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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Sometimes You Just Need a Good Cry

Its been a hard two days of juggling work, the role of mom and wife, and cancer. Two long days of tests and appointments and blood work and waiting and complications, two different contrast dyes, blood dripping down my clothes, a cardiac nurse who accessed my port - probably her first one since nursing school - etc., etc.,  I answered the question "are you pregnant or breastfeeding" SIX times Tuesday afternoon. Why, no. No, I'm not.

Brian and Becky were stuck with the chore of live-texting through the adventure, so I won't document it step by step here. I actually managed to make it through the 6 hours at Vanderbilt Tuesday afternoon/evening and felt tired, but good. What I had forgotten is that the emotional fall-out always hits the next day for me.

And, unfortunately, the next day involved a busy morning at work then a rushed trip to the Sarah Cannon Cancer Center. The lines were out the door. The waiting room was full. The oncologist I was supposed to see had been called out of town so they'd given me a substitute (who was a lung specialist, not gynecological). No one seemed to know what was going on. Extra sets of labs just in case. Brian was stuck in traffic and over an hour late.

I just did not want to be in yet another exam room. Rehash the last 4 years. Hear another oncologist tell me my case baffles them, but that ultimately there's nothing they can do to eradicate the cancer, just try to keep it from taking over my body for as long as possible.

Jenne and Kari saved the day. Not only did they drop everything, grab up their babies and come to Sarah Cannon when they heard Brian was stuck in traffic, but they brought those cute babies and stroller and carriers right into our little exam room, laid hands on us and prayed. The ugly cry made an appearance, but it was okay.

And when the appointment was over, Brian headed back to Clarksville to pick up the kids, and Jenne, Kari, the babies, and I camped out at P.F. Chang's for a whole lot of bites (as they put it). We took advantage of the 4:00 lunch menu and appetizer happy hour. We all laughed, talked, and did enough crying that I am certain we scared our server.

It was after dark and past time for me to make it home in time for church by the time I left Nashville, there were multiple traffic jams, and it was Becky's turn to join me in the ugly cry on the phone. Side note: not the best idea to drive at night with eyes swollen from crying and then add more tears to the mix. 

I'm already a bit better this morning. A good cry plus sleep is restorative. But I do find myself in a questioning, doubting, why is this happening state of mind the last several days. It's hard work to keep trusting that good really can come out of this ugliness and that God can redeem these days and this situation for my husband, children, family and friends. It's hard looking forward to a very uncertain future. It's hard to think about the decisions that are going to need to be made, maybe sooner than we'd like.

In my immediate future, however, I'm going to try to finish the 8-10 hours worth of work I brought home with me in 6.5 hours today. All while listening to the kids argue through their NINTH snow day in a row. And when I finish up that, we're going to proceed to have a good couple of days as we wait for the next appointment on Tuesday. It's Rory's 7th Family Day this weekend, and while we haven't decided how to celebrate (pretty much because it totally snuck up on us), we will do some celebrating. 

And when that family celebration is over, Brian and I have date night scheduled (at the Ryman Auditorium!) this weekend.

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Monday, February 23, 2015

Closing Out the Weekend

We wrapped up our weekend with cancelled church services because of the crazy 6 inches of ice on our church parking lot which refuses to melt. School is still cancelled (that's 7 snow days in a row) tomorrow. As a result of no church services, we decided to visit a local church (LifePoint). I initially didn't want to go - not too proud to admit that I would have enjoyed sleeping in one more day.

However, as usual, it was the right choice - Brian's choices are pretty much always right. It was awesome to attend church without having any responsibilities. Now don't get me wrong, we love being church staff and ministering to others. But, oh my stars, was it ever good to just be ministered to. The kid's classes were good, the music was awesome, and the sermon was biblical, practical, and powerful. Brian and I both struggled to focus on the service and not spend all our emotional energy critiquing and comparing this well-established church with its dozens of church staff with our still very new and work-in-progress church. My OCD perfectionist flawed personality tends to take over during our own church service as I notice all the things that go wrong or could be improved and how I can "fix" them. (Yes, I am fully aware this is not the joyful worshipful attitude that should accompany a church service.)

