So I haven't updated my blog in awhile because the chemo got the best of me unfortunately and landed me in the hospital for 4 days. I had that first chemo session on the 16th of this month, and it wreaked havoc on my intestinal tract causing non-stop nausea for 5 days straight. The two drugs I am taking for chemo is Adriamycin and Cytoxan. I know. They sound like poison just by reading their names. Adriamycin is nicknamed "the Red Devil" and rightly so. It is blood red in color, and it takes about 10 mins to administer. During that time, they want you to eat something really cold to decrease the blood flow to your mouth and reduce the risk of mouth sores later. I'm not going to lie, it just looks toxic when it is going in. I HATE putting this stuff in my body, but what other choice do I have. It is the only proven thing they have even though I feel that they should have more by this time. It not only targets the bad cells like cancer in your body, but it also targets the good ones too. By that I mean the rapidly dividing cells like skin, mouth lining, hair, and intestinal tract cells. I haven't seen any hair loss yet, so I'm still tightly holding onto each and every one on my head. That is not suppose to hit until this week, but I pray against it. I will cross that bridge when it comes. Back to the story. That Wednesday night (the 16th) I began having the nausea feeling, and it didn't let up unfortunately. I attempted to work on Thursday and Friday, but I didn't make it long before giving into the sickness. I went home early both days. I thank you Lord for my wonderful boss, Randy, who is so understanding and caring of my situation. He has been such a great Christian example to me since I started there, and I couldn't ask for a better boss. He is such a blessing to me, my family, and my co-workers. I tried the medications that they had prescribed, and believe me I took them as often as I could. The weekend arrived and I continued to just survive it. It was miserable but what other choice did I have. It was so depressing to feel that way 24/7, so Monday morning I called my oncologist at 8 am sharp. I couldn't keep feeling this way. They had me come in at 10:15 am, and it didn't take long for him to look at my green face and decide he was going to hospitalize me. I couldn't even look at water, food, or anything at that point without wanting to upchuck. I graciously accepted that offer as much as I didn't want to be in the hospital ever during this process. I was willing to do anything to stop the madness! They hooked me up to my port to feed me full of Zofran and lots of fluids. It took most of Monday to start feeling any type of relief, but to my likings I was able to finally eat a grilled cheese sandwich that evening. Let me tell you that was the best grilled cheese sandwich I have ever tasted! The initial plan was just one night in the hospital but by the next morning my stomach still wasn't right and my white blood cell (WBC) counts were really low. This continued for a couple days despite the fact that they injected a booster in my abdomen every day at a cost of thousands of dollars I'm sure. In fact, on Wednesday I had to be put on neutropenic precautions and couldn't leave my room without a mask. Also, no one that was sick could enter my room, and I couldn't even order anything off the wonderful hospital menu like salad or fresh fruit that could be contaminated. It was fun needless to say. My nausea was fairly controlled, and I could eat. However, the meds and chemo had also caused another problem. This is where I get frank. I was so backed up at that point that my stomach was literally growling each time I ate trying to process it all. Wednesday morning after taking countless amounts of laxatives and eating prunes on Tuesday, the crap hit the wall. No, not literally but that is funny. I was down the hall at the nurses' station about 5:30 am asking for some apple juice when suddenly I found myself running with my IV pole in tote to my room to barely make it to the bathroom. It finally cleared me out, but the problem lies in the fact that then my intestines had yet the other problem the rest of the day. If it wasn't one thing, it was the other. My intestines were not liking me at this point, and the nausea starting coming back. I was soooo mad. Dr. Pruitt and his nurse practitioner came by that morning and let me down by saying that because of this and the extremely low WBC counts I was yet staying another night. They said I could go on Thanksgiving morning if I didn't start running a fever though. I had almost reached my boiling point at this time because of the prolonged, unexpected stay in the hospital, but I agreed that it was probably for the best. I wanted to feel at least 75% back to normal before I attempted to come off the IV meds and fluids and transition to oral meds and my normal home schedule. Thank our heavenly Father above that on Thanksgiving morning Chris picked me up and we waved goodbye to the wonderful nurses that had taken great care of me during my stay. I can't complain about that for sure. I love Northwest Texas Hospital, and it helps to know lots of people up there. They take extra good care of you then.
