Happy New Year! We had a great holiday season. Right around Thanksgiving, I began going out without a scarf or hat. I first attempted no head covering when I was out of town, by walking into a grocery store with Dan. I felt very exposed, but over time, I grew more comfortable with my short hairstyle. Comments and words from others have been an encouragement to me during the season of having short hair, which has made me feel less feminine.
Annie has enjoyed snow in Minnesota and North Carolina this year– it has been fun to watch her excitement.
The past few months have kept me consistently occupied with appointments. More than one person has asked me if things are “back to normal now.” The true answer to that question is no. I was told early on after my surgery that things won’t be the same, but I will discover a new normal. I have dragged my feet on accepting the new normal, but I am beginning to sense an acceptance and peace about this new normal.
I have a team of people helping me through the changes. My oncologist, gynecologist, and physical therapist have all worked together to find the best treatment for me. With the removal of my ovaries and uterus, my body is very low on certain hormones, which has affected me. My gynecologist and oncologist have suggested various options for treating symptoms without having the option to use hormone replacement therapy (since ovarian cancer is estrogen fed.) I wasn’t really sure what a physical therapist could do for me, but I have been amazed at how helpful the work with her has been. I had not realized how my body responded to the trauma of two surgeries and cancer in my abdominal and pelvic floor area. There is still a considerable amount of tension and pain in this area. I did not even realize my body was so traumatized! So, just as it is taking me time to emotionally and mentally recover, my body is still overcoming the challenges of surgery and chemotherapy. Please continue to pray that I would be diligent in caring for myself- physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Having a toddler to care for can make these goals extra challenging, but I want to persevere day by day.
God has taught me so much. He is good and perfect. God never makes mistakes. “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9
I received great news from my oncologist on Thursday. She informed me that my bone scan looked really good, and no cancer showed up. I was relieved to hear the report.
Another gift I received on Thursday was that my hairdresser, who has cut my hair since I was a little girl, helped me by styling and cutting my wig. I am very thankful! My hair and eyebrows are beginning to grow back!
“Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; Sing praises on the harp to our God, Who covers the heavens with clouds, Who prepares rain for the earth. He does not delight in the strength of the horse; He takes no pleasure in the legs of man. The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy.” Psalm 147:7-8, 10-11
Fall has arrived! It is hard for me to believe that the summer is over. It was a gift to receive chemo during the summer. I did not have the demands of symphony concerts, which I’m grateful I did not have to miss. However, I am now feeling challenged as I try to keep up with all that fall brings including concerts and bible study.
I had a CT scan on September 8. I received a good report! However, there was one questionable spot on my scapula and therefore, I will be having a bone scan soon to get further information. Please pray that the spot would be harmless. I met with my oncologist yesterday and she confirmed that my CA-125 (a blood test that is a tumor marker) looked good. Praise be to God that I have received good reports following the surgery and treatment.
The plan going forward is to see my oncologist every 3 months for an exam and to repeat the CA-125 during those visits. I will also have a CT scan every 6 months.
Please also pray for perseverance and grace going forward. Now that my treatment is finished, I am more bothered by the hair loss than I was during treatment. I am ready to move on, but my body and mind are still recovering from the past 6 months. My oncologist said we have just put my body through a lot, and I can expect for it to take 3-6 months before I notice changes.
I am so thankful for all of the prayers and encouragement from family and friends that helped me through this difficult season. I ask you to continue to pray for me as I continue to recover.
Also, I have an exciting update on Ale. She has one more round of chemo to go, and her last CT scan and CA-125 looked really good. She is thankful for all the many prayers that have been said for her, and answered. Keep praying for Ale!
Dan’s Mom gave me a copy of Jesus Today, a devotional by Sarah Young, and I started reading it on the morning of my surgery in April. It has been a great source of encouragement. This morning, it was the first thing I read, and I was amazed by the words for today.