All of that to say, it was a blessing to attend church yesterday morning. And my favorite part? When Camden's Sunday School teacher shook his hand on the way out, patted his back and told us, "this young man is going to do big things for God one day." How fantastic for Camden to have that encouragement. There are men and women who have the gift of encouragement, and they are invaluable.
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Slight change of topic, but I would appreciate your prayers over the next few days. I am having yet another unfortunate reaction to my chemo drug and started the evil steroids again. I'm committing to the full 3.5 day regimen this time since the 24 hour regimen wasn't successful last weekend. It is insane how sick the steroids make me feel, but my skin was in very bad shape and it just needed to be done.

Tomorrow I visit Vanderbilt for lab work, an ecco-cardiogram to test my heart health (this chemo is particularly tough on heart function) and then a CT scan to check to see if my cancer is growing, stable, or decreasing. It feels like a very big deal. I know, they're all big. But this is the first time in the last 4 years that I've had active, progressive cancer and this scan is a big one because it determines if I've worn out yet another chemo drug.

As if that weren't enough for one week, I have an appointment with the clinical trial program at the Sarah Cannon Cancer Center on Wednesday. Obviously, we may have some big decisions coming our way based on this appointment along with my scan results.

I'm doing my level best to take it one day at a time. I do not want to waste any energy worrying about these appointments, and since I won't have scan results until I see Dr. C next Tuesday, I don't want to spend the next week in misery.

We've been studying Abraham during my Friday morning Bible study, so this verse seems appropriate.

Abraham did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. (Rom 4:20-21)



Saturday, February 21, 2015

7/52: Pastel

This week's theme was pastel and there's not a whole lot of pastel in our house, much less with my black-eyed, black-haired Korean gal. However, she gave me about 10 minutes of cooperation in 10 degree weather and we attempted a pastel snow picture. The first one is my official pastel picture, but I included the other attempts because it was pretty darn fun.

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This is a new face I'm seeing often these days.
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By the way, she has 3 shirts underneath this dress, a pair of pajama pants and a pair of hot pink sweat pants. LOL



Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Snow Day #3

Snow Day #3 and there might be a few cracks in the snow joy. Clarksville is essentially shut down - restaurants, coffee shops, library, city offices and schools. We've made soup and hot chocolate (for the one child who actually enjoys hot chocolate), been completely lazy, finished books, caught up on TV, played a lot of Wii.

And we participated in a Monopoly game that lasted 3 hours yesterday. In other words, it was never ending.

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Brian got stuck trying to take the kids to a friend's house for a sledding party Monday so we tried to recreate the experience in our flat little yard, and it was not super successful. It did, however, get Camden and Rory out of the house and they enjoyed getting pummeled by their dad with snowballs. We also pulled out this snowman kit we received from some friends earlier in the ear and made a snow man on the back deck.
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[My friend, Christine, has some truly stunning snow pictures (and snow volume!) if you want to see some real winter weather.]

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Brian and the kids are off for take #2 on the sledding party, and I'm settling in to get some office work done. It's supposed to be -6 tonight with more snow on Friday so I'm imagining that we'll all still be enjoying these extra days together for at least 48 more hours. There's nothing really on the schedule except fitting in work when I can and maybe baking cookies with Rory later on - yum!


Monday, February 16, 2015

Snow Day

So you know Tennessee doesn't get any kind of real snow/ice very often, and while the predicted amounts keep going up and down, Clarksville is currently getting hit with the biggest snow/ice storm in many years. As in since January 2003 (which happened on Becky's wedding weekend). It's fairly exciting, especially if you're a teacher or a kid. And, actually, my own office closed down for the day so I didn't have to worry about work either.

I snapped a few pictures while Brian got the van de-iced. He's taking them to some friend's house for a sledding party while I'm staying at home warm and cozy. Does that make me a bad mom? When they were little, I was all over stuff like that. Now that they're 8 and 11, I'm kind of all about staying wrapped up indoors. That is horrible, isn't it.

Trying on Brian's hats.

