Round 9 Completed

Dear Friends and Family,

Thank you for your patience since my last post. Many of you have commented that it was time to hear from me again, so here goes… I finished my 9th round of chemo today. I got my blood draw done at 8:20 and then headed to do some life business while we waited for results. My blood work came back showing that my red blood cells are down (which is normal this far in to my regiment), but that does mean I am slightly anemic. This helps explain the extreme fatigue, but let’s be honest, I am tired because I have refused to change the pace at which I work, and the past two weeks have been no exception.

During Round 8 we found out that one of my four chemotherapies would be ending on that day – we said good-bye to good ‘ol Bleomycin. I do not miss you! We also spoke with Dr. Lininger about when we could start trying for another child and he dropped what felt like a bomb… that he would prefer for us to wait 12 months after my final round before we even begin trying (We were originally told 3 months). My heart began to race and tears welled up. We had been trying for 20 months prior to my diagnosis. If, and only if, things worked right away (which they generally don’t for Roy and I and getting pregnant), it would mean this future child would 5-1/2 years younger than Matt and 7 – 1/2 years younger than Jake. I think 2 to 2-1/2 year spacing is really ideal, but that is just because I like having built-in playmates. Well, okay then. That is what it will be. I grew up in a family with a sister who was 9 years younger than I and felt (and so did she) that it was really far away. There were reasons for that and we are super thankful she is here! So… now I just hope for twins. For Pete’s sake, I did just survive chemo, so I think I can survive twins. It means that I only have to be pregnant one more time and I they have a friend that is their age. Thank goodness for chemobrain, because I can clearly not think clearly at this point….TWINS! What an adventure we would have ūüôā The Lord is so faithful and He will provide what would be best for my family as a whole and I really do know that.

Well, Round 8 was on June 10, and then on June 11 (my niece’s birthday), my sister Jessica’s family was evacuated due to the Black Forest fire. This is a big reason why I didn’t blog after my last treatment.

Photo: The fire as it was burning behind the pond that is just down the street from our home. I can't believe the firefighters were able to save our home. Feeling so grateful.

This is a picture of the fire burning by the pond behind my sister’s home.

My entire free time was used praying for my family. Brittney headed out to Mom and Dad’s home, as they were in Estes Park celebrating their anniversary, to help pack up important documents and family pictures. She did a great job under pressure and we spent most of the night on the phone “going” through the house room by room. Mom and Dad had car trouble but finally got home to finish packing. They did not have to evacuate until Wednesday, but we were all on continual high alert. After an incredibly long week, Mom and Dad went home one day before Jessica and Brandon and family. Both homes were spared and it is complete testament of God’s provision.

If you go to this page: http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&oe=UTF8&msa=0&msid=217066668344035014417.0004df0ab0046cd029a58 ¬†and zoom in near “Meridian” and look for Pole Pine Point and La Foret, you see an example of God’s hedge of protection that was built with prayer and outstanding firefighters. There is a mostly north-south fire line, but it jogs in (at La Foret where her house is) and saved my sister’s home and her neighbor’s. Is that not amazing? Thank you Lord. Such provision!

So this was just Tuesday (after round 8 chemo Monday), and then all hell broke loose on the ranch. It is hard to do family and business and Tuesday was not a good night. Things are moving forward, but conversations still need to be had. For confidentiality sake, I will not post more, but it weighs so heavily on my heart, that it is a part of my journey. Family takes work, energy, effort and above all healthy communication. That is not something to shy away from or pretend it doesn’t exist. We all must work at being a family and a healthy, God-fearing one at that. God created a perfect design in family, and our children deserve to see that perfect design worked out until the end.

My week continued kind of crazy because I was dealing with a lot of major issues related to the Fair Board’s decision (and mine) from the previous Thursday to remove Miss Rodeo Logan County from her title. My primary volunteer “job” is to coordinate the Logan County Royalty Program, and firing the queen is not any fun at all. I wanted and still want the best for this young gal, but things just didn’t work out. It is a ginormous mess and even today continues to consume a lot of time. We live in a small community (Sterling has about 15,000 people and Peetz has about 250 people) and I managed to make the front page of the local paper on June 7 and 8.

