Rest for the Weary

I sit down to write and, again, wonder why it has taken me so long. Some days it’s because I feel like there’s nothing to say, other days it seems like there’s too much to say and it overwhelms me, and then other days I just forget. But, there’s not a single day that goes by that I’m not thankful for those of you that check here for updates, text to check in when I haven’t posted, or get the emails so you can participate and pray. Every time someone asks me about how I’m doing, my typical response is twofold: (1) our God’s got us and (2) our friends are amazing. And that “friends are amazing” bucket is much broader than the kindness of those who meet the physical needs of bringing meals, mowing our yard, doing our laundry, writing notes, coming to visit, or babysitting Lincadinc. It means more than you could know that people just care, read, and pray. So, again, we thank you. From the bottom of our PINK HEARTS. You provide a lot of rest for us when we are weary.

As for updates, I have a few items in a wide range of possibly-interesting to possibly-boring but here’s what’s on my mind this Saturday:

1. We had a much-needed reprieve from doctor’s appointments this past week. Didn’t have a single visit to Baylor or fill out a single form or undress and change into a hospital gown or weigh or give blood or say, “Jennifer Clouse, spelled with a C, checking in for my appointment with Dr. Of The Day.” And life almost seemed normal. Except for maybe the bald head, only having 3 eyelashes left (not an exaggeration – there are 2 on lower left side and one on lower right!), a staph infection that has finally lightened up on my lip but now moved down to my big toe, an unexpected throw up in the parking lot of Starbucks, and a “someone please come help me day” where Gigi, Scott, and my mom came to the rescue and I slept almost all day. I’m thankful for medicine and friends who provide rest for the weary when needed.

2. However, as great as it is for me to have the help with Linc, we can tell that the constant revolving door of friends and family has taken its toll on our little man. During the week before last, he had 6 different babysitters in 7 days. And as it happened, most of those were folks who hadn’t kept him before. So, no matter how great I know my friends are, it’s just a lot of change for the little guy. Last night, when Gigi came by our house, he started crying. She sweetly and immediately picked up on his fear and responded by saying, “it’s ok little man, you’re staying here and so are your parents …” And he knows her very well. But it’s not as life should be when you have a new person in your world and house almost every day for a week. We’d love your prayers for his stability and security. He needed a rest from doctor’s appointments too.

3. Instead of appointments, it was great to have more time with Linc and friends this week. Lots of pools and water were involved to try to survive the heat. [On the topic of heat, I’ll admit that I’m seeing more perks of being bald as the temperatures rise. I can take multiple showers a day without the hassle of hair. It’s pretty fabulous. And you get in and out of the pool and are completely dry in minutes. Also fabulous. Now back to fun with friends … ] In addition to our regular playmates, we got to see Juan and Angel, Gigi’s former foster boys, this week and their 3 brothers (they also have a baby sister). With so many kids it takes 2 cars so Gigi and I went to pick them up together and took them to Travis’ 4th birthday party on Monday. And they got to come back on Thursday for more pool and play time. We had a little baseball in the front yard and Scott gave a golf lesson in the backyard. I love and miss them so stinkin’ much I can’t stand it. I was thankful to have more flexibility this week to help Gigi with the boys instead of needing the help myself. Angel (second from the right in front of Gigi) is most keenly attune to what’s happening with me. Every time he seems me, he asks if I still have “that thing” (and touches my port) and then this time he was so intrigued with my hair and wanted to touch my head (and after he asked they all wanted to feel it so I’m sure we were quite a sight of 2 white girls with 5 hispanic boys rubbing my head in Walmart). Then, when he went to the bathroom at my house, he came out and announced to me and all of his brothers that “I saw Lulu’s hair in the bathroom. Wanna see?” Lots of cuteness.

