Another day. Another doctor.

One of the many gifts of cancer is that my life is a little “off schedule” (to say the least) and I am learning to live much more day by day. I am less prone to try to plan out my days under the illusion of control. At the same time, sometimes that means that it’s late at night before I realize the next morning I have an early appointment for labs along with Lincoln because he is out of school. I curled him up in my lap this morning and asked if he would go to the doctor with me and he at first said “no” (and therein lies a problem since it was really a rhetorical question) but thankfully he quickly said “yes I will … Can I take a sugar snack with us?” Ain’t nothin’ like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fruit snacks to motivate a kid to go to the doctor with you. Whatever it takes…

He entertained himself while we were waiting by being on all fours with his cars between patients. Slightly awkward but it was a long wait for three-year-old. Thankfully, a room full of cancer patients are pretty humbled and pretty gracious. 

He then sat in the chair with me to get bloodwork done from sweet Ms. Betty who, as of the last couple of months, always does my labs since my veins have been a little beat up and less cooperative. Here we are…  

Those of you that know him well know that he is a child of 1 million questions so poor Miss Betty had to answer questions about what the vials were for? why is there water in the bottom? where do you get her blood? and how does that work? After she taped me up, she taped him up too. He was feeling pretty big boy. The awkward smile in the picture is only because he is in the awkward photo stage. He wasn’t scared at all. And I actually think it worked well to include him in my world.

Thankfully, as I loaded him up to go to the doctor, his Aunt Kiki offered to take him with her to play today so after I gave blood we headed down the elevator to meet her. He jumped on a full elevator with patients and doctors and held out his taped arm and exclaimed “The doctor gave me tape… But I’m not sick… My Mama is sick though…” The whole elevator listened intently since no one else was talking and I heard this older African-American lady lean over to her friend and say “I think my heart might burst.” When we got off the elevator, I heard them talking to each other and saying “what did he say?” And heard the others recounting his little story. A pretty sweet little moment. And a tad sad too.

So he went off to play with Levi and Lily Ruth…

 
… And I went back upstairs to wait for lab results to see if I needed a shot before chemo or not. While I waited, I got a message that my grandmother had fallen this morning and was taken to the ER. Ain’t nobody got time for that! And of course I felt terrible that the message had been from a couple hours earlier but I had just seen it. The good news is that she didn’t break her hip and they sent her home with a couple stitches in her arm and some pain medication. And she was her chipper self when I talked to her. Her only complaint was that housekeeping hadn’t come to clean the blood off her floor and the nursing staff needed to return her buzzer. These are the woes of a 96-year-old. We are thankful she is okay.

As I was leaving her a message, Christina appeared in the lobby with my lab results and said I didn’t need a shot. I was really pleased because it is not a fun shot in the belly. My lab work was very stable – the red blood cells and neutrophils and platelets were all right at the border of approved limits for chemo. I can tell that I am still pretty anemic based on my energy level but hopefully a new iron regimen (or maybe a good steak dinner?!) will start to it help the red blood cells. And I think the new schedule of every other week for chemo may give my body a better chance of recovering between each dose of chemo. It was a nice reprieve to have an entire week last week without doctors appointments. And except for a pretty rough steroid crash on Monday, I felt pretty good.

The only other thing I have to report is that our house will go down later early next week. And we let a few of Lincoln’s friends help the demo guys by giving them a head start. It was pretty darn cute. Not too often that you tell kids to bring their hammers and sledgehammers and knock down your porch and your kitchen.

  
     

Pretty cute huh?!

And, hopefully, after chemo on Wednesday I won’t feel like Dr. Osborne took a hammer to me as well. Thanks for praying toward that end. 

Much love to all.

Good numbers!

Yesterday was a great day at the doctor. The numbers that needed to be up were way up and the numbers that needed to be down were way down. In 2 days, my platelets had doubled from 60,000 122,000 and I was a ‘go’ for chemo. And in even better news, the liver numbers, under two different blood tests, continue to drop. I am guessing she had not wanted to alarm me previously so though I knew Dr. Osborne was worried she had not been specific about how high the numbers were relative to the normal range. But in celebrating yesterday she mentioned that one number that was as high as 299 and  is now in double digits. And the other liver function number that peaked at 143 has decreased and is half of that and is now in the normal range. All of this seems to indicate that the tumor is not growing in a way that is impending my quality of life or my quantity of life. This is huge! Thanks Lord!

