Thursday, June 27, 2013

Surgery in AM/ Invisibility & Specificity

Tomorrow Aly will undergo another surgery but this one is to go back and address a few of the issues created through other surgeries. We met today with Dr.Villa and went over what all will happen tomorrow.

We have decided to only do a few of the proposed options and here they are;

Dr Villa is going to address one spot on each side of Aly's ribs where the drains were inserted. These spots will be taken out and made into smaller, less noticeable spots.

The other item will be addressing the non radiated side and attempt to even up both of Aly's breasts. In essence a lift on her right side.

I continue to be taught by my wife. Last week when we were here we went to our final Dr. visit and after the visit we get to our car and are headed to Whole Foods when Aly tells me she forgot her phone. We both immediately knew where it was and had seen the phone on the exam table. We went back to the hospital which took us about 30 minutes. When we got back to the hospital the phone was gone.

The lady that cleaned the room said she didn't see it. We filed a report and to this point the phone is gone. Last week the idea of leaving the hospital without searching, physical searching every lady on that floor was unbelievable to me. All the pictures and video that we can't recover. No, we didn't have icloud on Aly's phone. My fault.

I looked at Aly after about an hour of talking to the people and said how far do you want me to go to get this phone? She says well we've done everything we can. I'm thinking oh no, there are about 10 things we can do and none of them were legal or kind. Oh well. So we left and Aly has just gone on with life.

Even having gone through what we have I still can lose perspective and in this case Aly brings back the reality of losing a phone for us is so insignificant in the big picture. It is painful but obviously for us just a drop in the pan.

So as we get ready for another surgery I again am in awe at my wife's ability to stay grounded and know what matters.

A few thoughts on the new tab about Cancer Care taking, which you can see here.

One of the points of the list is to serve the affected family by doing specific things for the family. Don't ask can you do anything but think about your day and as you go about your day know that each of those things are going on in that persons life. That is a great starting point for you to serve.

For example, if a guy I know is affected all I have to do is look at my day to see 10 or more great ways I can serve him.

Take trash out.
Water/ fertilize/ mow yard.
Get oil changed in cars.
Update expiration stickers.
Organize garage.
Car detailed.
Prepping hunting lease, corn, lane clearing, stand maintenance.
Honey do list- ex. Frame chalkboard, install ironing board, stain coffee table.
Stain fence
Check sprinkler system.

These are things I could do for someone because chances are every guy has a couple things on this list he needs done. These are all things I either still need to do or have had done for me by people. I wouldn't think to tell them unless they specifically say can I do ______for you?

Being Invisible?

Learn to be invisible when you're around people in crisis.

Challenge yourself to be servant first, friend/ advisor second. Can you be in a conversation and not participate?  Remember though this feels like a break from normal life, for the people you are with you are in their new everyday life.

A couple like Aly and I have people in our everyday life situations where we use to have only Aly and I. Imagine all the things that you struggle with your spouse about in daily life and add someone else to the mix. Needless to say that doesn't calm situations but only exaggerates whatever friction is normal.

There is a reason a marriage is between two people instead of 3. Be careful to be a fall back support instead of the main beam. In the infamous trust fall the people catching the person who falls don't assist in the fall. They are there when or if they are needed, they don't assist in the fall.

If you are in crisis of some kind and are struggling with someone know that they are there because they love you. Kindness is required on your part no matter the boundaries that are violated.

Once again, we are so thankful for your support and we believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is continuing to heal Aly.

Go check out the cancer care taking page here.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

"You are well"

"You are well." These are the words that Dr. Strom (my radiation oncologist) kept repeating to me at my appointment on Wednesday. I am well. I am well, in Jesus' name. God showed out big these last few days, as they were two of my best visits yet. I prayed very specifically for these appointments and God answered my prayers, even to the details. I am so thankful.

I prayed for my blood to be taken easily and it was. They got several nurses to come back to try to find a vein, but one did and she got it on the first try. I literally cannot remember another time that has happened. She stacked my purse with hand warmers to use before my surgery this week. Hopefully that will help them find a vein. The last couple of my surgeries, they have waited until I was put under to put an IV in because they have so much trouble.

