Saturday, December 24, 2011

My favorite Christmas thought...

“This Christmas, mend a quarrel. Seek out a forgotten friend. Dismiss suspicion and replace it with trust. Write a letter. Give a soft answer. Encourage youth. Manifest your loyalty in word and deed. Keep a promise. Forgo a grudge. Forgive an enemy. Apologize. Try to understand. Examine your demands on others. Think first of someone else. Be kind. Be gentle. Laugh a little more. Express your gratitude. Welcome a stranger. Gladden the heart of a child. Take pleasure in the beauty and wonder of the earth. Speak your love and then speak it again.”
~Howard W. Hunter

I have posted this before, but I challenge myself to try each of these things through the preparations for the holidays.  Doing this helps make my Christmas more meaningful.  I feel SO grateful to be home and with my family this Christmas.  As you know, I  was recently told there is no more chemo available to me to help fight my cancer at this time.  The silver lining of that is that I get to have a chemo/hospital free Christmas.  We are having a wonderful time together.  We have talked of our Savior and studied the scriptures about his birth.  We have enjoyed doing service and sung carols to proclaim his birth.  The tree is lit and the presents are wrapped.  I need nothing more...my Christmas is complete!  I am so grateful for this time to reflect again on my blessings~  Merry Christmas!!

Merry Christmas~ 2011~

Braithwaite’s Top “Eleven” of 2011:
11. Our family is SO excited to be at home and together for this holiday season.  NO hospitals…
10. Speaking of TEN… Larry and Shanda celebrated 10 years of marriage and took a fantastic cruise!
9. Addie (4 ½) got darling glasses and “wonders why everyone always asks her if she sees better now.”
8.  Shanda is on medical leave from tennis, but has a new passion...whitewater kayaking.  An amazing cancer retreat gave her a chance to face new fears other than cancer…and CONQUER them.  She’s hooked!
7.  Aana (8 ½) was baptized and met her goal of finishing the Book of Mormon beforehand.  She is also learning to sew and made an entire quilt by herself.  She dreams of designing her own clothing line.
6.  Larry has traveled the country learning new dental tricks and continues to root for his Cougars!!
5.  Addie learned to read this year, but really enjoys writing and illustrating her own books.  By next Christmas, she wants to see them at Barnes and Noble.   
4. Shanda is looking for a doctor that will install a zipper in her abdomen.  She’s a trooper and is healing from her 12th surgery.  They removed more cancer…and we pray that was the last of it.  
3.  With flashcards and practice, Aana “mastered” pig latin…only to find out it didn’t really count as a foreign language.  It crushed her dreams of being a pig latin teacher when she “grows up.” 
2.  For the 2nd year in a row, Larry earned “Most Handsome Mr. Mom.”  His passion for juggling has paid off and allowed him to keep working and keep the house running. (thx to all those that have helped as well!)
1. WE SURVIVED…and also THRIVED!       

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Has it been that long?

I am here...and am doing well.  I can't believe how much time has passed since I blogged.  Life has been wonderfully busy.  I am grateful that my energy is increasing so that I can actually be BUSY.  What a welcome contrast from being stuck in a hospital or in bed!

Thanksgiving was wonderful...but we did it a bit different.  I didn't have the energy to put on a huge dinner here, so we left town so that my kids could have a fun memory.  We went to an indoor waterpark/fun center.  It was perfect because there was NO ONE there...and I could sit on the side and watch while the kids had a blast.  They needed to just have FUN...with no reserves...and THEY DID!  They laughed, swam, played laser tag, bowled, rock climbed, mined for gems, mini golfed... and didn't miss turkey at all.  I was so content to participate where I could but watch them and just soak it all in.  The chance to spend time with my family is what I was most grateful for...and I got it!!  I was so busy watching that I didn't really take pictures. 

On a separate note: I am HEALING...and can tell a huge difference in my energy level.  I can go all day without having to lay in bed from pain.  I am even awake now when my husband gets home from work.  I didn't last that long before.  I am daily returning to my normal tasks and routines more and more and I can't tell you how amazing that feels.  I REJOICE in laundry, carpooling, and the daily grind.   I count my blessings that I can do them.  For so long these past two years...I couldn't!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tender...tender mercies

We made dinner for a friend this week and a very special experience happened when dropping it off.  My youngest was playing with their daughter that is the same age.  They are really good friends.  She sat down beside her friend and quietly asked, "have you been praying for my mom, because she really needs it?"  Her friends said she hadn't but was so glad I am starting to feel better.  My little one grabbed her hand and said, " than lets say a prayer for her right now."  These two 4 year olds stopped playing and said a prayer for ME...and asked our Heavenly Father that I will have no more cancer, no more surgeries, no more chemo, and no more hospitals...that my stomach will feel better, that I won't have anymore big "owies", and that I can be a Mom again.

