shrinking! So, thank God for Taxol:)

I went to Houston this week with 3 of my dear friends, Jodi, Jana, and Sarah. We had such a great time! We laughed, shopped, ate, and just enjoyed each other's company. Once again, I have the best friends in the world. They sat with me at my long chemo appt and drove the 12 hours! I am blessed.

My fingernails and toenails are continuing to hurt and I think my big toe nail is about to say goodbye:) My chemo nurse told me that the FAC does not affect the fingernails like the Taxol, so that's good! A new side effect currently is that my entire body is sore. It is almost like my skin is just barely touch- it's crazy. Once again, I would take these side effects to nausea, any day.

So, I start the new FAC chemo on Thursday. I am SO ready. I feel like every person has said every terrible thing/ side effect that could happen, but I am not afraid. God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of peace and a sound mind. I am happy to know that this chemo is the strongest and I know it will kill every last bit of this stupid cancer! It is 3 chemos in one and it will take an extra hour to administer. I will also be quadrupling my steroid intake before administering the chemo, so I have a better chance of not adversely reacting to the medicine. I am prepared to be miserable and sick, but I just don't believe it will be that bad. God shielded me thus far and I believe He will do it again. I may feel worse than I did on Taxol, but I just don't believe I will be one of those horror stories. However, I am willing to be as sick as I need to be if that is a part of my healing process. I am just fully trusting the One who has brought me this far. He who has started a good work in me will be faithful to complete it. He is so faithful.

I will also meet with my doctor on Thursday morning. I am SO looking forward to that. I have many questions to ask her and I mainly want answers concerning the shrinkage of my lymph nodes- what we are wanting them to look like, what good reports are, and just how she believes I am fairing overall. We were a little confused after the last ultrasound, so we are wanting some answers that are still hanging out there.

We will stay in Houston until Tuesday, Jan. 31, as I have ultrasounds, mammograms, an appt with my surgical oncologist and my radiation oncologist. This will be my next official check up on the cancer itself--please pray for this day and these tests to be great. We are hoping that when I meet with my surgeon on this day that we can at least get a tentative surgery date (we are estimating that surgery would be at the end of April). This will also be the first time for me to meet my radiation oncologist. I believe that will be the final member of my cancer team, so it will be good to meet him and see what all radiation will entail this summer. So, this week and the beginning of the next will be big weeks for me! I know they will be great weeks, in which God shows His mighty power through me once again.

It feels so good to have one big chunk of my treatment over with. I met with a girl named Donna, who is friends with some of my friends, and she is 32 and was diagnosed with breast cancer this past summer. She has done the same course of treatment that I have. She came by my house last week and it was great to talk to someone who literally has walked all of these steps before me. She just had a mastectomy on her cancer breast and was willing to show me and answer any questions I had- she was so amazing to be willing to do this for me. She looks great and was given paperwork this past week that she was cancer-free! That will be me so very soon!!! I am looking forward to helping someone behind me so that I can be as helpful to someone as Donna has been to me.

Thank you for your fervent prayers as I begin a new treatment journey this Thursday. We will of course keep you updated  as much will be happening these next couple of weeks.

Love you guys!! Here are some pics from this weekend!!! # 12!!!!!!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Psalm 46:10

Well, my 11th round has come and gone!! We took a really short trip to Houston this week. My mom and I headed out Wednesday afternoon, had chemo Thursday morning then headed right back home. I had a great time with my mom and it was an uneventful trip, which is typically good:) My ANC was 5.82!! Isn't that amazing? 8 weeks ago it was .29... I have so much to be thankful for. I have gone from the beginning of October to now without getting sick and that is incredible to not only be on chemo, but for my white count to be so low. Any time it drops below .5, it is dangerously low, and of course mine was there, and I would have never even known it without a blood test. God is so good.

My fingernails are still suffering:( My first three fingernails on both hands are so very sore. They are turning a little bit of a yellow and red color and I am having a hard time opening things and just doing little daily tasks- you'd be surprised how much you use your fingertips/fingernails! My toenails are hurting as well and I am having to make myself wear certain shoes. I wanted to wear heels to church today, but I made myself wear flats so I wouldn't been in pain. I thought long and hard about it though--the things girls do!!

