Thursday, August 22, 2013

Though You Slay Me

Sit down, I'm posting two days in a row!

I'm kind of obsessed with YouTube right now.  Not much on television worth watching in the summer, well, ever really, but even more so in the summer, so I watch a lot of YouTube.  I came across this today, and sat and had a deep, ugly, soul-cleansing cry. The song itself is absolutely beautiful and powerful on its own, but when you add John Piper's message over it, it's the kind of thing that will break you. In the best way possible.

Please, please take the time to watch this...

I'm including the link, just in case the imbedded video doesn't work...

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Treatment #2

Yesterday, I had my second chemo treatment of six (only 4 more to go!). I feel very blessed to thus far not have had any severe side effects.  The nausea has been minimal, which is such an answered prayer! My hair is leaving at a quite rapid pace now, but I think we are all handling that pretty well.  I try not to dwell on it, but then I'm not having to look at it all day either.  But Burge and the kids do have to look at it all day, and they are being very supportive.  I go back and forth about whether I should just go ahead and shave it off.  I feel like that might be a bit traumatic, but at the same time I think it might be easier to just go ahead and get it over with instead of constantly having to clean up the hair that's falling out.

The main thing I'm dealing with is just tiredness.  All these drugs just zap all the energy out of my body. And then add to that the massive steroid shot I take before they give me the chemo drugs, and I don't sleep much, which just adds to the tiredness.  Fortunately, we are blessed to have my parents right up the road, ready to jump in whenever we need them, and an amazing church family and friends who are providing us yummy food and lots of cards and prayers and basically anything else we need!

That's the update on the physical side of things.  Now on to the emotional and mental side.  I have good moments and bad moments, as expected. I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that I have cancer.  I have cancer.  It just seems so weird to even say. Still, after almost a year.  Cancer is such a strange dichotomy.  Last year, I thought I was healthy.  I felt healthy, yet I had this cancer in my body, killing me from the inside out.  This year, though I've had the cancer taken out, I'm taking ALL this medicine to make me healthy, but it makes me feel bad and very decidedly unhealthy. Weirdness.

So, yeah, I have many "Woe is me" moments, but then I have moments where I'm just in awe and brought to my knees humbled that God would trust me to go through this trial.  I know that sounds really odd and I'll do my best to explain what I mean. There is no doubt that God is in complete control of this universe and everything in it, including little ol' me.  Therefore, He gave me this cancer or allowed it to happen to me, however you want to look at it (I'm not going to get in a debate over semantics.  He is sovereign, so however you want to word it, I have cancer because it is in His plan. Period.).  And nothing is EVER without purpose, so it goes without saying that through this trial, He plans to teach me something, or my family or YOU (most likely, all of the above)! And He chose me, totally unworthy, wretched ME, to work His plans through.  That's about the most awe-inspiring and humbling thing EVER!

I try to hang on to that knowledge during my pity party moments.  I am so, so thankful that His mercies are new every day, and that He is going to give me the strength I need to get through this one day. I don't have to worry about getting through tomorrow because He's going to give me strength and mercy for that when the time comes.  One day at a time, one moment at a time, one foot in front of the other, that's all I need to think about.

Now that I've rambled on and on, if you're still with me, I want to close this with a song that has become my prayer lately.  I'll print the lyrics if you can't watch the video, although you really should because the song is excellent!

"Let the Waters Rise"

Don't know where to begin, it's like my world's caving in
And I try, but I can't control my fear, where do I go from here?
Sometimes it's so hard to pray when You feel so far away
But I am willing to go where You want me to and God, I trust You

There's a raging sea right in front of me
Wants to pull me in, bring me to my knees
So let the waters rise if You want them to
I will follow You, I will follow You, I will follow You

I will swim in the deep 'cause You'll be next to me
You're in the eye of the storm and the calm of the sea
You're never out of reach
God, You know where I've been, and You were there with me then
You were faithful before, You'll be faithful again, I'm holding Your hand

There's a raging sea right in front of me
Wants to pull me in, bring me to my knees
So let the waters rise if You want them to
I will follow You, I will follow You, I will follow You

God, Your love is enough, You will pull me through, I'm holding onto You
God, Your love is enough, I will follow You, I will follow You

There's a raging sea right in front of me
Wants to pull me in, bring me to my knees
So let the waters rise if You want them to
I will follow You, I will follow You, I will follow You

Friday, July 5, 2013


I will post an update on my surgery and recovery soon (spoiler alert:  I'm doing well), but I have something else on my heart today.

Having a mastectomy is hard in a lot of different ways.  Obviously, it's major surgery, so it's a physical challenge.  But in my experience, it's much more difficult emotionally.  I may go into detail someday about all that, but it's still a little too fresh and "in the moment" to really deal with yet.  So, in essence, the past few days have been challenging.

But God showed me such an awesome comparison last night that I just couldn't wait to share it.