This first article is about my lymphoma, and shows a picture of Roy and I dancing at the 2012 Logan County Fair Cowboy Ball (Hey, look! I had hair…):

http://www.journal-advocate.com/sterling-local_news/ci_23411998/lymphoma-patient-says-cancer-journey-gods-glory?IADID=Search-www.journal-advocate.com-www.journal-advocate.com

This second article is about the Fair Board decision AND (which is the cooler part), the reunion of 65 Years of Rodeo Royalty I am planning for the 2013 Fair. I am working on gathering that past 65 queens that have served Logan County. (I know, I know…”What are you thinking?” Well, if I say I am Brandee, those of you that know me, it kinda sums it up. I love work, even when fighting cancer):

http://www.journal-advocate.com/sterling-local_news/ci_23414753/queen-stripped-rodeo-crown

On June 9th I participated in my first Relay for Life event. I got involved about 2 days before the event and didn’t do any of the fundraising, but I was incredibly impressed by the heart of the volunteers that put on this event – they were remarkable! I got to wear one of the purple “Survivor” shirts and for one of the few times in my life I was speechless. I was completely overwhelmed with emotion and tears. I was standing beside friends, past Pampered Chef show hosts, community members, our accountant, people who volunteered at the David Walsh Cancer Center. Mostly I was standing beside hope. Hope that people have fought the good fight and won. I got to walk a “Survivor’s Lap” with Roy, Jake, Matt, Nita and Richard and was incredibly thankful for all that they have done and continue to do for me during this journey. I know the rest of my support network was there in spirit…

I am in the upper left area of this picture.

This is a picture of me and my primary supporter and caregiver. The man who has driven me to every single one of my chemo treatments. Who handles the nausea and my fatigue and fills in the holes as things fall apart. Who loves me despite my hair falling out and me gaining weight through my treatment. He even handles the ridiculously excessive gas my chemo gives me (too much information, I know). He is a saint! God will say to him, “Well done good and faithful servant!” I am sure of it!

Well, those weeks finished up fast and furious. The boys and I completed two weeks of swimming lessons and riding the school bus from Peetz to Sterling. Even the day after chemo, we were there trying to keep Matt in the water, I used the lowest form of parenting – bribery. If he didn’t cry he got a new matchbox car. Unfortunately, as expected, it worked. I have about 8 fewer matchbox cars stashed away than when we started swimming lessons. Neither boy passed Level 1 so we will practice in Grammie’s pool this summer and try again next year. It will probably be substantially easier if I am not fighting cancer while do it. Don’t ya think?

Jake also finished up his last game of t-ball on Thursday, June 20th. I missed his game and that is really hard for this mama. I grew up with parent’s who where at every game and I mean every game. I was a cheerleader so they went to all of the games – football, volleyball, girl’s basketball, boy’s basketball, cross country meets, and even wrestling. I know Dad really wanted boys and I think that would have been easier on the fuel bill then a bunch of cheerleading daughter’s… Anyhow, I missed the game on Thursday because I was headed to Denver to teach a two-day Anatomy class on Friday and Saturday. I got to team-teach with the one of the world’s most gifted teachers. We build the various body systems on a resin model using oil-based clay. It is my dream job. I get to travel to help educators learn a better way to teach anatomy. It is a hands-on technique that the students will absolutely eat up! Here is a picture of what we do:

Needless to say, I was really exhausted after 8 hours of teaching on Friday. I think most of us who do a quick job shift and stand on concrete for 8 hours while teaching and being on our A game would be pretty pooped. Chemobrain won very few battles, and with a limited amount of study time I managed to remember such terminology as: vastus intermedius, sphincter of Oddi and medulla oblongata. Saturday we continued to team teach and it was such an honor to work with Teri. The entire world would know so much about their body if they had Teri as a teacher. My blessing is that the company is confident in my abilities to do what she does. When I finish up my treatment I hope to travel 1 – 2 times a month, around the United States to put on these professional developments. Did I mention this was my dream job? Once again, God continues to show His faithfulness despite this storm of my life.