This is part of the reason I can honestly say cancer has become a blessing.  To witness this powerful testimony of prayer...by a 4 year old...who knows to kneel and ask her Lord for help in the thing that is upsetting her world the most.  She KNOWS he hears our prayers...and she doesn't skip a day without asking for his help.  (and apparently doesn't let her friends skip any days either.)  She somehow has the patience to know that not all prayers are answered immediately or on our time.  Her simple, yet profound faith is an example to me. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Dr. weighed in...

First of all, I have to tell you that I am getting stronger each day.  This has definitely been my slowest recovery, but I think it is to be expected with all my body has been through.  Yesterday I made dinner for my family...and even homemade bread. (which was huge for me.)  I am pushing myself as far as I can daily and can't wait to report to you that I'm fully back.  I'm trying...so hard!!

As you know...they did find more cancer with the last surgery.  It was on my uteris (which was removed with several other organs)...but it was good sized and went undetected by my doctor because it was hiding under SO much scar tissue.  The inside of my abdomen is covered in 3rd degree burns from heated chemo and other treatments...so there is TONS of scarring all over inside.  There is a chance that was the only cancer there...but the likelihood is not in my favor.  I had been waiting on my oncologist to tell me if more chemo was needed. 

I had my appt and he was so kind, but explained that there wasn't anything left to give me right now.  We tried several different regimens already and I already had a reoccurrence, so he had no evidence that it did any good.  I was bummed as you might guess, but I am at peace with it.  I feel deep in my heart that I have more time...and  I pray that during that time other treatments will be discovered.  I have an orphan cancer, though...and there aren't many patients diagnosed with it.  That means that there aren't really any clinical trials to develope treatments.  I have heard rumor of one that is lacking funding...and is specifically for appendix cancer.  I am working to organize a run that will benefit that clinical trial.  The efforts could very well save MY life...  You will definitely be hearing more about that as it evolves.  Thanks again for all of the support.

to quote a legend that lost her battle to appendix cancer...the beautiful Audrey Hepburn.

Friday, November 11, 2011

With Gratitude

Our Thoughts go to those that have paid the price to allow my children to live in freedom. 
"A nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure."
-President Abraham Lincoln



Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Musings of an ambitious Child...

My 8 year old is awesome and fills my life with so much joy.  Today I couldn't help but to laugh as a scene unfolded.  Maybe you will find this funny...or maybe it's just me. 

All day she was practicing writing stories in pig latin.  I thought it was cute and was just glad she was practicing writing.  Then she explained that she was working really hard to memorize pig latin, because she wanted to be a teacher in a pig latin school when she grew up.  I smiled...and was so proud of her ambitions.  Then I had to deflate her dream and tell her pig latin was a made up language for fun.  She was bummed...then I saw her in her room throwing away her stories and flashcards.  It sure was a fun idea for an afternoon, though...and it made me smile.  Cheers to pig latin!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Living with Cancer...

http://www.tri-cityherald.com/2011/10/31/1699617/faces-of-cancer-fighting-for-your.html
I got to be part of an article written to end the newspaper's month of "faces with cancer." This was focused on living with cancer.  I wasn't pictured because our schedules conflicted...but I felt grateful to be included.

 It has been interesting to think afterward of what I reallly should have said and what living with cancer really means to me.  Most of my ephiphanies come in the middle of the night when everyone else is sleeping and I can't...when my body hurts each time I move and my mind is weighed down with too many things to allow me to sleep. I don't remember them all right now, but here are a few that are in my mind. 
 
For me, living with cancer means:  
A lifetime of doctors appointments...and hanging on each word they say as their words determine my future.
Always holding a dark umbrella, but making extra effort to not live in it's shadow.
Being aware of every single minute in my life...and accountable for it.
ALWAYS keeping my focus on the sunshine...even in the dark.
Letting go of independence and relying on others for help with everything when needed.
Cherishing each gift life has to offer...and the simplest often mean the most or would be the most missed.
Not allowing petty things to ruin my day/relationship...because time is so valuable.
Being able to turn EVERYTHING in your life over to the Lord.
PATIENCE...on SO many levels!
Knowing that sometimes there is no way of fixing it.
Learning how to say "no" in life...and focusing all energy and time on what's most important.
Realizing that health is much deeper than physical appearance...looking healthy doesn't mean being healthy.
Being BRAVE even when you really want to curl up and cry.
Sharing love and kindness when you can...for no reason.  Becasuse it has meant the world to me.
Pressing forward in FAITH and HOPE... NOT FEAR...and knowing that I've done everything I can do.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Today I woke up to the most AMAZING snuggles from my little one...and I felt so much stress, fear, and worry just melt away.  She seems to know exactly when I'm needing it...and she held me close with our eyelashes touching and I just wanted to pause life...and not let that moment go.  Last night I loved watching my oldest giggle to the point where she couldn't breath as she told me the cheesiest halloween jokes ever that she learned from school.  She said she was practicing them so that she could make me laugh...and she did...I laughed until I was pretty sure I ripped something inside.  I didn't feel well at all yesterday, but I barely remember that... These are the moments I cherish!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

not pretty...I know...but I am not ashamed. It goes much lower than you can see here...but this is what is on the outside...the worse is inside the abdomen...but luckily we can't see that!

