Monday, January 28, 2013

Friday is surgery day!

I cannot believe that Friday will be my last and final surgery. This surgery has seemed forever away and for it to be here makes me so grateful. It has meant so much to me for those of you who have told me you will be praying for me on Friday. I hadn't updated the blog in a while, and I still have people I don't know very well tell me they are praying for my surgery, and remembered that it was this Friday! That means so much to me that they keep up with me and still pray specifically for me. Thank you to  all who have done this. It means the world to me.

We will go down to Houston on Wednesday, and we have my pre-op appointments first thing Thursday morning. We should find out more details of what will actually happen during surgery in that visit and will have my surgery on Friday, hopefully in the morning. According to how I am doing and what all they do in surgery, will determine how long I will stay in Houston.

Many people have asked what this surgery will be like and I'm not exactly sure how to answer that. One thing I do know is that it is much different than a breast augmentation. I know they are replacing my expanders with implants and doing a lot of work on my scars and trying to make my skin appear as healthy as possible. I still have a good bit of skin that is radiated and red, so I think they will be taking out some of that. I am not sure if they will want to do skin grafts, fat grafts, etc. to make me look more normal or what. A lot of what they do will be determined in surgery. For instance, if they take out the expanders and put in the implants and something does not settle right, they may have to reduce the size of the implants, or take out more skin, or put in more skin. Crazy, right?! It is a little unnerving going into a surgery not knowing what all will be done. I do know that they will take amazing care of me and that ultimately they are doing what makes me look as normal as they possibly can. I may or may not have drains, just according to what all they have to do. So, this surgery is much more than a breast augmentation, but much less than the other surgeries I have had, and that is good news:) Crazy to be having implants put in and I still have yet to see an implant! Not exactly how I would have pictured getting breast implants...Dr. Villa always reminds me that the goal is to look as normal in clothing as possible. So I am remembering that, but I also know God is big enough to have me look great underneath as well. Praying and believing I will look wonderful.

Of course, I want to look great, but most of all, I want to feel better. I still have very limited motion of my left arm and my radiation doctor said that could be in part to the tissue expander being sewed into my muscle. So, I am praying that the tightness is my pec muscle is relieved and my motion is better. The tissue expanders are sewed into my muscle, whereas the implants will be free floating. I am also praying that I feel relief in being able to comfortably lay on my stomach and not feel so much like I have an iron bra on all the time. It is so hard to explain what it feels like. I am so much better than what I was, but to feel like I have baseballs shoved under my chest muscle is not the best feeling:) I am thankful for a surgery that I am looking forward to. I looked forward to the others because I knew they were all steps toward my healing, but to have one that I am really looking forward to because I may feel better afterwards is refreshing. I, of course, am still nervous about the surgery but God has given me peace and I am ready.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Life has seemed eerily normal over the past few weeks. School and work are going well and I am making some strides toward my dissertation writing. My pain has seemed to have lessened alot in my abdomen and my stomach seems to be calming down some. Praise the Lord. His goodness is overwhelming. I know He delights in seeing me more peaceful.

We had such an exciting week last week, as my sweet niece, Sullivan Reese was born. My sis-in-law, Rachel, delivered amazingly and Lee and Rachel are wonderful parents. How blessed little Sulli is to have the God-fearing parents that she does. She was 7 lbs. 3oz and born on Thursday, January 24th at 11:16 a.m. We have had a wonderful time loving on her. Lee and Rachel live just a few houses down from us, so let's just say we will be seeing a lot of Sullivan. Can't wait to make sweet memories with her. I just a few short weeks, my sister will have her baby boy. So thankful to witness these miracles. It's amazing to see 2 people I love so much give birth to and giving life is truly a miracle. The way God knit us together is so completely amazing...

"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139:13-14

January 24th was also a special day for Josh and I, as it was our 10 year dating anniversary. I am so blessed to have "grown up" with my husband. I was 15 when we started dating, and oh my goodness, how much I have changed in the last 10 years! How blessed I have to have the opportunity to grow up with and grow old with my husband. I know I am one of the few and far between. Thank you Lord for January 24, 2003.

I had another opportunity to speak and share God's story this past Friday at Cedar Crest Baptist Church. One of my great friends from school, Lauren, leads a girls' group at her church. Her husband, Jarrett, is the youth pastor there and does such a wonderful job leading the students to Christ. So, I spoke to this girls' group on Friday night. This was the first time I shared my entire testimony. Other times I just shared about how God helped me through my journey, or breast cancer awareness, or about my treatment, but this time, I was able to share more and I thought it went well.  I am still trying to get comfortable with speaking in public, but I just pray that the Lord speaks, and not me. I know if He is able to do this, then his purposes will be accomplished. They were such a great group of girls. We got to talk a little after I spoke and I answered any questions they had. Excited about other opportunities I have coming up to share God's miraculous story!

