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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Finding Joy in the Journey

Yesterday marked a week since my first chemo infusion. I had lab work done in the morning and met with my oncologist. She said my blood counts looked "phenomenal" and she anticipates that I will weather chemo quite well. I kinda have to agree with her. After all, that's why I'm doing all this work at home- juicing, exercising, complementary and alternative therapies.

The first 4 days were the hardest, but even they weren't too bad. My nose was super sensitive to every smell, while my taste buds were numb (like I'd scalded my mouth). This combo led to little appetite, nothing sounded good. My nausea was pretty mild, more like heartburn, but made it difficult to find anything "good" to eat or drink. I didn't juice on those days. I couldn't handle the smell of the vegetables. Especially celery. 😉 Back to normal now and that brings me great joy!

The day after my chemo infusion I received an injection of Neulasta, to fight neutropenia. It's to help boost my white blood cell count so I can fight infection. Since white blood cells are made in the bone marrow, and this is now being simulated, this causes bone pain. For 3 days after my injection, I would have flashes of pain, especially through my spine and upper back. While the pain would stop me in my tracks, I was able to breathe slowly through it and it would pass. Again, no pain meds. Thank you, Lord!

My goal for the week was to be in church on Sunday. I was there with my family and praising the Lord for all the blessings that the week brought, all that was mercifully spared, and praying that the chemo was working even as he was healing my body. Hallelujah!!

Monday I felt good but I was getting restless. Charlie and I made a spontaneous decision to drop in on our local ballroom dancing classes. I figured it was safe to see how I'd do. I'm so glad we went. We aren't getting much alone time right now so it made for a nice date night. 💜 And I was fine. I actually think it was great exercise for my still-healing right arm. I'm still praying for those damaged nerves to heal completely. Meanwhile, I got to dance with my beloved. And whenever we dance there's always laughter. 😆 And laughter is good for the soul. 

By the way, my dad's surgery went well. He's up and moving and ready to go home as soon as he can. Thank you all for praying!

Tuesday I went to an infrared sauna as part of my recommended care. I don't like hot and I get claustrophobic, so I was a little concerned about 40 minutes in 130° in a tiny room. And sweat I did. I felt like every cell in my body was weeping. Take that cancer!! 😅 I'm hoping to be able to do this at least once a week.

So that's it. I go back in next week for my next infusion. I'm slowly starting to add regular activities back in as I'm able. I spend way too much time in doctor's offices with sick and frail people, but knowing that God has me there for a reason. I'm struggling with feelings of isolation and loneliness. I had reason to celebrate last night and no one available to join me. Feeling raw. If you're healthy and have the time, call me. I told a friend the other day, "I'm still me." I happen to have this cancer battle taking up a lot of my time right now,  but there's so much LIFE still going on. I still like coffee and time with friends. I like to read and paint and get outside and watch my kids thrive.

So, for those that have been asking how I'm doing, that's as real as it gets. I'm on this journey to heal and I'm trying to find joy along the way.

Friday, July 15, 2016

After Round 1

It's been 2 days now since Chemo Round 1 got its first punch in. I didn't feel it till about 6 pm and it lasted till I went to bed. I took my antinausea meds (one of the 5 they prescribed me) around 9 pm because the feeling wasn't passing on its own. I am thankful for the fast my integrative oncologist had me on. Clear fluids only for 36 hours equals no vomiting and mild nausea. I was wide awake at 3 am though, might have been the meds wearing off, and after an hour and a half I was able to go back to sleep. I woke up rested, no nausea, and only slightly hungry for my first post chemo meal. Praise the Lord. He gets ALL the glory.

I promptly went on with my day, intending to just playing it by ear. I went to the doctor for my neulasta injection. I've been warning this one will kill off my white blood cells. (More on that later.) Took my sister to the airport to see her off. About 2 pm, the nausea returned. Still very mild, but just enough to make me cautious. I took my meds again just before dinner, a different one this time. I don't think they're really helping but at least the feeling isn't overwhelming. Just taking it easy.

