Monday, August 26, 2013


I recently got an e-mail notification that someone left a comment on my last blog entry...which was in March!  I couldn't believe it had been that long...surely I updated in May or June?  Nope.  So, I'm pretty sure no one will read this, but I thought it was time to do a little update!
Since my last update I've had a DEXA (bone density) scan, MRI, CT scans, labs, and port flushes.  All is well!  My bones show some "pre" osteoporosis, so I need to take calcium (which I keep forgetting to take!).  I'm still eating mostly low-residue, but have the occasional wheat bread, salad, fruits, and veggies.  The trick is to spread them out throughout the week, and not overdo it.  I mostly avoid carrots, cucumbers, and spaghetti sauce, but might have a small amount now and then.
I see my oncologist in 2 days, but not sure what we will talk about since I already have all the results of the tests I did last week!  I'm sure he'll ask about Rich, my grandchildren, and especially my adopted grandson, Charlie. This time I'll have some more family news to share! (More on that later...) I am most interested to find out if I can start going 1 year between scans, and do I really need those labs every 3 months?  I am 4.5 years out from the colon cancer dx, and 3.5 years from the breast cancer dx.  I know my onc. was worried about me, with all that cancer, but I'm doing well now.  And as our insurance covers less and less, we have to pay more and more of the costs of all the tests!
My worst complaint has been fatigue.  I planned to work on that this summer, and talk to my primary care physician (PCP) if things didn't improve.  I think the fatigue has improved a bit.  Last summer, even though I don't work in the summer, I was still tired a lot.  Many days, by mid-afternoon, I was just as tired as if I had worked.  Not good. Then of course during the school year I felt awful.  I worked 4.25 hours, and then came home and could barely function most days.  I was VERY frustrated!  I do know my job is draining, and does sap a lot of my energy (I don't know how anyone lasts for 6.5 hours, much less the teachers who work WAY beyond that!), but I shouldn't feel that bad!  So, this summer, I have been eating a bit better--cutting down on chemicals and processed foods--and exercising more (which I will do when I'm done writing this).  I am eating less, and have lost just a few pounds, but at least I've made the scale go down instead of up for the first time since chemo!  I'm learning what my body can do with and without (my body does NOT like to be hungry).  I started using the 'myfitnesspal' website, which counts calories for you, and helps you figure out how many calories you need each day to lose the amount you want to lose.  It's been helpful for portion control.  So, overall, I feel better.
I start back to work a week from tomorrow!  I REALLY, REALLY hope I feel better this year!  I get done with work at 1:30, which should leave me plenty of time to do other stuff.  Praying I have the energy I need!  As much as I would love to not have to work at all, I do think getting back into a routine is good for me.  I make better use of my time when there is routine.  And I really do like working with the kids!
A little family update:  Rich is doing well at his new job--he's been there about a year and a half.  Pay and benefits are good, and it's just 'normal' work stress, not the stress and low morale of his previous job.  SO BLESSED to be out of that place!  His drive is too long (26 miles one way), and sometimes we worry about lay-offs, but over all it's good.  
Rachel and her husband are doing foster care now, and are in the process of adopting another child! This is a child placed with them soon after they got their license.  He's 2 and has down syndrome also.  He is active, and smart, and lets you know what he thinks about things!  :)  They also have a very sweet little baby girl that we would all love to keep in the family, but it looks like the baby's mom will be able to take her to live with her soon.  Praying God will do what's best for baby, and if she has to go, I hope we'll still be able to see her once in awhile!  Rachel's older 2 boys are doing very well, even with other kids coming and going!  Charlie just turned 6 and will be in kindergarten this year!  He is our super-hero!  Brennan will be 4 soon.  He is as smart as ever, and there is no end to the amusing things he says!  Love those boys!
Alyssa, hubby, and baby girl are doing GREAT.  Selah is 10 months old.  She is really picking up things fast--she always amazes us!  She'll be walking soon, I think.  She is soooo adorable!  We get to watch her often, and she is a smiley, happy little girl!
Our youngest, Shonna, is starting her 2nd year at the U, and she is majoring in journalism.  She has a lot of talent as a writer. She is a junior now, and has 3 semesters left.  She may get a minor also (but I forgot in what! Oops!).  She moved out of my sister's house into an apartment closer to school.  I don't always see her as often as I would like, but we did get to spend some time shopping and antiquing recently, and I enjoyed that!  
We all managed to get to Duluth for a few days this summer. Alyssa, hubby, baby, and Shonna were with us at the beginning, then Shonna's boyfriend joined us, then Alyssa and fam had to leave, and Rachel and her 4 kids joined us the last day!  So we got to spend time with everyone (except Rachel's husband), just not at the same time!  Next year I'm thinking about staying at a resort/lodge/cabin type of place a little farther up, right on Lake Superior. I think it would be better for the kids if we can find a place that has a nice play area and beach.  I'm still thinking about getting away with just my hubby for a night or two up north this fall. We'll see~we might be too busy building a deck!
When I stop to think about where I was this time 4 years ago, I am amazed that I am here, cancer-free, and so blessed.  4 years ago I had just finished radiation, was weak and tired, was being treated for C-diff and giving myself shots for a blood clot, and had endured a very painful summer.  I was healing and gaining my strength back to do 8 more rounds of FOLFOX.  Little did I know the next summer I would be doing another difficult chemo regimen for breast cancer!  That is all behind me now.  These last scans I didn't even have any "scanxiety", except for that brief moment when I saw my oncologist's phone number on my cell phone.  His nurse was calling me to tell me all my tests were good! 
I make a point of remembering what I've been through every now and then, because it helps me to be grateful for every moment I am blessed with. It reminds me of the wonderful ways God showed up for me and helped me through those difficult times.
My future?  It looks fabulous.  Retirement someday with the man I love, doing the things we love and enjoy, being a grandma, and spending time with my children, grandchildren, and foster "grandchildren".  Yep, looks pretty good from here!
Love and blessings!
PS  Rich and I also went on our first 'real' vacation together in June--we went to Las Vegas!  But that is another story for another day...  ;)