“I (Jesus) empower you–Infusing inner strength into you so that you are ready for anything. It’s essential to remember that this inner strength comes through Me, through your connection with Me. It comes to you as you need it– as you take trusting steps of dependence, moving forward with your eyes on Me. And I provide strength, just when you need it, for everything I allow to touch your life.”
The phrase “Christ infuses His strength into me” really caught my attention as I was heading to the Infusion lab to have chemo. As I was about to have chemotherapy drugs infused into my body, I was reminded that Christ is infusing me with His strength! I also read a passage in Hebrews, and I noticed verse 9: “And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.” In this verse remission is referring to forgiveness from our sins. I am so grateful God shed His blood for me. I am also hoping and praying to be in remission from the cancer.
Elizabeth visited me at the hospital, her presence was a gift. An answer to prayer and big gift was that my nurse, Annee’ was able to start my IV on the first stick!! Today, I was seated close to Carol, who is an ovarian cancer patient and receiving chemo for a third time (she had stage 4c cancer, and survived, but it has returned twice now). She is a graduate of USC which I discovered since I noticed her gamecock bag right away. She smiled a lot, and while I listened to her share her story, she reminded me of my Aunt Nance. Ale also came later in the day, and it was special to spend a few minutes talking to her. She was also there when I finished and got to ring the bell! Ale made me smile because she said that when it is her turn to ring the bell, she is going to run all over the hospital and parking lot ringing the bell, for the whole world to hear.
I consider today a gift. I didn’t start out feeling excited, and I still anticipate the side effects that will hit me this week. But, it was a great feeling to persevere and complete 6 treatments. I am so grateful for what God gave me today from His Word! I am grateful for the many prayers and words of support and encouragement I have received from many people.
My soul, wait patiently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God. Trust in Him at all times, you people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us. Psalm 62:5-8
Less than one week until my last chemo. It doesn’t feel as if I am making a sprint toward a strong finish, but that I’m just putting one foot in front of the other and trying to get there. There will be some things I will miss about chemo. Dan and I have grown to look forward to the time at the hospital together. I will miss those days, with him sitting at my side. I will miss taking the fastest showers in my life, not having to wash my hair or shave my legs. But there is much more that I will not miss, mainly the physical and mental side effects from the chemo.
I am grateful to be encouraged by brilliant teachers as I wrestle through some of the hardships I am facing.
Elisabeth Elliot highlighted these verses from Psalm 116: “What shall I return to the Lord for all His goodness to me? I will take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord.” Some days God’s grace has allowed me to take the cup I have been given with more ease than others.
John Piper said these inspiring words: “Now, the last note in every loss is joy, because nothing — no news, no one, no event, no loss — can take Christ and His love from me. Not even death. When I close these eyes for the very last time, that moment of greatest, deepest loss will be, “Gain.” And Lord haste the day when my faith shall be sight. We can have peace, and faith, and even joy when we lose everything, because we never lose everything. Regardless of what happens here on this earth, we’ll spend eternity enjoying the God who became like us, gave His life for us, rescued us from our sin, and delivers us to a full and never-ending life.” This brings me such comfort.
Chemo went well last Wednesday. My nurse for the day was Annee’. Right away I noticed her name and thought of Annie, but she pronounces her name “Ah-nay”. She started my IV in my right arm, and she was able to get it on the second attempt. I spoke with the PA and everything went smoothly for my 5th treatment. It was a gift to get a little sleep during the time at the hospital. The most special part of my day was visiting with Ale (pronounced “Alley”). I met Ale on the day of my third treatment. She and I connected because we are both ovarian cancer fighters and we both have young children. Ale has a 6 year old daughter, and 3 year old son. Her cancer was found when her son was 1 1/2 years old (the same age as Annie now.) The treatment was successful at that time. However, her cancer has now returned in a few different places, and she is on very aggressive treatment. I beg you to pray for Ale. She has a fun and youthful spirit. She has truly had a difficult road to walk. Pray that God would show mercy on her and her family, and that He would give her life and health and joy.
