Well, I successfully finished chemo #8 today. That means only 1 month (4 treatments) to go. I'm still doing pretty good except the neuropathy (numbness and tingling) in my hands and feet is increasing a little. Previously after chemo, this would happen a day or two after and last through the weekend and back off Monday or Tuesday. Now, it isn't going away before the next chemo. It makes my feet feel weird when I walk almost like I don't know where exactly they are touching down for sure. My hands are worse than my feet, but luckily I'm not dropping things. Dr. Pruitt knows about this but states they will not do anything about it unless I start having problems picking up items or dropping them when I hold them. Taxol, the chemo drug, can cause permanent neuropathy problems if it gets too bad. Otherwise, the neuropathy should go away. My bleeding issues are really weird. I'll be fine one day and then suddenly get a bloody nose or rectal bleeding. It may last a few days and be heavy and then go away again. Chemo causes the weirdest things to go on in my body. There is no rhyme or reason to anything. Today I attempted to go running with my running partner. Her name is Denali and she is my 1 1/2 yr old brindle great dane. She loves to run with me and knows our route. We used to run together all the time before I was diagnosed. I felt pretty good when I left the house to run but quickly realized how much the chemo is affecting my endurance. I have been working out pretty regularly lately and trying to increase my cardio on the elliptical and with cycling, but obviously running is another story. I had to run as far as I could and walk for short stents to catch my breath. I made it about 2 miles but was exhausted when I got home and all day. Then, my body definitely told me about it all day after this. I noticed my morton's neuroma (nerve problem) in my foot was worse and my IT band near my right knee was killing me all day. Again, I love chemo - NOT! I'm not going to let this get me down or stop me though. It just makes me mad and makes me want to go further and harder. If you haven't figured it out, I'm kinda competitive and especially when something frustrates me.
Monday night I went to Canyon to the WT activity center to watch my high school friends (and ex-Lady Eagles) play basketball against some Nazareth and surrounding town girls. It makes me really sad to not get out there with them and play, but I just can't right now. With that nerve popping out of my left armpit, my left wrist and hand swelling, my left arm pain, and with the chest area being really sore and tender, I didn't think that was a smart idea. I was tempted to for sure. After they finished, I went with Lindy Lombard, Brooke Hancock, Sarah McBride, and Valeree Valdez to Hastings to get coffee. It was so nice that night that we sat outside. We ended up talking for 2 1/2 hours and laughing our butts off. It was so fun catching up and reminiscing about old times. It's funny how your topics of conversation change over the years. At least we can laugh at ourselves when it comes to body changes that have taken place through the years. I'm sure that will just get worse with age. The one good thing about having a mastectomy and expanders in with really tight skin is that my breast are not droopy. They aren't going anywhere fast. Again positive thinking! I could have sat out there and talked to them all night. It was so fun. I definitely needed that. I thanked God that night for bringing these girls into my life years ago and for the influence they have had on my life. I believe God is doing great things in their lives because they are focusing more on him like myself. It's so neat to see those changes in all our lives. God is good. This past Saturday, I was also blessed to have two of my college best friends, Lezlie and Tifni, come down for a surprise lunch date. They are both teachers and are on spring break. We ate and then came to the house to hang out. We looked at old college pictures from many trips we took and from Texas Tech. We had a lot of laughs too. I've missed those girls, and I'm so glad that they came up to see me. That was so sweet of them. I think God brings people into your life at certain times for a reason. He has been so good to me in this regards because I couldn't ask for better friends from high school days, college days, and now. I also have amazing family that encourages me all the time too. I couldn't ask for more. Thank you to each of you for caring about me and my life and for wanting to be my friend. You have truly been a blessing to my life.
So my bible reading is still going well. I try to still do it everyday even if it just a chapter or two. I love the Life Application Bible that I downloaded to my Nook. I read the chapter and then the study notes that go along with that chapter. This has really helped me understand things better. I encourage you again to make time in your day for God and for reading and praying. I saw a saying that really hit home yesterday. "What if you woke up only with the things you thanked God yesterday?". Oh crap. I thank God for things but not near enough. You know I have days that I feel down and are discouraged, but then I see a lady in a restaurant about my age that is only able to use mouth or breath control device to maneuver her power wheelchair. She is a quadriplegic. What am I complaining about? I'm being selfish. I stop and thank God for the fact that I can still work, walk, exercise, roll out of my bed on my own, and pick up my 3 yr old little girl. We all have a lot to be thankful for, but remember this quote daily because it will change the way you pray. Remember God never gets tired of hearing us thank him for anything and everything. He loves a thankful heart.