Today's Friday now and I'm taking my son Ryan to the DMV for his driving test. Say a little prayer for him that he passes. It'll be a huge help to me to have him driving independently. I know he's ready, but he's a bit nervous this morning.

As for me, please pray that the nausea I'm experiencing either goes away or stays this mild. Also, today I woke up aching all over. The neulasta injection causes bone pain and I'm feeling it. This looks like it will shape up to be a low key day. Good thing I'm taking this day by day...or even hour by hour. Minute by minute works too 💕

Many thanks,
Tika

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Tomorrow: chemo

I've spent the last few days getting ready for chemo. Tests, results, appointments, errands, prayer.

Thanks to those of you that sent me a "cup of coffee", flowers, notes, and texts this week. Thanks also to those that have brought meals and given rides to me and my boys. So many blessings...

There's been lots of curiosity expressed for my treatment plan. Many of you know I'm seeing an integrative oncologist. She's AMAZING and creating a customized plan for me, for my specific cancer, and with my tendency towards natural, holistic healing in mind.  She has been responsible for running tests my other doctors won't ask for and will continue to advise me through chemo. I will also be seeing a naturopath later this month.

Under my integrative oncologist's advisement, I will be fasting through my chemo infusions. (Up til now, I've been intermittently fasting 12-14 hours between dinner and my next meal.) Today, I had a filling breakfast, high in protein and healthy fats and satisfying. Lunch was my usually veggie juice (minus supplements today). Dinner was a small plate of lettuce and blueberries. The idea is that my body (and my cells, both healthy and cancerous) will be expecting a big breakfast again tomorrow. Instead, it will get a dose of chemotherapy to feast on. This fast should also help with my nausea. I'm hopeful that the side effects will be minimal, but only time will tell.

Up till now, I've also been directed to get a minimum of 20-30 minutes in the sunshine, taking in that vitamin d, exposing as much skin as I'm comfortable with in my own back yard 😉 That'll change now. Some of the drugs I'll be on will make me sensitive to the sun. I'll still be spending time outdoors, only now it'll be in the shade.

Please pray for my family. It's been a joy to have my sister here this week helping us prepare, but the truth is there's only so much we can really do. We still have to walk through this valley. I still have cancer. There's still a battle to fight. I'm clinging to the Lord and praying for his peace.

Chemo starts tomorrow morning. Time for some sleep.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Peace

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:6‭-‬7

All week long I've been praying for God's peace to flood my home and my heart. Tuesday, I went in for an echocardiogram. One of the chemo drugs they'll be using has the potential to damage my heart so they wanted to get a baseline to start with. This worries me. Wednesday, I met with my radiation oncologist. My brain hurts. Thankfully, I don't have to decide for awhile. I also got fitted for a mastectomy bra. Weird. And a reflexology session. That was lovely. Today was the only day I didn't have appointments scheduled, so I got to take my son to the DMV. Tomorrow I'll go in for my port placement. This surgical procedure has caused me more anxiety than the thought of having both my breasts removed so they don't kill me! Please pray for me. Back to the hospital tomorrow. Chemo starts Wednesday. 20 weeks of chemotherapy. Good grief...

My sister is flying in on Sunday. She'll be here for a few days and be able to go to my first chemo treatment with me. My mom will be here for the rest. She recently decided that she'd like to be here close by to walk this journey with me. I am so thankful. She will be looking for a small 2 bedroom house or apartment to rent in the Medford area. Please pray she finds something quickly.

My dad goes in for his surgery a week from Monday to remove the colon cancer from his body. Please pray for him and my stepmom.

So many of you have helped with meals and transportation, garden goodies, prayers, donations, and encouraging notes. THANK YOU. I don't think I'll ever catch up on thank you notes, but please know I do appreciate each one of you.

It's so odd to think that 2 months ago I was searching for the perfect place for my art studio. My business had been growing by leaps and bounds. I had almost signed a lease when my biopsy results came in and turned my world upside-down. Cancer. My hope is that my business will survive this healing sabbatical I'm on and that I can return to doing what I love. It brings me such joy to teach and encourage new artists, both young and old. In the meantime, today I painted for the first time since my surgery.  It was good therapy and I was filled with peace. I can do this...but I'm glad I'm not alone.

