Sick and Tired

I have heard the saying, “I am sick and tired of this,” numerous times, but that phrase has a whole new meaning to me. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. On Monday, April 15th, I had my fourth round of chemo. We started with the usual blood draw at 8:00 a.m. and then we had some waiting time. Roy and I went an enjoyed a Taco John’s breakfast burrito which I gravely looked at as my “last supper” meal. I felt really pretty great and I knew within hours I would feel like I was sinking to the bottom of the ocean. We were at the office for nearly six hours that day and I chose to have the Ativan this time again. It helped calm my nerves. By Monday night I was curled up in a ball on the couch with the little guys driving their cars over my blanket.

Photo: All done with chemo. Boys are glad Mommy and Daddy are home. See the perfect race car track on my blanket? Can't think of a better place to be than home with my babies right by me.

I am so thankful they are completely content doing just that. They don’t expect more of me. That is a wonderful thing, because I have nothing else to give to them on these days.

Tuesday I took about a 2 hour morning nap and then headed in to the Cancer Center to get IV fluid and anti-nausea medication. I went in on Wednesday afternoon for the same 3 hour treatment of IV fluids and anti-nausea meds. Unfortunately, my nausea throughout the week proceeded at an all time high. The fatigue is truly unheard of. I am a mom. I know sleepless nights stacked on top of one another after having a newborn baby. I know not sleeping because your baby is sick. I do not know fatigue and exhaustion like this. I am a person of much energy and vigor, and I can barely get out of bed to merely mobilize to the couch. This journey is incredibly harder than I imagined. I cried out to God last night, “I AM DONE! I QUIT! I CANNOT DO THIS ANY LONGER!” I put myself to bed and prayed.

The amazing thing: The Lord answered my prayers and YOUR prayers. I woke up feeling much better today. I generally rate myself out of 100% when people ask me how I am doing and today I feel like 70%… which is like feeling at 100% when I have been holding steady at about 25% all week. The Lord (and my husband) reminded me that I don’t get to quit. I have so much to live for – my beautiful family, opportunities to witness to people, and there are more people I will impact in this lifetime. And, I don’t want to have cancer anymore, so this treatment is the way out of this tunnel.

Jessica sent me this verse last week and it is like a resounding gong: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” 1 Peter 5:10 ESV. What an absolutely amazing promise! I will be restored! I will be confirmed! I will be strengthened! I will be established! These are God’s promises and I believe them with my whole heart.

This week will be interesting. Tomorrow I am attending my first American Cancer Society event, the “Look Good, Feel Good” program. I have heard really great things about it, but it makes it very real to visit with other cancer patients who are struggling with similar situations – hair loss, nausea and fatigue. I am not sure I am quite ready. On Wednesday, Roy and I will head to Greeley for me to complete another PET/CT scan. The machine looks a little like this:

I will be injected with radioactive glucose and have to sit in isolation for about 45 minutes while my body (specifically the cancer cells) absorb/metabolize the glucose. Seriously? That just doesn’t sound good… I will certainly need a cape after this one, because I am positive I will come out looking like Superman. (I envision the glucose to be much like green kryptonite, but I will not be weaker for it, so a cape is definitely in order) 🙂 Ultimately, I lay on the platform, they strap me down and then bring me into the machine for about 45 minutes of imaging. “Do not be anxious about anything,” will continue to be my memory verse during the scan. It is mostly painless, except for that random, intolerable itch I will have on my nose… and the $7000 bill that is attached to the darn image.

We will get the scan results by Friday. Even with a clear scan it is highly likely I will have to complete the remaining 8 treatments. I am praying for a clear scan, but MUST mentally prepare to drudge through the rest of the trenches despite the results. I will never be able to thank you all for the generous donation of your timely prayers. I truly know that I could not endure this trial without your faithful support – it is too hard to do alone. Please continue to stand alongside me and my family. I promise God will use this for something truly outstanding and you will have been a part of that. For that, I am forever grateful.

I may be sick and tired of being sick and tired, but today I feel better. I can do this one day at a time. There are God’s promises to be fulfilled and I will journey on for that purpose.

