Tag Archives: Cancer

How Did My Breast Cancer Affect My Husband?

Me with my wonderful husband at Paige's wedding, January2010
Me with my wonderful husband at Paige’s wedding, January 2010

Being a caregiver as a husband

Cancer – When we first heard the news one thing I remember is that my oldest daughter (21) came to me and asked, when is mommy going to die. During this time when we heard the “C” word it was a death sentence. Although we were a strong, faith filled family we believed that God was in control of everything in our life. But for some reason it seemed that Cancer was something outside of that layer of faith.

There were times I encountered different people who had this disease and I remember laying hands on them and praying for them. But now the disease is in your life and for some reason it was harder to find the faith I had praying and believing for others.

What did I learn?

Through this experience I learned more about my faith and myself that I would have never known without this encounter. I use to think I know what people went through but I had no idea. Looking back I see that the caregivers go through a different emotional experience than the one that has the actual disease.

Cancer was something that brings out all the different emotions out of your spouse. Although her faith was strong there were times that she showed her real feelings. Being the husband you are the one person on this earth that she can confide in. Of course she tries to never show this side of herself to anyone else; to the outside world she tries to be strong and brave.

I would have different people come to me and ask how your wife is doing, which you would expect. That would have been my question but now I add, how are you also doing? Just remember that Cancer has a major impact on everyone in the family and it changes your life.  It is up to you if this change is negative or positive.

Added Responsibilities

Trying to carry the load of all the different family issues that needed to be completed along with my work responsibilities created an overwhelming state of mind at times.  This is such a difficult time and if you let it, it will consume your thoughts and pull you down. Stay as positive as you can. If you start thinking about all the negatives you start asking why and then the blame game starts. As men we have the tendency to try to figure everything out and if you get caught up into this process it will show in your attitude.

Your life will also change and your responsibilities as a husband will expand into areas that you are not used to. As the husband you need to try to stay strong for not only your wife but also your kids. This is not something you cannot do alone, you need the guidance and direction from the Lord and you must take time to get along and pray and ask God for help. It is not wrong to ask him why and express your feelings but know he is a loving God and He is the only one that can help you during this time. You may also need to find a man friend you can talk to outside of your family. This person should be a good friend and hopefully be someone who is spiritually ground and is of strong faith.  They must be someone you can trust and confide with and take time to fellowship together. Go have breakfast, golfing or fishing, just find the time to just meet and talk. .

As the head of the house the man takes pride in being the provider but with a sickness of this magnitude, we need to now change our mindset. I researched and read what I could but it never prepared me for what I was going to encounter.  There were people I ran into at work and in church that were facing the same situation and in two of the cases the husband refused to accept the cancer and they got bitter.

I found that when a man encounters this type of news it does one of two things. They accept it and try to do their best to adjust their life and it moves them closer to God. Then there are those that go into denial and blame God which drives them away from the one source they need. They go into denial and with this attitude it creates a non-supporting role and causes more tension on the whole family.

Be A Good Listener

I am not saying you need to be super spiritual and that you will be perfect in handling everything that comes your way.  Just do your best and be supportive and encourage her, There will be times she will say things that she does not mean but learn to just listen and not try to correct her or give advice. This is something I still have a hard time trying to do to this day. Just be there and listen to her. Hear what her needs and wants are and ask how you can help. Do not force your agenda on her, let time take its course. She is processing and dealing with heavy stuff, so don’t try to understand everything. We would not know until we were walking in her shoes. Show patience, humility, compassion and Love.

The most important thing you can do is to continue to lift her up in Prayer and be a positive conduit feeding your surroundings with words of encouragement. Find the best out of your situation and meditate on those things. Believe that God will move in your situation and you “Will Conquer Cancer”.  Doug

I hope Doug’s insight will help others who may be on this journey.

I invite you to follow me of Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/laurasjourneyofhope.

Be Blessed.

