Hallelujah!

I feel so so so so so so so so so so much better this week!

I mean a LOT better!

I mean much more myself and able to care for Linc and not so beatdown and tired all the time and ENCOURAGED!

Thanks for praying.  He answers.  And we are thankful.

My arm/shoulder has pretty limited range of motion and still a fair amount of numbness down my right arm but I think that’s all normal stuff.  I laugh because I feel like my elbow is always itching – but it’s completely numb so if I scratch it doesn’t help but, then again, if it’s completely numb and I can’t feel the scratch how is it that I feel the itch?!  Hmm.

It’s been a nice couple of weeks without doctor’s appointments.  We go back next Thursday to Dr. Osborne (oncologist) and Dr. Cheek (radiologist).  And fun news on the radiologist (who Scott loved from the first appointment with him and really valued his insight) is that though his name is the same as a friend I’ve known for years it never crossed my mind that they would be brothers until dinner with girlfriends the other night and Mandy said, “is that Corey’s brother?”  In an instant it all made sense that yes this highly-recommended radiologist is, in fact, the brother of a guy I’ve known for at least 10 years – or is it more, Corey?!  And, considering the multiple concentric circles (did that make you proud, Mrs. Snell?) of friend overlap with Dr. Lamont (and, maybe he’s this nice and helpful and engaged with all of his patients but we feel like he treats us as much like a friend as a patient so we have been thankful for the overlapping worlds) that we’ve appreciated, it is sweet to feel like we have another personal connection with another one of our doctors.  And, Dr. Osborne, continues to be an encouragement with her availability by text, calling to check on me, and yesterday she asked me to do an interview (or video or something else I won’t like but agreed to) about participating in the research study.  So, all in all, I find myself again thankful for the team God has put in place.  And that’s a sweet place to be today because, earlier in the week, I wasn’t finding the same peace in the sovereignty of God over our team.  It’s a weird world with so many women having breast cancer and so many renowned physicians in Dallas and, I confess, I’ve been tempted to second guess or wonder or even (ugly …) envy those who were seeing the “most popular” physicians.  But, as I called and confessed this insecurity to Scott the other day, he reminded me how, on a scale of 1-10, we feel like our care has been a 10 (across the board!) and God’s got us and, while he was speaking truth (I requested a “side of love” to go with the truth), he also reminded me that sometimes I have a pride problem and sense of “entitlement” or “elitism” that is inconsistent with who I am and who I want to be.  How on earth in the middle of all of this and much more important things to “worry about” (as if there’s anything to worry about when God’s holding the whole world together including us!) do I revert back to junior high and become self-aware or insecure about not having the same “very popular” doctors that others have even though I feel like mine are just as capable and, in some cases, in the same practice and even more accessible via office availability, phone, text, etc.?!  This may have been some rambling that doesn’t make sense if you haven’t been in this situation but, maybe, some of you can relate – or, if not, please just pray for my pride to be crushed and His peace to reign.

Speaking of smashing pride, I can do that easily by showing you this fun video. I am not a fan of myself on video or my voice on any sort of recorded device (back in my teaching days, friends could torture me by having a cd/tape playing of me teaching … I can still cringe when I think of unknowingly getting in their car and hearing my voice through the speakers!) but in this case, it’s just too fun not to share the gift of our friend Kurt (along with some other friends of Scott’s) who sent this yesterday.  Do y’all recall me losing my phone in Colorado?  Do you also recall how, all throughout the Old Testament, the Israelites would have feasts or stacks or rocks or other things to remind them of God’s faithfulness?!  Well, my iPhone and this video is one of those fun reminders of good friends, good times, and God’s faithfulness … His eyes that see all and know all and direct all and His heart to encourage all and draw us to Himself.  So, while I tried to tell the story on the blog, I think Kurt does a better job with pictures that capture the vastness of the “iPhone hunt”, the sweetness of the celebration, and the friends who, literally, walked alongside me.  And, unlike me rambling on the blog, he did it less than a minute in a half:)  Here it is: http://vimeo.com/48405975.  You might want to watch for no other reason than the incredible pictures of God’s creativity in Colorado.

And, while I’m thanking God for improved health, improved energy, and a found phone, I also thank Him for y’all.  And though I say it almost every entry, it’s true.  I don’t wish cancer on anyone but I am, one of these days, probably gonna write an entry about “don’t hate me because I have cancer…” because, I promise, if you knew the sweetness that accompanies the sorrow, you might be tempted to be jealous.  It is an enviable place to be almost daily encouraged by either texts, comments on blog, cards, gifts, laundry help, babysitting, meals, yard help, Scripture, and LOVE.  I feel as loved and supported as I probably ever have in my whole life.  And, honestly, I’ve felt pretty loved and supported and encouraged before – but y’all have taken it to a whole new level.  And, we can’t thank you enough.  It would be a painfully long and hard and difficult road to walk alone.  I’m thankful we don’t have to.  I’m thankful for you.  If you cared enough about us to read this, you have blessed us.

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Bye Bye Drain! Hello Happy!