4. We also finished swim lessons for Lincoln this week. I use the term “swim lessons” loosely since one of the major objectives was to blow bubbles in the water and Scott thinks he regressed during the 2 weeks. Scott also almost drowned him by dragging him under water unknowingly as he walked to the edge of the pool for his glasses. Note to Scott: the football carry doesn’t work well if there’s water up to your waistline. Linc didn’t seem to mind or even cry. But, besides all that, it was good for us to be together as a family and fun to join the Dawkins family at our neighborhood pool every afternoon for last 2 weeks of lessons. Walking home from lessons one day (the park is at the end of our street and about 5 houses down), I commented to Jenn that it wasn’t such a good look for a 40 year old to push the jogger and cruise home in just her swimsuit just because I didn’t want to put my coverup over my wet suit. And she reminded me that the swimsuit may be the least of my concerns because baby, bathing suit and bald head are really quite a sight. Why was I worried about the bathing suit when more folks are staring at my head?! Maybe not a bad strategy as a diversion from the rest of my partially clad body? We decided that maybe I should have worn really sporty suits to swim lessons and acted real intense about Linc’s development and maybe they’d think I’m a competitive swimmer her shaves her head instead of a cancer patient?!

5. Speaking of bodies, we’ve made a decision about surgery. It’s been a good, sanctifying process for me and I’m thankful for many of you who have prayed for us. As we met with doctors and were given the option of a lumpectomy or mastectomy but were told that I’m an excellent candidate for lumpectomy because my tumor is on the ‘outer right quadrant’ which is a great location for the possibility of minimal deformity and it appears to be shrinking from the chemotherapy. So, as we talked to other physicians, there were a couple of recurring questions/conversations that helped drive our decision. The first issue is related to fear. One doctor summarized it by saying “if you’re gonna lay awake every night worried about whether or not it’s come back, maybe it’s best to have a mastectomy.” Thankfully, that’s not us. And, secondly, do I have the BRCA gene that would increase my likelihood of recurrence? Nope. Thanks again, Lord. And, lastly, statistics about recurrence and survival. The lumpectomy (when radiated) has the same survival rates as a mastectomy. And, though I would have loved to avoided the radiation component because it’s every day of the week for 6 1/2 weeks (ugh!), the lymph node involvement won’t give me that choice. So, as another surgeon put it, “it’s a decision about how long you want all of this to continue, you might just be ready to be done and head to the beach.” Scott was nodding adamantly at that point. So, at the end of the day, for us, the only reason for the mastectomy (and much more extensive surgeries and recoveries over the next few months) would be the “boob job and tummy tuck perk.” And, I’ll admit, it was quite tempting. And, if I’d had any good medical or emotional reason for the mastectomy, I wouldn’t have had any qualms about the benefits of reconstruction. But, for me, at the end of the day, the mastectomy decision would be entirely vanity and body image driven. And, for a girl that has battled against both for most of my adult life, it just didn’t seem wise to go down that path. If the doctors are wrong about the size of the tumor and how much they need to remove or if there’s significant deformity due to radiation (which is known side effect for some women), we will re-evaluate. But we felt like it was a lot of surgery requiring lots of recovery and lots of support from others and lots of time away from Linc … primarily for vanity reasons instead of a known medical need at this point. Though I have admittedly liked the upside potential, the Lord has graciously affirmed my decision in my heart. I feel like He’s reminded me of verses like “all things are permissible but not all things are beneficial” (1 Corinthians 10:23) and “charm is deceitful and beauty is vain …” (Proverbs 31:30). And, given my struggles with body image and years of slavery to food, exercise, and what I saw in the mirror, I’ve learned how easily enslaved I am by the pursuit of perfection and, instead, want to learn contentment with the body God gave me instead of using cancer as my excuse for plastic surgery. Scott agrees wholeheartedly and has been a great sounding board and truth-teller. He’s been a ‘less is more’ proponent from the beginning and hasn’t thought it wise to elect for more surgery than necessary at this time. He also felt like plastic surgery could be a slippery slope for me (in my thoughts even if not actively pursued) and thought we should be hopeful for good results with the lumpectomy rather than assuming worst and pursuing mastectomy prematurely. Then, as we wrapped up our conversation, I said, “I think we are making the right decision for my heart but I’m just a little sad about giving up the bons of perkier boobs and a flat tummy.” His response: “I get that. But isn’t that what bras and exercise are for?” Deep and compassionate thoughts from the husband of the breast cancer patient?! Like I said, he’s a truth teller. And I’m thankful. He’s been great to keep me grounded and my priorities and motivations in check. I’m glad our decision is made. More rest for the weary mind.

