The Prom-Mom's Perspectives and Ramblings...

Thursday, May 30, 2013

No Different...

I know it's been an eternity *for those of you especially devoted followers* since I posted last and to you, I apologize. I can't truthfully say that I'm sorry to not of written, as in all honesty, I have written--incomplete entries and thoughts that will maybe only ever appear in my someday-book--but I will say that not writing a bonafide entry has been a nice break for me.

A break from my computer screen.
And a break from cancer--at least in blogging form.

This past three-day/holiday weekend, Aaron and I--somewhat spontaneously *something we've decided we need to do a lot more often these days*--planned out a little cost-friendly family excursion to southern Oregon. Our destination? The Oregon Caves. What else we might do on our trip *besides use some free hotel points up for one night away* was up to creative and free exploration. The nature walk and historic-site visits that ensued from this approach are a few of what we hope to be many, many more future 'blissful min-vacas!' For once, we actually came back feeling rested and rejuvenated. In fact, ending it was the hardest part and led to an impromptu movie-night of 'Back to the Future part I' because it was just too hard to let the responsible work-week come back, again.
In reflecting back on it these past couple days, I found myself feeling 'blissed out' by all the memories we made with our two little sons--and then it dawned on me--the best part? It was 'cancer free!'
Yes indeed. We climbed into our little 40-mile-to-the-gallon Mazda hatchback and drove *well, Aaron drove* away... packed to the brim, happy as clams... even the boys were using remarkably good manners and kind interactions with one another due to their excitement and anticipation of fun and freedom with their parents.
Cancer was not a part of our weekend.
Sure, on some of our multiple hiking excursions I was reminded of the damage that chemo has done to my heart and lungs. Absolutely no doubt that permanent damage was caused as I never had such out-of-breath/elephant-on-chest problems like I do now.
Yes, people *especially kids* stared extra long or took the usual double-takes at my baby head-of-hair.
Of course these things all remind me of it... but other than those instances...
we were, as a four-some, cancer-free.

Since being hair-less, everywhere I go in my normal daily life here...I am 'special.' It doesn't matter whether I'm just getting gas at the gas-station, or running to the store for a few quick staples at the end of a busy day--the smiles, the head-nods, and sometimes even the blatant comments--all well-intentioned, of course.
For the first few months I have to admit, it was kind of fun--especially being that many people even knew my name and story from seeing me all over our small-town news and newspapers. But as the months passed, I just became 'that random woman over there who's obviously fighting cancer.' I have to admit that in my most twisted and perhaps slightly bored moments, I find myself intrigued by the notion of holding an experiment with this 'phenomena.' 
Taking a select amount of people, shaving their heads and sending them out into populated areas while videoing passerby responses. Maybe... even going so far as to having the 'baldies' do different things just to see what things others are willing to 'allow' because, well, 'she's fighting cancer so that's acceptable.' 
Can you imagine??!
No. I'm not going to go rent a chicken-suit, show up at our local Freddies, stand in front of the customer service counter with my bald head out in the open *to prove my point* and bark like a dog as loud as possible at everyone in line--as fun as that sounds. ;)
(Sure, the drugs have warped my brain, no arguing, but not that badly, ha!) BUT, I do often wonder how long something like that would be allowed under the guise of the 'cancer card.'

I'm not sure I'll ever understand why we, as people, do that---we care so much about people when we see them struggling or raise them up as an idol after they die. I know it's of course empathy and genuine concern and don't for one minute think I'm talking that down, as it's blessed me greatly in many cases... but especially in scenarios with perfect strangers something I wonder if maybe it's partially a reflection of our naivety of our personal mortality. Sometimes I just want to say--to that stranger who dramatically interacts with me in the checkout line about 'my cancer'--'You know.. you're no different than I am... it's only that the reality-check of my mortality is on my doorstep while yours is still on the cross-country bus. I love what one of my doctors at OHSU said about this very subject, early on.. 'There is a 100% chance that we are all going to die. It's not a question of if--but of when and how.'

I gained a hefty dose of perspective *again* on this a couple week's ago when this video was circulated around Facebook.

