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 was between my sixth and seventh chemo treatment. Only two more to go. The last chemo hit me hard. Every muscle and cell in my body hurt. At the last appointment, Dr. Wonderful (Hematologist-Oncologist) told me to sit outside in the late afternoon to get some vitamin D and it would be good for me. So, I decided to sit outside for a while. It was just me and the squirrels in the backyard. I was looking at the aloe plants because that was the only place in the backyard that gets the sun.
A Moment of Weakness
It had been a hard weekend and I was home from a long day of work and I just lost it. I listed everything for God, as if he didn’t know. It went like this…
Grade III, aggressive
I have no hair
my eyelashes and eyebrows are gone
I hurt all over
my port got infected
a week in the hospital
a PICC line
needle after needle
I don’t understand why you let this happen to me. I’m sorry God. I know I’m not supposed to question you but I’m your child. Why? Why did you let this happen to me?
Then I felt bad. Many people will read this and think that I was wrong to ever talk to God that way. I would say to them that God already knew what I was thinking. He’s God. I knew that I couldn’t stay in that state of mind so I started finding the positive things about my situation. I told God…I am thankful:
for my team of doctors
for the chemo I could receive
for Herceptin developed just for the Her 2 positive cancer
for the fact I could still work
for Kelsey’s successful senior year
for Paige because she could give me the Neupogen shots
for my caregivers: Doug, Doug’s mom and my mom
that I did not get sick (throw up) with any chemo
I knew in my head that God worked all things for my good. I didn’t feel it at the time. I felt all alone.
With tears running down my face, I asked God to be with me and wrap His arms around me like he promised that he would do in His word. I was broken…I sat in silence…
Renewal of the Soul
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.
On January 12, 2009, the port was in place and we were ready to go. A portacath is a small medical appliance inserted near the left clavicle and had a tube that went directly to the superior vena cava. This positioning allowed the infused chemotherapy to be spread throughout the body quickly and efficiently and that’s what I needed.
Alone Time With God
Thursday, January 15th was my first chemo treatment. I went to school that morning and stayed the majority of the day because I had a late afternoon appointment. I left work early enough to come home and take a shower and get alone with God and listen to my praise and worship music. In fact, this would become my routine before each chemo. Each time I prayed, “Now God, if this is all a mistake and when I get there they are so apologetic, I won’t even be mad….but, if I need to go through this experience, I trust you and rely on you to give me strength.” You see, I am only human. Yes , I’m a Christian and I need to practice what I preach but….I am human, therefore, I rely on God for strength. Before I knew it, my mom was at my house to pick me up and we were on the way.
Visit With Dr. Wonderful (chemo doctor)
When I arrived at the doctors office, the nurse brought out a pill for me to take, Emend, so I would have it in my system before my treatment. It would help with the side effects of nausea and vomiting. It was my turn to see the doctor first. I went back to the office and Dr. Wonderful asked me how I was doing. I told her that I was scared. There were so many negative stories about chemo and I was scared. She assured me that everything was going to be alright. She reviewed my lab work to make sure my blood counts could sustain the first dose of A/C (red devil) chemo. She ordered more testing: Bone Scan, Breast MRI and BRCA testing. After all, I had two daughters at home and we needed to know if I carried the BRCA gene. She also gave me a prescription for an anti-nausea pill to take for 24-48 hours after chemo.
Dr. Wonderful reminded me that I should have minimal contact with the public:
no trips to the grocery store
no eating out
no drive throughs
no church (Well, I still went to church for a while but I avoided all of the handshaking/greetings.)
The chemo lab was ready for me. I went to my designated chair and was greeted by Jerry, one of the best chemo nurses. As he was attempting to access my port, he said, “I’m going to need a long needle.” I know that I went pale. I looked at my mom with the same look you give your mom when you are getting your childhood immunizations. She excused herself to go get a water or snack. I just know she left.
By the time she got back, I was all hooked up to the ‘red devil’ chemo. It was literally red. Jerry brought me a warm blanket, I reclined my chair and zoned out to my praise and worship music. I updated my notes, lab reports and chemo orders from my doctor’s visit in my notebook. Jerry checked on me frequently since this was my first time to receive A/C chemo. When I was almost done with my treatment, he said to go eat a good healthy meal with protein, non greasy, because it might be all I have to eat for a few days. I took his advice and had a very healthy meal.
When I got home, I visited with my girls and husband and around 10-10:30 PM, an indescribable feeling came over my body. It was like the room was spinning and I felt like a 50 pound blanket was covering me. Per Jerry’s advice, I went straight to bed. I didn’t want to vomit/get sick so I laid very still. My mom came in with the anti-nausea medicine and I really didn’t want to move to take it because I didn’t want to get sick. Every time I moved my head, I felt an overwhelming feeling of nausea that I could barely hold back. So, I laid very still!
The next morning, my mom came to stay with me and brought me some pears to eat with the anti-nausea medication. Purple (light) Gatorade became my best friend. It was the only thing that felt good on my stomach. When I would eat or drink, I would try not to lift my head any more than necessary. When someone would come in the room to talk to me, I would not move my head to look at them. They would have to move to my direct line of vision.
I slept the next day (Friday) until about 1:00 PM. I sat out in the living room for a couple of hours and tried to eat something and headed back to bed. Saturday, I spent most of my time sitting up in my special chair in the living room. I still had a strong feeling of nausea. On Sunday, I went to church, avoiding all of the hand shaking. Later that afternoon, my dear friends Debbie and Moe brought an amazing meal of baked turkey, mashed potatoes and rolls. I was feeling good enough to eat a little more each day.
I returned to work on Monday trying to keep life as normal as possible. The new normal would begin. The neupogen shots had arrived at my house and Paige would start to give me that injection Monday night. I am so blessed that she graduated from Nursing School on December 11, 2008. God knew that she would be essential to my recovery. God is so good!