Waking up on 147

Jan 24

So many mornings this past year, I have woken up thinking, “Holy crap!  I have breast cancer!” or, later, “Holy cow!  Where are my boobs?  Oy, the cancer got ’em.” Having a Big Thing happen in your life is like that: it is, seemingly forever, surreal.  I still shake my head in disbelief that this is my life, that this has happened to me.  But it did, and by the grace of God my people and I are not only surviving it, but doing it well.  (I hope.) This morning, I woke up thinking, “Holy guacamole!  I am still cancer free!  Today is day 147 of having NED!”  (Yes.  I know how many days I’ve been cancer free.  Cancer free is a big freaking deal.) For a cancer patient, the day after Clean Scan Day is an awesome day to wake up.  It’s Christmas-y, and birthday-y, and vacation-y all wrapped together. After my PET scan yesterday, I left the hospital, wandered aimlessly around a store for an hour while I waited for Brad, and then Brad and I went and sat in Dr. Wonderful’s waiting room.  I said to the my friend the receptionist, “Hi.  I don’t actually have an appointment to see Dr. Wonderful today, but I just had a PET scan, and I am just going to sit here until he gets the results.” She just nodded and said she would tell him I was here.  God bless her. Brad and I sat and fidgeted for forty-five minutes before Dr. Wonderful and Nurse Practitioner Rockstar gave us the news.  I was feeling good; I had every reason to believe it was clean, but I still wanted to hear those words.  Dr. Wonderful reviewed the report, but it all clicked for me when Dr. Wonderful smiled and said, “This is great news.  We’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing.”  When Dr. Wonderful is happy, I’m happy.  He also made a comment about my liver, which has always been an element of concern because it showed an anomaly on my first scans in March 2012.  We biopsied those spots, and it came back negative, but Dr. Wonderful is thorough, and we are keeping a close watch on my liver....

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Scan Day

Jan 23

My PET scan is today (Wednesday 1/23) at 1:30pm.  The PET scan will confirm for me that there is still No Evidence of Disease (NED), that there is no cancer in my body.  The PET was on the radar for February, but the scheduler put me in a slot 2 weeks early.  It was not bumped up because of any medical reason, but simply because it was convenient.  And I’m good with that–I didn’t argue.  I want to get these clean results and move on to living my regular life.  I’ve got plans and cancer better not get in my way! I’ll get my results before the weekend, so that will be good.  I will blog the results as soon as I get them, because I know you want to know. I can’t eat or drink anything except water until after the test today, so it’s sort of a forced fasting.  Which is appropriate, I think, for the gravity of the occasion.  I’ll be fasting and praying all morning.  And then I’ll commute to the hospital, be injected with radioactive dye, lie still for an hour, and then slide into a giant metal donut which will silently seek out cell activity.  My daughters will be well-loved with Phenom and the Fun family, so I’ll have all of the hours I’m not in the donut to do as I please.  It is set up to be a relaxing, Jen-centered day, and I hope to make the most of it.  I have some projects I am working on and I am happy to use my down time to fuel my soul. I feel good.  I can do this.  I can Do Today Well. I’d love it if you would pray with me today: pray for a clean scan! I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. –Psalm...

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The brave smile

Jan 21

If I had to pick one unifying characteristic that would describe new patients in the Chemo Room, it would have to be the brave smile. There are other telltale signs: multiple family members present, deer-in-headlights glaze in their eyes, a full head of hair, and an aura of disbelief.  But it is the brave smile that the newbies all have in common.  The first session in the Chemo Room is a rite of passage as a chemo patient.  It means that you have already passed through The Suspicion, The Diagnosis, The Logistics, The Testing, and The Planning.  There is a sense of, “Finally, we made it,” upon entrance to the Chemo Room. We get to fight. We get to kill cancer. We get to live. I counter their brave smile with my confident one.  “I did this,” I say gesturing to the drugs, the IV pole, the warm blankets.  “You can do it too.” And then, inevitably, the brave smile morphs into genuine laughter, and we share names, and stories, and ourselves.  I meet people in all walks of life, who are not living a life interrupted by cancer.  They are living their life with cancer.  They are not mutually exclusive; they are inseparable. I think that if every person started their week by spending an hour in a recliner next to a stranger who is receiving chemotherapy treatments, the world would be a kinder place.  I know it has made me a better person.  Every Monday Herceptin drips into my veins and goodness seeps into my soul; I hope I Do Today Well and pay it forward. I am so grateful for this life and for my many blessings. Blessings to you this week,...