There are no words to describe how awesome Burge has been through all this.  He has been my rock, and I am so blessed to have him for a partner.  He really, really meant it when he vowed almost 14 (!!) years ago to honor me for better or worse, in sickness and health.  I love him so much more now, right this instant, than I did when we married all those years ago, and I didn't think that was possible.  He has done and said all the right things at the perfect moments, and I know it's because he loves me and is listening to the prodding of the Holy Spirit.

So here's the deal...

I am wounded.  Broken.  Scarred.  A big ol' mess.  But Burge loves me anyway.  Why? Because he sees me through his love.  His commitment.  His covenant with me and God. I am his bride.


That's the way Christ sees us.

We are all wounded. Broken.  Scarred. Hot messes.  But Christ loves us anyway.  Because He sees us through His love.  His Covenant with us.  His Blood.

We are His bride.

How amazing is that?!?

I can never thank Him enough for loving me just as I am, scars and all.  And I can't thank Burge enough for loving me, and being such an example of Christ to me.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Next Step

I figured that I had better post a quick update as we sit here at the hospital, waiting to do some pre-op stuff. I'm having surgery tomorrow! I finished up the clinical study two weeks ago, and we met with the surgeon last week. No one, me included, wanted to put this off any longer, so tomorrow morning I will have a mastectomy.

They will only take the right side at this time, and then after all treatment is completed, I will have the left side taken and reconstruction done.  Yes, I will most likely have more treatment done after the surgery. I am scheduled to begin another round of chemotherapy on July 30, and then radiation will probably follow.  I am fine with that because I want to do whatever is necessary to make sure this is gone for good!

I'm really not scared or anxious (yet!), so please pray that I continue not to be! And I'd also really appreciate it if you'd pray that God uses this surgery to get ALL the cancer out of my body! For good, 
preferably! Also pray for Burge and my family and the kids (this is Finn's first night away from home). 

God is going before us and is right here with us, and as we discussed in Sunday school this morning, what then do I have to fear?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Another Overdue Update

Sooooo, long time, no updates. It's not because treatments have gone bad or anything.  Quite the contrary, but more on that in a minute.  Physically, I'm doing okay.  Mentally, it's been a rough few weeks. I didn't want to get on here and be a Debbie Downer and complain a lot, but I didn't want to not be genuine, and be all "Everything's rosy, cancer is great!" either. Because truthfully, cancer is not great.  It's exhausting in every possible way, physically, mentally, emotionally. Some days, it's hard to find joy in the struggles.  There is still joy there, I just have to dig a little deeper for it.  And some days, quite frankly, I'm just too tired to dig.

And then I think about how easy I have it compared to so many others. I still have my hair. I can get out of bed every day. Enter that lovely emotion of guilt. Yep, then I feel guilty for not being all "Everything's rosy, cancer is great!" because do I really have anything to complain about?

Honestly, I do try to keep a positive attitude and my sense of humor and not complain and be all whiny. I know I am blessed beyond measure.  I know that God is good. But just to keep it real, I do have my moments.

It's a vicious cycle.  Welcome to my messed-up psyche. It's loads of fun inside my head.

Anyhoo, that's why there's been no updates for a while.  Aren't you glad you asked? On to the update...

I am just past the halfway point in my treatment.  I'm in week 13 of 24, to be exact. A few weeks back, we met with the genetics department to discuss family history and what-not and do the genetic testing to see if I carry the BRCA gene.

Sidenote:  Clearly, I have lived in a bubble for many years because I had no idea how absurdly expensive healthcare is.  When you are relatively healthy, you can complain about having to pay $100 for a prescription. But then you have one vial of blood tested and it costs $8000 (!!!), and your MIND IS BLOWN. Thank you, God, for health insurance, no matter how crummy it might be.

And don't even get me started on the actual medical billing. Like it's not bad enough that I have cancer, but then I have to try to decipher all the medical bills.  And y'all, I didn't used to be stupid.  I mean, I was valedictorian of my high school class. I have a college degree.  In math, no less.  But I think they go out of their way to make medical bills impossible to comprehend.  Whew! Glad to get that off my chest. No pun intended. :) End of sidenote. 

So, the results were that I don't carry the BRCA gene, which means my cancer is caused by environmental factors.  Which yay! because that means Abby doesn't have the BRCA gene and my chances of recurrence are reduced. But on the flip side, now we'll never really know what caused it. Which would be nice to know, so I could, you know, NOT DO THAT ANYMORE.

But certainly, that is an answered prayer.  If I carried the gene, it would have been an automatic mastectomy and hysterectomy for me, and genetic testing for everyone else in the family.  God moved another mountain for us!