Monday, March 25, 2013

March 2013 Update

Hello there!
It's almost the end of March and we still have LOTS of snow!  Our temps are running about 10 degrees below normal, but at least the sun has been out the last few days, and the snow is slowly melting.  Easter is this coming Sunday already!  We will be having everyone over to our house for a buffet lunch.  My house will be FULL.  May have to come up with a different plan next year, as there just isn't enough room in my house for our growing families!
I have been spending a lot of my online time on some private Facebook groups for those affected by colon cancer.  If you know anyone with ANY type of colon/rectal/anal issue (including crohn's, IBS, colitis, cancer), tell them to search FB for COLONTOWN.  This is the main group, and from there you can join the different 'neighborhoods' that are more specific to your particular issue, including a group for caretakers.  It's all private, so talk about colons, rectums, and bodily functions are the norm there!  It's a blessing for me to FINALLY connect with others who understand what I'm going through.  We all help each other and share ideas on what works and what doesn't.  I've gotten some good advice there for my on-going issues, and things have improved for me.  I'm still hoping to improve things more, but at least my problems are better than they were.
Being in this community makes me aware, once again, of the many, many people with colorectal cancer.  There are those on there that are newly diagnosed, and they will finish chemo and have a good prognosis, like me.  Then there are those that are stage 4, and will be on chemo, off and on, for the rest of their lives. And, lately, there seems to be many (WAY TOO MANY) who are dying from this horrible disease.  Almost daily there are posts that someone passed away. Sometimes this gets into my head a bit, and I start to worry more about a recurrence.  I start to think in terms of when, not if.  Thankfully, God knows those troubling thoughts I am having, and He reminds me to put my focus on HIM.  I don't need to fear ANYTHING.  That is such a freeing thought!  Whether I am sick, healthy, rich, poor, dying--none of it matters.  God has given me eternal life, and He is with me every moment of every day.  Nothing is too big for Him.  What a relief to know He has my back! Whew!
Soon I'll get a break from Dr. appointments and tests (I hope!).  I had to have another minor surgery on my bum, and the worst part was the 9 pokes it took to get my IV started!  Over 2 weeks later I can still see the bruise on the back of my hand!  The surgery went well though, and I had very little pain after.  I had a DEXA bone density scan last week, and hope to get the results of that soon.  That is an easy scan--no IVs or anything!  Chemo can damage/weaken the bones, and so can menopause (which started early for me because of chemo/radiation), so we are just checking to see if my bones are still strong.  I have a post-op appt. this week, then a port flush appt. next week.  Then I really should make an eye dr. appt. and dentist appt.  Sheesh!  It's always something~I've already met my deductible for the year, and it's only March!
Well, that's my March update.  All the kids and grandkids are doing well!  My oldest and her husband will soon be licensed to do foster care, so we are all excited about that.  I hope I have enough energy to help her out! Thankfully summer is only a few months away and I'll be off work for a bit. :)
God bless each one of you!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Feb. 2013 Visit With Oncologist