I am SO happy happy happy that the drain is gone!  And I thank y’all for praying because I wasn’t very hopeful leading up to my appointment on Monday because my drainage still way exceeded (by 2x) what they had said would be the maximum output for them to take it out.  Over the weekend, it was bothering me more and more and I even had chills and fever of 101.9 on Sunday night that I blamed on the drain. I was fully fully convinced that it needed to come out because my body didn’t like it – I also wanted to sleep better and wear normal clothes (though dressing is still challenging) and quit maintaining the constant chart of output.  As for the taking the drain out, who knew that they could pull 9-12 inches of tubing out of your body and it not hurt?!  It was crazy.  And awesome.  Lezley (my new ‘breastie’ thanks to our shared unexpected journeys with breast cancer) who had surgery the same day and hated her drains as much as I did, told me it would painless (much to both of our surprise) and she was right.  I don’t know how that is.  But I’m thankful.  And, again, I marvel at the medicine advances in big ways and small ways.  Unfortunately, the pain in my side hasn’t subsided as much as I’d hoped after the drain was gone but I’m still happy.  Between the input of the drain about 6 inches under my armpit and the lymph nodes scar (on inside of armpit), it’s a pretty sensitive area.  And my entire under arm and armpits have a weird raw/numb sensation that makes them painful to the touch.  The biggest issues now are low energy levels and the limited range of motion.  I can reach my arm above my shoulder towards the front and to the side but not much more without significant tightness and pain.  There are a host of exercises I’m supposed to be doing but they’re not very fun.  And I laughed that the booklet describing arm exercises told me to use my impacted arm as much as possible for normal activities like “combing hair.”  I don’t do a lot of combing these days!  However, I do a little Rogaine-rubbing onto my scalp (per oncologist’s recommendations) and, let me tell you, by golly, it works!  I have a nice little helmet of peach fuzz.  You’d be hard-pressed to “pull my hair” but you can rub it and see that we’ve said goodbye to the drain and the entirely bald head:)  As for resuming other “normal activities” the 25lbs of preciousness that I normally carry would be easy enough except that he’s not content to just be picked up and set down gently.  He’s a wiggly one so I am often cringing from flailing arms or legs or an unexpected nosedive-squirm to be put down.  I have needed a ton more help with them than I expected (still would like to have a chat with anyone who seriously thought I would be ‘back to normal in 1-2 days …’) but, as I’ve said before, friends have blown us away and stepped in day after day to love on Lincoln for us.  What he’s lacked in attention from us he has certainly received in exponential proportions from friends and family. Thanks Aunt B and boys, Aunt FaFa and Hope, Aunt CC, Juju, Louise and girls, MoMo and boys, and Auntie Cheryl!  You are a big gift to me.  And Lincoln.

Several of you have asked what we’ve decided about the ovaries.  Nothing.  I may have misunderstood Dr. Osborne but while I think this is a big decision ahead, I don’t think it’s an immediate one.  She said she would give us time to decide – but, in the meantime, they’ll give monthly shots to keep my ovaries off.  So, the good news is that there’s an alternative.  The bad news is that it’s a shot.  Scott has been sweet to support whatever decision I want but hates the idea of me having to continue with shots every month.  He also hates the idea of me losing my ovaries.  We continue to marvel at the fact that though we weren’t initially sure we wanted kids, now that we have one, we are real sad not to have the option (biologically) of another and even more grateful for the one we have.  Scott’s glad that out of our one shot he got a little man to fish, hunt, and build things with.  I am too.  And Scott has laughed at me because I’ve already asked him if we could adopt on 2 different occasions and scenarios.  I don’t suggest telling me about a child needing a family unless you’re prepared for me to start asking questions and praying about adopting it.  And that’s not because I’m bored and looking for something to do or even adamant about more children – but more because I can’t wait to see how God “does His thing” and delights us with His better plans than we ever dreamed of.  It’s like I’m looking around every corner with a big smile in anticipation of a glorious sovereign surprise.

Y’all have loved us incredibly well through the last couple of weeks as we processed news that was harder than we expected.  That day, through tears, I told Scott that what I thought was a sprint now felt like a marathon.  And I feel like y’all have responded in such a way that I feel like we have cheerleaders and aid stations and support for all 26.2 miles of that marathon.  When I think about our story and our friends, the Lord often brings to mind the verse in Romans 12 that exhorts us to “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep.”  It’s been so beautifully lived out by y’all.  We’ve cried and you’ve cried with us.  We’ve been thankful and you’ve been thankful with us.  We’ve laughed and you’ve laughed with us.  And, by His grace, we have rejoiced in His goodness.  And you’ve rejoiced with us.  We thank you and we love you.

 

 

Tears

I have certainly been sad along this road but hadn’t yet had a big tearfest at the doctor. Or really a ton of tears in general. Until today. Something hit big and deep and hard. As many of you know through your own pain and suffering, sometimes there’s an “unexpected” factor that becomes a multiplier of our sadness. Along those lines, I hated losing my dad at 20 (with big losses of quality of life for several years before) but his death wasn’t a surprise. And, while it was very sad, it would have been an even more painful traumatic sad if I hadn’t seen it coming. And though today’s debrief of our pathology report was on a much smaller scale, I think the same principle applied – the sadness was amplified by the unexpected. I didn’t really see it coming. Maybe I should have. Or, maybe it was more of the Lord’s grace because I hadn’t really worried about pathology results post-surgery and have always assumed, even as I concluded in my last post, that I knew the treatment plan and we were on course. I viewed chemo as the worst element of my treatment and was thankful it was first and over. I thought surgery would be the next hit with a “one two punch” strategy as, Dr. Osborne, my oncologist describes it. [She’s a fiery tiny redhead so it’s funny to me when she uses her boxing analogy – and usually with air swings to complement the language.] So, as you know, next was surgery and we thought we were on the downhill. I think Dr. Osborne did as well. Or, maybe that was just her hope for me and she cheered toward that end until she knew otherwise? As she did today. As I’ve said before, it’s like things are finally catching up to us. If I’d thought about it for half a second, surely it would have occurred to me that they don’t really really really know what cancer we’re faced with until they do surgery, get it out, and study it.