Update on my second cousin, Lori. She had her mastectomy last Tuesday and seems to be doing well. She has been hurting quite a bit and really sore, but that is just par for the course unfortunately. She was running a little fever in last few days so please pray that she doesn't get an infection and that her recovery continues to go well. Update on my sister, Tiffany. You know she tested positive for the same gene as me (BRCA 2). She had already met with Dr. Arredondo last month about doing the mastectomy surgery in June. Then, last week she met with my plastic surgeon, Dr. Proffer, to talk about the reconstruction part. She was worried because her insurance only goes to one plastic surgeon here is town, but she really wanted to use Dr. Proffer. He is awesome and has been really good to me through all my cancer stuff. The good news is that it looks like they are going to be able to work something out with out of network pay. She was so happy and relieved about this. Thank you God. It looks like she may try to move the surgery up to May possibly since Dr. Arredondo is moving to Albuquerque on August 31st of this year. She wants him to still do the mastectomy part of the surgery and then be able to see him through her 3 month follow-up. She meets with him in a few weeks and hopefully they will collaborate with Dr. Proffer's office to come up with a date for her surgery. I still agree with her 100% on going through with this prophylactic surgery because of her high odds of getting breast cancer. She is smart to just remove the tissue before she gets cancer. I don't wish this cancer stuff on anyone. It's tough stuff. It will test you in so many ways. Anyway, Chris and Bren are doing well. Chris is almost done with his EMT advanced class and then will go back to shift work. He is ready to get back on the big, red truck again instead of being in a classroom all day. He officially is done being a rookie firefighter now. He passed his one year mark on March 10th. I'm so proud of him. Bren is busy being a princess and keeping us laughing. She can't stand wearing anything but dresses, high heels, princess dress-up dresses, Hello Kitty stuff, and cheerleading outfits with light-up pom poms. She is so girlie-girl just like her mom. Just kidding but I love that about her. She is ready to start pre-school in the fall and talks about it often. Well, I've rambled enough tonight and am very sleepy from the chemo treatment this afternoon. Take care and keep on serving God in anyway you can by reading his word, telling others about how he works in your life, loving your neighbor, being thankful for everything, and praying daily. He will do things in your life that you never thought were possible, and you find so much joy at times in your life when you didn't think this could happen. God bless and love y'all. Shay
So last week I had my sigmoidoscopy on Thursday to try to figure out why I was bleeding. If you don't know what this test is, it is like a colonoscopy but they only go part of the way up the pipe. Dr. Ellington had told me that I did not have to be put under for the procedure if I didn't want to. There are two problems with that scenario. First, I like versed and feel great when I wake up from being put under with this med. Second, I couldn't imagine staying awake for a procedure where someone is sticking a large tube in a place it doesn't belong. That gives me anxiety just thinking about it. Before checking in, I had gone up to the oncology floor to have the chemo nurse, Carey, put in my port line. I did this just in case they needed a line for any meds during the procedure. When I arrived at day surgery, everything started happening faster than usual. They pulled me back quickly and had me change into a gown. The nurse in day surgery asked if I was going to be put under for the procedure. I told her I thought I would do it without meds. She said I could change my mind if needed before they got started. It wasn't long after this that they took me to the endoscopy area. I had been told my sigmoidoscopy was going to be at noon but everything happened faster because the case before me was cancelled. It was probably good that everything happened so quickly because then I didn't have too much time to rethink it. Luckily, I felt pretty comfortable because the same nurse, named Casey, that did my colonoscopy last year was with me again. She assured me that the procedure would be fast (like 5 mins) and wouldn't be too painful. We agreed too that since I had chemo after that, it would be better to stay awake. The next thing I knew, Dr. Ellington was in there and ready to go. It was too late to back out now. This is where it gets funny. So thank goodness there are 3 televisions in the room including one staring me in the face. I was getting nervous at this point because the scope was facing the ground and about to head my way. The next thing I see, to my dismay, on the t.v. in broad view is my big butt! Dr. Ellington had turned the camera toward my rear while getting everything ready for the scope. It's bad enough looking at your own rear in the mirror at home, but then to broadcast it to everyone in the room was humiliating. I wanted to start laughing but all I could do was lay there and sweat. The only cool thing about being awake during all this was that I got to see the inside of my intestinal tract for the first time. The doctor did end up taking a biopsy of a small spot that he called a lipoma. This is basically a little fatty tumor. He wasn't that worried about it but just wanted to make sure it was a lipoma based on my past medical history and family history. He saw again, like with the colonoscopy, that I had internal hemorrhoids. Friday they called me from Dr. Ellington's office and said that the biopsy turned out fine. I guess the bleeding is just from the hemorrhoids being mad at me from the chemo. Praise God they didn't find anything out of the ordinary. I finished up down in day surgery and then grabbed a bite to eat before heading up to chemo. I spent most of the afternoon up there in chemo, and the good news is that I'm halfway done with taxol. I've been having a little more tingling in my hands and feet lately, and now I've got a bigger problem. The left side was the side that had the cancer and where they took the 12 lymph nodes. I have always had a nerve pain going down that arm that fluctuates based on my activity level. Now, that pain has gotten worse and I've developed something called axillary web syndrome. It is basically a rope-like cord that pops out of your arm when you try to raise your arm. If I try to straighten my elbow or raise my arm very far at all, it feels like something in my arm is going to rip and that nerve pain shoots down the whole arm to my left thumb. The other problem is that my left hand and wrist have started swelling off and on. I've been wearing compression garments on that arm to try to prevent lymphedema from completely setting in. I'm going to start seeing one of our occupational therapists that specializes in lymphedema and treating axillary web syndrome this Tuesday. I'm just ready for this arm to stop hurting and to have full use of it. As most of you know, between my job and my active lifestyle I don't sit still very long. I also don't do well with someone telling me to not use that arm much. Again, I'm hard headed. I'm just hoping to get some of this stuff to resolve and move on without any more complications.