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I'm cracking up because this is the same snow gear they've had for the last 3 years (which means my pictures from the last 3 winters are all the same). We just don't have enough snow/cold weather to warrant cute hats every year.

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This one shows how fast the snow is falling.
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Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Weekend Lens

I have to say that this weekend did not turn out exactly as I planned. I went to our women's home Bible Study Friday morning, which I love - I don't always get to go, but am always so happy when it works out. By the afternoon, however, it was clear that I needed to start steroids to take care of the allergic reaction I have to my chemo (Doxil). For instance, this is what my feet looked like.

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Doxil makes me break out in a rash all over my body that is so hot and itchy I can barely stand it. I made it for a couple of days, but when my feet turned beet red and hurt like crazy, I knew I needed to give in. Unfortunately, the steroid makes me extremely sick. As in, almost worse than the rash. So Saturday I was sick all day. Thankfully, Brian was there to save the day. He surprised Rory and I with flowers, a decorated table, heart-shaped pancakes (which I should not have eaten), and cards. He also cooked a steak dinner that I did not get to enjoy.


Rory was so full of nervous energy over receiving the flowers that she was all kinds of awkward and giggly. It was pretty funny.

I had already written my post about Brian prior to the weekend, but if you needed any more indication that he's pretty fantastic, I'll give you an example. This happened to be the weekend we were providing a meal Friday night to a family from church, feeding the college kids (as in about 12 of them), making pies for a fundraiser Sunday night, and providing a meal for a family who just had a baby.

And I was so nauseous that I could not be on my feet.

So Brian took care of about 85% of all of that. Seriously, he is such a keeper. And my kids did 5 loads of laundry all on their own, mostly without grumbling. They're keepers too.

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Camden asked if I could take a picture of him playing the Wii U for the first time so I obliged.


And a snapshot before school Friday morning with their school projects. Rory's was a Valentine's box and Camden's was a fish poster. Here's an example of how completely opposite they are. Rory is so determined to do things on her own that instead of waiting for help, she jumped right in wrapping that box on her own. And when she discovered that she didn't have enough paper or hadn't cut a slot on the top for cards to go through, she wasn't about to admit that she had made a mistake. I chose to let my OCD go, and told her she did a great job tackling a hard project all on her own. In contrast, Camden gets so worked up about even starting a project because he wants it to be perfect and then drives us all insane with is moaning and groaning over every little detail. Complete opposites!


Rory reading through the 2006 blog book and cracking up at 3-year old Camden's shenanigans. He was a hoot!

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So how was your weekend?


Saturday, February 14, 2015

What Love Looks Like

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This guy knows what it's like to love in sickness and in health, and he does it so well. It's not a make believe fairy tale with big romantic gestures, princes and princesses, glass slippers, and happily ever afters.

It's putting someone else first, being selfless. It's walking in the door and asking what he can do to help me get supper on the table and then cleaning up after. It's making coffee every morning and then gently nudging my shoulder to let me know when it's ready because he knows I hate mornings and alarm clocks. It's an impromptu trip to the butcher to buy a steak after surgery because I mentioned it sounded good. It's silly written poems on Christmas morning.

Thursday morning as I was walking out the door to take the kids to school, I noticed he'd cleaned out the French press and had it ready for a new pot of coffee because he knew I like an extra cup when I'm working from home. I called the kids back inside, showed them the pot and told Rory to remember that gesture when she chooses a man to love. I told Camden to remember how his daddy served his mama when he's a married man of 17 years.

I don't know what your married life looks like (ours is certainly not perfect) or how your spouse shows you love, but Brian shows it every day in the little selfless acts that no one would ever notice. But I notice, and I feel cherished by a special man.

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Friday, February 13, 2015

6/52: Happy

I'm resolving to stop apologizing for the flaws in my photos so I won't point out that I realize these are mostly out of focus. It's perfectly okay. I'm going to keep telling myself that. ;)

Camden and Rory (mostly Camden) saved up all their money from Christmas, report cards, and allowance and bought themselves a Wii U. Camden seriously could not be more excited. This kid lives for the weekend when we allow him a measly 60 minutes on Saturday/Sunday to play on gaming devices and considering the newest device he has is a used DS we gave him for his 7th birthday, this new device is cause for pretty much more excitement than he's had in a long time. Because we are nothing but hard core, it arrived on Tuesday and he doesn't get to play until tomorrow.