6. I’ve cried twice recently because of total strangers. Sometimes, people’s kindness to me is just overwhelming. And the tears aren’t because I’m sad but because of the tenderness in other folks and how God reveals His kindness through them. One was my checkout lady at Target and the other was a fellow bald man at Einstein’s. All the man said was, “you know, when I was a Marine, we always said ‘bald is beautiful’ … and I really think that’s true on you.” I was sweaty in running clothes so I don’t think it was really about the physical aspects of beauty but I’m continually reminded that folks are drawn to weakness and want to “encourage the fainthearted, support the weak and be patient with them all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). His words were gentle and kind and just felt like his way of giving me a big hug. As I’ve written before, baldness begets kindness – and it refreshes the weary. At the same time, the stranger that pulled up to my house and said “morning, sir” as I watered flowers today could have caused me to cry for other reasons! However, it made me laugh. Being mistaken for man was a first. Thankfully. And I don’t know what got into me but I just smiled and said, “ma’am, actually.”

So, that’s enough to wrap up some highs and lows from the last week or so. I’ll let you decide if it was more boring or interesting. As I said at the beginning, it had potential for both.

Thanks to y’all for “not growing weary in doing good.” Your kindness, prayers, love, and service to our family revives our souls, refreshes our hearts, and gives rest to the weary.

Chemo, control, clipboards, and clarity. Or not.

It’s been another week of chemo with a heavy dose of clipboards and new doctors as well.  I dread chemo far less than I dread the clipboards these days.  Chemo continues to go smoothly with minimal side effects and, along with our doctor, we continue to celebrate that.  And, the tumor is definitely shrinking.  As Dr. Osborne said last week, ‘it used to be a honker and now I can barely find it!’  Even I can’t easily find it now.  The lymph nodes are still more pronounced (and they were the smaller of the two in the beginning) but the pathological response to chemo for the breast tumor continues to be very encouraging.  As the surgeon said today, you don’t really know until you get inside if it’s just spreading out or evaporating but, either way, everybody is quite encouraged.

I continue to marvel at medicine and doctors and our access to both.  Remember the nagging lip sore and nose sore that bled daily?!  Well, I finally decided that they weren’t healing on their own no matter how many lip balms Alyson brought me or the dozens I already had so I finally got fed up and called a dear friend who is a dermatology PA with a message that went something like, “I have no idea if you can help me but I’m hoping so and here are all the nasty sores on my body … but if you’re not it and I have to go back and talk to oncologist you can ignore my call or text me back and say, ‘Not it.'”  But she was IT!   I got a same-day house call, a prescriptions called in, and noticeable improvements in both within days.  I heart Bethany!  AND, I am thankful for medicine, physicians, wisdom, specialties and incredible access to all of the above.  My mind flashes back to Africa where people I love have such limited access to even the most basic of medical resources.  I’m reminded of how blessed we are.  And praying for the same care for others in our world.

This reminds me that I failed to mention a couple of weeks ago that on top of all my bodily woes, Linc got hand/foot/mouth ‘disease’ – in quotes because don’t those of y’all that know what it is think that language seems a little strong for what it is?  That is unless you’re Ken Dawkins and my kid gives you such a bad case that he said he’ll never read the story of the 10 lepers the same and he was out of commission from work for 3 days – and shunned when he tried to go back.  But, despite all of that and with incredible grace towards us, the virus-givers, his response was gratitude for our access to medical care.  Despite how bad it was on his hands, mouth, throat, underarms, feet and legs (as well as his 2 children since his mom so kindly kept Lincoln for not only one but TWO appointments on a really busy week for us!), his overarching attitude was of gratitude for medical care in this age and in our country.  I second that, Ken Dawkins!  We have meds that kill my tumor, meds that keep me from toilet-hugging nausea, meds that make me go poo-poo since the meds that keep me from throwing up also make everything stay in my system, meds that make sores that wake me in the night with pain go away within days, and all kinds of vitamins and supplements to protect my bones and nerves and rest of my body as it’s blasted with cancer-killers.  Blessings, one upon another.  And, by the way, I’m sure there’s more coming on this later because the thoughts continue to swirl in my head but I still can’t buy into a lot of the ‘survivor/fierce competitor/hero/amazing’ language around breast cancer because, I assure you, I am NOT the hero.  The researchers, physicians, scientists that, under the mighty hand of God, have the ability to eradicate something that could kill me and prevent me from incredible discomfort in the process are the fierce competitors, heroes, and amazing.  I am completely passive in this process and completely thankful.