Yes. I made the mistake of watching it, by myself, late at night when I couldn't sleep due to all my lovely hot-flashes and 'cancer dreams'--but even still, I was clear on what was to gain from his story, and one particular phrase he used that resounded over and over for me *since obviously this subject has been weighing on me for quite some time now* was, 'You don't have to find out you're dying to start living.'

YES! Thank you, Zach!!!
I have said time and time again that I feel almost desperate to infuse the 'wisdom' I now have *post cancer-diagnosis* onto those around me who seem to be continually living invisibly--or convinced they are, anyway.  I frantically search the words of my heart, desperate to find the right ones that will encompass this important lesson.
Well, leave it an 18-yr-old *whom God was obviously using as an awesome vessel* cause I am completely unable to say it any better.

I tell you all now...
you and I are NO DIFFERENT.
You may not have cancer... but you are still dying. Every day you are one step closer to your last day of this life. Who knows if that day is today? Or if it's in fifty-one more years?
That's the catch. WE DON'T. None of us do.


Sure, I may be more obviously mortal by physical appearance, but I have no less promise of life than you. Hence, I believe Zach was a very wise young soul to advise us all to start living. 
And for those of you who haven't started living for Christ? DO IT NOW.

As I was telling my son and his little friends just tonight during bible-study... you have two choices:
Live this life and die forever.
Live this life, die and LIVE FOREVER.

I don't know about you, but for me, that is a no brainer.

So the next time you see me *or any other less-than-healthy-looking person who reminds you of mortality--don't forget--you are just as much a part of the simple equations of this life as any of the rest~

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Radiology Appointment Results

Well, I wish I could say that after today I knew what the game plan was/is. I do have many thoughts on healthcare and the medical field, in general, that will most certainly be shared/touch on at some point...but frankly, right now, my head is spinning a bit again so I'll hold off on that until I have more chance to do so from a sitting position.

At the moment, the race is on...the race to figure out what we're doing before much more time goes by. Radiation is not the question. The question is WHERE. But as this 'search' to find something that feels 'right' that's closer to home, continues, the clock is ticking.

YES, I started the Tamoxifen and YES, I'm on top of Herceptin infusions every three weeks, still... but radiation is necessary and we know that, so it's all about figuring out whose hands we want to put that in.

What I need right now is your prayers...
prayer that I remain calm and at peace with the fact that God is still steering the ship, yes...but there is still a decision to be made right now and it's, unfortunately, one that feels clear as MUD at the moment.

So please... pray for that clarity. God's wisdom and guidance. And CLARITY.
We need clarity~

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Free Falling...

First off, I don't blame you if at first sight of this entry's title, you found yourself humming *or for that matter full out karaoke-styling* that classic Tom Petty song. It's ok. I did it, too. In fact, as a kid, I remember singing it into the handle of my jump-rope once or twice... but that's a different blog. ;)

I can honestly say I've really never had the urge *or desire* to sky-dive--though I've had a lot of friends whom I've known over the years who paid out money for the experience. I'll be the first to admit that the pictures are cool--well, as long as you are self-confident enough to frame what your face would look like if you were a bug after meeting a car's windshield.
But really.
I do think it LOOKS exhilarating and I'm sure that it is a serious adrenaline rush... but it just really isn't... me. I LOVE big roller-coasters and the thrill of whipping around and upside-down as long as I can scream my head off and take on the 'most obnoxious passenger' role. I love cantering on a horse and the thrill of the wind whipping against my face as the horse seemingly glides across a field. So I wouldn't for even a second claim that I am prissy about adrenaline-rushes... I really do like them...
but I guess I'm not really driven by them, like some people.
I suppose the other piece to the sky-diving interest, or lack-thereof, might have to do with my past dreams of it. Enjoying the view as I'm free-falling out of the sky, and then just as I feel it's getting necessary to pull that cord I do so and... NOTHING.
You know that dream. I think we've all had at least one like it. I frantically keep trying to pull the cord and then realize... it's defective. I look back down and right before contact *body to ground* I jolt awake.