Well, this is what you get for asking me to blog. It is my fault it is so long since it has been three weeks. It has been my goal to put cancer on the side burner these past few weeks, the problem is that little sucker rears its ugly head in the form of nausea and fatigue really regularly. Up to this point, on my “off” week I don’t have any nausea. Unfortunately, even up until yesterday I was still about 30% nauseated. The time it takes me to recover after each treatment continues to increase. The fatigue continues to compound.

I love the Logan County Fair and my very last treatment will be on August 5th – right in the middle of Fair. I have some great help and I am so thankful for these beautiful women who have stepped up to help. In the end, it is still hard to get all the details passed along well and often it seems easier to continue do some of the components of my job myself. The Lord will help work out those details, IF I go ahead and release them. Right after Fair, my precious Jake starts kindergarten about the end of August. He deserves a couple of weeks of healthy mama time before we begin that next phase of our life. It is amazes me that Roy and I will celebrate our 10th anniversary four days after my 11th Round of chemo – what a stinker! I won’t even want to go out to dinner. What to do? What to do? We will simply have a P-A-R-T-A-Y in September/October after my last PET scan when we get the all clear. It will be a celebration and you are ALL invited! God will have shown His faithfulness and that He is the mighty Healer. What a mighty God we serve! Until next time, I pray for sweet, sweet days ahead and wonderful family time!

DISCLAIMER: I stole all of these pictures from Facebook friends and family. P.S. Thank you!

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All I Know About Jesus

Today was communion Sunday at church. The Lord’s table is open to all of those who have accepted Christ as their Savior. Roy and I have spoken with the boys about this idea and have clearly explained the bread represents the body of Christ and the juice represents the blood He shed for our sins. I asked Jake if he remembered what communion was about. He simply replied, “All I know about Jesus is that He loves me and He died on the cross for me.” I thought I was going to burst into a million tears. I was so incredibly proud of my five-year-old. That is it. It is that simple. Jesus loves me. Jesus died on the cross for me. Why do we make it harder than that? We add so much topical, mumbo jumbo¬†that we end up¬†diluting the basic truth and factual principles. That is all we really need to know. The oooonly thing I would add is that we have a responsibility to share that very concept with those that don’t know or understand that love. Jake also reminded me that Jesus loves Him more than I do. I still sometimes think that is hard to believe, but it is true. Now Matt is another story: He gobbled down the cracker like it was morning snack and couldn’t close his eyes during prayer because he could not wait to drink the juice. He is so eager to love Jesus and follow swiftly after his brother. His understanding is in perfect alignment¬†for a three-year-old. About two months ago we did not allow Matt to join in communion with us, because we did not believe that he had fully committed his heart to Jesus yet. He quickly (and loudly) reminded us (and the nearby congregation) that, “I DO LOVE JESUS!” Excuse the mama for thinking I knew… Matt’s heart was not mine to judge. We continue to explain this idea to our little men, but the Lord continues to do the work on their hearts.

As I thought about this today, I was reminded of the parable of the sower from Matthew 13. Verse 3 states, “A farmer went out to sow his seeds. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Maybe the reason I like this parable is the fact that Jesus goes on to explain it. I was never a fan of English class – I was more of a math and science geek. Parables, adjectives, and prepositions scared me – they were too loosey, goosey. I liked black and white (and I still do). This parable is one Jesus takes time to explain. It is aimed at both those who hear the word and those who preach the word. I have been a “rocky place” before. After Heather (my sister) died I was certain there was no God. What God would take my ten-year-old sister in a car accident? Are you kidding me? I was only fourteen and I didn’t think I should have to deal with those types of things at that age. I was really angry at God. There was no soil in my heart.¬†But…¬†I wanted to believe she was in heaven so I was having to encounter this reality of if I believed in heaven I HAD to believe there was a God. My “faith” sprang up quickly and then died out about as quickly as it came. I went back to being mad at God. Really I had no root system. I had no foundation. I had no understanding of who God was. I have also¬†been a¬†seed among the thorns. I like to call the “thorns” the bad influences in my life – those crazy gals who lived down the hall from me during my freshman year of college.¬†The same ones who went¬†with me to get my tongue pierced…¬†(Did you know that? Lot’s of little secrets¬†coming out¬†in this blog…)¬†¬†I then met Roy by my sophomore year and despite his good influence, I was still a little wild (and probably will be forever, but God loves me that way). I wanted to be a thorn. The problem was, I had found the Lord and He had better plans and intentions for my life than me hating Him. He intended to use people to fertilize the soil of my heart. That is exactly what happened and continues to happen. My boys are young and inexperienced, but the love and understanding they have for Jesus is beyond my comprehension. It is my responsibility and privilege to fertilize the soil of their hearts.