Laura

How Did I Make Sense Of Everything?

Laura's Journey Notebook

How did I make sense of everything?  I didn’t.  There is no sense to cancer or any other illness.  However, I did organize all information and take charge of my journey.  If I had to be on this journey, I was going to be informed.

Chemo Education

Before you start chemo, you have to attend Chemo Education.  I had never heard of Chemo Education.  Chemo Education is scheduled with a nurse.  My nurse was the sweet nurse from Dr. Wonderful’s office.  I am going to refer to the Hematologist-Oncologist/Chemo Doctor as Dr. Wonderful. Doug, my husband, went with me to Chemo Education.  The clinic suggests that you bring at least one of your caregivers.  I had my calendar with note paper in the back and I was ready to take notes.

The nurse went on to explain…

1. 4 weeks of AC chemo every other week… with this chemo you may experience the following side effects… sores in your mouth, loss of nails, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, body aches and pain and you will lose your hair.  This chemo was known as the red devil.  After each cycle of this chemo, you will need Neupogen shots. (Neupogen shots stimulate the production of white blood cells. The shots will be needed between 5-7 days after each treatment.  It depends on results from lab work.)

2. 4 cycles of Taxol and Herceptin  (No extra shots with this chemo. YAY!)  With this chemo, you will experience the same side effects as the AC chemo.   Your hair will not begin to grow back until this chemo is out of your system.

****Everyone responds differently to chemo. The nurse did say to eat protein and foods that contain potassium.  Also, the acrylic nails must come off immediately.  (I loved my nails.  As an Assistant Principal, I would attend meetings at school and at the district level and I liked for my nails to look nice.)

Information Overload and How to Organize It All

As I returned home with handfuls of information, I realized that I needed to organize all of this information so I could find it as needed.  I had a couple of small piles already…. chemo info, notes from two doctors and my mammogram and CT report. I decided to organize the information in a 3 ring binder.

I set up the notebook according to the following categories:

1. Meds

2. Doctor’s visits – I took notes at every conversation with each doctor, filed it by date in the notebook and put a copy of the notes and the lab reports in a plastic sleeve.

3. Copies of all Test…CT Scans, PET Scans, MUGA Scan, Pathology Reports, Echocardiogram, etc…

4. Miscellaneous Information

I took my notebook and calendar to every visit.  I had questions written ahead of time so that I didn’t forget anything.  As I sat in the chemo chair receiving the infusion of chemo, I organized my notebook.  When I got my very first chemo, my nurse, Jerry, asked me what my notebook was for and I told him that I take notes at every doctor’s visit and ask for a copy of my chemo orders and all lab results. He replied with something like, that’s a good idea because we aren’t Jesus Christ.  We aren’t perfect.

One more tip about the organization of the notebook. In the front of the notebook, I had a 3 ring pencil pouch so that I would always have my writing tools and a 3 ring business card holder.  I kept a business card from every doctor and everyone affiliated with my treatment.

Most Importantly

The most important thing that I want you to remember is that you are in charge of your health care decisions.  You can research your doctors, be an advocate for yourself or designate an advocate.  You are more than a statistic.  You are so important to God that even the hairs on your head are all numbered. (Matthew 10:30 NIV)

Nothing about cancer makes sense.

I invite you to follow me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/laurasjourneyofhope.

Be Blessed.

Laura

I Am One in 15 Million!

Support Cancer Awareness
Support Cancer Awareness

Did you know that I am one in 15 million?  You may be one in 15 million, too. Yesterday, June 7, 2015, was National Cancer Survivors Day.

I am grateful to be a survivor of the dreaded disease.  I had a moment of celebration. Nothing fancy. No family cookout or barbecue. In fact, I simply posted on my Facebook page to inform others of the significance of the day and then I said a prayer.

It was a short prayer. I thanked God that he healed me and thanked him for continued healing every day. Prayer does not have to be a formal ritual. Prayer is just a conversation with God.  I talk to him like I talk to everyone else. I just say different things.