This week I have a few things going on. I have an appointment with Dr. Proffer, my plastic surgeon, on Tuesday to talk further about my expanders and the implants that will replace these. I figure my second reconstruction surgery will be around June of this year. Then, I see Dr. Pruitt, my oncologist, on Wednesday for a check-up before chemo that day. My counts were down a little last week and his nurse had to lower the cut off number on my white blood cell counts just so I could still do my chemo. If this continues I may need another $13,000 shot called neulasta to try to get my numbers up. I want to continue chemo without any breaks to not only get them over with but because I want them to be as effective as they can be on the cancer. I guess that is all the updating I have for now for me, but I want to tell you really quickly about my cousin. Her name is Lori Covey. She just found out a few weeks ago that she has breast cancer. They had scheduled her double mastectomy for this Tuesday and then they made her go see her gynecologist this past Friday. She had some tests run, and she was told she has a large mass in her ovaries. They think the cancer has spread to her ovaries. Please, please pray for her and husband and children. She is 41 yrs old and this is a lot for anyone to take in. She is still going to have her surgery Tuesday along with the first stage of reconstruction. Then, they are thinking they will do chemo to shrink the tumor in her ovary before doing a hysterectomy. I'm praying for peace and comfort for her along with successful surgery and recovery. She's a fighter and is going into this with her boxing gloves on. Well, I'm tired now and need to get some shut eye in preparation for another busy week. God bless and thanks again for following me during this journey. Love y'all. Shay
The good is that I have now completed 5 of 12 chemo treatments of this taxol drug. This week will make number six, and then I'll be halfway there. Yeah! I can't wait to be finished with chemo all together. It looks like the end of the line on the chemo will be around the 2nd week of April. The other good thing is that this chemo has been quite a bit easier on me than the first drugs I had to take. I have had little side effects. This is where I get honest and frank with each of you. I told myself when I started this blog that I was going to be upfront about every aspect of this journey whether good, bad, or just downright ugly. The bad side effects that I have had lately is nose bleeds and rectal bleeding. I think that it is just part of the chemo drying me out, but you never know. The rectal bleeding began a few weeks ago and was just here and there when I had a bowel movement. Then, it started happening more often progressing to every time I go to the restroom. The amount of blood seemed to increase too. I called my oncologist, Dr. Pruitt, and spoke with his nurse. I had told him about two weeks ago about it at my follow-up, but he just said that we would get it checked out after chemo was over. When it got worse, I thought I should let him know. I didn't think I should wait 7-8 more weeks to get it checked out. He agreed with me. They sent me back to my gastroenterologist, Dr. Ellington, to have him check me out. He said he thinks it is just from the chemo or hemorrhoids, but he told me I needed to have a sigmoidoscopy. This is basically like a colonoscopy, but they only go part of the way into the colon to check things out. I had my first colonoscopy last summer because of similar problems and a history of colon cancer in my greatgrandmother at age 34. So basically, this week I will delay my normal Wednesday chemo until Thursday after the procedure. The good news is that I don't have to drink the two liters of that nasty "Go lightly" crap. I remember barely being able to swallow the last of each liter without vomiting last time. I'm not sure who named that stuff anyway. Obviously, they never tried the product for themselves before naming it. There is nothing "lightly" about it. Well, at least I can laugh about some of these things I'm having to go through because if not I might have to cry at times. I told a friend yesterday it seems that as soon as I get one thing off my plate, something else gets put on my plate to replace it. I think to myself, "If I can just get through this chemo, I'll be so glad". Then, I start thinking, "Well then I'll have to do radiation and then surgeries and then......". It seems like it will never end, and then will I ever feel normal again even when it is all over? I have a new normal. My life will never be the same as it used to be. I will always be a cancer patient, and I feel that I will always think about my cancer and worry if it will come back. These thoughts and worries can definitely get the best of me sometimes, but I always have to remind myself that I am not in control. Thank goodness for that. I am in good hands with God, the ultimate physician, and he will take care of my every need and worry. I will continue to trust him and know that hard times produce character and strengthen my dependence on him. This life is full of hard times that test us, so we have to continue to run the race towards our ultimate goal - heaven. How glorious that will be when none of us have to suffer or stress about these wordly things! I can't wait for that day. Until then, I pray for more strength, faith, and courage to face each day knowing that the fight is worth it and that God is shaping me through this. What ever glorifies him, I am willing to go through. Anyway, please pray that the procedure goes well and that this will just be another temporary side effect from this nasty chemo. Thank you again for your thoughts and prayers. They mean so much to me. Love y'all. Shay
Today we got a wonderful surprise after church with a winter wonderland outside. Here in the Panhandle, we never know if it is going to be sunny, snowing, raining (not often), or windy (often). Chris, Bren, and I had a great day. We had a great sermon at church with our church family, a wonderful catered Valentine's luncheon after, and then headed home for a short nap and family time. We always enjoy when Chris gets to start up a fire in the fireplace too. Well, I have good news to report. My sweet husband, Chris, just passed his 11 month test at his work. He is no longer a rookie firefighter! I am so proud of him because he worked really hard this last year with studying and trying to become part of the guys at the firehouse. As if this wasn't stressful enough, he was also trying to be superdad and husband for a sick wife and a kid that needed him a little more. I thank him for his hardwork and dedication to being the best he could be for his job and his family. I can't believe his first year is already over, but I can say I'm glad it is. We can finally sit back and relax a little with his testing being over. I say that, but Chris just started his EMT intermediate course at work with 17 other firefighters. This means that for 7-8 weeks he is in school from 8 am - 5 pm (Monday-Friday) instead of working a rotating schedule at the firehouse. I know he isn't too excited about studying a lot for this stuff too, but he will be glad when he gets done and is that much closer to be a paramedic along with being a firefighter. Again, I am so proud of him and love him so much.