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A high fly ball

Jan 18

If you’ve ever been into a baseball game, I hope you know this feeling.  You know, the pounding in your chest when the our team’s bat hits the ball and it’s a high fly ball heading for the fence.  The entire stadium leaps to their feet with a collective gasp.  Men clench their fists, women clasp their heart, and the jaws of the children hang open.  We all hold our breath.  We’re waiting to see if the ball is going over the fence.  The elation is bubbling up but we hold back the yell and the high-five until it’s official.  We’re waiting, we’re waiting, we’re waiting, and, oh yeah, it’s going to be a ten year wait. That’s sort of how the wait in-between scans feels.  My PET scan is coming up.  I’m feeling that euphoric anticipation of how awesome it’s going to be when it’s “official” and I’m still cancer-free. In the meantime I’m in this anticipation phase: I’m thankful to be in the sunshine, at the game, soaking every minute, and oh, so happy.  Truly, I am so happy.  And grateful.  But sometimes, when I look and see that ball in the air, there is still that feeling that I’m holding my breath.  I’m working on not doing that.  I’m keeping my eyes fixed on what matters.  God is good, and He already knows what’s going to happen.  That’s enough for me. Dr. Wonderful once told me that he went for the home run with me.  It’s probably the comment that has been bouncing around in my brain that inspired this post.  It feels good to know that the coach signaled, “Go for it.”  It feels good that I have a whole stadium of people who are one their feet on my behalf.  Thank you for clenching your fists, covering your heart, and feeling this life out loud with me. I love imagining the sound of my people in the stadium when that ball clears the fence.  God can do it.  This I believe.  I trust Him, and Him...

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NED Maintenance

Jan 07

I was going to call this post “Cancer Maintenance”, but then I realized that made no sense because I HAVE NO CANCER. It still makes me feel so happy to type that.  Cancer free. NED.  No evidence of disease. ::Frolick and happy dance commence.:: I’m in a routine right now for NED maintenance: I see Dr. Wonderful, my oncologist and the quarterback of my medical team, every week.  He and Nurse Practitioner Rockstar check my weight, blood pressure, pulse, temperature, oxygen saturation, lungs, heart, and surgical site.  After they finish their exam and we chat about vacations and family, I head over to the Chemo Room.  I pick one of the ten recliners, and wave to my friends along the way.  Since I go to the same office every week, I know most of the patients and all of the nurses.  I sit down in the chair and wait for the nurses to access my port (which means stick an IV needle through my skin into my port).  Soon, they hang a bag of Herceptin on the IV pole, and I “drip” for about an hour.  I get to talk to my friends, rest in a recliner under a warm blanket, and have drinks and snacks served to me.  Once the Herceptin is all in, I am de-accessed, and I say my good-byes and I leave.  I like going to my oncology office.  They are my friends. I see Dr. Gold, my cardiologist, every three months.  I also get an echocardiogram every three months to track my heart function.  I take pills daily, and so far, my heart function has been restored to normal ranges as long as I take the pills.  Since I have to take some pills in the morning, mid-day, and nighttime, I found I had to get a pill box (one of those boxes with little compartments for the days of the week: SMTWTFS).  Because I found that my mommy/chemo brain is incapable of remembering whether or not I took a pill four hours ago.  Dr. Gold’s main job is to keep my heart on track so that I can continue to receive Herceptin (Herceptin can decrease heart function).  So far, so good.  Yippee! I...

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Jan 01

Milestones are funny things.  They pass the time.  Sometimes it seems like time flies, other times like time slows and nearly stops.  The same event can be both a blink and an eternity.  It reminds me of a flowing river: such different experiences: on a boat, on the shore, in the water, wading.  There are so many perspectives to see the same things.  I pray that I choose to see the best and brightest views in our milestones this year. Brad and I have been married for nine years and one day.  We had the. most. fantastic. New Year’s Eve wedding in 2003.  Many people I know look back on their weddings and say, “I wish I could change this, I wish would have done that.”  I have no such regrets.  It was a perfect day, and I loved it.  (Thanks Mom & Dad.)  I am happier than ever that Brad chose me. Milestones. Maren is reading: she blows through words like “trouble” and “instead” and “parachute” with barely a pause.  She uses a questioning tone when there is a question mark, she pauses at commas, and she follows the story line.  All this in six months!  I still remember when I found her in her bedroom in Iowa with a baby doll on each side, reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear aloud to them from memory. Milestones. Greta speaks in full sentences and follows multi-step directions. “Mommy, I want chips in dis (this) PLEASE!” “Okay, Greta, go sit down at the table and I will give you some chips,” and then she runs over, climbs into a kitchen chair, and waits for her snack. “Dank (Thank) you,” she says when I deliver it.  She and I are both thrilled with her increasing communication skills. “You’re welcome,” I say quickly.  Because if I don’t say it quickly enough, she says it for me.  She’s uber polite. Milestones. As we close the books on the first day of 2013, I am happy in the knowledge that I Did Today Well, my husband is a stud muffin, and my daughters are bright, beautiful, and full of love.  May 2013 be filled with God’s grace, and may this year be cancer free.  I...

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