It's funny, I've been thinking for a while now about how everything feels so totally out of my control in my life, these days. All of you who've been faithfully following (I still can't figure out why, ha!) know I've written quite a few 'control' entries now... from different developmental stages, too... ie: panic, irritation, anger, acceptance. But something somewhat profound--or at least profound enough that I wanted to share it with you--hit me this past week.

Lincoln has been really developing his drawing skills, recently. Both boys have always loved drawing, and like everything else in our parenting with them, we try to help them gain understanding through things like that--ie: they draw a rectangle that looks more like a square, so we commend them but encourage them to see and draw it more accurately by explaining their differences--thus creating a good learning-moment from our fun. ;)
Anyway. Where was I. Oh yes.
So, Linc and I have been talking in his curriculum about directions--up, down, under, over, etc-- and lately, he has enjoyed drawing pictures of people *namely all of us* hanging from parachutes, because one of his activities had a picture like that for the example of 'under.' For about the past month or so now, if he draws a picture, you can very well bet that, even if it started out with cars and houses... somewhere in the sky will be a person dangling from a parachute. ;)
Ironic? VERY. Why?

Let's go back to my earlier topic.
Life for us, right now, feels like a sky-dive... truly. As soon as we received the diagnosis.. CANCER.. it was like someone held a gun to my head and said jump, or I'll shoot you. Not a great choice, either way... but obviously, the jump seems at least a bit more promising.

But here's what I am starting to understand...

I was forced into this fall. DEFINITELY forced.
Yet all along, I've been wearing that parachute. It's there.

I'm not gonna lie, when you're falling so fast, it is TOO EASY to focus on the ground that is getting closer and closer with every panicked breath. Even with the cord dangling right beside my right hand--periodically swinging into my palm even--I can't take my eyes, let alone my mind, off of the eminent moment, that body-ground contact. If that's not bad enough... then when I do remember the parachute, I all too easily get worried about it not opening or somehow slipping off of me when I do finally pull the cord!

But you and I know I'm wrong...
because my parachute is unlike any other parachute I could've chosen. It is not feasibly possible for Him to malfunction and in fact, He has promised me over and over and over again that when......IF I choose Him, He will never, ever abandon or fail me.

Does this make the face-mashing wind feel more like a gentle breeze right now? Not really.
Does this make the ground come at me any slower? Goodness, no.
Does this calm the adrenaline of the moments--the crazy head-spinning decisions? Honestly, usually not.
BUT... it does make one thing more calming and reassuring. That eminent impact--the body to ground contact--it's not how this ends cause He is strapped on and He will not and cannot be defective!

So I say to you all, especially in your times of testing--small or big--
close your eyes, take a deep breath,


and just enjoy the view the rest of the way down~

Monday, May 13, 2013

News from Illinois!

Family, friends and priceless prayer-warrior followers and supporters~

I offer you my most SINCERE apology for the past week of 'blankness' here at the prom site.
As most of you read/saw in the last post I was able to provide, we were gone on a near week-long 'adventure' to Chicago... no, not vaca... cancer-ca...... err, CTca to be exact. ;)

CTCA (Cancer Treatment Centers of America) threw out the all-inclusive--we're talking airfare, lodging, food, transportation, consultation/services, etc--opportunity for us to visit their breast cancer accredited facility in Zion, IL to receive some much-needed second opinions on some things and well... we jumped at it!

And are we ever so glad we did!!!

Initially, I'd planned to summarize our trip on a daily basis--give you a quick synopsis of each day, while we were there, in the treatment updates--so I am doing that still, just after the fact.
However, to keep from being quite so redundant *since you can just go to the Treatment Updates link on the home page and read that there* I'm going to give you all the low-down on our overall gain as far as contacts, treatment-facts, etc from the trip in this entry, as well as touch on what's next in our plans, per the decisions we've concluded.

I apologize for the very little notice of our trip--we felt the same, ha! From the day that I contacted them just to inquire how they do things, to the day we were actually confirming trip-details with them, it was about a week and a half. But hey, when you're dealing with CANCER... you don't dilly-dally.