We had a great weekend over Memorial Day for two reasons: it was branding day and I didn’t have chemo until Tuesday. I felt like a kid on a snow day – yippee skippy! Here are some of my favorite pics from branding day:

ControlKevinMontella & MarkMy RoySaddleSilThe Cross

I am continually thankful the Lord provides these amazing picture settings and I just have to push a button. I felt really pretty good on branding day and I loved spending some time in the kitchen preparing some desserts. If I could bake desserts and take pictures all day I would be a pretty happy woman. I was pondering going into the lawn mowing business, but I think I will save that one for a¬†later day¬†ūüėČ

Chemo proceeded as normal this week (minus my skip day – woo hoo). Tuesday was round 7. After round 6 there were a lot of people who kept referencing being half way done. I didn’t not see it that way yet, even though that was exactly true. I felt like I had started at sea level, climbed 7,000 feet in elevation and my goal is to reach the summit of a fourteener. Yes, officially I was half way done, but there was no “on the downhill side” of things. They hardest part of the journey is still ahead of me. The air gets thin, my water supply is running low and the fatigue increases. But¬†like all climbers, I don’t intend to quit. I will reach the summit. I will let everyone know when the cancer-free celebration party is in August. When we get the “all clear” in my PET scan, I promise there will be a PAR-TAY! Until then, keep praying.

The Reglan (my anti-nausea) is working pretty well, but the side effects were a little more severe this week. I had quite a bit more muscle cramping. The Neulasta (my bone marrow booster) is also causing some serious bone pain, which is also normal. I did finally get my digestive system figured out. 24 pills a day can get the job done! I won’t go in to details on that one, but if you are a past-chemo user, you KNOW what I am talking about… My hair is stiiiiil falling out – I seriously thought it would have stopped by now. Boy, that is an annoying one for me. My hair is an incredibly thin version of it self. I have started wearing the wig just for minutes in a day to potentially try to get use to the idea. I still don’t know if I will shave my head or not. I know I will have to do something drastic once my hair starts coming back in. My “mixed mullet” theory will NOT look good,¬†so something will have to be done at that time. I might save that decision for a later date. It is kind of like gaining weight right now. That is a serious irritant, but again, I will save dealing with that for a later date. Enjoying my babies on the good days, and helping my honey when I can, is about the extent of the things I really try to focus on. Each good day is a great day. I may be a chubby, balding, cancer-filled version of my self, but one day that will not be the case. I will be restored to wholeness and have time to work on having a good hair day and a great work out. Until then, I am going to take a nap and practice using an eyebrow pencil.

I am still so thankful to be on this journey. I do hate cancer, but without it, I would not know the same boldness to share God’s love with you. Jake was right. All you need to know about Jesus is that He loves you and died on the cross for you. My prayer is that becomes a clear reality for you, in your life, in your heart, and Jesus becomes a permanent fixture for you. Don’t worry – you’ll not always get along really well – that is the normal ebb and flow of a relationship – but despite our running away from the Savior, He is always running toward us. He is on the climb with me. He is also on the climb with you. Whether you know Him or not, He is with you. I pray you have an incredibly blessed week!