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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Breathe

A small glimpse of my weekly steps towards beating cancer:

Chemo went very well this week. Done quickly and painlessly for the most part. I even had a little tea party with today's visitor ❤🍵


All these bags. Just for me. *deep breath*
💉
Only 10 more chemotherapy infusions to go!


And then...


After chemo, I spent an hour in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber. My integrative oncologist has recommended this therapy to compliment my chemo infusions. *breathe in, breathe out* Pure oxygen filling my lungs and aiding the healing process. 

"Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) is currently being utilized in conjunction with conventional treatments, including radiation and chemotherapy, to attain optimal dosages for patients, stimulate tumor regression and reduce the side effects of treatments. Cancer thrives in hypoxic or low-oxygen environments and HBOT has been shown to increase these oxygen levels to weaken tumors and reduce their aggressiveness. Studies have demonstrated the benefits of HBOT for cancer with the following:

Enhance "Conventional" Cancer Therapies & Treatments: increases oxygen levels in tumors, better radiation therapy results, improves chemotherapy outcome, enhances brain treatment, decreases tumor drug resistance, allows for optimal therapy dosage to be attained, improves surgical results" [More info on HBOTherapy I received, please visit their website at http://www.curesauna.com/hyperbaric-oxygen-therapy/] 

Additionally, I am going to this same location, Cure Sauna, for my infrared sauna sessions, also recommended by my wonderful integrative oncologist. These high temp sessions help my body to sweat out toxins, improve cell health, and aid in relaxation, stabilizing blood pressure, and pain reduction.

I started physical therapy earlier this month with the lymphadema specialist. She is helping to loosen up the tightness across my chest, increase my range of motion in my affected arm, and reduce risk of lymphadema. This consists of deep tissue massage across my chest, low-light laser treatment along my scar tissue, stretches, and hooking me up to a lymphatic pump once a well to help my lymph system work properly. I'm particularly interested in reducing the tightness so that my reconstructive surgeries next year will go smoothly. 

After seeing a naturopath last month, I shared the intensive dietary restrictions that were added to my already strict diet. Since my diagnosis in May, I had been doing very well with a cancer fighting diet geared towards keeping me as healthy as possible during treatment, namely chemo. My integrative oncologist had approved of my research and resulting diet, made a few tweaks and encouraged me to continue. She also approved of me having a naturopath on my care team. Neither of us anticipated that he would run extensive food allergen panels 2 days AFTER a round of chemo. Needless to say, we will not be using this information and find that it is likely highly inaccurate. An expensive but valuable lesson, to be sure. *sigh* I am now back on the previous eating plan and, at the request of several of you, I'll write that out in detail soon. Meanwhile, a big thank you to all that have brought meals and shared organic produce with us. It sure helps take the burden of cooking off of Charlie especially 😊  

For those of you that have contributed to our donation fund to help with medical expenses, a large portion has gone to my integrative oncologist and these recommeded therapies (only my medical oncologist and my physical therapist are covered by my insurance). It's also covered genetic testing that helped me avoid unnecessary treatments and helped customize my care plan to the ones best suited to fight my particular cancer in my particular body. I can't say thank you enough!!

One last thought...
Next month is well known as Breast Cancer Awareness month. Very soon you'll start seeing a lot of pink ribbons and silly slogans meant to inform the general public. Your favorite stores and brands and even coffee stands will sell millions of dollars worth of products while advertising that a portion of those dollars will go towards finding a cure. I'd like to encourage you to really consider if that's what's happening the next time you see pink. 
Thank you!
💖 Tika

Letting go

Running, resting, tired, sleeping...awake.
Hungry, fasting, nausea, tastes...funny.
Happy, content, lonely, hurt....overjoyed.

Every day, my head is spinning. I don't know what to expect next...so I'm letting it go. All the expectations I've put on myself and others...no more. I wish I'd done this sooner, before sharing my heartache last week...and hurting those that have been here for me. I'm so sorry. I'm still figuring this out. I've never done this before. I don't know what is supposed to look like. I don't know how I'm supposed to feel or act. Please forgive me. I wasn't trying to be selfish. I'm trying not to fail. I'm struggling with asking for help when I don't know what I need. It's even harder to let you help me when you ask how you can. I'm so used to being The Doer...the planner, the organizer. But I'm trying...

For those that took the message to heart and thanked me for the reminder, I'm so glad you did. I'm even more thankful for the resulting visits with you. ❤

This is such a weird journey, much different than I expected. My body is changing even more now. My fingernails are grossly discolored but I'm afraid to paint them and not see the progression. I have "stains" on the palms off my hands and soles of my feet. My skin is dry and itchy. My scars on my chest are healed on the outside but the tightness feels like I'm wearing an impossible corset. I'm being thrown into early menopause. Hot flashes and all that.  That might also explain my emotional and mental instability, right? Or maybe it's the chemicals coursing through my veins...my brain...every cell of my body. Can I have a time out yet? My sweat feels disgusting...like my pores are weeping slime. My nose feels like it's filled with glue. My eyes are sealed shut when I wake up. Eww...just ewww.

This is weird.
This is hard.
But God is good...all the time.