We flew out of Eugene on Tuesday May 7th and took a red-eye flight so that Aaron missed as little amount of office-time as possible. This allowed him to see all his patients on Monday and nearly all on Tuesday (he made up the missed ones over the prior weekend) before we had to leave and then missed Wednesday, Thursday and Friday while we were there.
Because they are a working hospital and have the majority of the necessary medical teams there during the week, we really had no other choices... and we were even told that I may *mostly likely in fact* be flying back at a later date then Aaron, assuming we weren't going to get it all in in the mere three days during the week that we'd be there. Thanks so some serious sleep-deprivation endurance, however, we did!
We arrived at the O'Hare airport at approximately 4:30am (their time) and had, unfortunately, been unable to sleep on the plane. Anxiety? Cramped space? Who knows. I just know, we' were already pushing the 22 hr no-sleep mark at that point--and we were both feeling it. We were greeted by a quirky but very sweet driver who escorted us out to a limo. While on our way to the hotel, we even joked about how the last limo ride we'd had was nearly 11 yrs ago, after our wedding, and how unfortunate that this was under such exhausted and therefore uncaring circumstances, ha! Fortunately...that was not the only time that CTCA treated us to that experience during this trip. ;)

CTCA put us up at a decent hotel on a golf course, which was a lovely location... however also the furthest one from the hospital that they partner with. Needless to say, by the time we arrived there, it was pushing 6am and all we could think about was the much-needed *albeit short* nap we were dying to get in before having to be at a 9:15am appointment that same morning. :-P
As soon as we got up to our room, we flopped our stuff down and climbed in the bed...setting the alarm for 7:45am, as we had to shuttle twenty-plus minutes over to the hospital and they only came on the hour.

Can I just say how HORRIBLE a tease that an hour and fifteen-minute nap is when you are going on a full DAY of no sleep?!

I decided that you're better off to just stay awake once you hit that 24-hr mark, vs tease your eyes and your body with a power nap.

Anyway. We did get up...grouchy-pants-ed and all... with about 10 minutes before having to be downstairs for the shuttle, chanting to ourselves *per the original plan* 'We can make it to noon, we can make it to noon.'

Now, although I was told that even the driver's in all their transportation are as sweet and supportive as every nurse, PA, doctor, receptionist, etc, that you deal with there... I was NOT (especially in my zombie-monster state) prepared for a full on Spanish-born stand-up comedian! :-P

I will let YOU 'imagine' how that went and just say it was a very good thing that Aaron could speak for me that morning and that Robert (our driver) had many other patients and care-givers on that bus to joke with. ;) *And yes, he did..the next day..see much better sides of me, though he decided that Aaron and I were honeymooning government-agents?!* :-P

Anyhow. What we thought was going to be just a short morning and much-needed return to the hotel for sleepy-time became a morning of appointments followed up with an entire afternoon of tests! The only good news to that, I suppose, is that most of those scans/tests require you to lay very still for long periods of time once we're in them--so you bet--I SLEPT! ;)
By the time 4pm rolled around, we'd gotten into a complete routine of what was on what floor, how the free cafeteria-food system worked and where the best sitting/waiting areas were.

The second and third days at CTCA were filled with appointments---nurse navigators, nurses, medical oncologist, breast oncologist, radiology oncologist, dietician, naturopath, mind & body counselor, pastor, physical name it, I saw it... errrrr, him/her. ;)

As I said before, I'm not going to ramble on, each hour, what I did and where we were as I think that could become a whole book in just one entry, ha, and you (or I) really don't have time for that! What I DO want to do, however, is let all of you in on the important information we gathered from the key roles on the team we were assigned to and let you know, from here, where we're headed with my treatments and cancer-prevention strategies. So, bear with me cause here it goes:

*Medical Oncologist:  He was helpful in providing most of what we've already been told. He was thorough, compassionate and concerned. He did provide us a bit of contradictory information concerning my study chemo-drug, saying that it's not really used for breast cancer... but this was later cleared up by the the beloved breast oncologist that we met with the next day.