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We Are In This Together

Is this week over yet? Physically I am doing so much better. Just about 90%. But life on the ranch has not been easy. We had a blizzard hit really hard this week and we are right smack in the middle of calving. Roy worked from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. most days and would still do 2:00 a.m. heifer checks. Nita had nearly a dozen calves in and out of her house trying to warm them from freezing to death, we bottle fed too many to remember right now, the guys pulled four heifer calves, they brought horse trailers down to the barn pasture and loaded nearly two dozen calves inside them to try to protect from the severe blowing snow and now we are trying to clean up this mess. There are cows and calves running all over trying to find one another and no one recognizes one another. (Quick explanation for at least my Vegas family: cows rely instinctively on their sense of smell to find their baby, so when we had to separate them, all smell was lost…) As a family we all played our part. Even Jake and Matt loaded up in the pick-up with me on Thursday to take the Hydrabed (a transformer type truck that has arms on the back of it to lift large round bales) and we fed cows for four hours. My prayer the entire time I was down in the Meadow picking up hay is that I wouldn’t get stuck and cause yet another issue for the week. I did some AWESOME mom-with-two-kids-mud-bogging-with-3000-pounds-of-hay-on-the-bed though. If I hadn’t hit my head on the roof that would have been better – the seats have very good springs. (That reminded me of being in Ol’ Blue, Dad’s old ’71ish Ford – now, that has goooood springs.)… Anyhow, we even got Jake and Matt out at 7:45 last night to try to graft two calves on to two foster mom’s. This is a pretty labor intensive process, but the boys sat on top of railroad tie posts under a dark night sky, all bundled up like marshmallows, waiting for Roy and I to finish. We came home and put the boys to bed and Roy went back to check on the pair that was in the barn and found the little red calf not doing well. He came home so depressed, exhausted and just completely at the end of himself. Despite being showered I felt like I needed to get dressed back in my goobered pants (from bottle feeding calves earlier in the day) and go lay hands on that calf. I was NOT going to let this calf die! The blizzard has taken 17 calves already and we are not allowing any more deaths. PERIOD! On top of the blizzard, taxes are due, I have a cough that won’t quit, the saddle needs finished so I was helping in the shop and tried to cut off my thumb with the headknife and ended up at the doctor’s office yesterday to see if I might need stitches, we are about to start foaling 24 mares, and we are needing to make a few other major life decisions right now. And you thought I just had cancer…

The boys working late at night...

The boys working late at night…

But here is the thing: We are not the only ranchers in Northeast Colorado who faced the blizzard. We are not the only Americans who are overtaxed. I was not the only one who tried to cut my thumb off last week (maybe, but I would really prefer to not be the only one). I was really convicted earlier this week reading an article Beth Moore wrote. I cannot seem to find it again, but she mentions the idea that everyone is dealing with some sort of pain. I don’t know why this seemed like such a foreign concept to me. Of course, everyone is dealing with something, something that is hard or painful. It is such an opportunity to look at ways we can bless one another instead of hurt one another. I had an INCREDIBLE experience today. I was working a Pampered Chef booth and about 1:00 p.m. Ardith Gillham (who may want to remain nameless, but will not) stopped by. We visited for a bit and then she went on her merry shopping way. Around 1:30 Ardith stopped back by asking if Roy was going to help me load all of my inventory. I told her that I had insisted he stay home and work on blizzard clean-up. She then offered to help me pack everything into the truck. I couldn’t possibly let her help me. The booth didn’t end for another 90 minutes and I didn’t want her to waste her time waiting for me. “I don’t care, I’ll just sit here and visit.” Ardith is about the sweetest lady in the world, and I have loved her since I first met her on the Peetz football field with her husband back in the late nineties, but she is also 82 years young (and may have wanted to remain ageless). I really worked to try to convince her to head home and that I could easily do this by myself. Then, the Lord took a 4×4 and hit me over the head. “Let her bless you.” I am still terrible at accepting help. So clearly the Lord is continuing to prepare me for the journey ahead because a beautiful, kind, gracious, thoughtful, strong 82 year young woman helped me load out 9 large totes and about twice as many bags today. Ardith and I joked about how she might very well be healthier than I am right now. I was so incredibly blessed by her willingness to serve and her outstanding kindness. I know Ardith would not want me to blog about her, but too bad, the experience was too good to pass up. We finished our time together with Ardith reminding me that, “We are in this together. We are praying for your cancer together and we have now loaded the truck together.” What a steward of God’s loving kindness. I know the lesson to learn today was in receiving help – thank you Lord! Ardith, thank you for being His vessel.

The booth Ardith helped break down - clearly not a light load.

The booth Ardith helped break down – clearly not a light load.

Treatment Continues – Round 3 Done

As my treatment continues I find myself just not wanting to proceed more than I want to finish it out. Sunday night I got that don’t-want-to-go-school-feeling in relation to heading to chemo on Monday morning. I felt good and I know how I feel after I get my treatment. Yuuuuuuuuucky! We got stopped for the train on our way in to town and I seriously considered jumping out of the car and starting a run for home. My energy level was low enough that thought passed about as soon as it arrived. After chemo Monday, the afternoon may have been my worst yet. I felt like there was a ball of black tar churning in my stomach while leaking green toxic fumes and I had been in a back alley fight. That is some seriously nasty stuff….