And how better to celebrate this good news then with a friend giving us free tickets to the Arboretum concert and a little 80s music with a Bon Jovi cover band? Scott and I went with some friends last year for his birthday to see a Journey cover band we loved and thought it would be fun to go back and take Lincoln.  Scott was meeting us there after some time with his guys so Gigi and I loaded the car and Lincoln and the wagon and headed to the Arboretum. By the time we got there and unloaded it looked like this…   

…So much for thinking the little guy would enjoy the concert. He slept for an over an hour like this and then woke up only to transition to this position – my personal favorite. 

Scott surrendered the concert around 9 to take Lincoln home after Linc peed on me while in my arms and he woke up. Nice. Gigi and I decided we were having so much fun and so proud of ourselves for being out past dark that we wanted to stay till the end of the concert. And why should a little urine keep us from more fun together? Gigi, who is not typically very opinionated,  requested we stay until they sang ‘Every Rose Has Its Thorn.’ The weather was perfect and we were overlooking the lake and enjoying hanging out so happy to stay until they played her song. However as the concert wrapped up and they announced their last song as “Bad Medicine” (after being pumped w poison earlier in the day I found this a bit comical), Gigi looked at me confused and then died laughing. We spent the night waiting for the one Bon Jovi song she knew. But it’s a song sung by Poison. We are really hip like that.

But it was great to be with my peeps and be outside and enjoy the extra energy boost of an IV bag of steroids and just feel really really normal. More often than not, I feel totally like the same ol’ Jen and definitely don’t have a top of mind constant awareness of the cancer. There are other moments in which it’s still hard to believe this is our reality – in the infusion room taking chemo or seeing other patients struggle or driving back down to Baylor for the second or third time in a week or big wad of hair in my brush and in the shower and in my hands. But as I send this update I watch our little boy play with magna tiles (thanks Kim!) singing a made up song in a friends amazing backhouse without any nausea or sickness and I find myself overwhelmed with our Lord’s grace and every provision.

One more little thing… Maybe on another post I will explain what some may think is crazy – tearing down your house and building a new one when you have stage four cancer and her days are numbered. The short answer is that this mama bear wants to prepare for her menfolk in every way and also find great joy and partnering with Scott and his greatest area of passion besides flyfishing – designing and building. It also seems really sweet for me to imagine my Heavenly Father preparing a place for me (John 14) while we prepare a place for our family until we are reunited in the Home God prepares.

SO … On May 26 our house will come down.  This is sad and sweet. In the meantime we want to salvage and repurpose and use as much as we can. So this weekend we are taking the shiplap off our walls to reuse in the new house and also opening our doors to sell anything anybody might want from 8 to 12 on Saturday. So come one come all to 6022 Goodwin from 8 to 12 on Saturday (rain or shine!) if you need a water heater or a potty or windows or doors or landscape rocks or sinks or cabinets or dishwasher or light fixtures or anything else our old house still has. Or just to say hi and enjoy a little salvage/demo/garage sale chaos which Gigi has taught me is  a little bit of fun :-)

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (‭John‬ ‭14‬:‭1-6‬ NASB)

CBC

…if you have no idea what that stands for this post may really bore you. For those of you who are my dorky smart medical friends and were excited to see “CBC” I wanted to share my “complete blood count”. I thought a few of you would be easily entertained  with today’s medical report from Baylor. 

I was scheduled at 7:30 for bloodwork (but I can’t get anywhere that early so 7:45 was more like it…) so I could get a shot if needed. The shot has to be more than 24 hours before chemo so there is both a blood numbers and a clock game to play.

Got blood taken and Nurse Christina said ‘white bloods cells are beautiful’ (this includes the ever inportant neutrophils that are helped by the shot I had on Monday). Platelets are on the rise (from 25k to 60k but need to be 100k for chemo – though she said Dr. O would probably approve chemo tomorrow if up to 85k) and red blood cells dropped a bit more to 8.3 (lower normal is 12 and mine have slowly tapered down) so she wants me to take iron. If the hemoglobin (red blood cells) drop to/below 8.0, I will get blood transfusion. We will check again tomorrow and see if it’s 👍 or 👎 for scheduled chemo on Thursday. All in all this is good news and I am hopeful for chemo tomorrow…

And isn’t it so cool and crazy that there’s so much involved and so much ‘life’ in the blood?! Reminds me of my Savior – and the ultimate transfusion. He gave His perfect blood because of my bad blood. And with or without labs drawn, I can assuredly attest to lots of bad blood (selfishness, critical spirit, anger, materialism, impatience…) running through these veins. BUT

 ‘In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace’ (Ephesians 1:7). 

And now that I think about it that gives entirely new meaning to “complete blood count”…

‘For in Him [Jesus] lives all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And you are complete in Him, who is the head of all authority and power’ (Colossians 1:9-10).

Lord Jesus thank you that in your blood I have redemption and fullness of life – with or without cancer. I love you. I trust you. And I thank you!