I have been reminded of that over and over again this week as I'm learning to be thankful in the midst of it all. Thanks for bearing with me and praying.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Raw ramblings of an insomniac

Sweet conversations with 2 dear friends this week offered me words of wisdom I had not considered but ought to share:

One said, for those that are "well connected" (like our family, with our church, homeschool, and other acquaintances within the community we serve) it would be easy to think that there are plenty of folks stepping forward and helping us through this difficult time. Oddly enough, it's pretty quiet around here. Very quiet. My heartbroken message that I shared the other day got me ONE phone call. One. And a couple of texts. Ouch! It really made me wonder if that's the kind of friend I am.
Am I?? Am I assuming someone else will step in? Am I mistakenly thinking someone else will heed the call for help? Do I even pray about it?

Another friend asked if prior to my diagnosis was I the one to initiate getting together. Well, yes actually, it seems I'm ALWAYS planning something. The suggestion was that just because my circumstances have changed, it's unlikely that the people will. And that I should call them up and invite them like I've always done. I just can't do that right now...For eight years, I served the homeschool community by planning field trips, classes, and hosted monthly gatherings for moms. I've given numerous rides over the years to kids of single moms, working moms, and plenty of others too,  just because I had room for them in my car and didn't want them to be excluded when I could simply help out. I don't share all this to "toot our own horn" but to share how much our lives have changed. We've served on school boards and organized ski school and other events. As a family, we have served within the church and other organizations dear to our hearts. We invite our friends to join us and enjoy having them alongside us. We've hosted bible studies, teen nights, and Christmas caroling parties, genuinely enjoying the fellowship and spreading of the gospel and just being together. Rarely have the invitations come the other way though. Maybe we're not good company. Or maybe they've all just come to expect things to continue as they have been. Maybe. **I truly think my loneliness comes from not being able to do these things anymore.**

I have had several people tell me that they don't consider themselves a part of our inner circle, that they don't know us but they like us, that surely there must be "someone" closer to us to walk alongside us during this trial. These same people have asked how they can help, what they can do, how they can pray. In some cases, these are folks we barely know. Yet they are asking. So it's hard for me to understand then how even friends we've had for YEARS, ones we've called our church family or our closest friends, don't even contact us anymore. Maybe we've asked for too much. I don't really know the answer to that because I've never been in that place before. If all we have belongs to the Lord anyway- our time, our resources, our belongings- who am I to say no? That's the very reason we have given as freely as we have over the years. As God has blessed us, we have passed those blessings on to those around us. In his name. For his glory.

Aside from a short nap yesterday after chemo, I haven't been able to sleep at all. A mega dose of steroids, to prevent an allergic reaction to the new chemo drugs, is keeping me wired. I'm hoping to crash soon. Chemo went well though and I'm not sick to my stomach, just fatigued yet pushing on. My taste buds are dull and I'm craving intense flavors just so I can taste my food. We'll see about that...
Maybe another go round on the trampoline instead.

Friends, my intention is not to hurt or guilt trip you into helping us. I do hope you know that. I just don't know another way to express all that we are going through without giving you the full picture...and honestly, this isn't the half of it.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Sifting

sift
sift/
verb
gerund or present participle: sifting
  1. 1.
    put (a fine, loose, or powdery substance) through a sieve so as to remove lumps or large particles.
    "sift the flour into a large bowl"
    synonyms:sievestrainscreenfilterriddle;
    archaicbolt
    "sift the flour into a large bowl"
  2. 2.
    examine (something) thoroughly so as to isolate that which is most important or useful.
    "until we sift the evidence ourselves, we can't comment objectively"
    synonyms:search through, look through, examineinspectscrutinize, pore over, investigate,analyzedissectreview
    "investigators are sifting through the wreckage"

I am sifting through the details of my life right now. Filtering out all but the essentials. It is allowing me to see things more clearly, to remove the distractions, to be thankful, and to pray. I'm finding myself feeling emotionally raw, hypersensitive to both the good things and the bad. My heart aches with compassion for my loved ones...and rejoices with the smallest of blessings. I have been stripped to the core...

Twice last week I received surprised messages from 2 different friends, both under the impression that I'm done with chemo. Not even close. I have 12 rounds of chemotherapy to go. Weekly starting this Wednesday. If there are no delays, I will be done shortly after Thanksgiving. God willing...

Charlie told me the other day that sometimes he forgets that I have cancer. I do too...mostly when I'm doing what I love. Like dancing with my husband. Or painting on a new canvas. Spending time chatting with a girlfriend. I wish my days weren't filled with everything that reminds me of my battle. I have 6 appointments this week...all because of cancer. 

I have given up on writing individual thank you notes. And I refuse to feel ashamed. I am overwhelmed by the number of cards and notes I've received, the donations and meals that have arrived...how will I ever keep up? I am tired...exhausted...poured out. Please forgive me. 

It has been 4 months and 7 days since I was diagnosed with breast cancer and my world was turned upside-down. 128 days. In another 128 days, I'll be done...moving forward...healing. Before that, I only had fibromyalgia and thought I knew pain and fatigue. I measured my strength and energy in "spoons"...and my family knew what that meant. I was thankful for the healing God had given me and was enjoying my active and healthy lifestyle. I was building up my business, exercising regularly, eating well, and loving the freedom. I've homeschooled my boys since they were but tiny tots...now they're both in high school.  Then cancer strikes...Which of these things shall I give up? I do not have the energy or time to do them all...If I don't do it, who will? I do not worry about these things anymore. The house will get cleaned...eventually. The laundry too. I ate breakfast this morning and it didn't make me sick, so that's good. My boys started school today and I have a date to go dancing with Charlie tonight. My little "carrot" dangling in front of me to get me through today. I am tired already but I am choosing JOY.