And that’s a good segue to something else that’s been ruminating around in my mind.  Why hasn’t cancer been as scary or angst-producing or stressful as everyone seems to expect – myself include?!  I’m not discounting all the incredible love, support, prayers and help for our physical needs but am talking about the incredible God-given freedom and rest in my mind and heart.  And the answer, as best I can tell, is simply based on control.  Or lack thereof.  In life, I wrestle with a desire for control – I like order and predictability in relationships, schedules, and pretty much everything.  I fret over much I can’t control like the injured bird I saw on a run this week, the plight of children I love in Africa, a homeless man named Preston I met this week, the Texas heat and effect on people and creation, my past choice and choices of those I love.  But, the truth is, so little of life is controllable.  I often think I have some control over Scott or Lincoln but y’all are all thinking the truth that I’m struggling to learn – that it’s futile.  But, because I’m under the allusion that I can control more than I can, I find much more frustration, angst, stress, and sadness as a result of Scott, relationships, schedules, unpredictability and other things than I do cancer.  And, let’s be honest, I should be far less stressed about the fact that Scott would prefer the whole weekend (every weekend!) to be one big ‘let’s just play it by ear’ than I am about cancer but, week after week, I surrender to cancer and can’t so easily surrender control of schedules, agendas, Scott or Linc.  In needlepoint done by my great aunt and given when I was in single-digits-age, I have the Serenity Prayer framed in our bedroom.  And, when I had my post-chemo insomnia last night and read it over the zillionth time, its simple truth and power struck me again:

God, help me accept the things I cannot change.  Grant me the courage to change the things I can.  And wisdom to know the difference.

The truth is that about 99% of life is things I cannot change.  Life would be so much easier if I’d just focus on the 1% instead of the 99%.  Thankfully, by God’s grace, I have been able to accept cancer as something I cannot change.  And surrender to the doctors and other experts as they direct our paths.  Lord, help me apply these sweet truth to the rest of life.  Indeed, there’s much freedom, rest, and far less angst in that road less traveled.

And that takes us to the clipboards.  The biggest decision we’ve had to make thus far is the surgery decision – lumpectomy vs mastectomy.  And, I’ve missed being able to abdicate that decision to the experts because this one is tricky.  The good news is there are lots of options and opinions.  The bad news is there are lots of options and opinions.

Scott and I swing back and forth (mostly together but sometimes not) from appointment to appointment.  Scott’s bias is definitely towards ‘less is more’ and ‘more natural results.’  I agree with ‘less is more’ but definitely have more interest in reconstruction than he does.  It’s interesting because we both want what ‘looks best’ but have different ideas of what that is.  He isn’t sure that the cosmetic gains of reconstruction are worth the cosmetic ‘losses’ of scarring (boob and belly) and nipple loss (who knew?! Not us!).  Neither of us like the reconstructed or tattooed nipple and that’s a pretty common outcome with mastectomy (though possible mine could be spared based on location if not cancerous). Thankfully, neither of us live with a nagging fear of recurrence – for some people, that drives the decision for mastectomy.  And, for the 3 clipboards of page after page after page of information I completed as a ‘new patient’ in the last week for 2 more plastic surgeons and the radiologist, each of them gave us different opinions on best cosmetic results – from lumpectomy to unilateral mastectomy to bilateral mastectomy.  Our ‘less is more’ philosophy has, to date, helped us eliminate the bilateral mastectomy.  But, what to do with the one is still up in the air.  And, we can’t schedule our surgery (still thinking early August) until we know if we need plastic surgeons present or not.  Reconstruction (done by plastic surgeons) is far more involved surgery than simply removing the lump or removing the breast tissue (done by surgical oncologist) so that’s another factor – more surgeries over the next 6 months.  So, we have some clarity.  But not a lot.  And did I mention I like control and schedules and predictability?! The other upside for me of mastectomy is the ‘donation’ of my belly to my boobs.  Scott’s less of a fan because of the big scar that, as Scott says, ‘will look like someone took a sword to your abdomen.’  But I am quite a fan of the idea of replacing the boob tissue with belly tissue.  And when one doctor didn’t think I had enough extra belly to reconstruct both boobs, I couldn’t believe it.  I should have hugged him for the compliment.  But, instead, I stood up with an open robe (Scott and doctor sitting), grabbed my belly with both hands and said, “c’mon, seriously, 40 years old and had a baby a year ago … don’t you see there’s plenty here for both?”  That’s a low.  But, like I’ve said, after wearing an open gown and being poked and prodded and asked ‘can you please remove all clothing from the neck up and leave the gown open in the front?’ about 50 times, modesty becomes a distant memory (and all past roommates would attest that I was lacking in that department prior to breast cancer).  Scott didn’t even comment on my double-fisted-belly-holding.  I think it was because he was trying to figure out when to broach the topic of being an organ donor and offering part of his belly for the other boob.