Saw my favorite Dr. today!  Dr. J, my oncologist, had a "Fellow' with him, as usual. Dr. J points out to the Fellow all my oddities.  Gee, glad I could be of help!  :)
I brought a little list of questions today. I asked him about supplements.  He doesn't think I need to take separate D, B complex, etc.  He thinks I should just take a good women's multi-vitamin.   The subject of vitamins came up because I told him I was eating a low residue diet to try to slow down my bowels, and make things more "normal".  He was concerned I wasn't getting enough nutrition if I wasn't eating fruits and vegetables.  I have been concerned about that too.  This low residue diet has helped, but not completely changed things as I had hoped, so I think I will start adding back in fruits and veggies (not that I ate that many to begin with!  But I was trying!).  I will stay away from raw carrots (because I know they are a problem), and nuts and seeds.  I think tomato sauce might be a problem too, so I'm going to try to avoid that for awhile.
Dr. J thought it would be a good idea if I took a baby aspirin every day.  He said it helps prevent colon cancer in some people with some certain type of cells.  They don't usually test to see if a person has those cells, but he said the baby aspirin is beneficial for other things too, so I can just go ahead and take it.
I asked him about damage to my bones from all the chemo I had, and that, combined with the fact that I am in menopause (early, thanks to radiation!), is reason to have a bone density test.  So, now I have to schedule one of those.  I've never had one, but I think they are pretty easy.
Other than that, he said my labs all look great.  We talked about my fatigue again--I mentioned I planned on talking to my PCP about it, and Dr. J thought that was a good idea. He did say, again, that with all the chemo and radiation I've had my body took a pretty good hit, so he's not too surprised by my fatigue. I just want it to go away!
Dr. J always asks about my family and grandkids, and especially my adopted grandson.  And he asks about Rich. He's a great oncologist!
When I get my labs done in 3 months I won't need to see him.  I'll see him again in 6 months when I have a ct scan, mri, and labs.
My mammogram is in 2 days, but I won't update about that, unless, of course, there is a problem!
Love and blessings to all!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Update on Scans and Labs