“Thanks Lord…”

… were the first words out of Scott’s mouth when I called him with the results from the scan. Dr. Osborne is encouraged – as are we. In her words, “Everything looks stable.” In the world of stage 4 metastatic cancer, this is considered good news! Their goal is to stabilize and slow the progression of the disease. Barring a miracle (and I believe God is able if He wills…), the goal of her treatment is to stabilize the disease to prolong my life. So we are very thankful. I know the Lord has my days numbered and He has had them numbered since before I was born. I trust him with many more days or a few more. For Lincoln and Scott and my family and friends’ sake, we are especially thankful, today, for indications of more instead of less.

Praise be to God. He is in control. And He loves me.

The Week Ahead.

As I’ve mentioned, the chemo regimen for these drugs is two weeks on and one week off. Last week was my off week which made for a nice reprieve. However, I didn’t feel so good for most of the week. I don’t know if it’s lingering bronchitis or just my body’s inability to fight the little things off but I had a nagging cough, sore throat, and laryngitis. And for this girl the inability to talk is quite the beating. Not to mention it makes parenting rather difficult. As my friend Molly said, “does he sniff your weakness?” I believe the answer is yes he did! And on Friday I took him to meet Andrew and Mandy to play at Chick-fil-A and threw up all the way to the bathroom. That’s a fun play date. And my apologies to the patrons who may or may not have seen the lady throwing up and her napkin or in the trashcan on the way to the bathroom. Gross.

I actually felt bad enough that I reached out to my nurse to see if I could get some more medicine and she wanted me to come in for them to look me over. Thankfully I haven’t had fevers which is their biggest concern but once they did my blood work they had a quick explanation for my fatigue and lethargy. My blood work numbers were as low as they’ve ever been. They put me on a third antibiotic and so far I think it may be working. My voice is on the mend and I no longer sound like a two pack a day smoker.

This morning, I’m headed back to Baylor for a scan and more bloodwork. I have a love/hate relationship with the scans. Of course we want the information but are sometimes a little scared of it too. My liver numbers seem to be a little bit better. At one point they peaked at about 4 to 5 times the upper limit of normal but they have come back down to about three times the upper limit of normal. This and the decrease in swelling in my boob give us hope that the chemo is slowing the progression of the cancer. But we shall know more once the scan results are in – either later today or tomorrow. Tomorrow I will be back for labs to see how my blood levels are and if I need a shot to get my numbers up for chemo on Thursday. Then back on Thursday for chemo.

In between my cruddy week and this week o’ doctors, we did manage some fun with friends. We took Lincoln on his first trip to A&M for a baseball game that was super exciting albeit hot for a three-year-old. But I am unashamed to let the college brainwashing again. His daddy is rather proud of his Red Raiders so I feel the need to get some maroon in his system as soon as I can. We were with my college roommates and Jamie and her family. Friends make everything better! And that includes all of you who read this and care about us and pray for us and take care of Lincoln and bring us meals and pray! We are so thankful.   

   Gotta go. Time to give blood and then drink the nasty for the scan.

👍💗

We’re a go! The numbers that need to be 1000 and were 1100 on Tuesday are up to 8000! They will likely dip again because of one of these chemo drugs. But the chemo schedule for these drugs is 2 weeks on and 1 week off so we get a reprieve next week. 

Also, I was dictating the blog entry into my phone this morning while Linc was eating breakfast in the ‘front house’ of the ‘backhouse.’ The Fronterhouses and the Backerhouses:) According to Lincoln they have ‘very great food.’ And I don’t disagree! Scott wanted to know if his love of their cooking shamed my cooking skills. I laughed but told him ‘no’ because indeed the cooking is far superior to mine. Anyways, back to breakfast blog updates…

As I was dictating I didn’t intend to say that the ‘cancer manifest in parents.’ My dead dad doesn’t have cancer and neither does my mom or second mom! However, since the cancer has manifested ‘in appearance’ (skin) which is easier to monitor than tumors in the liver. 

Thanks for cheering for neutrophils and praying and loving us!