[Sidenote: As I attempt to explain what we learned today I realize it’s still a little foggy and foreign to me and I may botch it a bit, especially in medical terms. But, then again, maybe, unless you’re a doctor, you won’t know. Hopefully you can just roll with it knowing that I’m learning with you. Ok, maybe slightly ahead of you as the patient but barely.]

Anyways, kind of like things started with “unfortunately …” from the surgeon’s office this week, the first word I remember from Dr. Osborne today was “disappointed.” And, shortly thereafter, I remember “discouraged.” We had hoped that the chemo would have really put the hurt on the tumor and it was even possible that they’d cut me open and find almost nothing – or just scar tissue. But, no, not so much. They cut me open and found a decent sized tumor remaining (about 2cm, I think). And, a lot of “lymphovascular invasion.” In layman’s terms, the doctor said, “this cancer has shown it knows how to travel.” Of the several biological markers they look for in assessing treatment (same ones they looked for with biopsy sample 6 months ago), they were disappointed that only 1 of those had been substantially altered by chemo. The good news is that they did slow the proliferation rate and that they stopped the tumor from growing. But, unfortunately, the tumor still showed a strong hormone positive receptivity (estrogen and progesterone). And, since I’m a female who clearly has female hormones, that’s a problem. The tumor feeds on these hormones and even though they’ve shut down my female organs with chemotherapy, that apparently wasn’t enough. Speaking of risk, she repeatedly referred to me as “high risk” and I finally asked what that means – a high risk for cancer to return. And, since the average age of onset of breast cancer is 61, she admitted that there’s still not as much data as they’d like about cancer patients that present in their 20s or 30s.

At about this point in the conversation, I don’t think I was crying yet. Just trying to process. I think my mom had already started crying (while taking furious notes) but I was still in the game. I think. However, as she continued and I realized that she was starting to “double down” on our treatment plan, the gravity of her concern hit me. We thought we were on the backside and about to taper but we were wrong – the fight is on. I’m not referring to a fight for my life but just an aggressive effort to keep cancer cells from multiplying or returning. So, instead of a rather simple plan of just radiation followed by hormone therapy, she is proposing oral chemo (thankfully, it doesn’t cause hair loss or immuno-suppression so that’s good news!) in parallel with the radiation, shots to ensure my female systems stay powered down, she encouraged us to consider surgery to remove my ovaries, and then she changed the proposed anti-hormone therapy drug and timeline to start sooner and extend well beyond the original 5 years we thought. By now, I was crying. More chemo? Taking out my ovaries? Another drug for a much longer period of time? And, while she acknowledged it was ultimately our decision, it was clear that she strongly discouraged us from trying to have other children – citing that while Lincoln certainly didn’t cause the tumor that pregnancy and nursing were likely major factors in its aggressive growth and we can’t risk feeding the cancer. By now I was really crying. And, sweetly, Dr. Osborne and her nurse, Christina, sat on either side of the examining table and rubbed my back. Scott sat quietly and listened intently. My mom was still crying and taking notes:) I definitely think part of my tears were just that what seemed to be predictable (the plan) and what we thought was partly our decision (future children) were both slipping away quickly. And, if I like anything, for better or worse, it’s a plan and a little control. Ahh, yes, I too recall my previous entries and I know that it’s just the allusion of controlbut, nonetheless, what little I had was running out the door and was already down the elevator and on to Gaston before I could process what she’d said. And, I think it bears repeating that I love adoption and I love the idea of God surprising us with His plans for our family whether that be “one and done” or more. And, we were never deadset on must-have-another-child but, somehow someway, it was another shocker and just a lot to process. And, then, another wave of tears. This time crying as I reiterated what I’ve said here a dozen times but probably never said to Christina or Dr. Osborne. I can’t believe that, at 38 and 47, after only 4 months of marriage and on birth control, we got pregnant. God knew. He totally knew. He knew that I’d be asked to consider having my ovaries taken out shortly thereafter and He knew, even though we weren’t sure we wanted kids at the time, that we would be so glad we’d had Lincoln and, in His mercy and grace and kindness and love, He surprised us and gave us a little man to love! Really, God? Are you this good to us? Yes, He is. He totally is. And that same good God still has us. And He still knows what’s best for us. And, while we are surprised with today’s news and will be surprised with whatever He unfolds for our family, thankfully, He isn’t.