*The Dietician: This woman was helpful and chalked full of info that I really haven't had in my OHSU experience. AND she didn't make me write anything down! ;) For that matter, none of them did. They all provided me with handouts that had every topic of discussion listed and thoroughly covered...and anything that came up that wasn't on there THEY wrote down and provided for me! There were a few differences from what I'd be told by the nutritionist at OHSU, but the biggest most disheartening one was hearing that the things I avoided on my particular chemo were actually things that they encourage their patients to eat/drink for immunity purposes...and this was confirmed by two other medical professionals during other consultations. Interestingly, but maybe not so surprisingly, I did not however find myself wishing we could 'go back' and have those things incorporated... and she was not at all surprised to hear me say that, ha! ;)
OH... and for the record, I feel I need to share the found truths on the super popular idea that 'sugar feeds cancer' so that we can put a stop to this claim. The dietician, herself, even said that it's one of the biggest most frustrating claims out there right now and though ANYBODY *cancer or no cancer* should limit their intake of processed sugars and processed foods in general because of what they do to our bodies and what they DON'T do for our systems that we need food to be doing... there is no founded evidence from controlled studies on the topic that prove this to be true--especially in the case of my cancer. She also confirmed that there are no magic fruits or herbs that completely and miraculously get rid of the cancer... but she did provide us plenty of supported and founded information and pointed us to great resources that provide such on the topic of beating cancer over time with the approach coming partially from my dietary habits. :) I now have a few different cookbook titles that I will be acquiring and I'm honestly excited as our diet will focus around organic greens, fruits and veggies, whole-grains, hormone-free dairy,16 oz a week of red-meat protein with most meat being fish and free-range chicken and little to no processed foods. Sort of just a big step upward into all-natural then we were already doing. ;)

*The Naturopath: This woman was equally excellent in knowledge. Not only did she prescribe me NATURAL APPROACHES to some of my still-present and plaguing side-effects from chemo infusions (ie: hot-flashes, gastro-intestinal stuff, blah blah), but she is completely familiar and up-to-date with the different types of chemo and what works and 'compliments' and what doesn't or 'contradicts' what other things I'm on. She also talked to us in great length about radiation and how to set myself up for the best possible dermatological effects--gave us some scripts for the top-rated lotions and oils that she has patients used, based on findings and outcomes.

*The Breast Oncologist: This man (Dr. Citrin) is just plain brilliant. He's been a breast cancer doctor for nearly 37 years, has a P.H.d, written a published book and is a devout Jewish Scotsman.
Yes. You read right.
And we didn't need more than 10 minutes with him answering our questions, responding to our concerns and just reviewing my case to get a handle on how versed and intelligent he really is. Of course, add to that the google search that brings up hundreds of excellent reviews and multiple sites where his expertise is involved and you find yourself feeling like you've found a man you are willing to travel 3000 miles for!
His most immediate observations and concerns were in this order:
1. We need an attorney for how we got here in the first place--if nothing else but to prevent other women from going through the same.
2. The WHOLE breast/collar-bone and right-side lymph area need to be radiatied, not just the lymphs.
*and yes, he went into a lot of supporting evident and detail as to why this needs to be the case*
3. I need to receive Herceptin for an 'indefinite' amount of time.
4. My IUD (Mirena) should have been IMMEDIATELY removed after my cancer-diagnosis was given... this due to the fact that my particular devise is coated in Estrogen--the very hormone that my current cancer feeds us.
5. We should wait on permanent fertility decisions--ie, Aaron getting a vasectomy--until we are more certain of things.
6. I MUST take Tamoxifen for 5 years and then after that point (at age 38) we will all meet and discuss what needs to happen, based on the most current research at THAT point and based on the findings with my tumor--ie, if it hasn't returned, etc. He also informed us *siting multiple research studies while doing so* that my cancer is extremely aggressive and IF/when it does try to return... it will most likely be within the first two to three years. He gave us additional charts to explain how they best control hormone-driven cancer, why Tamoxifen works so effectively and restored my hope in many things--one of which was biggest concern--being and feeling and having the abilities that mark my femininity! Although we will not be moving to Illinois to have monthly appointments with him like I prefer, we are now praying about taking him on as my regular oncology doc, having him give recommendations, sending him all future treatment files and charts and following up with him, in person, every 3-6 months... depending on what we can, financially, make happen. He was HAPPY to play this role and we are happy to have him do so from this point, forward!