One last sweeter thought on the topic of whether to keep or cut the boobs …

On Sunday afternoon, I wasn’t deliberately praying through the decision but I was talking to the Lord and I felt like He gently reminded me that though it is a slim possibility medically, that He’s bigger than cancer and He is ‘able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or imagine’, and He could choose to give us another child.  And, with that thought came some extra motivation to consider keeping at least one boob for breast-feeding if He opened that door.  I don’t know if that’s His plan or not but it did my heart good to reflect on His ability if He so chooses.  And that’s another one out of my control that, at least for now, He’s given me the grace to accept.  And He’s given me great joy to be able to rest and recognize and, though some days easier than others, to remember that He is in control of ALL.

Thanks again for joining us in prayer, care, and concern.  And for laundry, meals, chicken noodle soup, house calls, babysitting for doctor’s appointments, babysitting for dates and community group, walking and running dates to keep me active, styling my wigs, and lots of love and encouragement.

We are not alone.  And we are so thankful.  We are not in control. And we are so thankful.

Gone Fishin’…

I be skippin’ chemo and done gone to da ocean!

Yesterday, I got some pictures from our friend Maribeth. She had invited friends from our South Dallas Bible study, Sarah Mae and her daughter Joyce, to her lakehouse in Tool to go fishing. I was so dang jealous when I saw the pics that I decided about 9 o’clock that Linc and I needed in on the action today. So we got up, picked up and packed up. And persuaded Gigi to join us (that was easy). By 9:30 we were headed to Cedar Creek to surprise G-Granny (short for Great-Granny) and Pinky. It seems to me that everybody with color has a nickname. I asked G-Granny why that is and she explained that ‘back in the ol’ days, black people done name their kids after whate’er they saw when they babies be born … Like a rabbit. Or, like me and my baby-daddy, we named her Pinky because she was so big and red when she be born. And we still call her Pinky. And, another one, she came out lookin’ all black like black pepper and we done call her pepper. Or Peppy fo short. And me, they call me ‘black gal.’ I stupidly said, ‘why’d they call you that?’ And she said, ‘because I be black. And that be all good cuz my daddy told me black be beautiful.’ Sho nuff. She be black alright. And she be beautiful to me.

This is my first chemo-free Wednesday since first of March (every other week on these new drugs) and I can’t think of any more awesome place to be. Granted, most places are better than a hospital. Though, truthfully, I’ve actually come to enjoy my easy, restful Wednesdays with Scott. Though nothin’ is quite as easy or restful or fun or entertaining as the lake – with a good breeze and great friends. They are my happy place.