I’ll meet with Dr. Lamont (surgeon) next Monday. I still have my drains and got a lengthy explanation from the oncologist on why I wouldn’t want them out too early under any circumstances … because, as bad as they are, fluid collecting on the inside of my body is much worse. And, thankfully, I had a fashion break-through last night and decided that instead of pinning them to my bra, I could just wear a sports bra and stuff the drain in between my boobs – it’s not the best look, I don’t disagree, but the uniboob is better than the terrorist. And, depending on what I’m wearing, there may or may not be wire protruding out the top but this is infinitely better than the drain dangling from a safety pin under my clothes. So, drum roll please, not only did I drive myself to the doctor’s appointment today but I actually got out of the house a second time in the afternoon with Gigi for some “manicure therapy” to rest, indulge myself in their pampering, and cover up my hideous-looking nails (chemo, you have been unkind to my hands, my feet, and my head!). So, 2 outings in one day – I am living on the edge. An ounce of freedom is worth a pound of insanity cure. I now have hopes that the drains can come out on Monday at the surgeon’s office. We really like Dr. Lamont and our radiologist, Dr. Cheek, so Scott is looking forward to visiting with them in upcoming appointments to continue to process the pathology report. I’ll go back to Dr. Osborne in 3 weeks for my first shot to ensure my ovaries stay “off” and discuss how to execute some of the proposed ideas from today.

Today, once again, I found myself really grateful for excellent medical care in our community. Though our surgeon is out of town, Dr. Osborne had been texting with him about my results and, while on vacation, he had reviewed my pathology report. Dr. Cheek, the radiologist whom I’ve only met once, was also already engaged in helping think through the best strategy going forward. Dr. Osborne spent a ton of time with us and her passion is fighting cancer. I’m thankful for it. I also told her today how thankful I was for her as cheerleader when I needed a cheerleader (always very encouraging about me staying active and my bloodwork results and enduring chemo well) and then a straightforward truth-teller when I needed a truth-teller (no sugar coating today) and then a big dose of compassion as a back rubber too.

The silver lining on all the intensified treatment is that, though it’s a lot, most of it doesn’t as negatively impact our quality of life like chemotherapy, surgery or drains. Have I mentioned I’m really wanting the drains out?! Most of this is pills and more intensification of what was already planned. And, if we agreed to the ovaries surgery, that’s another day surgery. And, as much as it’s a shock to process the range of choices between semi-permanent or permanently turning off my ovaries, I really-100%-without-a-shadow-of-a-doubt trust that the Lord will bring grant us His peace (Phil 4:6-7) with that decision and also to complete peace about how He has planned our family before the beginning of time. It’s just a lot to process today. But, we know we are in the hands of a mighty God who never sleeps nor slumbers and ordains life and numbers our days so any and all of this is absolutely within his sovereignty and goodness. Neither Scott nor I are wavering on those truths. In fact, that reminds me of probably the very sweetest part of our morning. Dr. Osborne and Christina left and the room remained silent as the 3 of us sat and soaked in what we’d just heard. The first words spoken were Scott’s “well, can I pray for us?” and from across the room he prayed the sweetest prayer. His first matter of business was just praise to the God who has shown us His soveriegnty, love, care, power, and grace in so many ways. And especially for the gift of Lincoln. And then He just laid our hearts out before the Lord. It was the perfect way to conclude our appointment and to turn our minds and hearts toward the One in whom we rest. Psalm 91:1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

Lastly. For the ladies. Go do a self-exam. Today. And once a month from now on. Pretty please.

In the Shadow of the Almighty,

Jen and Scott

Better. And Worse.

First, for the better news …

I’m definitely improving by the day.  Thankfully, the knife that was in my side last Wednesday is dwindled down to the size of a plastic drain that is stitched into my skin and attaches to a pump we must empty regularly.  The other 3 incisions (for port, breast, and lymph nodes) seem to be doing quite well.  And I’m off the heavy pain meds.  But, the drain is quite uncomfortable – and painful if in the wrong position.  Thankfully, there are plenty of positions where I don’t really feel it at all.  However, I’m discouraged because it can’t come out until I have 3 days in a row of less than 30ccs of output.  And, for the last 2 days I’ve had over 45 and had 25ccs the first thing this morning.  I hoped to have it out by Wednesday then held out for Thursday then crossed fingers for Friday and now just bummed that it might be in through the weekend.  Remember my first entries about ‘what does one wear to chemo?’ well those are nothing compared to ‘what does one wear to (1) disguise a hand grenade and (2) be comfortable?’  I surrender before even asking for the trifecta to include cute as well.  In addition to being attached to my skin, the other end of the drain has to attach to something and I bet you can imagine that a bra that goes around my chest and over the drain insertion point isn’t a real fun idea.  It’s bearable and I’ve braved it 3 times for short periods but that’s the main reason I’m on day 6 of pajamas and have only left the house once.  I’m about to ask Scott to take me to work with him just so I can remember how to get around my neighborhood.  Needless to say, I’ve been thankful for help again this week – with grocery runs, errands, laundry, meals, and Linc.  Especially with Lincoln!  He loves his playdates and it makes me happy for him to smile so big at me as he drives off in the car with his playmates for the day.  And, in fact, my friend Louise who picked him up this morning asked if he could spend the night so I know 14 months is a little younger than most sleepovers – especially with adorable girls who are much is senior – but tonight’s gonna be a big night for the big boy.  I feel like he is getting smothered with love even if it’s not mine.  My mom played with him all day on Monday, he was Hope’s baby brother yesterday and now he’s Nancy and Claire’s little brother.  We are so thankful for folks that love us and our little man.  And he seems to be having a better week of revolving caregivers.  He seems less ticked off that I won’t get back on the job as his mom.  I laughed as I went to his crib this morning and, literally, the first thing he did was reach for the hose of the drain.  I couldn’t help but think (in addition to please don’t pull or I’ll scream), ‘yep, still there.  And I’m as anxious as you are to have it gone but I’m still off-duty as full-time Mama until it is.’  Poor little guy wakes up to a scary sight of a bald Mama with no eyelashes or eyebrows and tubes and drains coming out of her pajamas.  I’m trusting all of you who remind me that he won’t remember any of this:)