*Radiation Oncologist: This man (Dr. Chang) is from North Korea and although there was quite a challenge in language-differences, it was equally apparent that he is well-experienced and very detail oriented...something you WANT in your radiologist. He is pretty insistent on the same treatment as Dr. Citrin recommended, though he wants to see me have a full 6 weeks, 5-day-a-week radiation schedule. He also explained why they would radiate all the way up to the collar-bone area through a logical example that showed if my lymphs were still infected, their natural pathway would be that--so he wants to 'burn' their path before they can even start on it.
Made sense. ;)
His nurse was as equally awesome as Citrin's too, and the reverence and respect that they both have for their doctors from past-workings were very evident.

Now that your head is spinning as much as ours was, let me tell you our plan.

Dr. Chang (the radiologist) told us that the radiation he recommends really can be done anywhere they have the standard equipment and abilities to provide radiation. It is nothing specialized and therefore should not be too difficult to arrange. He also said that within the next month *for sure!* I need to start the 5-6 week-long stint of receiving it.
What does this mean??

This means one of a few things.
A) I am now on a radiologist search in Roseburg... and I'm starting by talking to the Cancer Center tomorrow to see whom is recommended and whether or not I can get in a consultation. Basically, the mission is to find someone, here, who agrees with the same recommendations I've already received so that I can take care of it locally--since each day's treatment is about a 15-min long gig and hard to feel worth trek's up and down the freeway for, everyday.
B) If I can't find one in Roseburg, I'll be turning my search to Eugene or Portland... but again, the gas/time/commitment of that is hard to swallow.
C) I'll be praying about whether or not taking advantage of CTCA's travel-program and $20/night lodging cost is worth being closer to these awesome doctors.

PRAY FOR THIS DECISION, as we now are, too.

After all is said and done, it's just another big step on this road to a, hopefully someday, full-recovery~

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Zion's Walls~

So, this past week in cementing all the specifics of our fast-approaching trip to Chicago was brought to our attention that the CTCA hospital is in a suburb of Chicago, named Zion.

My apologies for the choir-geek that is breaking loose from me in, 3-2-1.......

*The ending, which is my favorite part*
'Come Fathers and Mothers, come sisters and brothers, come join us in singing the praises of Zion.
(enter women)
'Oh, Fathers don't you feel determined, to meet within the walls of Zion?
'We'll shout and go round, we'll shout and go round, we'll shout and go round, we'll shout and go round...The walls of Zion.'

*choir-geek moment successfully relived.*
Wanna hear the song for real? Go here...
to hear an awesome performance of this, as done by the Georgia All-State Chorus in 2010.

Now that I'm done ruthlessly plugging my deep love of choral music and directing into this entry...I'll tell you why I really needed to share that.
It is impossible for me to hear the word 'Zion' and not immediately hear this fabulous Aaron Copeland piece. Firstly, when my first experience of it came in the form of two, straight, LONG days of choral rehearsing learning this piece as a member of All-State my sophomore-year of high school--it was set to a pretty deep memory *whether I like it or not*--and fortunately I do quite love it. ;) Secondly, my love for it is not just because of that choral experience, but more for the appreciate of what it is about!
Not only did Copeland beautifully tie together awesome lyrics with a catchy tune--but he absolutely captured the EXCITEMENT of it's meaning--what I personally think drives it!!!

For those of you who don't know what Zion is, biblically-speaking...
(Isaiah 60:14), it's translated figuratively of Israel as the people of God. Then later, in the New Testament--both in Hebrews and again in Revelation--it's used to name God's spiritual kingdom; the heavenly Jerusalem.