I then had a wonderful Thanksgiving with my mom's family with the help of my new best friend, my mask. Then, Friday morning I decided that I felt good enough for us to drive to Muleshoe, so we could see the Shelburnes. We had a great time with everyone and yes I beat all of them in a nice game of Nertz (despite my handicaps of feeling weak and being unable to fully reach across the table with my left underarm tightness). Just kidding. I can still kick their butts! This weeks plans are to possibly get more fluid put in the expanders on Monday or Tuesday, 2nd chemo on Wednesday, and back to work all week. Hopefully life will go on as normally as can be with the second chemo, and then I will be halfway through this group of chemo drugs! Today I'm going to enjoy seeing our church family in Canyon and some much needed personal time at home with my very anxious 3 yr old daughter who wants to put up the Christmas tree. Thanks goodness I have her because I might not put one up otherwise. Sorry Martha Stewart/Tiffany (my sister), who spends days on end decorating their home to make it look like something out of Homes and Gardens. Yes, it is beautiful and I'm jealous but I don't have that much energy on a good year or desire to do so. Thanks to my wonderful husband, Chris, for putting up with me during this ordeal this last week and stepping up to the plate to be super husband/mom during my absence and my inabilities to fulfill my motherly duties. Also, thank you to my family for stepping up and taking care of Brenley during our hospital stay. They made the transitions much smoother than expected. Bren probably enjoyed the break initially, but by the end of it we were both missing each other deeply. Lastly, thank you to Chris' work for letting him leave to come stay with me at the hospital and for being so understanding of our situation. You know I have so many things to be thankful for always, but I admit that I have not always thought this way in the last week. I will also admit, reluctantly, that I was mad at God for a few days. I felt like I had prayed for relief from it all without feeling like I got an answer. Again, God was testing my patience and faithfullness to him. I didn't score very well this past week. I failed to realize again that he doesn't do things in our timing but in his. He waited until Thanksgiving Day to make me realize that fully and humble me to know that his will is always what is best and to be desired. I read in my book Jesus Calling something really good. It speaks as if God was talking to you and says, " You give me thanks (regardless of your feelings), and I will give you Joy (regardless of your circumstances). This is a spiritual act of obedience (at times blind obedience). You may still be in the same places, with the same set of circumstances, but it is as if a light has been switched on, enabling you to see from My persepective". That is so true. Sometimes our perspective is so foggy and bogged down with stress and anxiety from what we set our focus on that we fail to realize that our focus should be up instead of ahead to circumstances we can't control. I'm learning to look up for sure. It is so much easier to handle this way with his perspective and help. I'm trying. I'm a work in progress for sure. Thank you God for ALL of my blessings good and bad. I want to thank you in times when I feel great physically and in times where I feel like death has come over me. Those are the times when you know what I'm going through and are just patiently waiting for me to give up complete control. I thank you for my friends and family and what they mean to me in my life. You are all knowing, fully loving, and my completely understanding God whom I love so much. God bless you and yours and don't forget to thank God daily for everything. Shay
So this week has gone by pretty fast. Monday I got my drains pulled at Dr. Proffer's office, and I was so excited to be free of my chains and be able to shower for the first time in a month. Yes, I took lots of long baths in the mean time. You forget how wonderful some things in life are until you can't do them for awhile. So I enjoyed one shower Monday night after using tegaderm to cover the holes in my sides from the drains. This was just in time for my showering privileges to be ripped away from me after the port surgery on Tuesday with Dr. Arredondo. Luckily, that only lasted one day, however. The port surgery went well initially. I actually woke up at the end of the surgery with a blue sheet over me. I thought two things - either I died in my day surgery or I am in a nightmare situation where I woke up in my surgery and can hear the surgeon and nurses even though they don't know I'm awake. I could feel Dr. Arredondo doing some stitches or something but luckily it just felt like tugging. Then, Dr. A said to me, "Shayla the surgery went really smooth. I wish they would all go this smooth". I soon realized that they knew I was awake thank goodness and then they took that sheet off my face. I felt really good until we were on our way home and then the meds started wearing off and my whole right shoulder began aching really bad. Then, because of the Taco Villa finatic that I am and with how hungry I was with not eating for almost 24 hrs I braved a meal. I should have known better because about 30 mins after eating I lost it to the toilet. So sad for that. Yesterday was my first chemo at Northwest. Chris went with me. It was suppose to last 2-3 hours, but we had a little miscommunication with the doctor's office on the orders for the meds, so this put us behind getting them from the pharmacy. We didn't get started until around 3:45 pm and didn't get done until around 6 pm. It went real smooth and I felt good enough to have Chris take me on a date to Chili's afterwards. I ate something light so my stomach didn't get hit too hard, but it still didn't stop the nausea last night. I went to bed early at 8:30 pm and was up by midnight entertaining the toilet just in case it was bored and I was going to upchuck. I never did upchuck but had a hard time getting back to sleep because of that horrible feeling, so I broke down and took a pill that my doctor had prescribed for this. I slept better but woke up with a little uneasy stomach that has lasted most the day. They tell me the best thing is do drink a lot of fluids and eat good but it is hard when your stomach doesn't feel like it. I've tried today to be good. I went home from work around 1 pm to rest and take a nap. It does a body good for sure. I feel okay tonight and hope that I can sleep better tonight. I also pray that the nausea thing is only for today and only for the 1st chemo because my body is probably in shock at this point.