And though they are my happy place, apparently, I’m not theirs. I was pretty excited about surprising them. They had called me on their way to the lake, all super excited, to tell me they were on their way and they were praying for me and love me. And boy do I love them. And G-Granny was fussin at me that she ‘ain’t seen Linc in too long and he be missin her’ so I thought she’d be excited for us to surprise her. But apparently I’m nowhere near as fun as fishing and catfish. When we arrived, they hollered and screamed from the dock – but never left the dock or their multiple poles. They were so proud to show off their catch. They pulled up a stringer with some of the tiniest catfish I’d ever seen. They told Maribeth, who thought they would throw the little ones back, ‘they ain’t small – that’s 2 sandwiches!’ When they arrived at the lake, they screamed, ‘this ain’t no pond, it’s an ocean!’ They are loving life. And I’m loving life watching them love life. They have been on the dock since 7am and only came in for lunch. They have 30 catfish. Actually, they just said, ‘let’s go with 35.’ True fisherwomen. But apparently ‘they done slacked up on bitin’ so things have gotten a little slow. Right now, I’m having to stay focused on cranking out this quick post with my eyes down while they manhandle this poor catfish to get a hook out. They just told Gigi they can tell that fishin ain’t her thing. I think it had something to do with the way she was avoiding eye contact with them and the fish during the wrangling of that hook. And as I type, G-Granny is running to her pole (carefully since she can’t swim) and yelling, ‘I got the river monster!’

So there’s my Wednesday report. Catfish are better than chemo! And, for the curious, that river monster she caught be about 6″ of catfish. Not a river monster. Im not even sure it’s 2 sandwiches.



It’s Rigged.

I don’t know how else to say it.  But, this whole gig is rigged.  God has it all worked out in some crazy-only-God-can-do-this way that I still feel like the beneficiary of incredible gifts of love, kindness, care, and concern and, somehow someway, people keep telling me that they think it blesses them more than it blesses me?!  Huh?!  It’s too big for my brain.  I was just emailing Alan, my ol’ coworker and friend whose wife made us dinner tonight (and who still blows me away with his love for Jesus because I’ve seen God radically change his life since we worked together several years ago!), and his kind words surprised me again. I feel like I’m nothin’ but a taker these days so when others tell me that they’re on the receiving end, I’m still surprised.  And thankful. I can’t help but go back to basic math or physics and think it’s not possible for others to give and give and give to us and then, when I try to thank them, tell me that they think they’re on the receiving end.  Only God can rig it so that I feel like I take and take and take (and that ‘taking’ requires a fair amount of laying pride aside) but others tell me they feel like they’re blessed by giving, participating and joining us on our journey.  I know God has said “it’s better to give than to receive” but, somehow, as I see that truth played out before and can’t imagine that the givers are blessed as much as the Clouse clan.  I marvel once more at God’s kindness to our family. 

The gifts and grace keep coming.  As I told Molly today when she forwarded me the list of who was bringing meals this week, I find myself as blessed by reading the names of who cares and wants to help as I do by the meal itself (don’t get me wrong – less time in the kitchen is fine by me too!).  But, honestly, I keep thinking the newness of this is gonna wear off and y’all are gonna grow tired too.  But, as I now type with tears in my eyes, babysitters keep coming on Friday nights, meals keep showing up on Tuesdays and Thursdays, errands are still getting done, people still read the blog, dear friends from near and far still come see us, there are still notes in our mailbox, and there are still sweet comments on the blog or text or email.  Thanks Jesus.  You are our Sustainer.  And you use your peeps.  Please bless them.

And speaking of you peeps … more props.  Scott and I have a new family that just moved in 2 houses down.  When I first went to meet them, I had hair.  And, then, not long after, I could see their look of dismay as their neighbor comes home from a jog and is totally bald.  But, again, cancer opens doors and paves paths and begets kindness.  So, this week, as I turned the corner of our block on an especially grueling and pathetic attempt at a run, I walked towards our neighbor’s house and it crossed my mind that I wondered if they had a church home.  Then, as I approached their house, she was outside and she stopped to ask how I’m doing (reason #678 that cancer is a blessing: more reasons to talk to our neighbors!).  I told her we continue to be thankful for minimal side effects and that our friends are amazing so we have lots of help and support.  She said, “I always see people coming and going from your house … where do y’all go to church?”  In short, she sees cancer and she sees care from y’all and she sees the body of Christ at work.  I pray that she’ll see JESUS in His fullness as y’all walk among us and are HIS hands and feet ministering to our needs.  Over and over again.  I pray that y’all don’t grow weary in doing good.  Because we need you.  And thank you.