I celebrate  survivors of all cancers.  To go through cancer treatment, you have to be a warrior because you fight for your life.  I celebrate you or someone you know.

In the midst of celebration, I pause for a reality check and pray for those who are fighting this very minute for their life. My prayer for you is that you have strength, and are surrounded with support from family and friends. Please know that you are not alone. I do not know you but I pray for you every day.

Finally, I remember those who lost the battle with cancer and several come to mind.  I have to mention my friend, Nancy. She was diagnosed with breast cancer a couple years after me and lost the battle with breast cancer. I live every day to the fullest because I know she would tell me to do that. I walked in the Race For the Cure 5K in memory of her.

I walked in celebration of Cheryll and in memory of Nancy.
I walked in celebration of Cheryll and in memory of Nancy.

Celebrate those who survive.

Support those who fight.

Remember those who lost the battle because they would want you to live every day.

Even though I would rather not be a part of this statistic. I am grateful that I am one in 15 million.

I invite you to follow me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/laurasjourneyofhope.

Be blessed.

Laura

Renewal

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Along came a beautiful hummingbird and then his mate a couple of minutes later. They fluttered around the aloe plants and obtained the nectar from the aloe bloom.  Now, we had lived at that house 14 years and I had worked in the yard at all times of the day and I had never seen a hummingbird, much less a pair of hummingbirds.  Then, I remembered a verse in the Bible about God taking care of the birds of the air.

Matthew 6:26 (NIV)

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

I sat in silence once again but it was a good silence.  The kind of silence and time with God that renews your soul.  I knew God had my back in all of this.  I knew God was in control.  I went inside and began to review notes in my devotional book.  I read the notes from the Sunday that I was in the hospital, March 15, 2009.  In those notes was a phrase…“I know God remembers me.”  If fact, that phrase is listed 73 times in the Bible in reference to God taking care of us.  Then,  I listened to my favorite praise and worship song, “He Knows My Name” by Tommy Walker. Here are the words to the first verse/chorus:

I have a maker

He formed my heart,

before even time began

My life was in His hands

He knows my name

He knows my every thought,

He sees each tear that falls

and hears me when I call

He, my God, remembered me all along.  I just needed to go to the source of strength. My spirit had been renewed by some quiet time with God and the hummingbird visit.  I only saw them one more time after that day and haven’t seen them since.

I have looked for them again this April and May but so far, there is no sign. I believe that was a moment just for me.

I invite you to follow me on FB @ http://www.facebook.com/laurasjourneyofhope

Be Blessed.

Laura

The Life Saving Loofah

Life saving loofah..now retired
Life saving loofah..now retired

Pictured above is the life saving loofah.

It was a normal morning in November of 2008.  I was in the shower getting ready for the day.  I reached for my loofah (bath sponge) and shower gel.  No loofah!  It was across the bathroom in the tub and I was in a hurry so I just put some shower gel in my hand.  As I moved my hand under my right arm, I felt a lump.  I thought to myself…that’s odd.  Then I compared it to the left side and something was definitely different with my right side.  I quickly got dressed and went to work.

By the time I was able to contact my primary care doctor, I had an appointment for the first week in December.  My primary care doctor sent me for a CAT scan suspecting that it was lymphoma and a mammogram just to be on the safe side.  I just had a mammogram in March and I was very vigilant to get one every year. During the mammogram, a lump was detected in my right breast and two suspicious masses in my right axilla (under arm).  I scheduled a biopsy before I left. In the meantime, I got ready for Christmas and for Paige’s (my eldest daughter) graduation from nursing school.  