You know I head something the other day. It was really good. You know as Christians we get asked sometimes why we believe in God. Here is a good answer. "I would rather believe in God and find out some day that there wasn't then to not believe and find out that there really was". What does is hurt to have hope for a day when we don't hurt physically, emotionally, or spiritually? I then decided that I'm going to live by my new moto - Live today like your are going to heaven tomorrow. What would you say or do differently today if you knew you would report to your heavenly Father tomorrow. That should be our goal. Love y'all and hope that you are nausea-free. Shay
Today is a good day probably because it is Sunday. I heard an amazing sermon today about how God desires nothing less of us than perfection in a world where our society's morals and values have plummeted. We sometimes think as Christians that we just need to be a little better than our neighbors, so we fail to remember that God's goals for our lives stay the same - PERFECT like Jesus. Yes, we make mistakes and fall short of this as humans, but that is also why God sent his son, Jesus, to die for us. We are saved not by what we have done but by his love and mercy that allowed Jesus to make that ultimate sacrifice on the cross. Then, the most miraculous event was the resurrection of Jesus from the tomb. You know we all have our struggles and sins that we have a hard time turning away from, but we have to remember to repent from these sins and truly commit to doing what is good. Otherwise, how can we truly be examples to others of how a Christian should be, and show the world how a life centered around God can be so amazing. We have something so much greater than other religions. We are heirs to the hope of eternal life (from Titus in the Bible). I think of this life as a competition like a basketball game. When we are young we are practicing to earn a spot on the team. Once, we accept God and are babtized, we join his TEAM. He puts us in the game as a starter. We may have bad games and get taken out of the game (like how I feel with this cancer stuff), but when we are on the bench it gives time to refocus on how to get back in the game. We encourage our teammates on and off the floor to become better and play harder. Then, when we finally decide to get back in there and play how we have been taught to play, we truly make a difference and leave the game not having any regrets. We are then victorious through Jesus Christ. Thanks Steve for that message today. I'm always striving to do better and live better, but it is good to be reminded of where exaclty we should set our goals.
This week is going to be pretty busy for me. Tomorrow, I finally get my drains pulled. No, they have not reached their goal of being under 30 mL in a 24 hour period, but I cannot move forward with my port surgery until they get pulled. Dr. Proffer's office decided to put a end date on them and thank goodness that is tomorrow. I will not miss having to deal with those drains while trying to bathe or wearing those wonderful drain bags (which I was very grateful for because they were given to me from a church here in town where the women make them) on my sides. Yes, I was asked numerous times if my pant pockets were sticking out or if that was a catheter bag because people did not know what they were. Once I get those out tomorrow, I will preregister for surgery on Tuesday. Dr. Arredondo will do the port placement surgery at Northwest Texas Hospital on Tuesday around 2:30 pm. Then, unfortunately I will do my first chemo session at Northwest on Wednesday at 3 pm. You know I guess I was upset this past Monday talking about chemo because it is suddenly becoming reality that I'm a cancer patient. Initially in the first month and a half, we talked about cancer stuff a lot and the treatment for it, but I still carried on with my "normal" life. Then, the big surgery came and took me back for a loop because it has taken me a lot longer than I had expected to feel better. Now, starting Wednesday, I will truly feel like I'm a cancer patient with the chemo starting. I guess I have really just dreaded the toxic drugs that will rid my body of the cancer that has crept into my life. I guess it is all for a good cause, so I will just grin and bear it. It still stinks though. I am currently enjoying each and every day that I still have my long brunette hair. You know you always wonder what you will look like without hair. Is my head smooth or do I have some big potholes in it? How white will it be since it hasn't really ever seen the sun fully? Will I look as good as Demi Moore in G.I. Jane? I guess we will see soon. I asked Brenley the other day if she is going to be okay with Mommy not having hair because of her medicine that might cause it to fall out. Bless her heart, she said, "Mommy, it's ok. God will give you some more. We can buy you some and glue it on". I just had to laugh at that point because she was right in many aspects. I can probably get a wig that closely resembles what i have now minus the glue. She says that because she had a doll that her hair would not stay on, so Mommy graciously super glued it to her head. Also, it is just a temporary side effect, so I will eventually grow more hair. Who knows I may be a blonde or even curly headed when it comes back in. I hope not on the blonde thing. No offense to those pretty ladies that are blonde, but I love being a brunette. They say your hair sometimes changes color and texture when it comes back. That could be fun. I will probably have a going away party soon for my hair, but thank goodness my looks don't define who I am as a person. I'm beautiful because I'm God's child and he loves me. I will let ya'll know how it goes from here on out. I pray for little side effects from the chemo and for a good attitude to endure it. Thank you for the continued prayers and thoughts. May God bless each of you and may your hair stay intact! Love always - Shayla