This next week I start back at my 2nd full semester of school in my PhD program. I graduated with my Master's degree in Marriage and Family Therapy in May of 2011 and started my PhD in June. I finished out this past semester in December and am enrolled full time this Spring. All of my classes are on Mondays and Tuesdays--how awesome! Most all of my doctor's appointments are on Thursdays and Fridays so I should miss little to no classes! So far, I haven't had to miss any of my coursework--- my teachers have been amazing and the MFT program as a whole as been so incredibly supportive of me. I am looking forward to seeing my classmates and teachers!! Please pray for me as I start back on Tuesday!

This week, God has taught me a lesson in being still and recognizing that He is at work. Psalm 46:10 is a verse that we hear all the time, but He has continually spoken it to me this week. 

"Be still and know that I am God."

This whole cancer experience is obviously something I have never experienced before. The biggest battlefield is in my mind and that is where the devil tries to attack me most. Many times I am thinking about my diet, the chemo working, my treatment schedule, surgery, worrying about not praying enough, radiation, exercise, mastectomy, reconstruction, being stress-free, school work etc... and God has reminded me to rest in Him. To be still and know that He is fighting for me. Yes, I will eat right and schedule appointments and do my school work and exercise, etc..., but He does not want me to carry this burden. He wants to carry it and wants me to give it to Him. 

"Give your burdens to the LORD, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall." Psalm 55:22

I feel like I have been doing this, but there is a part of me and my human nature that wants to take this disease on full-force and fight with all I've got. Don't get me wrong, I am!!!!!!  But if I tried to do it with my willpower, I would be falling so short and be way too exhausted. God wants me to be desperate for Him--he wants me to be weak--so He can rescue me. Then, I am strong. Then, I feel safe. I have an opportunity to be the strongest girl in the world- simply by recognizing that God is God and I am in desperate need of my Savior to rescue me.

"He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength." Isaiah 40:29

"I will bring healing to it: I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security." Jer. 33:6

I know I will enjoy abundant peace and security one day in its entirety. God is already giving me peace beyond understanding, but when you have been told you have cancer, every little thing that you feel in your body can make you anxious. I know I can trust God and His word and the promises in His word. I do not know His timing, but His promises never fail.

“Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.” Joshua 21:45

God's promises tell me that He will heal me. I must now walk in faith. Faith comes from hearing the Word and I am striving to surround and engulf myself in His perfect word. I just can't wait for the day that the doctor's tests show what I already know- cancer-free-- HEALED!!! I know it is not far away and that makes me very, very excited!!!

This will be my last week of Taxol- Praise the Lord!!! I am really so excited to be done with this and bring on the next one. By my rough calculations, I believe I will be done with chemo on March 31..that really doesn't seem far at all! 
I realized that many of people in town have seen Raquel, but many who check the blog don't see me regularly, so Josh took a picture of me after church today so you all could see her:) 
The next time I write, I will officially be done with Taxol!! I will NOT miss her and will never see her again in Jesus' name:)

                                                           Ran out of fingers:) #11!!!!!!


This is tile work that is above our timely and what a wonderful reminder....

Sunday, January 8, 2012

10 Rounds Down!

Double digits!!!! I am so excited. We had a great week in Crested Butte with our church family. I skiied every day and we had a blast. For the most part, I felt no different than I would any other year on a ski trip. The weather was wonderful. In the 30's and 40's every day- I didn't even have to use hand or toe warmers!! For those who know me well, you know that I am always cold, and I did not have trouble with it at all. I believe God knew what weather I needed and He gave it to me. It was incredible!

I have been feeling great this week, but a new side effect has come on. My fingernails and toenails are so, so sore. Many times on this type of chemo, peoples' fingernails and toenails become sore, can become black, and even fall off. That's a pretty description, huh?:) Well, mine are just so stinking sore! It feels like everyone one of my fingernails and toenails have been smashed in a door. It hurts to clap, grab things, and even type! It's crazy, but not unbearable. But that is a new side effect.