As my mom responded to the details of our trip...
'Wait, Zion is where you're going?! Well, that can't be anything be good!' ;)

Really though. She's right!
As if other things haven't been enough of a 'sign' that we're on a positive track.

I have yet to tell you about the young breast-cancer survivor (Sara) whom they (CTCA) paired me with shortly after discussing our possible visitation. Instead of rambling on and on about the three+ hour long phone conversation we so naturally had with one another...I'll just post a copy of her initial email to me.

Please bear in mind that ALL she knew about me was basic info--name, age, city/state, type of cancer and email.

Sara's email:
Hi Hayley,
My name is Sara and I am a patient at the Cancer Treatment Center of America in Goodyear, Arizona.  Rafael, the OIS representative from CTCA who you spoke with on the phone, sent me your name that you might like to talk to a fellow breast cancer survivor.  I was diagnosed in 2010 just 4 days before my son turned 2 year old.  It came out of nowhere, but God has completely blessed my life through the journey.  I didn't start at Cancer Treatment Center of America, but when it came time for treatment, that is where I ended up. And trust me... I am ever so grateful I did!
I don't know where you are in your journey except that I do know you are probably still spinning.  And, for that matter, you probably will continue to do so for awhile.  Embrace the love and support you have all around you. Muster the strength that God has given you through your children, your husband, and your family.  We are not always meant to understand it all, I get that, but we are privy to God's divine plan if we simply be still and listen. CTCA is an amazing place that offers hope, care, support, friendship and passion.  It is a hard decision to leave your family for treatment.  Think of it as a short investment in your life - your long life- and they will fight this fight with you, give you the tools you need to be empowered, treat you with the utmost respect as a PERSON, and give you care that is top notch on so many different levels.  Their mission is to give you the quality of life you so deserve as this cancer has to live with you, not vise versa.  You are an amazing lady with so much life (AND ENERGY!)... this is just a curve.  Hang in there.  You have more rooting for you than you even know!
There really is so much humor in it all if you think of it that way.  Keep laughing.  It makes things much brighter!! 
You are welcome to call me if you would like to chat. My home number is (..).  If I am not here, please leave me a message of when you might have a free moment to chat (Ha ha... I know that is funny in ALL your spare time, SUPER-MOM, wife, teacher, friend, sister, and on and on.....)  I get it. But I do want you to know that if you have any questions about CTCA and my feelings or experiences there, I would be happy to talk. 
Many blessings to you and your family.  Keep your eyes forward... you are light that so many are watching. 
P.S. I know you are from Roseburg. My husband grew up in Eugene. He is an Oregon Duck fan.  He is trying to convert our son. Yeah, a cousin even sent our son a Duck Jersey!! What to do, what to do???!!! 

That is correct.
She did NOT know that I was a Christian... nor did she know I was a UO grad and avid Duck...nor did she know my profession.
And Yes.
My head was spinning, too!
And my TEARS were flowing as well!!!

As I've told many of you now, at the beginning of all this, in my personal talks with the Lord I have asked--begged--pleaded and eventually 'required' from Him that if I was going to walk this walk and Glorify Him while my life turned upside-down and all around...He was going to bring clarity to every step of our decision-making process. Because yes, decisions are part of this. And they many. And they are not small.

This email?
Yep. It's that confirmation... that clarity that I was headed the right direction for a second opinion.
The clinic being located in a city called Zion? Yep. Just more confirmation and clarity.

Thank you, Lord, for meeting that need.

...and as far as encouraging Sara's sons Duck-hood? Yeah. I'll be getting in on that. ;)

So that's it. With very little money *since we're pretty much broke right now--thank you, bills* and a huuuuuuge amount of eager and excited anticipation--we're off to Zion, IL!
Thank you, again, to my precious parents who will be watching over and caring for our two little guys while we're gone...and thank you all for your prayers.
Keep them coming. ;)

And yes...if you check the Treatment Updates link, you will remain 'in the loop' on a daily-basis.

Now, get off your computer *or phone* and go spend your time valuably and wisely. The TRUE walls of Zion are just around the corner for all of us, as it is--and we are all called to use every moment of this life, storing up treasures and testimonies worthy of that one~

Friday, May 3, 2013

Chicago (F)or Bust!