Biopsy Results

On December 26, 2008, the on call doctor told me that I had breast cancer!  He was very apologetic for delivering the news over the phone.  Of course I was full of questions like… How bad is it?  What stage is it?  What now?  He told me that he didn’t know how to read the pathology report but that he didn’t want me to worry.  (Really?  Didn’t want me to worry?)  He went on to say that many of his patients were 10, 20 and even 30 years breast cancer survivors. An appointment was scheduled with a Surgical Oncologist for Monday.  It was Friday and I had to wait until Monday to find out details.  All I could think about was how would I tell my husband, children, mother, other family members and friends.

After I hung up the phone, tears streamed down my face. I sat in the front room and stared out the window and I prayed!  I remembered a song that we used to sing in church when I was a little girl.

  • Peace, peace, wonderful peace coming down from the Father above.
  • Sweep over my spirit forever I pray in fathomless billows of love.

You see…I am a believer…a Christian…a person of strong faith and I prayed….

Telling Others of My Diagnosis

When Doug came home from work, I told him that I indeed had breast cancer.  I don’t remember his full reaction but I know he told me that everything would be alright.  We told the girls that night and I totally recall their reaction.  Kelsey (17), my youngest, just sat there and looked at me and Paige (21), the eldest, said, “So you are going to die?”   I replied, “I don’t plan to die.  God will heal me.” The next night Doug and I went to tell my mom.  I didn’t want to give her that news over the phone.  Doug’s side of the family was in New Mexico so I had to tell them by phone.

When you receive a diagnosis of cancer, your life changes forever. It took years for me to be able to talk about my diagnosis and progress without tearing up.  Now, I am ready to share my story and help others. One of my favorite verses is: 1 Timothy 4:16 (Living Bible) “Keep a close watch on all you do and think.  Stay true to what is right and God will use you to help others.”

I am so thankful for the life saving loofah.

I invite you to follow me on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/laurasjourneyofhope.

Be Blessed.

Laura

Life After Treatment

starner12 (2)

Life after treatment is all about being a survivor.  Just recently I was able to embrace being a survivor.  I guess it was easier to pretend things didn’t happen but I’m reminded every day when I look in the mirror.  I have 11 physical scars that I have learned to embrace.  My scars do not define me but I have used them to refine me.  Almost every day I am asked, ” How did you do it?”  The honest answer to that is…I have a strong faith in God and I refused to become a victim.  Does that mean I was never sad or never had a bad day? Oh no! I had my moments but then I focused my attention on the fact that I was still standing. My girls were at pivotal transitions in their lives and I was at an important place in my career.  I had goals to attain and I certainly wasn’t going to let cancer keep me from achieving my goals.

Even today, there are difficult moments.  One is during the week before my mammogram and even while I’m sitting in the Woman’s Center. I’m fidgety like a race horse about to be put in the starting gate.  There are so many memories associated with the Women’s Center, surgical center, hospital and chemo lab.

Since my initial treatment, I’ve had a couple of biopsies that thankfully have been benign. I had a tricky lymph node in the left axilla, which was not the original area, that kept lighting up on the PET Scan.  So, I had a partial lymph node dissection on the left axilla as a precaution.

The most important message I want to tell you is that life is a gift.  Am I breathing? Yes! Then, I have a purpose and responsibility to go on.  Life goes on!  I have a responsibility to live every day with a smile on my face because I am a survivor.  Generations before me went through clinical trials so that I could benefit from Red Devil Chemo, Taxol, Herceptin, Arimidex and Femara.

Life goes on and I choose to be happy and …LIVE!

I invite you to follow me @ http://www.facebook.com/laurasjourneyofhope.

Be Blessed.

Laura

 

Radiation Is Over…So What Now

(All of my blogs are exclusively my experience.  I am not a medical professional. This is my interpretation of my journey.)

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By the time I was scheduled to see Dr. Wonderful (Hematologist-Oncologist), radiation was over and I came through it with minimal side effects.

What’s next…

Dr. Wonderful immediately started me on a chemo pill, Arimidex.  The initial plan was to take it for 5 years as long as my bones, bone density and joints would allow.