Last Friday, I received my neulasta shot. While I was at the hospital, Oksana (the cellist in our quartet) and I played three pieces for a few patients who were receiving chemo. It worked out to play because we were on the way to play a wedding that evening.
The neulasta can be more challenging than the chemo. It really has made me feel weak, fatigued, and achey. Dan and I had planned to visit friends in Sumter this past weekend, and we went forward with the trip. It was special to see several people we love. I am grateful that my side effects are not more severe. Please pray for me to have endurance during the challenging days.
In the time since my last treatment, I have felt worn. I have experienced frustration, and there were days when it seemed my life was sucked out of me.
At the same time, God has given me some very good gifts to help me during the last cycle. One thing cancer has done has changed my priorities and perspective. I hope this will stay with me! I decided to visit several family members– it was worth the effort. Some days I had a carpe diem attitude. I have had family members come to help me, and I realize that without chemo, Dan, Annie and I would likely not have the regular visits and help from family. Flowers were sent to me! I have rediscovered my love of swimming.
The sermon at our church on Sunday was a great encouragement to me. “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Colossians 3:1-2 I needed the reminder that I am not home yet. When I am disappointed and unsatisfied, it’s because I wasn’t meant to experience complete fulfillment and satisfaction in this life. I believe that only being in God’s presence in Heaven will give me what I desire.
Thank you for your prayers. Chemo #5 is tomorrow. Please pray that I will set my mind on things above. Pray for the medical staff. Pray that God would heal me, and that I would experience minimal or no side effects. Pray for Annie to be a good sport as Dan and I are at the hospital, and in the week after as I typically don’t feel my best. Pray for Dan.
Thank you for your prayers. I am glad to have one more chemo treatment behind me. Dan and I arrived at the hospital at 8 am. I was able to sit in my favorite corner. The nurses typically tell me I can choose which chair I want. The only challenge of the day was starting the IV. Three different nurses attempted to find one of my “dainty” veins, as they called them. I noticed that some nurses have more gentle touches than others. As I had to sit through the poking and prodding, I thought back to what I have read in some of my Bible reading recently. “Blessed are those whose strength is in You.” -Psalm 84:5. I knew that God was with me, and I tried to sit back and let Him work. It truly helped me relax to rely on Him for strength. “Fear not, and be not dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” 2 Chronicles 20:15
I was sitting next to Linda and Beth yesterday. Linda began chemo about one year ago! But she will have her final treatment next week. Beth was receiving her final treatment today. When she finished her treatment, she got to ring the bell– that is a tradition for chemo patients who finish their treatment. Some of her family members came to watch her ring the bell. I was also glad to talk to another Ovarian Cancer patient, Ally, who I met during my last treatment.
My friend Teresa came to visit, and I enjoyed the time with her. Talking and sharing lunch was a gift, and made for an enjoyable time. She showed me pictures from a recent vacation, and I really enjoyed that.
When Dan and I got home, I felt very sleepy and took a nap. I was still able to sleep through the night that night, so that was great! I am grateful that I am able to predict and even manage some of my side effects better now. I know some of you have prayed for my treatments to get better as time goes on. I didn’t believe that would be the case, because I assumed I would continually feel weaker. But, I feel that predicting how I am going to feel does make the weeks of treatment seem more tolerable. I am also so grateful I have had no more colds since the second round! I consider it a blessing in many ways to have chemo during the summer.
I am scheduled to have my fourth chemo tomorrow.
This past week has been full of gifts, and has been a reminder of why summer is my favorite season. On Monday night, Dan and I enjoyed a spectacular storm. We stepped outside into the summer night, it wasn’t raining. The sky was lit up with electrifying lightning and the thunder rumbled in true surround sound. Some of my favorite things about summer are peaches, blueberries, swimming, basil, tomatoes, barbecue, and my birthday! Today was a very special day. I am grateful for my family and friends who made it special. The whole day was a gift, and I was so grateful to celebrate another birthday.