Just to fill all of you in on something that's been in 'the works' this past couple of weeks and finally, as of today, is confirmed...

We're off to Chicago for a week!!!

There's a part of me that wishes it were just for a nice get-away, but these medical-bill-paying days, there's 
A) really NO budget for travel, leisure or otherwise and
B) everything right now is unfortunately still about cancer, ha!

Of course, looking at it in a more positive spin...we're getting an all-expenses paid trip, DUE to the cancer, lol. 

Thanks, cancer. :-P

Really, though. 
Now that we're past the two biggest pieces of treatment, (chemotherapy and radical surgery), we are at a good point to collect some second opinions when it comes to the next 5-10 years of 'managing' my health. The Cancer Treatment Centers of America has an ABCF (American Breast Cancer Foundation) accredited hospital in Chicago--Zion to be exact--Illinois, that we will be spending the next 5-6 days at. Because we still need an income coming in and the clinic and Aaron are our only source of that right now (more 'joys' of self-employment!), there is a large chance that Aaron will be flying back on Sunday before me--depending on how long my evaluation with the whole medical team takes.
However the return trip ends up working, we are currently scheduled for a departing flight this coming Tuesday evening (May 7th), and are thankful we will at least be able to take that one together. :)

Not only has talking to other survivors about their experiences with this organization prompted me to look further into it, but I have read nothing but wonderful things about their handlings and reputation amongst their patients and employees.
Now, don't get me wrong...
OHSU has been really good to us up to now. We have felt very cared for and personally attended to up there. But at this point of the journey, when we're talking about what my next ten+ years of life look like, second opinions are good confirmation that we're doing the right thing, in all aspects. 
OHSU is a drug-development hospital, which means, up to now, whenever I've had a side-effect from any treatment or drug, what comes my way is... MORE DRUGS. (Those of course bringing with, more side-effects.) :-L This may be the only options that I have and if that's what we find is the case, then we know we're on the right track to elongating my life and will happily continue my care through OHSU. However...whatever further dietary/treatment-alternative/support--and for that matter--additional professional resources that we can gain, we want them! Every survivor I've ever conversed with about this has never once said they were 'sorry' that they received second-opinions---and frankly, I don't want to find us three years from now sorry that we didn't

So that's it.

Our precious little men will be taking up temporary residence with their beloved loving and supportive Monga and Nana M (my parents) for the week or so that I have to be there... and though this is a 'business' trip with little time outside of tests and appointments with the specialists... we're looking forward to our discussions and experiences with the large team that will be consulting with us.

They have made our reservations here: at the Lotus Suites, where we will be shuttled by CTCA back and forth from the clinic site each day.
As I said before, since we are traveling so far, we qualified for their Travel Program which basically covers all costs of this trip---airfare, lodging, food, transportation. The biggest 'expense' we face is just having Aaron gone from the clinic--but in gaining more answers to important questions and obtaining the confirmation that we're doing exactly what's right for us at this point in time--its a sacrifice we're willing to make and we that we will once again lean on God to cover.

Any prayer you want to provide when it comes to all future decisions with my treatment--whether it be continuing with where we've been or switching to CTCA or something else--is very appreciated. Of course, prayers for safe travel are a given as well as prayers for our little men who are once again being left behind. They have been incredible over this past seven months, but all of this is starting to wear on them, as we have noticed recently. Let's face it... they are tired. And so are we. :-P

Prayers for renewed strength and 'fight' would be good, too. ;)

Our continued, utmost appreciation to all who continue to follow, fight, pray, bless us with food and finances, share with others... and just face this battle we are in!
We continue to win and dream of the day that we can celebrate being YEARS free of this awful disease.

In the meantime, we stand grateful for this opportunity and this MOMENT to educate ourselves as we continue to look to our Almighty Father and Healer for the final answers~

PS: I will be updating the blog daily after we get there and have experiences/answers to report under the 'Treatment Updates' link on the home-page. Thanks!

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