So we just got back from a wonderful ski trip with Chris' family to Red River, NM. We decided last year to start this tradition in place of exchanging so many presents between the adults at Christmas time. Instead, we take a ski trip, which we all love. There were 13 of us this year, so we had a full cabin that is conveniently located right across the street from the main lift (awesome!!!). We got there Saturday and just relaxed and went to eat that evening. Then, we skied on Sunday and Monday all day. Yes, I skied and loved every minute of it. I had bronchitis last year and was coughing my head off and had very little energy throughout the trip, so you better believe that I'm not going to let some cancer or chemo get in my way. I needed to get away and enjoy some fresh air. Chris and I tried to teach Bren to ski this year. She is only 3 1/2 yrs old, so she is too young for ski school. She looked so cute in her "hot pink" (her favorite color) ski outfit, but she only made it about an hour and a half that first day. This was ok at that point because I was about to send her and Chris to time out if it lasted any longer. The second day, however, she did so much better. Her cousin, Brylan, was out of ski school and on the bunny slopes too so that helped. We had bought a harness with a leash attached to it to put around her. She didn't want us to let go of her initially, but once we showed her she could do it and we wouldn't let her go she loved it. She was yelling, "Look Paw Paw. I'm doing it. I'm skiing!". It was so cute to watch. I love doing new things with her because it always brings new joy to situations that sometimes seem so mundane. Next year, we will have to work on turns and stopping, but it was a start for sure. This year the snow was so good in Red River. They had gotten 20 inches before we got to town, and it snowed off and on while we were on the mountain and at night. It made for awesome skiing! I love it! I tried to soak in all the moments of skiing this year. The mountain was beautiful with all the snow on the trees. I was so thankful to be feeling good enough to fly down the slopes. I was so glad to have some alone time with my hubby finally and to snuggle on the ski lift as we enjoyed the views. The relaxation time was so appreciated while we curled up on the couches by the fire in the cabin after skiing. Lastly, I love being with family and am so thankful for each of them. I'm so blessed to be a part of the Shelburne family, who have shown me such and love and support since Chris and I got married. I love that we all get along, enjoy our time together, can laugh at each other's misfortune (Josh, one of Chris' brothers, falling off the ski lift and the lift operator telling him next time he can slow it down for him when he gets off - so funny), and the fact that we love each other no matter what. Thank you God for this. I can't wait to go again next year. It seems to get better each year. I will just be glad to have hair next year so I don't get so cold or get wind burn on my neck again!
Well, I have 3 chemo sessions down and the 4th coming up this Wednesday. After this week, I'm a third of the way through with chemo! Yeah! Everything has still been going well. I have had some diarrhea issues, which I know everyone loves to hear about. I would rather have this than the alternative of constipation like I had with the first chemo drugs. I would rather get that crap (literally) out than to keep it stored up for weeks for sure. Other than that, I feel good. My energy levels are up, and I'm working full days no problem. I'm just ready to get the chemo over with. The good news is that my hair is starting to grow back. This is a surprise to all of us because this chemo can cause hair loss as well. My head literally feels like a baby chick. It is fine like a baby's hair and seems to be brown still. Chris told me today that I would be swallowing a lot of words if it came back in blonde. I want to clarify this statement and defend myself at this point. Yes, I might have made or passed along some blonde jokes through the years and have been known to say that I'm so glad I'm a brunette. This does not mean that I don't like blondes, and I do think blondes can be beautiful. I'm just happy to have brown hair and hope that it comes back this way. Chris was just giving me a hard time. I know he misses my dark, long hair, so I'm sure he is really glad it is coming back. I have some more news to report. My sister, Tiffany, just recently found out through genetic testing that she has the same gene (BRCA 2) that I have. This caused her and her husband, Cory, to make some difficult decisions. She has an 87% chance of getting breast cancer and a 27% chance of ovarian cancer. After much thought, she has decided to go ahead with the bilateral mastectomy. I applaud her for her courage and support her 100% in this decision. With those kind of odds, I would do the same in her shoes. I told her that I would rather see her recover from a hard surgery than to see her have to go through this cancer battle. She is planning on doing the surgery around June of this year, so please be praying for her and her family that she will have peace about everything and that everything goes smoothly. Also, I found out Friday that one of my cousins on my mother's side of the family just found out she has breast cancer. Her name is Lori, and I ask for prayers for her and her family as they start their fight against her cancer. I know she is overwhelmed and stressed with this news, but I know that God is going to be with her like he has been with me. She is a fighter and has a great support system around her too, which is such a blessing. It seems like cancer has become so rampant in the last few years, and I wonder so many times why this is. I don't have a lot of answers to this and can speculate on many causes, but all I know is that we are never promised tomorrow. This means that we need to enjoy each day and live for Christ each moment, and not just when times are good or on Sundays and Wednesdays. Let each day center around God. I encourage each of you to get up early or stay up a little longer each night to spend some alone time with God. How can we become more like Jesus and know God more if we don't read his word? Don't put it off until tomorrow because who knows if you will have a tomorrow? Only God knows when he will call us home, but in the meantime know that God loves each of you personally and completely. Embrace that love and show it to others as you get to know him more, and he will give you peace and joy you have never known before. God bless and love all of you. Shayla