For those that are asking how to help, please understand that I don't always have an answer. I do appreciate the genuine offers, but I can't keep track of who said what and when they're available. It's hard enough keeping track of my appointments. An idea? Come visit me, dear friends. Ask, pray, listen, and maybe you'll hear something that will give you an idea on how to help. Or check out the notes we posted a few weeks ago here.

Much love,
Tika
For the Weeks family

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Moving ahead

Last Friday I got my drains removed. Hallelujah!! And that meant I could sleep in my own bed and wear normal clothes. It also meant I could shower without having to sit on a bench cradling the drain tubes in my lap.

👕 Monday I saw my surgeon for my post surgery followup appointment. Everything is healing nicely and I've been released to move freely. He said I must be Superwoman. He doesn't really hear patients choose to skip the pain meds, yet  I was truly doing well and healing faster than he expected. I asked him if I get a t-shirt 😉 He laughed. I like Dr Faught. I get to go visit him again on July 8th to have my port put in for chemo. Maybe I'll get my t-shirt then. Ha ha!😂

✂ While the last 2 weeks have been spent healing and resting, the next 2 weeks are going to fly by. I will be going in for ct scan today and an echocardiogram next week. Tonight I'm cutting my hair short to ease the transition to chemo baldness. My hair has already been falling out due to stress, so this is actually a relief. Still working on the stress part though. As I said, I get my port put in next Friday. Chemo will start July 12th.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
~ Proverbs 3:5

About chemo...
I had hoped to avoid this altogether, but after discussing this with my doctors and praying with my family, I've decided to go ahead with it. My integrative oncologist is refining my treatment and customizing it to my body and my specific cancer. No "one size fits all" treatment from the factory assembly line. She has spelled out a very detailed plan for me. I will also be seeing a naturopath to help monitor and support my immune system.

🗓 My chemo treatment will have 2 phases totalling 20 weeks. The first one will last 2 months and I will go in every other week for 3-4 hours at a time. The second will be weekly for 12 weeks. If I've done the math correctly, it looks like I'll be finishing chemo just before Christmas.

💉 Charlie and I went to my chemo education class last week. It was decided then that Charlie will not be accompanying me to my chemo appointments. Needles make him sick and I can't afford to be worried about him going down while I'm hooked up to an IV. As we get closer, I'll be looking  to fill that roll, but not the full 4 hours. Just a visit so I can rest too.

Other updates:
🐟 My dad and my stepmom are taking advantage of the time he has before his surgery (to remove the colon cancer from his body) by going on a fishing trip in their RV. Please pray that it is a restful time for both of them.

⛺ We are also taking advantage of the time I have before starting chemo by going on our church's camping trip this weekend. Please pray that it is a restful time for our family too. I'm looking forward to a little campfire fellowship.

We got our car back a couple days ago. No problems so far. Thank you, Lord! We were instructed to drive it for a few weeks and if it's truly fixed, we'll owe $160. (They replaced the same part Charlie replaced while we were in California a month ago.) If it's not fixed, we're to bring it back again. Please pray that it is fixed.

I posted on Facebook the other day that we are looking for a few things. These are the ones were still trying to track down:
• Guest room for 1 (Medford) available for a few weeks, possibly a month, towards the end of July/early August
• 2BD house or downstairs apartment <$850/mo (Medford area)*
• Market umbrella &/or stand for sale

*Don't worry, we are not moving. We have a family member moving to the area but cannot host them in our home. The guest room is temporary while they look for a place.

Last of all, this photo: A friend of my sister's makes these cool handpainted  signs. She posted this one recently and I'm hoping she has more soon. A couple days before I saw this, my stepmom had sent me an encouraging email with "Chin up! Chest out!" in the subject line. As a daughter of the One True King, I feel this sign said it all and the daily reminder would be helpful 💗

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Good news!