Lately I have been meditating on Romans 12:12, where it talks about being joyful in hope. This is a scripture I have read probably hundreds of times and I don't know if I've ever meditated on it. The "joyful in hope"part of the verse has really struck me. I want to be joyful in hope. I may not be able to see the end of my story, but I know what I hope for. I know I hope for an eternity with Christ, for long life, for children to raise to serve the Lord, for seeing a Godly generation follow me and to all be together in heaven... I can be joyful in these hopes, even though they are yet to be realized. That is what I am focusing on...being joyful in HOPE! God is my only hope. Even when I don't feel joyful, I can be joyful in hope. It is a commandment and I know I want to obey, so here is to living with intentional joy in hope!

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." Romans 12:12

I love you all. Josh will update you all as to surgery details. Please be praying for everything to go perfectly! Enjoy pictures below of my sweet niece and my husband and I celebrating 10 years.

10 years with my love

Loving on my beautiful niece, Sullivan

Friday, January 11, 2013

Every day is a victory...

Hey guys,

I'm back from Houston and everything went perfectly at my appointments. I am so grateful and I have to continue to remind myself to be thankful for this good visit, as it's easy to focus on the negative things. The atmosphere at MDA is great, but it is still an atmosphere I don't want to be around, and that can get me down, regardless of good reports... I am working on this!

My mom drove me down to meet Josh in Houston and I am so grateful for her always willingness to drive me to Houston. We went to church on Sunday and then met my sweet friend, Irena for lunch, at a place called Roots Bistro-so good! I've told you before, but I met Irena while we were both getting chemo at MD Anderson. She is so wonderful and is doing so great. She recently had her reconstructive surgery, had many complications, but is doing wonderfully. She has the same oncologist that I do, Dr. Litton, so we have that in common as well. I praise the Lord for both of our healings!

We ate with the Stanfills Sunday night and went to bed early because my appointments started at 7:10 on Monday morning. The Stanfills live about 40 minutes from the hospital, and with Houston morning traffic, we normally leave at least an hour before my appointments, so we often get up very early while in Houston. We wouldn't have it any other way. We love our second family, the Stanfills. They have gone above and beyond for us. We love them and miss them when we go for periods without seeing them.

My ultrasound was first thing Monday morning and once again it was very scary. I kept praying that I would get a rad tech that would actually talk to me, and that the radiologist would be friendly and positive, and that is exactly what I got. Thank you God! My ultrasound tech was one I had when I was undergoing chemo (Jacqueline), so she remembered me. She was very nice. When I asked her if everything looked good, she told me that her job was "to perform and not interpret":) So, I had to wait on the radiologist. This was the first time that a radiologist walked in and said, "It looks like those lymph nodes still appear benign and normal, but I want to see them myself." I appreciated that so much. Normally, they are so silent until the very end (which seems like an eternity), but just that small statement immediately put me at ease. After looking, she said that she would be looking forward to seeing me when I just come back for a regular follow up. ME TOO! So, they both left and I broke down in that little room by myself. I just kept repeating, "Thank you Lord, thank you Lord."

1 Chron. 16:34 "Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever."

So, I told the news to Josh and we waited for my appointment with my oncologist, Dr. Litton. It was like I had been given drugs because I was just so, so happy. We waited for a long time, and finally got called back. Dr. Litton and my nurse, Angela, basically asked me a bunch of questions and reiterated that it will just take a long time for me to feel back to normal. Dr. Litton says that many people do not feel completely well for 2-3 years after treatment. So, that was encouraging to me. They complimented me on my diet and exercise and encouraged that, which was good. We were able to ask a lot of fertility questions, and she continued to be very stickler on waiting for 2 years from diagnosis. So, we will pray a lot about when we will try for a baby, but it looks like we will be able to move toward a family in October. So thankful.

Psalm 127: 3-5 "Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate."

Dr. Litton and Angela both stressed what October will mean for me. They say if, but I say when I make it to October, I will be out of the most scary time for my type of cancer. So, October will be huge, for my life and for my future family. Please pray that October will come soon and that the Lord will carry me until then, and always. I know He will.

I left from my visit with Dr. Litton a little sad. Everything was positive in the visit, but I just left discouraged. I think any time I am reminded of how scary this time until October can be, it can get me in an extreme funk. I was explaining this to Josh as we were waiting for an elevator at the hospital and he gave me hope in a way he reframed my situation (yes, he's learned some therapy techniques:)) The waterworks immediately came on as the elevator was opened with several other people, and I am trying to hold back heaves. Josh was very sensitive, but trying not to laugh as I was trying so hard to hold the tears back!

We had a great rest of the day on Monday. We met up for lunch at our favorite restaurant, Ruggles Green, with our amazing friends, the Summers. They opened their home to us while going through chemo, have taken us to lunch, taken care of us, prayed for us, had us on their family beach trip this summer, and been so very generous to us. We so enjoyed getting to see them and spend time with them, as usual. The rest of the day, we shopped and went to our favorite Houston places. We finished off a great day by watching the not-so-entertaining National Championship football game at the Stanfills.