Just wanted to do a quick update about my CT scans and lab tests I had done last Monday.  By Monday evening I already had the results!  Everything looks good!  My hemoglobin is up a little (finally--I've been taking iron pills!).  My platelets are at the low end of the range, and have been since surgery.  Before that they were much higher.  I'm going to ask my oncologist about that when I see him on Tues. I have a list of things in my head that I want to ask him--I really need to write these questions down!
I will have another little surgery on my backside on March 8th.  Not going to do any major surgery on the fistula yet.  My surgeon can't guarantee the outcome, so we will hold off as long as possible.  There is a chance it might close up on it's own, eventually.
I had to miss another day of work due to my 'digestive system'.  The barium stuff I have to drink for the CT scan really messes me up, and I spent most of the evening and into the night in the bathroom.  I wasn't able to go to work the next day either.  I think that's 5 days I've missed this school year related to my cancer treatment/side effects.  Then I missed 4 days due to illness recently too--first a stomach bug, then a cold/chest/cough thing.  I don't usually get those type of viruses, so it was weird to get them one right after another.  I've already used up the 10 days I get per school year!  I'm praying I don't miss any more this year!
It's a relief to have my scans done and over with. I was getting a little nervous this time. I couldn't shake the feeling that 'this might be it'.  On the way to the hospital to get my tests done, as I was driving, I was praying and praying. And I was asking forgiveness for the fear, because I knew I shouldn't be afraid--I should be trusting in God.  Finally, I realized where the fear was coming from and I said out loud  "Satan, you can't touch this! I am a child of the Most High King, and covered by the blood of the Lamb!  I have no cancer in me, and I will trust in God and not be afraid!".  I felt soooo much better after declaring that for the devil to hear.  He fled and I was filled with peace! I was able to be joyful the rest of the day, which I think was nice for those around me in the hospital.  That can be a very stressful place, and I made sure I smiled at everyone!
Oh-- I have to mention my infusion nurses again.  One of my regular nurses is working at a different place (I will miss her and hearing about her lovely children and family!), and the other 'regular' one wasn't there either.  The nurse I had, Carol (Carole?), is one I know though, from being there over the last 4 years, and she had a person with her that was in training.  At the end, when I was ready to go, Carol started asking me about my grandkids, and how I was doing after treatment.  I was only going to tell her a little, to not take up too much of her time, but she kept asking, so I kept talking!  That was so special to me, that she took the time to REALLY ask how I was doing.   Usually when I don't have one of my 'regular' 2 nurses, I am in and out of there pretty quick.  Everyone is very nice and says hi, but I am only there for a port flush or labs.  It just made me feel really good, that she remembered things about my family, and really cared about how I was doing.  Chemo nurses are truly angels!
Well, I see my oncologist Tuesday, and have my mammogram Thurs., then the following week I have a pre-op, and my minor surgery.  Then I think I'll be done for awhile!  *Whew*!
More updates later this week.  Hope everyone feels blessed this week, and feels the love of Jesus surrounding them! Amen!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Four Years!

February 6th was the 4 year anniversary of my tumor being found during a colonoscopy.  I was having some symptoms that my primary Dr.(pcp) and gastro Dr. both thought were irritable bowel or colitis.  Thankfully, before my pcp looked further into my symptoms, she wanted me to have a colonoscopy, and then we'd know more what we were dealing with.  We were ALL surprised when the tumor was found. The gastro doc doing the procedure saw it right away (I was given some good drugs, but was fully awake) and said "See that? That shouldn't be there".  After the exam the doc came in and told us he was sure it was cancer, although we needed to wait for the pathology report for the 'official' word. I am so grateful Rich was with me!  We just held each other when the Dr. left.  Then he came back, and told me he had set up a CT scan for me that afternoon.  Things moved really fast!  I remember the nurse giving me a hug when she walked us out and telling me I was going to be ok.  That was so sweet, and yet scared me because I didn't really realize the gravity of the situation yet.  Thanks to my 'happy drugs', I wasn't too upset yet--I told Rich in the truck after to stop looking so gloomy!  Poor guy, he just found out his wife had cancer!  I'm sure he was overwhelmed! (I don't think I'll ever know how hard all of this was on him, as he did a good job of keeping it from me.  He was an EXCELLENT caregiver, and I'll always be grateful for that!)
Like I said, things moved quickly.  My CT scan didn't show any other areas of cancer (except a possible lymph node).  My gastro doc also contacted a surgeon, and an appt. to see him was scheduled, then my pre-op, then the surgery on Feb. 20th, just 2 weeks later.  During surgery, 18" of my colon was removed and I was able to be reconnected.  I came close to needing a colostomy, but am thankful I didn't!  It was a tough surgery, and I was in the hospital 8 days.  2 of 20 lymph nodes had cancer, and I was stage 3b.
My wonderful oncologist told me this type of cancer could be CURED.  Because of my young age (44),  I was given everything they could possibly throw at me!  None of my chemos were reduced, even with bad side effects.  Once he even let me get chemo when my counts were really low--the nurse had to go ask him if the orders were correct!  But he knew my counts always bounced back quickly when I had a neupogen shot, so he wasn't worried! I think it made a difference that my onc knew me well enough to know that I really wanted to complete all the treatments.  If I had said it was too hard and I wanted to back off a bit he probably would have, as I think he would have respected my wishes.  Same thing with radiation.  That was even more difficult, and I was told I didn't need to finish, but it was important to me to finish those last 3, and I did!  Although, I have to say, I never realized all the side effects I would have to live with!