I’ve continued to have less side effects than expected and am thankful for the meds that overcome nausea because I have only felttwinges of it – and, honestly, I haven’t known if those were hunger pains or chemo effects.  Scott’s response is always, “take the meds!”  So, I may be medicating hunger pains with really expensive and intense anti-nausea medicine but I’m not complaining – it works.  I felt good enough to spend Saturday night out at the Westin celebrating 2 of my best friend’s birthdays and just some good ol’ girl time and lots o’ pool time.  Ooohh aaahhh ….

Today, I’m a little fussy about the little things.  The truth is, I’m not kneeling over a toilet and I’m SO thankful.  And, in the scheme of things, everything else pales in comparison.  But, today, this sore on my lip that is busted open and bloody and ugly and been there for over 6 weeks is getting old.  And the perpetual bloody nose and sores in my nose are getting old.  And, I’m tired.  But, by God’s grace (and I truly mean that not just Christian filler language), none are debilitating. And, I think our little guy may have an ear infection so, if we add his appointment later this afternoon into the mix, we will see 6 different doctors between today and next Thursday.  But, even as I type that, the Lord reminds me of something else that I’m thankful for – that Scott has a flexible job and a great partner.  On most days, he can schedule clients and projects around doctor’s appointments. I’m also so thankful he does something he loves and for folks that want to remodel their home so that he gets to do what he absolutely loves and pay our bills while still accompanying me to lots and lots of doctor’s appointments.  However, I must admit, that sometimes the multi-tasking is problematic.  Last week, the doctor walked in and Scott continued to talk plumbing and permits and electricity and tile while I grimaced and grunted and huffed and puffed for him to HANG UP.  He later reminded me that if he’s gonna be at all these appointments, sometimes he just might have to talk a little construction and boobs at the same time. 

Speaking of doctor’s appointments, there are a lot in the next week – 2 more plastic surgeon consultations regarding reconstruction (no decisions yet – waiting to meet with all 3 doctors to get multiple opinions), an appointment with the radiologist, and a follow-up appointment with the surgeon who will remove the tumor.  And chemo.  So, today, as I asked friends to help me sort through the babysitting needs, I’m a little overwhelmed.  But, again, I’m thankful for friends who have offered to coordinate that and so many of y’all who will love on my little man while someone else pokes around or takes pictures or analyzes my boobs. 

I think that’s all I’ve got for now.  Oh, no, I’m wrong.  One more thing.  I’ve had a lot of conversations about the wigs.  And appreciated the comments and indulging me with the game because it still baffles me.  But the answer to the question posed to y’all last week about the cost of the wigs is …

Drum roll, please …

Spunky, my new wig, is the ‘cheap one’ at merely $2,000!

And, Pinky, my first friend who is getting a little restyle this week is $5000!

Isn’t that crazy?!  And who knew?!  I guess you don’t need to know how much wigs cost until you you’re bald!  But, now that I know, I’m all the more thankful for these gifts … $7000 worth of gifts handed down to a stranger.  Cancer begets kindness.  And I’m a blessed beneficiary.  And I pray that, as God’s got it rigged, He’ll bless you as you’re blessing us!

With love and lots of pink from our house to your house …

Still good. And thankful.

Isn’t it sweet that, with Him and great friends, the Lord can make even chemo good?! We are still doing really well.

I’ve loved having the girls here. And loved having my college friends intermingled with my Dallas friends. I’ve eaten a ton of Gulleys cookie dough, laughed plenty, delighted in Mel’s book (our Big Mama is soon to be ‘Big Time’ though it’s the big-time-friend to me and Gulley that we love the most), listened to Scott interview her to the point where Gulley thought maybe he was vying to be her agent, felt their love, and was really blessed as they took care of the little man during chemo and for post-chemo-coma. They even got to be here to hear him say his first in-context word and hand signal – he waved bye-bye to his little same-age buddy Tucker yesterday and then told Mel ‘bye-bye’ with a wave when she left. And that was nice since earlier in the week at his one-year checkup, I had to tell the doctor that he’d completely failed (no exaggeration) the communications part of a survey they gave us. I guess he just waited til the girls got to town to bust out the communication skills. They love him and he loves them!