I was incredibly thankful for the help we received on Monday. Richard was able to watch the boys while Roy and I headed to chemo. He managed to get chores done with two little boys and that is quite a feat. Grandpa would really prefer to play and so would the boys, so they both overcame that challenge and got some work done. That helps put Roy’s mind at ease. Roy ended up being at the auto body shop longer than he hoped during my treatment. Last Friday I had decided to take the boys to the Downtown Aquarium in Denver. I want my boys to have some great memories sandwiched in between memories of mommy curled up in a ball on the couch. We had a wonderful day – we all loved looking at the amazing creatures and the boys really loved the tiger. It was finally time to head home and as we were leaving the parking lot a gal zoomed out of her spot and nailed our right rear door with some serious force….Needless to say we need to get some body work done on the car. Dang (a Christian cuss word) time wasting life events. Matt (my 3-year-old was at the greatest point of impact, so I think that justifies his comment) got out of the car and scolded the gal and then promptly told her “accidents happen though”. Back to Monday, Mom got here right before we got home and that brought some peace of mind. She did abruptly tell me, “You don’t have any color in your face. You are as white as a ghost.” Thanks MOM! It was the truth. I looked about as awful as I felt. That may have been a toss up.

Tuesday continued in much the same manner. I really struggled. The nausea and fatigue were incredibly high. Tuesday morning I went in to the Cancer Center and got my Neulasta shot (the bone marrow production booster) and IV fluids and anti-nausea. My current theory is that anti-nausea medications make me nausea. I really don’t know if that is possible, but I need to talk to my doctor. This treatment took about 3-1/2 hours. By Tuesday afternoon I had completely tanked. Wednesday my muscle pain was at an all time high and I was about to vomit if I had to take one more pill. I am just not a pill taker, so taking nearly 20 pills in one day is quite an adjustment. Maybe it is a mental thing. Back when I was pregnant and nursing I refused to take any medication – I just didn’t want anything in my body that could potentially harm the baby. I could tough it out. These are days that I just can’t tough out.

Thursday was much like Wednesday, but Friday and Saturday were somewhat better. I find my emotions at the bottom of the barrel. I continue to find myself so mad that this is my life right now. I would be okay with cancer if it wasn’t kickin’ my butt. I know there are treatments where people do not experience this many side effects. I just want to be a great mom – don’t we all? I want to be a great wife, and a good steward of resources. It is such a mental adjustment to focus on taking care of myself. We don’t do that as mom’s. Our family always comes first! I don’t get sick days as a stay-at-home mom. There is no paid vacation for me. (Oh gosh, I am NOT degrading mom’s that work outside of the home, please know that!) It is just that my role as a housewife doesn’t allow for these adjustments. My poor husband is just about to kill himself at this pace – he is taking care of me and the boys, while calving 320 cows, doing 2:00 a.m. heifer checks, working with dozens of colts, keeping up on the dishes (especially while Mom is gone) and managing to discipline our children. Enough! Let me turn these into some prayer requests:

  • For peace in my spirit about the things I am able to accomplish and those I am not.
  • Opportunities to share the gospel.
  • Good rest for Roy.
  • The boys dispositions and spirits to be pliable to the current situation.
  • The nausea and fatigue be kept at bay.
  • My brain to stay sharp. “Chemobrain” is a very real side effect and I find myself struggling with it already.
  • I still hope that I do not lose all of my hair. After this 3rd round of chemo, the hair loss has increased again. It had levelled off last week, but I am loosing it by numerous handfuls a day. I am still so thankful that I had a LOT of hair to start with, but this chemo is tough on hair.

Easter Sunday was a wonderful church service and Pastor Ben quoted John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble.” Immediately, we can all think of a trouble we are experience or a hardship we are facing. Mine is…cancer, but that is not it. Cancer got added to my list. Unfortunately, nothing got crossed off the list with the addition of cancer. If I let my thoughts stop there, depression would be the only outcome of this journey. Pastor Ben reminded us, that this verses is sandwiched with two promises: peace and the fact that Jesus Christ has overcome the world. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Whew! When I reside in Jesus, I will have true peace. Thank you for those who continue to lift me and my family up in prayer – the role you are playing is incredibly significant. I was so sick on Monday and Tuesday I was convinced that nausea was the only thing in the world. I was too sick to even remember God was healing me. But He is. Jesus overcame this awful, sick world. There is such promise and hope in knowing that fact. This is so hard, but without Jesus it would be impossible. I have lived this life without Jesus and I remember that darkness. I refuse to step back in to the darkness – I am a child of the light. I continue to pray for the opportunity to share the light as I travel down this road.