Arimidex is a type of hormone therapy known as an Aromatase Inhibitor. How does Anastrozole work? Breast cancer is stimulated to grow by female hormones: estrogen and progesterone. Anastrozole (Arimidex) works to block the effects of the female hormones.

Okay…my view… the very hormone, estrogen, that defines you as a woman ends up globbing together with other estrogen cells to become breast cancer. So the very hormone that makes you a woman, trys to kill you. I hope you can infer that I find this entire concept, hideous, outrageous and unacceptable. However, I can’t change that so I will only give it this small paragraph.

I started Arimidex in October of 2009 and I was a trooper. I kept taking it even though it took a toll on my body:

  • By the end of the 12 hour workday, I could barely walk.
  • By Friday or Saturday, I hurt so bad that I could literally feel pain from every cell in my skin and it hurt.
  • It felt like someone was peeling my skin off.

With that said, I would take to the couch with my pain meds and heating pad.

Actually, compared to others, my symptoms were minimal. Four years into the medication, I spoke to Dr. Wonderful and she switched me to Femara in October of 2013. Femara is in the same category of medicine. It’s purpose is to block estrogen.  Even though October 2014 was my 5 year point, I still take Femara.  As long as it doesn’t effect my bone density, joints and ability to function, I will take it.

I am blessed because I was diagnosed with ER+ breast cancer so I have an additional chemo pill to block that estrogen.  I am too blessed to be stressed!  I’m alive so it’s a good day!

I invite you to follow me @ http://www.facebook.com/laurasjourneyofhope.

Be Blessed!

Laura

 

Caregivers Need Care

Me with my wonderful husband at Paige's wedding, January2010
Me with my wonderful husband at Paige’s wedding, January2010

My definition of the caregiver…

A caregiver is the person who…

  • changes his/her work schedule to drive you to chemo (my mom)
  • ensures you take your anti-nausea medicine when you are so sick from chemo/surgery that you just don’t care
  • ensures you eat a little protein when you can’t taste a thing because protein rebuilds cells
  • sits hours upon hours at doctor’s appointments, chemo labs, hospitals and pharmacies
  • prepares menus for your family when you can’t
  • stands by when you got to the bathroom to make sure you don’t pass out or start heaving your guts up
  • gives you Neupogen shots at home (in my case, my daughter became a nurse a few days before my diagnosis.)
  • greets guest with a smile while you put your wig on
  • thanks visitors for the food and explains that you just can’t see them today
  • moves from out-of-state to stay with you as long as possible (mother-in-law)
  • pretends to never see your bald head because you would just cry if you knew the truth (my wonderful husband)
  • gives up softball because of the need at home, even though a scholarship is possible (my youngest daughter in her senior year)
  • buys groceries because you are not allowed to go to the store, per Dr’s orders
  • assumes the coordination of all school functions
  • cleans the house, folds laundry, does dishes…when you can’t
  • watches you go through ‘hell’ and tells you that you look great
  • sprays Lysol in your office every day when you leave (Monica, Principal’s’ Secretary)
  • makes pink curtains for your office (Monica, Principal’s’ Secretary)
  • hold’s a Pink Celebration (RBW Staff)

Caregivers need to have someone to talk to when they feel overwhelmed. They need plenty of rest, a break now and then, to have an outlet or to join a support group, if possible. For example:

  • if a husband is caring for his wife, his buddies need to take him out for a guys night, football game or just get away for a few hours
  • if a wife is caring for her husband, her friends need to plan a girls night out
  • the same if a parent is caring for a child…aunts, uncles, friends need to come over and take turns so that the primary caregiver can have a break

Cancer has the ability to interrupt so many lives.  Don’t let it.   Don’t give away your power! Cancer does not have to control your life. The power in living comes when you keep your schedule and routine.

I invite you to follow me @ http://www.facebook.com/laurasjourneyofhope.

Be Blessed!

Laura

Walking With Madison

I found this poem online…’Walking With Grandma”.