And for the ‘worse’ news …It’s not terrible just different (and worse) than we expected.  We got our pathology results on Monday afternoon.  I haven’t posted sooner because we are having a hard time processing it.  In summary, Dr. Lamont’s PA pronounced good news that we got clear margins on the breast tumor but started the second part with “unfortunately …” and continued to say that they removed 19 lymph nodes and 9 of them were cancer.  We knew there was lymph node involvement but based on feel and preliminary data we imagined it would be 3-4.  This is 3x as many as we expected.  The good news is that he took them all (did you know that we all have a varying number of lymph nodes?) so they’re gone.  And, as we understand it, this news doesn’t change our course of action because an aggressive course was already taken, but it was just sobering – and a little scary.  Maybe it’s a blessing that the weight and severity of my prognosis is just now catching up with us – once we have the worst part behind us.  But, along those same lines, I re-read my original diagnosis and pathology report on the breast tissue and, knowing much more now than I did 6 months ago, I read it with different eyes and greater understanding.  I noted my proliferation index (how fast the cells are multiplying which assesses the tumor growth rate) was a 40 and “elevated.”  So I did a little research and now know why my oncologist talks about how aggressive it was – because the highest category of proliferation index is >36.  And ours, at 40, is definitely in that ‘high’ category.  As I said above, I don’t know that this changes anything in our treatment since they had already treated it aggressively because of the known lymph node involvement but we find ourselves a bit taken aback.  And also grateful.  It seems that the weight of our reality is catching up with me slowly and, more than ever, I marvel that I even found the lump.  In the tumor and medical world, a 3cm lump is quite large but that’s not very big and easy to miss if you’re not regularly doing self exams and it’s not on your radar.  To this day, apart from divine intervention, I have no idea what made me notice a lump on the outside of my right boob.  Thanks Lord.  And, as is obvious by the path results, it had been there and growing for awhile – and invited lymph nodes to the party.

We will meet with the oncologist tomorrow so if she sheds any more light on the pathology report I’ll let you know.  Her primary agenda for tomorrow is next steps for treatment.  Though the hardest parts are behind us, 2 real important parts remain: radiation and hormone therapy.  Thankfully, the latter, is just a pill.  Unfortunately, that pill is life-altering relative to the opportunity to have more kiddos.  The jury is still out on my post-chemo fertility (trusting “nothing is too hard for the Lord”) but the hormone therapy would be super dangerous to a baby so pregnancy out of the question while on it.  And she wants us on it for at least 5 years.  She has said she’d consider giving us a few month reprieve to consider pregnancy.  But there’s a lot to consider and evaluate.  Thankfully, God knew all this and still has us under the shelter of His wing.  And, He knows whether more kiddos (biological or adopted or whatever) are part of our story or not.

Lord, thanks for where we are today.  Thanks for sustaining us on this unexpected road with your grace, your people, your provision, and medical resources to extend my life as long as you intend.  Thank you for a husband and baby that you  sovereignly and graciously provided in advance of cancer.  Thank you that this life is really fleeting and finite compared to eternity with you and I pray that we will endure it well for your name’s sake.  I thank you that the best is yet to come.  And that’s not after cancer but after this broken world.  Lord, I pray that my friends and family will have the same hope, joy and confidence that Scott and I do that though this life is temporary and hard, You are good and gracious in the midst of it.  And we can genuinely thank you for this hard season because it has drawn us to you and reminded us again and again of Your care for us and unfailing love.  We thank you that our hope isn’t in this life but in the one to come where we will be forever with you – with no more sorrow, sadness, sickness or suffering.  Our Savior has made a way out of this life and into eternity with you.  And we are thankful. We praise the One from whom all blessings flow.  Thank you, Jesus.

And, thank you, friends.  Thanks for standing by us in prayer.  Thanks for all the ways you’ve met a long list of physical needs – and continue to do so.  Though the worst is behind us, there’s still a fair amount ahead.  And we face it with confidence because of our Savior and you.

Better by the Day

When I came out of surgery on Wednesday everybody around me was saying ‘surgery went great’ and my thoughts were ‘for who?’ because the doctor and I might have been in same room but we didn’t seem to have a shared experience:) I will now distinguish between 2 very different questions regarding friends’ surgeries 1. How did surgery go? And 2. How are you feeling? The first question is the doctor’s perspective. The second is the patient’s. Indeed, surgery went well in that they did all they expected (removing tumors in breast and lymph nodes and removing port) and there weren’t any complications. And I’m super thankful for that. We will have more information from pathology by early next week. Dr. Lamont said that the lymph nodes definitely confirmed what they knew beforehand by how they felt once he was in there and it was great that they are now out.

