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Friday, July 29, 2016

My Hair

My hair. It's always had a mind of its own.

It started falling out earlier this week. My scalp had been feeling weird. 

"Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows."

Luke 12:7 

Jesus said that. Maybe he was hinting of my nest? 😉

Tuesday I took a shower in the morning and again that night. My hair clogged the drain both times. Wednesday morning, another shower before chemo, same thing. So much hair. That night I was so tired and just achy after chemo, I just wanted a shower and my bed. As I stuck my head under the water, I let my hair get wet and added shampoo. And more hair stated falling out tangled together in huge matted dreadlock looking things. I called for Charlie to bring me my comb. I slathered in conditioner and gently tried to work through the tangles. It just got worse and more clumps just added to it. This is it.I had already talked to my boys about when it was time to shave my head. They've had me cutting their hair their whole lives. It was their turn to buzz mine. Nathan had a hard time with it and decided not to. Ryan took over and cut that nasty dead rat looking thing off my head. It made for a nice moustache. And a goatee. We had fun with it.Edward Scissorhands does my hair!!

It hurt to cut my hair. Like physically HURT. But he started by shaving the side. I had to capture that punk rock snarl for old time's sake 😉 
So why not shave the other side and have a mullet? 😂 
Now let's end that party in the back and we can have matching haircuts! Just what every 16 year old young man wants, right? 😁 Twinning with mama. 
Now shave straight through the middle...
...so you can wear a pretty little bow one last time. 🎀
Now let's finish it. Mom's tired and every follicle on my head hurts. 
Ta da!!
No one tells you what it feels like when chemo makes your hair fall out. It happened so fast! Mine is still falling out in clumps but it's less messy since it's shorter. I expect there won't be anything left on my head soon. 

I'm glad to discover that my head is nice and round. My head feels naked and I need a hat that doesn't make me feel like a man. Cancer has taken my breasts and my hair but it will NOT take my joy. That belongs to the Lord, my Creator, my Rock. 

"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well."
Psalms 139:14
 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Round 2

Here we go again. 

Wednesday morning I will go in for my second round of chemo. I'm hoping that this time goes as well as the last time. I'm trying to remember that last time I went in there "new" and having never done this before. Now at least I know what to expect. I'm bringing more ice water and tea. I'm bringing more to do. As of this evening I'm fasting again. Whatever it takes, right?

Earlier today I went to the sauna again. If my doctor had her way I'd be there 5 or 6 times a week, but once will have to do. I actually enjoyed it today, heat and all. I noticed something I missed the last time. My sweat didn't sting my skin like it used to. I think that's called healing. For years my body acted like it was allergic to my own sweat. This time it felt cleansing. I'm completely drenched in this pic. 

I mentioned I'm bringing something to do for chemo tomorrow. A quick trip to Goodwill this weekend and $6 later I have the makings of my own portable art studio. Drawing, painting, hand lettering, coloring. This will keep me busy for all the hours I'll be there this year. 
I was told recently that I "paint a pretty picture" and the question was asked if things are really going as well as I've shared here. Yes, things are going well. Yes, I'm hopeful and feeling great (at the moment). But the are also times that aren't so sunny. I don't share much of that because it's depressing to focus on the negative stuff. I've shared my loneliness and how I feel isolated. What more can I say? I had to ask for visitors during chemo tomorrow so I'm not sitting there alone all day. Thankfully I have a ride there and another visitor to come. I've had a hundred people tell me to call them if I need anything. I'll be honest, I'm not likely to call. Instead, read this and see if this helps:  http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/5660514.html

My funds for my care outside of the doctor's office, those uncovered by my insurance but recommended for my healing, are running low. I have 5 more months of chemo to go and then reconstruction. I have no energy to plan a fundraiser for myself and don't feel right doing it. It's hard enough asking for donations, but here I am. Asking anyway. https://www.paypal.me/TWCancerFight

And my hair started falling out today. I didn't know it would come out in huge fistfuls. I didn't know it would make me so emotional. But it did. And I sobbed in the shower as it clogged the drain. 

All these things are stressful to my family and my marriage. We welcome your prayers. 

So that's my complete picture, the good, the bad, and the ugly. It's a lot more fun to tell you how great I'm doing. 

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