Please continue to pray for my friend, Darcie Milsow, who is battling colon cancer. She has had a rough patch and recently had a big surgery to fix some intestinal issues. She is still in ICU trying to recoup. Pray for quick healing and for her sweet family that
I almost hate to say that this first chemo went well because it is like saying that you haven't been sick in awhile. That is a guarantee that you will break out with something by the next day. I was so nervous about starting chemo again because of how terrible the first four rounds of the other chemo went. I had been told by several doctors and many other people that taxol was a different beast, but I was still anxious about it. I had really enjoyed the month break from chemo and didn't want to start it back up again. I had written in the last post about the 2 drains I had placed under my left armpit to drain the fluid that had built up after surgery. I had the drains for a week and then had a follow-up with Dr. Arredondo on the 20th. The drains had been draining pretty good but one of them stopped about 2 days before I went to see him. I hadn't had any problems with them other than the fact that this nerve going down the back of my left arm was acting up. This is the same nerve that I had problems with after my mastectomies. When they were putting in the drains, the nurse said that I looked like I was in pain. She asked where it was hurting, and I told her that the nerve was beginning to hurt down my arm. This continued from that point on and by the time I went back to Dr. A it was really uncomfortable. It felt like someone had a hot poker and was burning the back of my arm. I told Dr. A about it, and he said the drains may have set off a superficial nerve. When he pulled that drain soon after, I about came off the table. That nerve went crazy and sent that horrid pain down my arm. He grabbed my hand and apologized for the pain. Then, we agreed that the drain must have been on that nerve. I've still had some nerve pain down the arm since, but nothing like that day or that burning sensation like before. It will probably just take some time to settle down. He didn't pull the other drain because he said he wants to be conservative with it so we don't have to do this again. I agreed. He told me to call when the drainage got down to 15 mL or less. Over the weekend, the drainage decreased so I called them on Monday. Tuesday morning I got the second drain out, and I can't say I miss them. I needed those out to start chemo on Wednesday, so this was good. Chemo went well with no allergic reactions or major side effects. The only hard thing was the strong benedryl they gave me before the chemo knocked me on my rear. I could hardly keep my eyes open during the 3 hour chemo and to drive home afterwards. I can handle this though. I'm not complaining at all. If they can all go this smooth, I can definitely do this. Now I just have 11 more chemo treatments to go. They will be every week if there are no hang ups.
Like I said before, it seems much easier to thank God a lot when things are going well. I've been trying to teach myself to find several things every day that I'm grateful for because there are so many blessings each day that God gives us. We just have to look harder on "bad days" to see them. Things are not always going to go our way and the road is not always going to be smooth, but if we turn our self-centered focus on God then it makes the ride easier and worth it. I challenge each of you and myself to take time this week to do something nice for someone else. It may be someone you know or a stranger. Do something you wouldn't ordinarily do to bless their lives. Pay for someone's coffee standing behind you in line or tell your checker at the grocery store what a blessing they are to you. Whatever it is, step out of your comfort zone and just do it. I think you'll be surprised how much joy it brings you to give God the glory through acts of kindness to your neighbor. This is what God calls us to do daily, but let's challenge ourselves to get it done this week. I love reading your comments and encouragements on my blog, so if you feel inclined please keep them coming. It helps me get through the rough spots. God bless you and love each of you. Shay
I haven't written since right before the new year because this last round of chemo was soooooo rough on me. I thought the first one was bad, but this one took the cake. I had the chemo on Dec. 28th and by that Friday I was starting to feel bad. We had decided to only do the Zofran pump until Monday because of the problems it causes like horrible constipation. By Sat and Sunday, I felt terrible. I don't think I really left the house that weekend. I had chemo brain (a headache that makes your head feel like it will explode with pressure), constipation, horrible acid reflux, dry mouth, a weird taste for food, nausea, and my intestinal tract completely shut down. Needless to say this went on all that next week and I could barely get off the couch I was so miserable. I don't think I have ever felt that bad. My oncologist offered to put me in the hospital twice but like my stubborn self I resisted. If I was going to suffer I want to be in the comfort of my own home! Looking back maybe I should have gone. Oh yeah, the other thing is that the Tuesday after chemo I began running a fever, and we still don't know why. When you are on chemo, your blood counts drop extremely low about a week after chemo and they call this time "nadir". During this time they are very particular about what you do and where you go if your counts are way down because of risk of infection. If you get a fever during that time of 100.5 they want you to take something and monitor it a few hours. If it doesn't go down, you call them. At 101 or higher you call them immediately. Mine was 101 so I had to call them. I would go from freezing cold to burning up every few hours. My fever came down a little over time, but until today I was running a low grade fever. I had to do blood cultures this past Monday out of my port site and my arm to see if there were any blood infections, but those came back negative.