I don't know if it was the rainy weather, returning to work finally, or going to see my oncologist, Dr. Pruitt, but it was just another manic Monday. And yes, I wish it were Sunday cause that's my fun day. I'm going to go ahead and admit it. I was a big cry baby today. I'm not usually very emotional about things, but for some odd reason everything seemed to set me off. I got to work early today to clean off some of the patient charts that were awaiting my arrival and then had to head to occupational health to get them to sign off on my return to work. Dr. Proffer released me to work, but I'm on a 10 pound lifting restriction and can only work 4 hours each day for one week. As most of you know, I'm an outpatient physical therapist at Northwest Texas Hospital here in Amarillo. Lifting and using my arms are a big part of treating patients, so I'm really just helping out around the clinic as needed in different areas. I had been prescribed some muscle relaxers for the continuing pectoral muscle spasms, and I thought it was helping until today. I got back to work and didn't even do much with my arms and began having spasms on the left side. This subsided somewhat and then the right side began and hasn't let up even with the muscle relaxers. Then, I began having blood in my right drain, which hasn't happened since right after surgery. It is now back to more clear or yellow drainage, so I think it is ok. If it continues, I guess I'll call Dr. Proffer's office. You know I had been thinking about my cancer lately. I had a chest CT scan at the end of January this year when I had bad bronchitis. Everything looked fine according to that scan, so I guess the cancer had not happened yet. Then, bam 7 months later I have Stage II breast cancer with 3 masses in the left breast, mets in 2 lymph nodes, and cancer that had actually gotten behind my breast into the fascia of the muscle. My cancer is grade 3 so it was highly malignant. Now you see why I'm now a big fan of women doing self breast exams and of the government moving the age down for starting mammograms. I saw on t.v. today that 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will get cancer in their lifetime. I don't like those odds for anyone. Crazy huh?
Chris and I went to my first follow up with Dr. Pruitt today since my surgery. I thought I was emotionally prepared for talking about chemo, but again I broke down. I don't know if it was about the hair loss thing or just the fact that I don't feel like I should be having to talk about this at my age. The bottom line is all this just stinks! I had been handling everything fine, but like my sweet friend, Darcie Milsow, says sometimes you need to just cry it out and get it over with. I'm over it now. We found out that I will probably get my chemo port placed next Tuesday at 2:30 pm with Dr. Arredondo in day surgery. That will only happen if my drains get pulled before that date however. Then I will start chemo the next day (11-16-11) at Northwest Texas Hospital where I work. I will receive 2 chemo drugs (adriamycin and cytoxan) that will take about 2-3 hours to administer along with some of the side effect meds. This will take place every other week for 4 treatments. These are the more potent chemo drugs, and yes hair loss is one of the more common side effects unfortunately. Dr. Pruitt says I can keep exercising and working during this time to combat the fatigue side effect. He said the nausea problem has really been minimal with most patients because they give you meds before your chemo and oral meds after chemo to take. There are some other bad side effects but they only happen in very few patients. After 2 months of this, I will then do chemo with a drug called taxol. This is less potent, but will be once a week for 1 hour each. This will last for 12 weeks. So total chemo time will be about 5 months. Then, like I said before, I will do radiation for 5-6 weeks to the left chest wall. Then, I can still look forward to 2 more plastic surgeries and having a complete hysterectomy. Man, I'm ready for 2011 to be over cause it has not been real nice to me. I'm hoping that 2012 will be better. Wednesday, Chris and I have to attend a chemo class from 9-11:30 am at Harrington Cancer Center to learn more about it. Dr. Pruitt said if I get a high fever or my blood counts are too low, he may have to put me in the hospital to protect me from infection. I hope we don't ever have to worry about that. I'm just glad that today is almost over because I'm expecting tomorrow to be a good day.
I guess I don't have any good advice for everyone today except that God never gives us more than we can handle. I know at times it seems like Chris and I have a big mountain to climb, but we decided that we are going to just look for our next handhold and foot placement for each cliff. Then, before we know it we will look down at what we have accomplished (only with God's help) and celebrate the victory (maybe with a cruise or returning to our honeymoon island of St. Lucia which will be well deserved by that time!!!). Thanks again for the encouragement through your cards, calls, e-mails, and texts. I need them to help me through this, but most of all I need God. Please continue the prayers for me, Darcie Milsow, who is bravely fighting colon cancer, and for Jenny Mills, another strong woman fighting breast cancer. Darci and I have met up two times recently for coffee and lunch, and I admire her so much. She is so strong, and I love being able to vent to someone who really understands, firsthand, how I feel and what I'm going through. She is my strength going into this storm ahead. I know God can heal both of us, and Darcie and I have hope and faith for this. Take care and God bless. Love - Shayla
If anyone wants to read posts from past months, just scroll up and look at the archives on the right hand side of the . It will list September and October. If you click on one of these, you can find the old posts.