Now to question 2. As I said, there’s a difference between doctor’s report and patient’s report. So my report is that Wednesday was a little rough. I woke up from anesthesia wondering who put the knife in my side and why wouldn’t they take it out?! This was my first experience with general anesthesia and as most of you know it’s just plain weird to go to sleep at 12:12 and wake up with an unfamiliar nurse standing over you in a different place at 2:35. Oh, yeah, and did I mention there was a knife in my side?!

It took a couple hours of lingering in post op for them to get the pain under control before we could leave. And, then, when I tried to leave there was another surprise. Now I was throwing up which is generally unpleasant to say the least. We had some repeats of that fun episode again at home but finally realized that getting up was the problem so I was happy to stay down and in bed for the rest of the evening and night. Over the last 5 months I’ve accumulated a fair amount of meds so it was easy to find anti-nausea medicine to help as well.

I didn’t realize I’d have a drain for the lymph nodes and pain medicine administered through a pump. It’s all attached to the ace bandage that has my chest so compressed that it’s questionable at this point if I had a mastectomy or lumpectomy. And, with tubes coming out of my clothes and hand-grenade-sized pumps under my pajamas, when we finally got home, Scott said, ‘babe, you look like a terrorist.’ Thankfully, after getting the pain and nausea under control on Wednesday night, this terrorist who hadn’t eaten all day wanted a grilled cheese and malt from Burger House … And I think I turned the corner thanks to Burger House:)

Lincoln has had a wonderful time with his aunts and siblings-for-the-day and came home with huge smiles from Aunt B’s and Aunt Mandy’s. Unfortunately, he seems less pleased with me and clearly knows something is wrong and is frustrated I can’t hold him. We tried a new approach this morning of letting him see the ‘hand grenades’ under my pajamas but after he tried to put his mouth on all of it we decided there’s just not an effective way to communicate to a 14 month old that his mom has had surgery, can’t use her right arm, can’t hold him, and can’t let him crawl on her without wincing in pain. Scott’s been a total trooper with Linc and me. I’m real thankful. In the sweetness of our wedding day when he committed to love me ‘in sickness and in health,’ I’m quite sure he didn’t picture an unshowered bald wife who needs her drains emptied and the contents measured and recorded for the doctor. He holds his breath (though there’s no odor) and says his trying not to associate any of the unpleasantness with me. Good luck with that, babe! But I cannot complain about his nursing skills. He’s been great! And my mom and friends have been around to bring meals or check on me though I admit that being home alone resting is quite a welcome treat compared to chasing a 14 month old.

All in all, with the help of friends, family, and hydrocodone, I continue to feel better by the day and even think I might get crazy and try to bathe and change pajamas at some point today. But, then again, I may not. I can’t lift my arm much past my shoulder so thinking a bath and change of clothes could take more time and energy than I’m willing to commit. One of these days I’m sure I’ll bathe again.

Again, I thank you for the sweet texts, emails, comments, cards, flowers and concern. Friendship is a great gift.

And speaking of friends, my friend Lezley who also had surgery on Wednesday is recovering slowly but surely too. Lots of pain and nausea for her too but thankfully she slept better last night. I rejoice with her and her family that her lymph nodes were clear and, as she said this morning, we can both rejoice that the known cancer has been removed from our bodies!

With continued love and thanks, that’s all for now.

Update from Scott

Hello all,

Jen is out of surgery and everything went well. Dr. Lamont just met with Jane and I and said all went as planned. She is in recovery and we’ll be able to join her shortly. The doctor said she would need to rest the remainder of the day and should be back to normal in a day or two. Thanks to all of you for your love, prayers, and support. I’m sure Jen will personally update all of you as soon as she is able.

Grateful,
Scott

Update from Waiting Room

The morning took longer than we expected with pre-surgery activities at the imaging center. They stuck about 9in of needle down the center of the tumor so doctor would know exactly where to operate. It was my first sonogram since this all began and the 3cm tumor appeared to be just a little over 1.5cm so that was good news. They did more mashing and smooshing (aka mammogram) and sent us over to the surgery center with our mammogram images and a needle hanging out of my boob.

So now we are in surgery center waiting room after signing my name about 50 times on paperwork. We just learned that surgery isn’t technically scheduled until 11:45. I’ll sure be good and hungry by then.

Since many of you thought (as did I!) that I’d be out of surgery before I’ll even be in surgery I thought I’d send quick update. So far, I’m not super anxious about surgery. Had some anxiety this morning about the unknowns of timing and itinerary of morning (in hindsight I should have called doctors office yesterday to have better understanding of what was happening today) and I don’t like unknowns. But prayed Lord would calm those nerves of frustration and He is.

I presume next update will be from Scott. And, Lord willing, good news. I feel confident toward that end.

Love.

Looking back. Looking forward.

I’m back.  Both on the blog and in Dallas.  And both have been good to me.  Thankful again for the blog to receive the comments and texts and emails of encouragement and have an easy way to update our friends and family on progress and prayer requests.  And, despite the heat, we are thankful to be back in Dallas – our home where we feel so loved, cared for, and supported.  On the last day of our trip, I asked Scott if he was sad about going home and I don’t know how he so quickly and perfectly summarized it for both of us but he did … he said, “I’m not sad we’re going home but sad we don’t have more time here.”  What a sweet life that even when temperatures are in the 100s we aren’t sad about coming home.  And as I shared on the last post, I’d confessed my transition home anxiety to the Lord and Scott and I prayed that He’d give me the grace and strength and energy I needed to come home and unpack in the heat and get settled in.  And, guess what?!  He did it again!  Before I knew it, the bags were unpacked, laundry was started, and my mom was bringing dinner, Gigi bringing yogurt and we were all happily in our living room watching the Olympics.  It was good to be home and settled.