Next, I had my X-ray. I got taken back very quickly and the lady was super nice. We then had a break in our schedule and were able to visit with some friends who had a family member undergoing a mastectomy. Josh also got to see one of our close friend's dad who is at MDA. Then, we headed straight to Dr Strom's office and got called back so quickly! Seriously, God was good to us, even in wait times on this trip! A man came in before Dr. Strom and he reviewed my bloodwork and X-ray, which both looked perfect:) Thank you Father!!! He was very nice...we just laugh at this point, because I am a very modest person, yet so many men at that hospital have seen me half naked! Just random doctors that sit in on the doctor's visit... I just tell myself: "I am helping them"... "I am helping them"... "I am helping them." Makes it a little less awkward:)

Then Dr. Strom came in and he is just so kind. He discussed the "scarring" that is left from radiation. What I would call really tough skin and where the skin is "stuck" to the muscle, he calls "scarring." He hates that so much scarring is left, but he is hopeful it will release some as time goes on. We discussed my upcoming surgery and he somewhat discouraged a few things that we discussed doing in our surgery next Friday. He discouraged fat grafting to the concave area of radiation scarring, as well as the pec skin release where my pec muscle is so tight. Sooo, it was good information, but we are now questioning and praying about what all we will do in surgery. We know we are having a lift on the right side, drain scars flattened, and some excess skin removed from my lat flap surgery. The fat grafting and pec release are now up for debate. Please pray that we will make the right decision on what to do. Other than that, we just visited and he was just so please that I was "well." Thank you Jesus! So, we are praying for wisdom for this surgery, so I will be kept safe.

Proverbs 28:26 "He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe."

Here is a picture of Dr. Strom and me after my appointment Wednesday

After my visit with Strom, I headed to my ultrasound. I prayed that I would have a tech that I knew and would talk to me. Flavia was my ultrasound tech and she had been mine 2 times before. She is from Argentina and she is extremely sweet. She talked to me the whole time and then left to have the doctor read the ultrasound. She came back in my room to tell me that everything looked good, but she was just getting the official report. I appreciated that so much! What an answer to prayer. I just thanked God after she left. Most of the time you just have to wait and wait and wait, but she came to tell me everything looked good. I have had so many special moments with God in that ultrasound room...where it was just us. Thanking him, crying in devastation, doubting Him, praising Him...and he has proved faithful through it all. Thankful He is faithful even when we are not!

2 Timothy 2:13 "If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is."

Flavia said that when I come next year for my ultrasound, we can do a baby ultrasound at the same time:) She just had a baby and we were discussing how she was able to use the equipment to check up on her baby. I love those who speak life and positive words over me!

Proverbs 18:21 "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits."

We met another couple (breast cancer survivor) who is about a year behind me. She looks amazing and we had such a great time with Brandie and Mark. They actually saw us in MDA one day and knew us from our blog and introduced themselves last year. Really a God thing. She is about a year behind me and it was great to see them. No one can ever really understand what you go through when you are diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, but if anyone else can understand, it is another who has gone through it. Our experiences were different, but we can relate on so many things.

Wednesday night, we went to an Astros game! We had a blast. We have been talking about going to a game for so long, so it was great to have a fun night with my man. Here are some pictures from the game.
We almost caught a ball:)

So, on Thursday morning, I had my appointment with my surgical oncologist, Dr. Babiera (who performed my mastectomy surgery). I hadn't seen her in over a year! She basically just looked at me and felt for anything worrisome, and everything looked and felt great. Praise God! She was a little disappointed in the way my scars looked, but was hopeful that they would be less prominent as time goes on. The rest of our visit, we just visited. She loved on me and kept hugging me. It is crazy to see the transformation in doctors as I continue to be well. I assume they have to somewhat protect themselves from getting too close or emotionally connected with patients, but as I have continued to be well, they have been more open to me. It is so good to have that on so many levels!!!! It was so great to see her and she definitely lifted my spirits. I won't see her or Dr. Strom for a year. Wow, God!

A picture of Dr. Babiera and me

So, now we are just waiting until we head to Houston for my surgery this week. We will head down on Wednesday, have my pre-op appointments on Thursday and then surgery on Friday. We won't know the time of my surgery until Thursday night. Josh will update the blog and keep you all updated. It is crazy that I have been nervous about this surgery, considering the other ones I've been through. Please pray for a successful surgery, wisdom for doctors, and that what is supposed to be done in surgery will be done!

**Also**, check out the "cancer caretaking" tab at the top of our blog. Through our own cancer healing experience, we have collected so many things that have been helpful and not so helpful to us during our struggles. We all know someone going through cancer, an illness, or a crisis and our hope is that our suggestions can help you help others. It has just a few things that we have learned through our journey. I love you guys!!!

I am well,


Monday, June 17, 2013

A world with more birthdays...