I hope they’ve had as much fun as I have. Laughter and friends really are the best medicine. But this high dollar stuff is pretty great too. It’s ome über-drug for fighting nausea that I take once for first 3 days and so far it’s working. My pee was bright red (degenerating from boobs to pee…) but, besides that, everything seems pretty normal. I can count that all joy. Thanks Lord! And thanks to y’all for praying! So far SO SO GOOD. Great in fact compared to possibilities of throwing up all night. Most common side effects are nausea, hair loss (taxol beat ’em to it), worse hot flashes and night sweats, immuno suppression, muscle loss, and fatigue. But there are drugs for all except fatigue so I got some scripts and a lecture. The lecture was (another) about keeping active and going because that’s the only antidote. So, South Dallas girls, I’ll be back to see you tomorrow! If I’m gonna be up and at ’em and ‘active’ on a Thursday, I want it to be w y’all. So I’ll be back at Baylor for a shot at 9 (something about helping keep white blood cell counts up) and down for some good times and good stories with y’all shortly thereafter.

Back to bald and another reason for thanks … Pinky has a new baby sister. We might name her Spunky. Because she’s a little shorter and a little blonder and I’m gonna wear her as my ‘fun do’ while upgrading Pinky to my ‘good do.’ Last week I felt it was only appropriate to try to reach out to the friend of a friend who had passed Pinky down to thank her. I did a little email recon and found a new friend – A. We will call her A bc it’s one thing for me to talk about my boobs but entirely different to talk about hers. A is the generous woman sharing her wig – whom she’d named Elin because before she cut it she said looked like Elin, Tigers ex-wife. When I wrote to thank her, she offered another wig – so kind! So now I have two blonde wigs but also a new friend. We had a fun visit on Saturday about all-things-hair-loss (including my 6 remaining eyelashes and skimpy brows), uncertainty about the ‘survivor’ title, surgeons, reconstruction, and wigs. I realize that few of you are in the wig market but she had a friend who knew a lot about them and knew where to get the best of the best and now I’m the beneficiary of some seriously fancy wigs! Wanna guess the prices?! And while I think Spunky is crazy expensive, Pinky is even significantly more. And since A, in a very-informative-and-far-from-braggy-way, enlightened me on the going wig-rates, I thought you might find it intriguing as well. Who knew?! Not I! Do you?! You can cast your 2 cents worth in a comment and I’ll get back to you. Oh and that was not a hint. It would take a LOT of 2 cents’ to buy either. Though that just sounded like subtle solicitation. I’m not suggesting 2 cent donations. Just curious at others’ comments and guesses because I was clueless – and shocked. And all the more reason I’m thankful for the unexpected gift because no-way-no-how would this have fit in our non-existent cancer budget. Noone budgets for cancer or wigs in family money talks. But then again we didn’t budget for the c-section of our unexpected child without maternity coverage (self employment insurance doesn’t include) either. But we still have a roof over our heads and plenty of food and (as Mel said tonite) are ‘rich in what matters.’ With Jesus and y’all, we are loaded!

Pinky is back at her stylist for a refresher and overnight with her 4 kids. And dont you know that Laney, Bo, Rhody and Hank have all had a turn wearing Pinky?! I love it. Bo (5, I think) came with her to bring her back last time and told his mom that he really liked our house and wanted one ‘just like it – only bigger.’ Classic. Maybe I should have given him Scott’s business card.

Speaking of kids, I have gotten a little
more in touch with my inner child with Gulley and Mel here – combined with Gigi’s insatiable desire for fun and pranks. We may or may not have rolled a house last night. And now I’ll know if that fun friend/family reads the blog to the very end and or got bored when I trailed off into budget talks.

Thanks for the prayers, texts, comments, emails and concern about our new drugs and new normal. I am so thankful. And wanted to let you rejoice with us in more unexpected mercies. And unexpected joys. And the gift of friendship.