I appreciate the inquiries about part 2 of our vacation as we roamed Colorado.  We actually probably relate more to the homeless people we love in South Dallas than ever before because, every day, I wasn’t exactly sure where we’d spend the night but, most nights, it was on someone else’s place.  The first stop was 3 nights with the Kraus’ in Buena Vista* at a ranch house they’d rented.  Gorgeous views.  The Kraus’ are Jamie’s family – aka, B.  And since I also went to college and love her husband and absolutely adore her 3 boys* and her parents and her niece, this was a fun fun place to land with them.  And, as I wrote last time, her boys are adorable with Lincoln so it was fun to fish*, play, roam, farkle, cheer for the Olympics and be with them.  But, as I mentioned, Scott has wanderlust so by 3 nights he was itching to roam – and fly fish.  So we did both.  We planned to go to Aspen or Breckenridge but never made it because we had so much fun with Jamie and then other friends who were camping near Fairplay.  We headed to join them on Wednesday but, thankfully, not to camp.  Scott sprung for a bed and breakfast in the town of Como.  Population 20.  Actually, 19, the owner of the bed and breakfast told us one was in jail.  And, I use the term ‘bed and breakfast’ lightly.  It’s not what you’re picturing*.  We were the only guests apart from 2 guys on motorcycles and the owner was also our waitress, receptionist, concierge, cook, and housekeeper – and he ate dinner with us both nights.  After writing in the last entry that I wasn’t sure where we’d be sleeping and was just hopeful not camping, my friend Kristin texted and said she was praying for ‘quaint bed and breakfasts’ but when I sent her a picture and asked if that’s what she’d prayed for (also attached for y’all) she responded with, “does it have plumbing?!”  Despite the laughs, Scott and I had a great time and we actually loved it.  It was definitely ‘cozy and quaint’ as it was advertised.  But maybe cozy and quaint for the 1950s?!  But, we weren’t in Como for the accommodations, we were there because friends were there and that was a huge treat.  Kurt and Julie are good friends of Scott’s and another friend of mine, Jenny Wallace, was camping with them as well.  And, not only did I have great conversations with Jenny she’s also a doctor so she became the answer to some of my prayer requests from the last week – she gave me a topical steriod for my eyes that made a huge difference in hours!  I was so thankful.  And, after the post from last week, I felt your prayers because my feet, toes, mouth sores all got remarkably better and then Jenny eased the pain in my eyes.  I’ve still got some ugly feet and nail issues as well as some eye issues (can’t recall big word doctor used yesterday about a flap of skin growing on my eyeball …) but nothing like the constant watering and burning as before.  Thanks Lord!

Another real fun thing happened amidst sweet times at the campfire* on the Neale’s land.  The first day we arrived, Kurt, Julie, and Jenny were all fly fishing so Scott couldn’t get his gear on fast enough to go join them and Linc and I followed with him in the  backpack.  There was no trail along this river just lots of high brush and an incline up to the road.*  Scott was meandering along the river catching “brookies” and I wanted to wander up to see our friends so Julie came and met me and we started the watch-your-step hike to Kurt and Jenny’s fishing hole.  It was a pretty slow hike with tall brush, baby on the back, lots of tributaries and a river to cross.  I even had the thought that it was good for Scott that Julie was my leader instead of him because I know what was fun with her could have easily been “I can’t believe you think this is a good idea!” if Scott was trapsing me through the brush for a better fishing hole (…confessions of a sometimes-fussy-fisherman’s-wife!).   Julie and I hiked to our friends and then she, Jenny and I decided to go back to camp.  We hiked back up an incline to the road where I was happy to be on solid, flat, cleared ground.  Until I realized that I’d lost my phone along the way.  Not that we had any cell service up there but all my pictures of the week, contacts, and communication with the outside world were now gone – and, by the length of these entries and by y’all knowing me, I do like me some outside communication with my peeps:)  Not to mention the hassle and ugly money to replace it.  So, when I told them I’d lost it and looked back over the terrain, I surrendered.  I didn’t even want to tell Kurt or Scott because didn’t want them to waste time looking for it (which they did but to no avail).  Later around the campfire, Jenny said, “let’s look tomorrow – it’ll be a fun  hike and time together!”  I thought she was sweet but crazy.  It’s bad enough that it was lost in rough brush and without any clear ability to retrace steps but Scott had also knocked my very-tired pink cover a couple days before and suggested I throw it away so, as a good teachable wife, I did – much to my dismay because it would have been much easier to look for pink than black.  But, the next day, the group insisted and I agreed to at least feel like I made an effort as I considered the ugly money required to replace it.  5 of us headed out to look for it.  We walked for about :30 trying to guess where we’d walked the day before and even backtracking considerably at one point because we realized we’d crossed the river upstream the previous day.  We prayed before we searched and my prayer included, “Father, I believe, but help my unbelief” from the story in the Gospels of another man asking big things of Jesus.  I knew Jesus knew where my phone was.  And I knew He could find it if He wanted to.  I wasn’t sure he cared so much about my phone but I do know He cares about my heart – and, on this day, I didn’t know if He’d want to remind me that things like phones are temporal and distractions or remind me that nothing is too hard for him.  I expected the former.  But, we walked for about :30 and, lo and behold, I looked down as Julie and I discussed the familiarity (or lack thereof) of a big fall tree and there it was! I had my own little Luke 15 celebration* of the phone that “once was lost but now was found.”  Super super fun!  And encouraging to have friends that helped me (totally convicting that if tables were turned I wouldn’t be leading the effort to search for someone else’s because I was sure it was futile!), encouraging to be reminded that God can do anything He pleases and nothing is too hard for Him, and a sweet reminder that He knows all and sees all.  And, on that particular day, He gave me His eyes to see where my phone was.  I am grateful.