I remember when I was newly diagnosed and I got something in the mail from relay for life. At the time, their slogan was "Creating a world with more birthdays." I got a towel that even had that phrase on it. I remember sitting on Josh's old bed (we lived with his parents while our house was being built), and it hitting me for the first time- how many more birthdays would I have? This was scary to contemplate and very thought provoking for me. I of course was believing that I would have many, many more, but it was in that moment and time since then that I have contemplated what birthdays truly are. They are not merely a celebration or a party, but they are a marker. A milestone. Another year to live on this earth. To have your life threatened and by doctor's terms possibly not having many more birthdays...pretty overwhelming. So, needless to say, birthdays now have an entirely different meaning to me. Indeed a day where I am reminded of God's me another year to live on this earth. There will be tons of birthdays in my future. How I celebrate my birthday, my husband's birthday, my future children's birthdays will be much different. And, for that I am thankful. Happy birthday to me! Thank you Father God!

Psalm 91:16 "With long life I will satisfy him and so him my salvation."

Yes, I am 26, as of June 9th! I had the best birthday yet, as my husband spoiled me. We also celebrated with friends and family. Last year at this time, we were living in Houston as I was receiving radiation for 6 weeks. My skin was starting to really itch and burn, and my nails and toenails were starting to grow back. I had marker written all over my chest and my hair had really started growing back. We LOVED our time in Houston. We loved spending quality time with our second family and we had so much time together. Outside of the radiation, it was a wonderful 6 weeks. I truly cannot believe it has been a year since then. I look differently; I feel differently; I am different. I pray I continue to grow and change. Closer to Christ as each year of my life passes.

Here is a picture of my nails during treatment and now. I remember them hurting so badly. It is truly the little things...

It's funny because girls my age are already discussing the dislike of getting older. Of course, it's not fun thinking about wrinkles, gray hair, and the inevitability of signs of aging, but my perspective has completely changed after all I've been through. Signs of old age are simply that- signs of old age! I want those signs...proof that I have lived many years!!! I know I may sound radical, but with every wrinkle or sign of old age, I am determined to thank God for allowing me to see those signs. Don't get me wrong, I am human and I will take care of myself, but I am not scared or fret being older. I honestly cannot wait to get there. I wish I was posting that I was 36- that would mean I was almost 12 years from my diagnosis....but I know God wants to walk with me through the "scary" times. I keep reminding myself, this is giving me character, perseverance, HOPE!

 "Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hopedoes not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."
Romans 5:3-5

So, I am less than 2 weeks away from my reconstructive surgery. I will also head to Houston on Tuesday, as I have my check up appointments on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. Please, please, please pray that all of my tests and bloodwork come back perfectly. I will have an X-ray and an ultrasound done, and of course get anxious about these. Please lift me up. I will be meeting with my radiation doctor (Dr. Strom) to look at my skin and X-ray on Wednesday, and then will meet with my surgical oncologist (Dr. Babiera) on Thursday to go over my ultrasound and for her to look how everything is healing. I haven't seen Dr. Babiera in a year. She was the doctor who performed my mastectomy, so she will be reviewing the ultrasound to make sure everything still looks good. I pray and believe it will be in Jesus' name. Needless to say, I will have much relief after my appointments on Thursday once I know that everything is clear once again!

We have been enjoying our summer and I have been working on my dissertation. I am making progress and it looks like I will be able to propose my dissertation very soon. I am so thankful and excited to get a huge first step of the dissertation process done with! The earliest I can graduate is next May and I am determined to do just that. This depends on me finishing my dissertation requirements by then, so that is why I am working so hard. The end is in sight:)

Thank you all for continuing to pray for my back/hips. It is much better and I am so thankful. Dr. Steffins at Healthsource Chiropractic, Glenn Guilbeau and Monroe Physical Therapy, and Troy Shows at Shows Therapy has helped me immensely. It is so easy when you are in pain to get stuck in a dark tunnel, where it seems like things will never get better. Because of these men and their giftedness, God has shown me relief. Thank you Lord! I still have my bad days, but to have relief has been a huge answered prayer. Thank you for being faithful in praying for me. Please continue to pray for my pain. Thankful to share my burdens...

Galatians 6:2 "Share each other's burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ."

I will make sure and update before my surgery next Friday and once I get my good test results this week. Thank you for continuing to be involved in my life and remembering me when things seem "calm." I have days where I feel normal, and then days where I feel like it is hard to breathe. Days that I remember what I've been through. Days I'm in pain. Days where I get so scared I can't move. I relate with David, a man after God's own heart. Here is what David normally did when he was desperate for God, and these are steps that I try to follow:

1.) Pray 2.) Cry aloud 3.) Pour out complaint 4.) Rehearse trust in God 5.) Long for God's presence 6.) Confess desperate need for Him.

Like David, I strive to pour out my heart to God, but through it all, I continue to confirm my trust in Him and depend on Him for every breath I take.

Thankful to be growing older,