Wednesday was my 3 month followup with Dr. Arredondo, my surgeon that did my mastectomies. I was glad to see him again because I enjoy his company. He is a really nice man and smart to say the least. I had a good visit with him and was even able to give advice to a young woman going through the same thing as me that he brought over to my room. He asked if I would help him out and told me a little about her story. Then, the patient and her mother came over to hear my story and make a more informed decision between a lumpectomy and a mastectomy. I was glad to help. That is one thing I never mind doing is helping others who are just starting their journey down this terrible cancer road. If I were you, I would turn before you get to that road because it has lots of potholes and dangerous curves and hills you don't want to go through! Just saying. Anyway, after we talked to that patient, I told Dr. Arredondo about how the seroma (fluid stuck in my left axilla or armpit) seemed to be getting bigger and how it was really tender. He decided to do an ultrasound to look at it and said it was pretty big and dense in there. He asked if I wanted to try to aspirate out fluid with a needle and I agreed. It is like carrying an egg under my arm and very uncomfortable. He tried for several minutes to dig with the needle to get some fluid out, but he was unsuccessful because of how dense the fluid had become. He got out a little in the syringe and showed me. It looked like red jello to be exact. Dr. A then scheduled me for an outpt surgery or procedure to try to aspirate it and place a drain over at my hospital. I did this yesterday (Thursday) in the radiology department. Dr. Murray and a PA did the procedure and they gave me some versed to make it not as bad. It took a little while for them to get some fluid out and they ended up placing 2 drains to try to get rid of all the fluid under there. Luckily, the drains are doing their jobs and lots of fluid is coming out. I don't miss having drains I've decided, but I'm just glad that I don't have that egg under there anymore. I scrambled it and ate it for breakfast instead. LOL!
Dr. Pruitt, my oncologist, had postponed starting my new chemo from this Wednesday until next because of my fever stuff and the fact that I begged him for a break from the madness. Then, today I had to call his office and tell him about the latest development on the drains, and they postponed it again for another week to make sure I don't get any infections. I'm on antibiotics now with the drains because they are testing the fluid for an infection. If it isn't infected, then they are trying to prevent that from happening. The joys of cancer have been never ending! Joking. None of this journey has been easy but God never promises us an easy life. Yes, I again had my battles with him last week when I felt like absolute crap, but I stayed true to my studying and praying and again he brought me relief. God has really tested my patience during all this. I'm learning to not give up when it feels like my prayer requests are not being answered because he isn't always saying "no" but sometimes he says "in my timing not yours". That is hard for a controlling person to deal with believe me. I'm thankful though for answers to prayers and for the many other blessings he gives me beyond my health concerns. I'm thankful for how he has changed my outlook on life and for loving each day with my family and friends. I told someone the other day that I see death in a whole different perspective now. It's something we will all go through at some point in time and as Christians we will be in a glorious place with our God and Saviour Jesus Christ free from all this pain and strife. I can't wait for Jesus to come back. I couldn't say that before cancer. I had looked forward to it then but looked at it through distant eyes thinking I had the rest of my life to work towards it. No, today could be our last, so don't wait to make a move now to know our God better, love him more, and tell others about Christ. He loves you so much and can't wait to be your best friend to help you at all times - good and bad.
Funny story - You know a few days ago I had just gotten home from work, and the house was quiet. Chris and Bren had run an errand. I sat on the couch to relax a second. It was cloudy and COLD outside so it was kinda dark in my living room. Suddenly, it got super bright outside and the room lit up. I hollared, "Jesus - take me" and held up my hands because I didn't know exactly what was happening. My heart was racing. It stayed like this for about a minute and then went back to being dark. I laughed and said to myself, "Well, he either left me here or that was just the sun coming out for a second in an otherwise gloomy day". I told my friends at work and they were laughing too. I knew it wasn't Jesus coming back cause I'm not missing that bus, but it may have been God's way of reminding me for a second that he is still there on a day that seemed so normal. His light always shines bright on us if we let him be a part of our lives. Well, I hope all of you are doing well and are in good health, but don't forget if you are to thank God for that. We take good health for granted often. Please continue to pray for my sweet friends Jenny Mills and Darcie Milsow who are still bravely fighting their cancer battles. Also, please add to your list Rebekah Kerby, an occupational therapy assistant that is a co-worker, that had an aneurysm in her brain and is trying to wake up from a coma. She's a fighter so far. We can all use whatever prayer power we can get. Keep them coming and thank you for them. Love y'all. Shay
So I guess this is my last post for this year of 2011. I can't say that I'm going to miss much about 2011, but I'm definitely ready for a new year with new blessings. God has given me new persepective on life this past year, and I'm appreciative of that. I feel like I've learned to focus less on myself and the little stressors in life and focus more on him. I think we get so wrapped up in our every day lives and what we think we have to get accomplished in that time frame, and we forget that God wants us to let go of some of these things and rely and focus on him more. That is my goal for 2012 for sure is less of me and more of him. I'm going to appreciate the little moments in life with my family and friends and thank God as often as I can for all the many blessings he gives me daily. God is good through all circumstances and even cancer. Well, I finished my last chemo this past Wednesday for this round. Goodbye "red devil"! I will not miss you at all. I feel about the same as I do every week after chemo. I'm wearing my zofran infusion pump until Monday to help control nausea, but my stomach and intestinal tract are still suffering. They just do not like the chemo and neither do I. I feel run down physically, and that is hard when you have a liitle 3 1/2 yr old Barbie or Rapunzel that wants you to play with her. I have a hard time saying "no" to that. Luckily, I have had more time at home with the holidays and my sweet husband, Chris, has again stepped up to the plate to help a lot. Yes, my head is pretty much bald now except a few strays here and there, but my eyebrows and eyelashes have held up thank goodness so far. I go back to Dr. Pruitt, my oncologist, on January 11th for a follow-up. I guess we will determine then when I will start my taxol chemo treatments. I will do 12 of these total. They will be every week for 2-3 hours each. Please pray that these will go much smoother for me than the first four especially since they are closer together. I'm just ready to be completely done with chemo and then past the radiation after that. I will probably finish chemo around mid March or so and then be done with radiation by May 2012. Then, I will try to finish my plastic surgeries (2) before scheduling my hysterectomy. 