Good news! Charlie starts a new job on Monday!! I'm so happy for him and this new venture. And God's timing, as always, is perfect 😊 He's been applying to this company since before he left Home Depot over 2 years ago. The position that was offered to him is a perfect fit for his skills and experience, so we're looking forward to him getting started. Please pray for a smooth transition for him!

With all the lost hours Charlie had the past couple weeks in order to take me to appointments, during my hospital stay, and then a slow work week, we were coming up very short for rent. Praise report: God has provided. A generous friend has taken it upon herself to cover that gap and then some.

With Charlie starting his new job and our car still in the shop, I'm going to all need a little help with getting to appointments and preparing meals. I can't drive yet anyway and I don't have the doctor's okay to lift more than 1lb. I think my empty pots and pans weigh more than that! Here is the link for helping with meals http://www.takethemameal.com/meals.php?t=DCSS0960. (At this point, it's looking like chemo will start mid-July, though we're waiting on a few more test results before confirming that. If we do move forward with it, I'm looking at 5 months of chemo treatment and reconstruction after that.)

I have an appointment on Monday that I'll need a driver for. (We have a loaner car from the mechanic, so Ryan can't do it.) If you are available 10:30-12:30ish and willing to do that, please let me know. I'm trying to not keep asking the same people for help. I also need to find someone to take Nathan to his OT appointment Wednesday morning. This will be a bigger challenge since he won't go with just anyone. If you offer and he says no, please just try and understand it's  nothing personal 💕 Thank you!

More good news! I got my drains out yesterday and I'm happy to say that they're already healing up nicely. Much less pain and discomfort AND I was able to sleep in my own bed last night instead of the recliner. Yay!! 😊

I think that's it for now. I'm looking forward to trying to go to church tomorrow and that makes me happy too.
Thank you to all who have helped us so far! Your love and support had made this challenging time a little easier ❤

One last thing-
I shared this (photo) the other day, but I know not all of you reading this are on Facebook. It's totally worth sharing again:

A dear friend, one more precious than she knows, sent me some good reading material this week. Perfect timing ❤ Here's a bit of it:
God's plan is..
Perfect
Exhaustive
For my ultimate good
Secret

(From a booklet called Behind a Frowning Providence by John J. Murray)

Be sure to listen to the hymn this book was based on. It's beautiful. https://youtu.be/VtnapVDuPfg

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Waiting

Wave after wave...they keep coming and they keep crashing. Treading water is not an option, I must keep swimming. I'm tired and I'm drowning... I just want to rest. I want to breathe but I can't keep my head above water. I just want to get out past the break...or back on dry land.

This week has been filled with much testing. Car trouble...again. Still not sure the problem is resolved. Charlie had planned to take 2 days off for my surgery last week and got 5. Work is slow. It's Wednesday now and he's done for the week. He starts a new job on Monday, praise the Lord, but it'll be rough to pay rent next month with so many missing days on his paycheck...and me not working.  Oh, and yesterday our landlord notified us that he has to raise the rent. Really?? What next?

My oncology appointment yesterday left me overwhelmed. Chemo...
Another wave crashes...

Today I went to the doctor's twice to get my drains checked. My right side has been partially clogged since Friday. Finally, it's clear and the swelling is going down.

I feel like I'm just waiting. Wading and waiting. Waiting to heal. Waiting to hear results. Waiting... I can't tell if it's me waiting on the Lord or him waiting on me. I think it's both actually. Have I been trying to do this all on my own? He's waiting for my total surrender. I'm waiting for him...

And then last night my pastors came to pray for us. And shared this...

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When evildoers assail me to eat up my flesh, my adversaries and foes, it is they who stumble and fall. Though an army encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident. One thing have I asked of the Lord , that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple. For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock. And now my head shall be lifted up above my enemies all around me, and I will offer in his tent sacrifices with shouts of joy; I will sing and make melody to the Lord . Hear, O Lord , when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! You have said, "Seek my face." My heart says to you, "Your face, Lord , do I seek."
Psalms 27:1‭-‬8

This is my cry.

But it ends with this...

Wait for the Lord ; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord !
Psalms 27:14

I will wait for the Lord. I will seek his face. I will trust him. He is faithful.