On Tuesday, we had an appointment with my radiation oncologist, Dr. Strom, since he was the one who ordered the ultrasound. He was very pleased with my ultrasound and glad to see me doing so well. He said that he wanted me to have another ultrasound this summer, and then after that ultrasound, they would move me to just routine check-ups. Oh how I long for that day!!! I left this appointment uplifted and thankful that someone felt ok with not seeing me for a little while. Thank you Lord for these bits of hope!

We headed home after a trip to Whole Foods and I am trying to enjoy my last little bit of no school/work. I start back with everything on Monday. Please pray I can find balance as things become busier. I am making some progress on my dissertation, which is very encouraging to me. I am determined to not get back into a "rat race."

I also got to share a bit of my story on Wednesday night at church. Each year, they open up a Wednesday night for people to share what God has done for them in the past year. Last year, I made a video testimony because I was getting chemo and could not be at church, but this year I was here, and able to share just a few things that God did for me in 2012. Obviously 2012 was the hardest year of my life, but it was the year that God performed a miracle in me--- I was healed and made whole in 2012---so I praise God for 2012. Through all my struggles, God has remained sovereign and been such a good God to me. I have some other opportunities coming up, where I'll be able to share my story. I desire to be a trustworthy vessel and I pray God's story of my healing continues to be shared and draw hearts to Him.

So, next comes school, work and my surgery on February 1st. I don't have to go back to Houston until January 30th, since I have my pre-op appointments on the 31st. I am so excited about this surgery. To be in less pain, to look and feel more normal, and to have finality of my surgeries. I am so thankful.

Please continue to pray for me as I battle fear each day. Thank God for my healing and pray that His angels shield me from the devil's schemes. Each day is a struggle, but each day is a victory. I am reminded that each day is a blessing and God goes before me and goes behind me...He's got this... I just have to trust...each day, every moment, every second...

I will update as we get closer to surgery time:):):) Here is a pic of me and my sweet friend Irena at lunch on Sunday.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Ringing out my hair and ringing in the new year!

Yes, it's true, I can now officially ring out my hair:) What an awesome feeling! Last year at this time, I had no hair, and now I have enough to ring, when God created time, he knew what he was doing. I am a believer in that time can definitely heal...well it can also grow your hair!!! Thank you Lord!

Eccl. 3:1 "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven."

We had a wonderful Christmas and New Years. I have continued to feel so much more like myself since getting my good scan results. The timing of my results, paired with the joy of the holidays is truly amazing. Definitely the best Christmas and New Year's to date. It is as if all of my senses are heightened to the awareness of God's goodness in the ordinary, little things. As we woke up on Christmas morning, Josh and I talked about this Christmas being the best yet. Of course, for obvious reasons, but we are just more aware of the meaning of life and how brief it truly is. I loved being with our families on Christmas...we are so blessed.

It is officially less than a month until my implant exchange surgery! I am getting really excited about it and am really not nervous at all. I will not miss these tissue expanders one bit...there is no better way to explain it other than having rocks under your chest muscle. Sounds fun, right? I'm obviously very thankful for the expanders, but I've had them in for over 8 months and am ready to say goodbye! I will go to Houston on the 31st for my pre-op appointment, then my implant surgery will be February 1st!

A lot will happen between now and my implant surgery. I will start back to school, which is my last semester of PhD coursework! ahhh!!! So thankful! I will also start back to work and will have a niece at the end of January. Josh and I are so excited about this sweet little baby girl and how soon she will be here. Then, a month later, at the end of February, my sister and her husband will be welcoming their baby boy. Another baby to love...So many of our best friends are pregnant or have just had babies! We want to be parents so badly and are trusting in God's perfect timing. Please continue to pray for my fertility as we desire to have our children grow up with their cousins and our friends' children. We are continuing to believe and trust that we will have children of our own. Dr. Litton told us that she is a rare doctor at MD Anderson to encourage children after breast cancer. I am so thankful she is our doctor. I've known ever since I was little girl that I was meant to be a mother...trusting it will come to pass. I am striving to have the faith of Sarah! He who has promised is faithful!!

Hebrews 11:11 "By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised."

We should be able to ask a bunch of fertility questions at my oncology check up next week (Monday). I can't believe it is time for another oncology check up. It will be the first time we have seen Dr. Litton in several months, so it will be great to see her and ask a lot of questions. I also will have a breast ultrasound on Monday to re-check those lymph nodes that alarmed Dr. Strom 3 months ago. We are praying and believing that the lymph nodes will look completely normal- please join us in praying this. Once this ultrasound comes back good, I will let out one big breath in knowing that all tests are normal. My ultrasound is Monday morning and my radiation doctor will go over the results with me on Tuesday.

This will be my first trip to Houston in over a month! I am looking forward to spending time with the Stanfills, hopefully seeing some of our other Houston friends, going to Whole foods, some of our fave stores and restaurants.... It is nice to be looking forward to a Houston trip. A new year, a new life, a new hope for Josh and I and our future family!

Please pray for great ultrasound results on Monday..that the lymph nodes look completely normal. Enjoy some pictures from New Years below. I love you all!

 Celebrating with some sparklers and fireworks!

Happy New Year!