Okay, so he hasn't played it yet but it's not because we're that hard-hearted. It just took a lot of set-up time, and we've had projects, church, etc. taking up our time.

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This one completely cracks me up. Notice how excited Camden is compared to Rory. This is pretty descriptive of how they each feel about electronic devices.
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Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Internet is Kinda Cool

When my friends Jenne and Kari called me (together) a couple of weeks ago, I thought they were calling to arrange lunch together. That's what we do. I take pictures of their kiddos, and we get together for lunch/dinner occasionally. Turns out they had something big up their sleeve. When I first clicked on the link they sent me, I was more than a little overwhelmed. Jenne says I responded with, "Oh, my stars" and that's probably true.

And here's the thing. That same morning, literally, I was working on a blog post about how social media is not all bad. In fact, I find it to be all kinds of good. I have made connections with fellow adoptive parents, with photographers, with scrappy gals, with other women diagnosed with cancer, and the list could go on. I've watched prayer chains happen, support given, relationships form.

I have 994 friends on Facebook. I'm pretty sure I do not know that many people in real life, much less call them friends. And, yet, I receive on an almost daily basis notes of encouragement from these friends.

I was initially not just overwhelmed, but a little embarrassed. Despite my chattiness online, if you know me in real life, then you know I do not like attention. I'm one of those sit-in-the-back-of-the-room kind of girls. I am not eloquent enough to say how much I love and appreciate you all for your generosity to our family. From the sweet lady at work who tells me how excited she is for me about this trip every week. . . to the friends I know in real life. . . to the friends I've never even met who contributed - thank you isn't enough, but THANK YOU. I could not have dreamed something like this up, and it was the biggest and best surprise possible.

We haven't told the kids yet. We kept it a secret initially because I didn't believe it would actually happen. And now that it is happening, it feels as if such a big deal needs a big reveal, but we haven't figured out how or when to do that. [Please, keep us keep it a secret from the kids by not mentioning it to them!]

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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Project Life 2015, weeks 3-5

Week 3a
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Week 3b
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Week 4a
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Week 4b
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Week 5a
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Week 5b
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And an old picture I scrapped last month. Credits here.
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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tuesday Tidbits

The combo of surgery followed by chemo 4 days later made it feel like a very long string of sick days. I was probably at 60% Sunday, but Monday was much better and today felt normal. I love normal.

It's 7:00 p.m. and Brian and Camden are feverishly working away on yet another school project. I don't know if it's reality that Camden is having SO MANY or if it's just because we're SO BAD at keeping up with them so that it seems as if they're happening way too frequently. I do know that he is incredibly bad at passing on information along to us. Yes, we're the opposite of helicopter parents, apparently, since we have mistakenly placed our trust in a 5th grader to answer honestly when we ask what projects/homework are coming up.

Brian is in charge of all things related to school projects. That's pretty close to cruel and unusual punishment for a teacher.

Now that chemo bills have kicked in, I am basically working to pay medical bills which is both awesome and sad all at once. Awesome because I did not have a job this time last year so paying for these chemo treatments would have been not good. Sad because, well, chemo.

Our daily list of One Thousand Gifts was very different for all four of us today.
Rory: playing 3-finger tag in P.E.
Camden: eating bugs at school (school sanctioned for the sake of science)
Melissa: that I was not one of the really sick patients I saw at Vanderbilt today
Brian: that lesson plans are nearly finished for next week, and it's only Tuesday

Here is last week's Project 52 photo. The inspiration was small. I've received probably hundreds of cards over the last 4 years, and I'm determined to do a better job of writing encouraging notes, texts, emails. It is a very small thing to do, but meaningful. And I've found it a joy to pass on Scripture that others have given to me in dark times.

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What I get when I ask her to stand in while I test my camera settings. Yes, she's 8 and thinks mean faces are super cool.
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And a verse I read this week: 2 Corinthians 1:3-4  
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."