This past week, at the 12 week mark, I had another mammogram and ultrasound, as well as another biopsy.  Biopsies are not fun.  Well, I wouldn't really classify any of this as fun, but biopsies are the least fun. The ultrasound tech did some scans while waiting on the radiologist to come in for the biopsy and showed me a side by side comparison with the scans from December.  There was a big decrease in the size! Which we kinda knew just from the physical exams, but it was nice to get confirmation of it.  And very encouraging, considering chemotherapy is deemed successful when there is no growth in the tumor.  And mine has shrunk!  Another mountain down.

So, we keep on keeping on.  Stay the course for another 12 weeks.  See what mountain God moves next. And try to stay positive and not whine.

Friday, February 1, 2013

An Overdue Update

So, I am way late on posting this.  But, no news is good news! I have been BUSY the past few weeks, which means I am TIRED! Just to keep it real, I can tell that I don’t have quite the energy that I used to have.  But nothing that I can’t deal with.  It’s just irritating to me to see stuff that needs to be done and not really feel like doing it.

Anyway, I had my second infusion of Herceptin last week, and my second shot of Zoladex this week.  Both of those went really well. While I wouldn’t classify either of those as fun, the infusion, at least, is not horrible. I sit in a recliner with a pillow and a heated blanket. It’s actually pretty relaxing. If I wasn’t so worried about snoring and drooling, it would be a great time to take a nap. Alas, I do worry about snoring and drooling, so no naps for me.

I had an appointment with my doctor and the research coordinator for the study before the infusion, like I will at every appointment.  This is to keep any side effects in check and also to do a physical exam to look for any changes.  Well, this time there were changes to be found.

My doctor checked my right side and stopped. Then she checked my left side and stopped. She looked at me and verified that the mass was in the right side.  I told her yes, but I couldn’t find it either. :)  The original mass that I found had shrunk so much in three weeks that it was almost unnoticeable! That, my friends, is God moving more mountains!

There is still the “thickness”, as the doctor referred to it, behind the mass where the tumor had branched out, but we are headed in the right direction! The doctor and the research coordinator were both shocked that it had shrunk so much in such a short amount of time.  But we weren’t! God is so, so faithful! And we just stand in awe of His power and grace!

So, I’ll take a little bit of fatigue and whatever other side effects I have to deal with to keep getting results like that.

Thank you all so much for all your prayers!  We have no doubt that God hears them and is answering them!  With that in mind, keep them up! Please help us pray that God will continue to knock out the cancer, and the doctors will continue to be shocked. :) Pray for our endurance… we are 4 weeks into a 24 week process, and then we deal with surgery and radiation, so the road is still long. God is walking before us, preparing the way, and we are thankful for the evidence of that.  We just have to keep our eyes focused above, and let Him handle the rest!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Drugs, Shots, and Other Fun Stuff

It’s been a week since I started treatment for my cancer, and I feel great! No, really!

To give a (brief) breakdown, here’s how this treatment plan works. I have two medications that I have to take everyday by mouth… 4 HUGE pills and a little bitty pill.  I have to take these on an empty stomach, so I take them at night before I go to bed.  Goodbye, bedtime snack! So, that’s a win-win situation. :) I have one medication that has to be given by IV, and I go to Birmingham every three weeks for that infusion.  I also see my doctor every time I go for this, to check for weird side effects and also for her to physically check the size of the tumor.  We are praying for no growth for sure, but for there to be obvious evidence that it’s shrinking! The fourth medicine I am taking is a shot that I have to have every four weeks.  I use the term shot very loosely.  It is a very large needle, or so I’m told.  I didn’t actually see it, because I know me, and it’s just better that my eyes stay averted. I do, however, know that when you have to have a shot to deaden the area where you are getting the shot, it’s no joke. This is, BY FAR, the worst part of the treatment plan. And it’s not that bad at all!

As far as side effects go, my stomach has been a little upset, but that is completely controlled by over the counter meds.  I felt a little out of sorts the first few days.  And I have a little dry skin. That’s it! I know that things could get worse as time goes on, especially when the hormone blockers really get to doing their job.  But I am praising God that I feel good right now! I almost feel “too good”.  Like, this medication can’t be effective if it’s not making me feel really crummy.  How’s that for looking for things to worry about? :) I just try to remind myself that God led me to this study, so He has a plan for it!

God is so good! I know I harp on this a lot, but when I sit and think about how things are working out , I get so overwhelmed! I have complained a lot about how bad our insurance has gotten over the years. But compared to a lot of others and especially compared to having NONE, it’s pretty awesome, and I am SO THANKFUL that we have it!  Because of it, I’m able to go to UAB and have this particular set of doctors.  Because I have these particulars doctors at this hospital, I’m able to be a part of this study and get these medications. Because I’m able to take these medications, I’m able to keep my normal routine and feel good, with minimal side effects. Who could orchestrate all that to work out but our amazing God?!? I am so blessed to have Him walking before me, working out all the details!  Makes me want to shout a little. :)

I will be on this drug regimen for 24 weeks, so your prayers are still greatly appreciated.  The number one prayer being that these drugs work and that the tumor not only stops growing, but starts shrinking!