Little Update

thanks for all the prayers for chemo last week. I am really thankful. And we are seeing some early signs that it may be working. The good news about having the cancer manifest in the parents is that as the apparent changes we are hopeful that means it is working. And we are definitely seeing some subtle changes. Unfortunately, last week, some of my liver numbers were up and we could tell by Dr. Osborne’s thoughtfulness that she was concerned. Twice last week she made references to changing my chemo regimen – indicating that she wasn’t sure the current plan was working. My liver function numbers were up last week and that was clearly concerning to her. Once the liver function numbers are greater than two times the normal range they begin to be concerned. We tipped that level last week. However, they were back down 100 points this week! This is very encouraging. I went in on Tuesday to check my blood levels in preparation for chemo today. The neutrophils had held just barely above the minimum threshold (of 1000) so they brought me back the next day for a shot. They wanted a shot in advance of today to make sure the numbers held. We should know this afternoon if it worked? I actually feel hopeful that it did. Earlier this week, I felt pretty  cruddy. Not sure if it was just a “chemo hangover” which often for me is 2 to 3 days after chemo, or the fatigue from anemia or leftover cough that won’t go away. I got lots of help from friends and thankfully felt much better as the week went along. By gods grace, Lincoln has no idea that all these play dates are sometimes because Mama doesn’t feel so good. But he gives a really great hugs when he comes home and finds Mama on the couch. He and I are getting out this morning to go for a walk and enjoy this gorgeous day, good friends, and then I will head to chemo. I am thankful for your continued prayers for our family, for the treatment to sustain me for extra months or years, and for us to continue to see the faithfulness of our God. He is good. All the time. He can be trusted. He doesn’t make me mistakes. 

Chemo is a GO today!

This is Jamie reporting from hospital, and I’m happy to share that chemo is a GO for today!  Jen’s white blood cell count is much improved (even higher than normal range), and Dr Osborne approved her chemo.  Thank you all so much for your continued prayers and encouragement throughout this crazy process.  We are definitely getting a crash course in flexibility this week!  (For example we are still waiting on chemo meds to arrive and it’s currently 3:50pm.  Thought for sure we’d be home by 4!  In the words of Martina McBride, wrong again.)

Speaking of Dr Osborne,  she was so sweet to pop by today and see how Jen was doing.  Jane and I were feeling so proud as caretakers because Jen was sound asleep in her chair,  however Dr O quickly awakened her and ushered us all outside to Baylor’s courtyard to enjoy the beautiful weather and water features while we waited for Jen’s bloodwork to come back from the lab.  (I’m still left wondering how sleeping is bad, and THRILLED she didn’t come 5 minutes later because I was about to curl up in the next chair over.  If sleeping is bad, please nobody tell me.)
We asked Dr O about the nasty cough Jen was having and thankfully she ordered a Z Pack right there on the spot.  Hopefully this cough is just residual from the bronchitis she had earlier and nothing new.  Maybe she can sleep it off.  Oh wait.  

Lastly, since I’m high jacking this post, I want to express how grateful I am to all of you who are loving my friend so well.  I’ve been completely overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of everyone.  I truly have never seen such an outpouring of love, and even though Jen is totally worthy of ALL of it, it still amazes me and is such a beautiful picture of God’s love toward us.  

Some precious friends shared scriptures this morning before our hospital visit and I wanted to share one that touched my heart.  

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3

As we all can attest, Jen completely trusts in our Lord and Savior despite her circumstances.   And have you EVER witnessed someone with such perfect peace as she?

Much love,

Jamie (aka B)

No Go.

Needed 1000 neutrophils and was only 800 so getting another shot and will try again tomorrow. A little discouraged. Appreciate from Dr. Os comments on Wednesday that we need the drugs and this kicks us into a calendar scramble because these changes impact the future chemo schedule as well. Thanks for praying and trusting the Lord along with us.  Not my will but thine be done…

Out of the mouth of my babe…

3 posts in one day is a bit excessive but I can’t resist. I have had an email address for Lincoln for quite awhile but more recently I’ve been a little more diligent to write him to tell him stories and have asked friends to consider the same. I doubt his Mama will be here to tell him these funny stories so I am emailing for him to enjoy later and help him understand  his childhood years. After taking my Ambien I am breaking good sleep hygiene rules and doctor’s orders but I hadn’t checked email all day so wanted to do a quick look for anything urgent. And glad I did. This is an email that was sent to Lincoln with a cc: to me. Truly, too sweet not to share for others to enjoy. I am thanking the Lord that Lincoln is coming to know of the Lords love for him. And friends like Jenn, his Aunt JJ, who encourage the same. What a gift for this Mama!

+~+~+~

Hi sweet Lincoln- 

Today I got to go with you to meet Miss Emily – a super sweet lady who works with kids whose mamas and daddies are sick. 

You were super excited to play with her and quickly said “JJ, you can wait for me over there while I go play”

Then, on our way to get Travis from school, you said “God loves me so much”

I happily agreed, and you said “He loves me 100. And He loves you and EmmyKate and travis 100″

Then you said “I haven’t asked God to forgive all my sins yet. I’m going to ask Him in about 100 days or so”

Love you sweet boy!!
Your JJ