Sometimes I have a hard time remembering how awful it all was, and other times I remember too well! I get frustrated dealing with painful side effects, but mostly, I am just so glad to be living life, cancer free.  I am enjoying my children and grandchildren.  My girls are such a blessing to me!  They really stepped up and did everything they could to help me get through those tough days of cancer treatment. I'm sure it was hard to watch their mom get cancer TWICE.  They are amazing young women!
Enough 6 month CT scans are coming up next Monday, Feb. 18th.  I'll also get my labs done that day too.  Then the following week I see my oncologist and have a mammogram.  This coming Thurs. (the 14th) I'll see my colorectal surgeon about the fistula, and I'm thinking I'll have to have surgery on that soon. That is a side effect from surgery and radiation.  :(   
1 more year and I'll hit that 5 year mark!  I'm going to ask Dr. J about being 'cured'; if that still fits my case or not.  I don't remember if the breast cancer will ever be considered cured--maybe because I was  only stage 2b, I can be cured of that too.  I'm not sure--I hope I remember to ask! April 1st will be 3 years from the breast cancer diagnosis.
Life goes on, and God is good! :)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

It's a New Year!

Happy New Year!  2013 has arrived!
2012 wasn't so bad; I've heard many people say how glad they are to see it go, but for me it was a pretty good year!  The best part (besides being cancer-free still!) was baby Selah being born in October.  It is such a joy to have another baby around.  She is growing fast now and things are changing quickly!  She's got the cutest smile and dimples too!
When I look back on 2012, it seems like it was a year of settling in, and figuring things out.  It was a year without any cancer treatments (Thank God!), and I have just been trying to figure out what my 'new normal' is, what my body is doing, and what my energy levels are.  
I feel that 2013 is a year in which I need to really make some changes, and I think I'm ready to do that.  
I've been trying to figure out this last month how food affects me, and I've switched to a low residue diet.  I am not eating nuts, seeds, fresh fruits or veggies (except bananas). Only cooked/canned fruits and veggies, and esp. applesauce.  Also, no high fiber breads and cereals, except oatmeal.  This may not be the healthiest diet (we all know fresh fruits/veggies/high fiber is supposed to be the best), but it's what I need to eat because of my overactive digestive system. The problems I was experiencing were really starting to get me depressed.  I missed 2 days of work because of them in Dec.  I think I had been waiting for things to settle down on their own, and then I realized it's been long enough (almost 4 years since my colon resection), and I need to figure this out!  I remembered hearing about a low residue diet somewhere, so I thought I'd start with that.  That has really helped (so far, anyway).  I make sure I eat bananas and applesauce nearly everyday. Those 2 foods help the most.  I started taking Citrucel each morning after breakfast, but I don't think I need to do that everyday.  I've been ok without it.
The next thing to work on is my weight. I really want to lose the weight I've gained back since I've been done with chemo.  I can eat smaller portions (which also helps the digestive system!), and I especially need to exercise.  I am too young to be so out of shape!  Fatigue is a big problem for me,  but I can't let that stop me.  I've started drinking a small cup of coffee or tea every afternoon, and that helps!
Most of all, I've realized that I've just sort of been 'going through the motions' a lot this past year, and I want to live each day more fully.  I'm so blessed to be here, and I don't want to waste whatever time I've been given.  I think I needed this past year, to just 'be' (I don't know how else to explain it!), but now it's time to move on and really live! (If I can find the energy!)

If there are any people that like to pray reading this, please pray that the tiredness goes away, and doesn't keep me from being healthy.  Pray also for me physically, that my body continues to heal from the beating it's taken the last few years.  My oncologist always reminds me that I've been through a lot, and it's taken it's toll on me!  I really appreciate any prayers, and if you leave me a comment or send an e-mail, I will be sure to pray for you also!
As I close, I am sending up a prayer for everyone that stops by to read this.  May God reveal Himself to you more fully, and may the Creator and Giver of all life bless you with health, peace, and true joy in 2013!

PS: Some pictures from Christmas!