So, those are a few of the stories from last week and I’ll include a few pics too.  I’ve included an asterik above of stories that are pictured.  And the last one is just our great little road tripper who logged a zillion miles in the car seat and did great.  I guess if he’s Scott’s son it’s good that he learns early how to roam.

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Now, to this week and looking forward…

We had a good doctor’s appointment yesterday.  When Dr. Osborne looks at my weekly lab reports she says things like “gorgeous” and “beautiful” referring to my red blood count, liver and kidney.  I think that’s a compliment but never cared much about having a gorgeous kidney.  I am glad that my body has responded well to chemo (won’t know for sure until tomorrow but by feeling it, doctors think it has shrunk considerably) without significantly compromising the rest of my vital organs.  That’s a praise.  Today I had an echocardiogram (drugs known to cause heart failure) and then, after tomorrow, Lord willing, what’s left of the tumor in my boob (or is it breast?) and armpit (or shall we say lymph node?) will be gone:)  I check in at 8 for another mammogram and I’m unclear but think there may be some sort of dye injected into my lymph system to identify malignant lymph nodes and then go directly to Baylor’s surgery center for a lumpectomy, ancillary lymph node dissection (removing the lymph nodes), and removal of my port.  Big day!  And, after all that, I get to go home!  Again, I marvel at the advances in medicine and am thankful.  I’ll be sure that Scott or I post a quick update tomorrow night to confirm all went well.  We’d love your prayers toward that end.  And, for Lincoln.  He’ll be with his Aunt B and her boys tomorrow, his Aunt Mandy and Hope on Thursday, and Auntie Cheryl on Friday.

As of this isn’t enough so far (1733 words and counting…) and I haven’t asked for enough prayer, I have another update in my world.  It’s not really my news but it feels like it for me.  For those that have been reading for awhile and most of you know this already, but Gigi (one of my dearest friends and roommate before I got married) had 2 foster boys last year.  They came the day after Linc was born and left in March.  That was a sad day.  But, we also saw the Lord’s timing in it as I headed into intense treatment and Gigi was available to help me and help Linc.  And the boys were reunited with their mom and siblings.  Thankfully, we’ve maintained a relationship with the boys and their family and Gigi and I even went over and took the boys and their older brothers to breakfast and play on Saturday morning.  But, as is the case in many of our lives and especially those that struggle with daily survival, things can change quickly.  And, as of last night, the boys are back in Gigi’s care.  But, not only them but their 2 big brothers as well (4 boys ages 6-9).  This was a hard decision but she knows its best for them to be placed in the same home and they were all thrilled to be together and with Gigi.  My heart is both sad for their family but also overjoyed that we get to love on them again.  On the way home, after we took them to eat, it was getting late and Gigi told them “we’re gonna have to go home, get baths and get straight to bed because you boys need rest after a hard day” and, from the far back, little Angel said, “and read our Bible stories too, right, Gigi?” and that’s all we needed to be reminded of the eternal purpose and joy in loving these boys so that, by His grace, they will know the love of our Savior.  And, more than ever, I’m grateful that I’m only having a lumpectomy and instead of perky boobs at the end of this road because  I’ll have more precious time with these precious boys.  Needless to say, I’d love your prayers for those little hearts who have had hard little lives.  And for Gigi’s strength, wisdom, peace and patience as she leans on Jesus and teaches them to do the same.  And oh how it kills me not to be able to include a picture of these precious faces but out of respect for them and their families (not to mention CPS rules), I can’t include them.  But Jesus knows them by name and face and I’d love your prayers for them as you think of them.

My heart is full.  I am real thankful for the timing, as I wrote last time, that we would finish chemo and get a great vacation because I loved the 2 full weeks with Scott and Linc and friends.  And, now, I look forward to getting another major milestone behind us tomorrow.  So far, I’m not anxious about surgery but that could set in since I’ve never really been under anesthesia to this degree. I would love your prayers that fear and anxiety would stay at bay and for wisdom and precise hands for Dr. Lamont and his team.

We rest in the sovereignty of a good and gracious God.  As the hymnist beautifully said it, tis grace that brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home.  I think the hymnist meant Home as in the presence of Jesus and I trust that too – but, I think it also fits to claim that I trust the Lord’s grace that brought me safe thus far will also lead me home to my bed after surgery tomorrow.

With much love and huge thanks for your prayers,

Jen