2012 will be a busy year for me but hopefully an ending of this cancer stuff and the beginning of feeling better. I told Chris that after all of this hard stuff I will deserve a good vacation in 2013. He said he will take me anywhere I want to go at that point. I will be scheming until then on where my heart desires and which island that will be! I want to thank each of you that have continued to read my blog, send me cards and notes, and support our family through this time. We will never be able to thank you enough. Your support has kept my spirits up during really hard times. God has been so good and faithful through this and will continue to fulfill our needs in every situation. I wholeheartedly believe that God is using me to touch others through this cancer. I can't say that I wanted to go through this, but I am more than willing if it brings him glory and honor. That is what we are all called to do. We are to seek his will for our lives whatever that may be and accept the challenges he gives us with faith and perserverance for his good. He is worth every minute of it. I pray that 2012 brings new perspective on your life and your walk with our glorious God, and that he showers each of you with continued blessings and good health. Let's all live every minute to serve God in 2012! Love y'all. Shayla
I'm sorry I haven't written since I shaved my hair off two weeks ago, but my energy levels have been down with this crazy chemo. Now my hair is really becoming scarce and patchy. I'm just ready for it to be bald cause this prickly feeling is for the birds. I even had it shaved again to try to make it feel better. There are some perks, however, to this hair loss thing. I don't have to wax my upper lip or shave my legs or armpits any more. Got to look on the bright side some times. It has been kinda frustrating lately because I'm used to getting up early to run or workout and then going through a full day no problem. Now I'm lucky to make it to 7 or 8 pm before I have to go to bed. I guess I have been doing more lately because this last week before chemo I felt pretty good overall. I have been trying to work closer to 40 hour weeks, run my errands, and get ready for Christmas. This has all played a toll on my body. This week I had my expanders filled with 90 cc of saline with Dr. Proffer on Tuesday. He was funny. As soon as I walked in he said I had to take off my hat so he could rub my head. He really meant it too, so when he came in to do the expansion, I removed the hat. He stared at my head several times and told me that I had a really great rounded head and that I should rock my balding hair look without my hats. I told him it was too cold outside to do that. It would be fine if it was summer time. I'll take his complements though because after all he is a plastic surgeon. We are going slow on the expanders doing it about every 2 weeks because of how much skin Dr. Arredondo had to take with the mastectomies. It felt pretty tight after the 90 cc of saline this week, and I'm still a little sore. However, I can tolerate this no problem compared to the chemo crap. Dr. Proffer's stuff is the highlight of this journey. I have to find as many positive things along my path that I can because otherwise you can feel bogged down with all the negative things that stress you out. I asked Dr. Proffer about the knot under my left arm too while I was there. At first, we thought it was another seroma (fluid filled area that my body would absorb), but it felt much harder to me. I have been having some bad nerve pain down the back of my left arm when I try to extend my arm all the way out or lift it up too high, so me and my friend Susan Kendall, another physical therapist at my clinic, have been working on it. It seems that the nerve pain is a little better, but the knot under my arm is really scar tissue from digging for the lymph nodes. Dr. Proffer said he can put me on neurotin for the nerve pain if needed and then when we do the next surgery to put in the implants he can clean out some of that scar tissue.
This week I had a follow-up with Dr. Pruitt, my oncologist, as well. I had bloodwork at Northwest on Wednesday morning and then went over to his office for my visit. It was mostly to check my counts and to do an overall body check to make sure everyting was going well with chemo. He decided to change one of my meds from receiving it in my IV before chemo to an oral dose pack that I took for 3 days. This med is named Emend. I took the first one an hour before chemo and then a pill each morning for the past 2 days. I don't know if it was changing this med or the fact that my body may finally be getting a little used to the chemo, but this round went much smoother. I am still wearing the zofran pump to give me a constant dose of anti-nausea meds for one week. I'm very thankful for this. I have still had a little uneasy feeling in my stomach, but overall this has been much better. God again has been good and answered many prayers for this. I still so appreciate each and every prayer that goes up to our heavenly father on my behalf from each of you. I meet and hear from new people all the time that tell me that they pray for me daily and have never even met me. That is so humbling, and I feel so blessed. I have never felt so loved and cared for in my life. I can never thank God enough for my family and friends. You are awesome! Thank you to Laurel Warren (Hayes) and Melissa Cox (Hayes), who were my college roommates, for driving up to entertain me during this chemo session. We did some remeniscing on old times and had some good laughs that made the 2 hours go by faster. Then, we went to eat with our husbands after chemo and continued to have fun. It was a good day even though I was nervous as usual for the chemo. I guess worry has continued to be my hardest battle spiritually during this journey. I want so bad to give everything up to God for him to carry this burden for me, but something in me just can't give up that control at times. Believe me I want to. I have enough on my plate to deal with daily so I would love to just give it all to him. I'm working on this though. I've been reading Acts in the New Testament of my bible lately, and I've learing a lot about Paul and his journeys. He was so faithful to God through many trying times in his life and was willing to give it all up for God in the end. He knew his journey would end in a bad way with being beat up and jailed and placed on trial many times, but this did not stop him from spreading God's word and kingdom. He was devoted to his calling and didn't let hard times stop him from serving our wonderful God. He deserves our all each day whether or not we feel good or regardless of how bad our day may seem. I try to remind myself when I get down, that there are way worse situations out there than what I'm going through and that I should be thankful for each day that I have to serve our God. What an honor. I've been getting up early each day to start my day with reading my Bible and a daily devotional book as well. It has been so nice to start my day by doing this because I feel that it gets my focus on the right things for the day and makes me feel closer to God. Again, cancer has changed my life in many great ways. Thank you God for new perspective. I hope that each of you are enjoying the holdiay season and getting ready for Christmas. Please remember the true meaning of Christmas is not the presents but the birth of our saviour, Jesus Christ, who lived and died for us so that we could go to heaven and live with God some day. This should be our focus during this time. Enjoy your time with you family and some relaxation hopefully too. I want to end with a quick prayer.