Walking With Grandma

I read that poem in the middle of the night and couldn’t go back to sleep. Words were racing around in my head and I typed this next poem for Madison, my granddaughter.

The day my life changed.
The day my life changed.

Walking with Madison

I’m so blessed you see.

To spend time with her,

Just Madison and me.

Walking with Madison…

Every detail she finds.

She exhibits her youth

With an inquiring mind.

Walking with Madison…

I treasure these days.

She reminds me of her mom

In so many ways.

Walking with Madison…

Profound empathy she shows.

A kind heart and beauty

But she doesn’t even know.

I treasure our walks

And enthusiastic talks.

She changed the world I see.

Just Madison and me.

Look Meme, we match!
Look Meme, we match!
Pure joy!
Pure joy!

After cancer, I take nothing for granted.  Every day I have with my family and friends is valued.  I figure I am here on this earth and it must be for a reason.  I live each day with purpose. I thank God that I am here today! So instead of sitting around and feeling sorry for myself and wondering why…I choose to LIVE!

I invite you to follow me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/laurasjourneyofhope.

Be Blessed.

Laura

Just One More Surgery

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About the time I hoped to return to work part time, I was scheduled for a surgery known as a margin revision. In my post-op visit, the breast surgeon explained that there was one cancerous spot on the border of the clean tissue.  The goal of the surgery is to leave a margin of at least 1mm of normal, cancer free tissue.

I arrived that the Surgery Center at 7:00 AM on June 16, 2009.  I went through the usual details: financial responsibilities, Nurse #1 and then back to the holding pen where I changed my clothes and got ready.  I asked the nurse to pull the curtain so everybody couldn’t stare at me.  I was hoping that the surgeon would take the drains out during the surgery.  The breast surgeon stopped by to see me and reassured me that she was going to get clear margins.  She previously asked me if a pathologist could attend the surgery.  She confirmed that the pathologist would be attending the surgery and would be able to examine the tissue immediately.  The breast surgeon would gain access through the 3 incisions in the right breast from the surgery on June 3, 2009.  She explained that the plastic surgeon could not be here and she would do her best to put me back together.  The anesthesiologist also stopped by and I told him that I had past issues with nausea after surgery and he assured me that he would give me something to prevent unnecessary nausea.

I was ready to go back.  Doug kissed me goodbye.  This time it was just Doug in the lobby because this was supposed to be a shorter, uncomplicated surgery.  The nurse took me back to the operating room where everyone greeted me and introduced themselves.  The surgeon came in and I told her, “Let’s do this”.

The next thing I remember was that I was in the recovery area.  I was trying to wake up but it wasn’t working.  I could hear the nurse asking Doug if I opened my eyes yet. The nurse kept saying, “Okay Laura.  It’s done.” The nurse told the doctor as she came by that I wasn’t awake yet. They were standing at my bed and I could hear them but my eyes would not open.   I could hear her talking to me but I couldn’t move. I wasn’t scared, though.  I did tell God that if this was my time to go that I would be okay with it as long as I was going to heaven.  (Obviously, I didn’t speak that but I was praying silently.)

After another surgery, the doctor came by again.  I heard the nurse and doctor talking about my vital signs.  They looked good so the doctor said to give me time.  I was trying to open my eyes and they all told me to relax and take my time.  They assured me that I was okay.  The doctor completed another surgery and came by to check on me and this time I opened my eyes a little and gave her a half smile.

How ironic! After the 6 hour surgery, I was in recovery 30-40 minutes and this surgery was supposed to be so easy (1 hour) and I was in recovery 2-3 hours. Eventually, I walked out of the surgical center and went home to go to bed.

At the post-op visit, the surgeon gave me great news that the pathology report was clear.   the surgical drains had to stay in place until the drainage slowed down.  I started Herceptin, the good chemo, one week later.  Plans for Paige’s wedding would begin soon.