I cannot tell you all just how ready I am to switch to the FAC chemo. To know that I will be on the strongest medicine and closer to surgery will do so much for me. I know that if God doesn't heal me before surgery, to have anything that was at one time cancerous taken out of my body, will bring me great peace of mind. I will have my first FAC treatment on January 26th-SO ready!!

God has been so good to me this week. I had an amazing week in Colorado and felt almost as good as I do not on chemo...we made all of our flights and He kept us safe on all of the drives.

We also moved in our house on Saturday!! Oh my goodness, it is so beautiful. Josh and I just keep saying how surreal it feels to be in our house. We could not have finished it without the help of so many- Jonathan Hill, Martin West, David Fox, Matt Remington, Brandon Brown, Brandon Tarantino, Jason Hinton, Jimmy Russell, Shad Wall, The Lewis', Paul Murphy, Steve Simms, The Taylors, The Echols, Kitty Head, my mom--- I know I missed so many. It truly has been overwhelming the love that our friends and family have shown us in helping us get into our house.

Here are some pictures from round 10 and Crested Butte, CO.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Headed to ski!

We are so excited, because we are headed to go skiing with our church! We are waiting at the airport now to board our flight. We both love to ski and are ready to hit the slopes and spend time with our family and church family.

This week/ weekend has been great with many emotions in between. One of my mom's friends, Ms. Paula, came down for my appointment with mom and it was great spending some time with her. Josh and I have had a great time spending some time together. We traveled around Houston doing some shopping for our new house. We hope to be in really soon. JHill Construction is amazing! We cannot say thank you enough for what they have been able to help us with.

I know Josh has updated you all, but every time I have an ultrasound, I of course get nervous. I have faith that everything will be good, but days leading up to it, I have a knot in my stomach. It took a long time for them to do my ultrasound. Because my "mass" has already been removed by biopsy, they have only been monitoring my lymph nodes that looked suspicious and came back cancerous. These lymph nodes are up under my armpit-- You can't see them and you can't feel them. It's crazy- they only show up on ultrasound. But this ultrasound go-round, they did a full ultrasound of my left breast as well, and there was nothing suspicious there- praise God!! I was praying that the lymph nodes under my armpit had shrunk, but the report was that they looked the same as last time. My doctor says that as long as there is no growth, the chemo is doing what it is supposed to do, but of course I was wanting it to shrink! Like Josh said though, the doctor we met with this time said that he didn't know how much more they could shrink anyways because they were already so small....regardless, no cancer is growing in my body right now!!!!! That is enough reason to celebrate!!!

Right now, I am on a journey. The one thing I am assured of is that I know the end of the story- healed, whole, restored. God is making a way before me and I am walking that path. By His stripes, I am healed.

Chemo went great on Thursday and I haven't taken any of my nausea or pain medicine thus far. I forgot to take them and figured I would go without just to see, and I feel great! 9 of 16 treatments down...ahh!! so excited.

One of my dear friends, Kelly, had a birthday Thursday , and her husband surprised her with an overnight trip to Houston on Thursday night!!!!! I can't tell you how excited I was. I got to top off the day with seeing one of my best friends in the entire world. Some people say they have great friends, but I am always thinking, you have no idea the friends I have. They literally are the best in the entire world. The fervent prayers, laughs, hugs, calls, texts, belief, faith, fun....the list could go on and on. When I say I have the BEST army to fight this war with, I mean I have the BEST. That is all there is to it.

Last night at church, a lady prayed for me and she reiterated something I am already doing. She said, "Just keep praying and saying out loud "Thank you for healing me and thank you for making me whole." I am healed.. I am whole.... I am healed... I am whole. Thank you Jesus for making me whole and healing my body. Thank you for bearing my sickness on the cross so I can live an abundant life. I want to be a vessel you can trust. Use me. Thank you for healing me so I can declare your great works and healing power.
"Behold, I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth." Jeremiah 33:6

Here are some pics from round 9!

Here is a pic of me and Kel a few months ago and then on Thursday when we got to spend some time together:) Can't get over my hair!! When it is as thin as it is now, it is hard to remember it being like this!

Here is another picture of my amazing friends and mom when they came to Houston for my first doctor's appointments and chemo.