Dear God, our heavenly father, I want to say thank you for each day and each breath that I have been given to serve you more. I thank you for my precious husband, child, friends, family, and support system that have raised so many prayers to you on my behalf. Thank you for this time of the year and what it means to us, and please never let us forget that wonderful day when our saviour, Jesus Christ, was born in that little manger, Thank you for the life he lived and the sacrifices he made so that we can come be with you in heaven some day. I pray for a heart of a servant like Paul that was willing to give it all up for you no matter what his circumstance. Please continue to shape me into your mold so that I can be a better Christian each day for you and so that I may be a light to others to know you more. Thank you for caring about every aspect of my life and for walking through each day with me hand in hand. I love you God. Amen.
You know there are moments in life that define you and this was one of them. I am definitely a breast cancer survivor and warrior now. Today I decided that the hair loss was getting worse, and I was ready to just get it over with, so we shaved it off tonight. To my surprise, I had forgotten about a scar at the beginning of my right forehead hairline from running into a cement tunnel in middle school. I can't help it that someone called my name while I was running toward the tunnel to hide during hide and go seek distracting me enough to crack my head back. And yes I continued running on through the tunnel straight to my teacher with a bloody head to tell her I thought I had hurt myself. Funny times. Also, I surprisingly have a very smooth, rounded head. Demi Moore has nothing on me girls. Just kidding. My brave husband, Chris, and my sweet princess, Bren, went with me. I wanted them to be a part of this moment so that we could walk through it together as a family and so Bren wasn't shocked at Mommy's new look. Chris shed a few tears, which made me cry a little. Bren did great. I was nervous cause on the way I talked to her, and she said she was so sad that Mommy's hair would be gone. However, she came right over to me after it was over and hugged my legs and said, "my Mommy". It was so sweet and uplifting. God's hand was definitely in that moment. It is so weird cause I was so nervous about it right before, but it is kinda freeing in a crazy way. I'm proud to join those other women in the fight to get our lives back from this terrible beast called cancer. Cancer doesn't control me. Only God has control of my life and that is so comforting right now. I'm just glad to get over another hump in this battle and to have it behind me now. Yes, I got a wig too that looks a lot like my hair, but I'm not sure what I will be comfortable with just yet. We'll see. Well, the good news is that I had my 2nd chemo this past Wednesday (11-30-11) at Northwest, and it went much smoother. My sweet aunt and uncle from Lubbock came up to entertain me cause Chris had to work this time. My aunt, Phila, is a brave ovarian cancer survivor and finished her chemo at MD Anderson in Houston in February. She knows firsthand what I'm going through and has been great support for me. I'm so glad they came to be with me. It made the time go by faster. I had my regular concoction of anti-nausea meds for the first hour or so. Then, came the 10 minute Adriamyacin ("Red Devil") and then Cytoxan for the last hour. Right after the chemo ended, we attached my Zofran (anti-nausea) pump to my port. I change out the infusion pump every day to get a continuous supply of the med like when I was in the hospital. It has made a great difference for sure. I can't say I haven't had some slight nausea issues or feelings of my stomach being on edge, but it is nothing compared to the road I went down the first time. This week I worked every day for almost 8 hours each day except today I took off the afternoon to take care of my hair situation. I'm pretty tired I can say from this week. I had a lot on my plate between the breast expanders, the chemo, taking care of my pump daily, working long hours, and shaving off my hair. I'm ready for a relaxing weekend and a slow week coming up.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the beautiful women that I have met along my path that have been supporting me through their past battles or current battles with cancer. Here they are - Karen, Jenny, Darcie, Mary Ann, Sherry, Phila, Louise, and Jackie. You women give me such strength and hope for a better tomorrow. Your strength you have shown and the advice you have given me help me with each hard step along my path. I am so proud of each of you and thank you for your courage and faith. God has definitely placed these ladies and many more in my path for a reason, and I can't thank him enough for that. You don't know what a blessing that is. God really put things in perspective for me when I was in the hospital cause before that I was so focused on things like the hair loss. Then, I went down that horrible path of feeling terrible with the nausea and stuff, so now the hair loss seems much easier to swallow having gone through that time. God has a funny way of showing you things in a different light to help you get through them. I have tried every day to find many times a day to tell God what I'm thankful for even if it is little things or in times when I'm having a hard time finding something positive to think about. I do it in my car, walking into work. at work, wherever. You can never thank him enough for the blessings that he gives us daily. He loves a thankful heart and for our focus to be on him. I find that if I focus on him more, I think less of my problems and worries. It so peaceful and rewarding. I encourage each of you to seek God on a completely different level than you ever have before and quit making excuses like I did before on why you haven't included him in every aspect of your life daily. He wants to know each of us more because he never stops loving us or caring about us. He is so good all the time. Cancer has saved me in more than one way. Thanks again for all the support everyone and I hope you enjoy my new look. God bless.
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