I read this in a book recently and wrote down the quote...
"A scar does not form on the dying...it means you survived!"  (from a book called Little Bee)

Can't see the sun, but can totally feel it's rays!

Sorry I haven't posted in so long.  Healing is like a dance...quick step forward, a few slow steps back, step to the side... and back again.  The music kept going...and days were passing.  I am rehearsing a new dance now and I am so grateful. The beat is slow...but steady.  Small step forward..sway to the music...small step forward...and repeat.  Yes...you get my drift.  There is actual forward momentum and I pray it continues.  I am out of my bed more and can come downstairs and get a change of scenery from my bedroom.  I have more energy...and I can see light at the end of the tunnel!

Sunday I got to visit with old friends from dental school we hadn't seen in years.  They stopped by from out of state and I was so nervous...but I was able to visit most of the day.  I also got to finally meet a new friend that has shared support through my blog and I was so grateful to embrace my new friend.  I am embarrassed that people have to see me this way.  I did get out of pj's...and tried to look somewhat normal.  I am slow...my movement is awkward and limited...my conversations are slow and scattered...but hopefully everyone understands.  It is part of healing... and I am finally healing. 

There was a miracle last week that I would feel ungrateful if I didn't share.  I was starting another abcess.  I knew what it was because I had one last year at after a similiar surgery.  It was setting me back badly because of the pain and kept me in bed non stop.  I went to the dr and they could feel it.  Almost the size of a tennis ball under my incision in the middle.  It hurt, and hurt, and hurt each time I moved any part of my body.  That night I prayed and begged the Lord to take it away...just because the last time I had an abcess the dr. that drained it made a HUGE error that almost ended my life.  I don't think it would happen again, but it was my most recent experience and terrified me.  I went in the next day for a ct scan...and the results showed no mass there.  It was gone except for a bit of inflamed tissue that was much smaller.  I believe in prayer.  I know the Lord doesn't always answer that way or take away our trials...but this time he did...and I am so grateful.  I am back on track to heal as I should...and I am grateful for miracles.  They didn't end in Biblical days...there are modern miracles daily...I have witnessed many and I am so grateful.  Many things in my life are broken...but my faith is whole and gives me so much hope.

Thank you all for your individual efforts and kindness you have shown to my family and I.  Please know that your caring about my story...your prayers, thoughts, calls, cards, visits, comments, meals, and so much more have meant the world to me.  You make me smile everyday and have made cancer a blessing.  I have never before felt so loved!  Thank you!!!

Monday, October 10, 2011

I can do this...

I came home from the hospital a week ago and I am dissapointed to say that I have made no progress.  I am stuck right now.  I was getting worse earlier in the week because of rampant fevers and infection, but got new medicines last friday that should help.  I am no longer slipping backwards, but am feeling frustrated that I am not moving forward either.  I can't tell you how hard it is to have weeks slip away where you haven't been able to participate in life.  Please note: This hasn't even been a fraction of as long as the other times I have been laid up, but after all of them, I am just done being bedriden...and I'm SO ready to heal.  I wish I had more control over my body right now, but I DON'T.  These times where I feel so powerless are those that allow me to communicate so honestly with my maker.  He has been beside me each step of my life..but I have recognized his presence so strongly as my health has failed. 

This morning I was feeling down when my girls were going off to school in mismatched outfits and crazy hair.  It takes so little energy just to pick out clothes and fix their hair, but I didn't even have that much.  I wanted to shower, but I am just too weak...and I was just hurting...every part of my body seems to be hurting.  I had a moment of feeling sorry for myself wondering why I had to do this again... and then it was over.  I was overwhelmed with what I could best explain as a ray of sunshine.  It put a smile on my face and reminded me to keep that smile.  Smiling along each step of the journey is what has allowed me to get through all the hell of the last to years.  This surgery and recover is ROUGH...but nothing compared to what I've been through.  I just think my body is tired.  So, I gave it a pep talk...and my smile is back and bigger than ever.  I am making post it notes of postivie affirmations for my bedroom... and I'm counting my blessings that this soon will be over.  Already I feel stronger..and I am at least out of bed and sitting at the computer writing this.

Friday, October 7, 2011

IV's and help

The last two days just felt like I was stepping backward and feeling pretty crummy.  I finally got a hold of my surgeon and he ordered bloodwork and cultures on the fluid that has been accumulating and draining everyday.  I ended up getting an IV infusion of some antibiotics to start helping as they were very confident that my abdominal cavity was severely infected again.(the cultures will come in by Monday...but they didn' t want to wait and have me crash worse.)  I wish I could have taken notes, but the dr. explained to me how my insides are just so prone to infection post surgery because of the compartmentalization that has occurred because of scar tissue and adhesions all over.  It doesn't make sense as I type tonight, but helped me to see what might be going on inside.  I am so grateful for a caring oncologist.  They kept 4 staff members on after 6 on a friday evening when they had already closed just to help me.  If not, I would have been admitted to the hospital to receive the same tests, iv's, and care, but I would have had to stay at least through the weekend.  I ended up covered in hives from the antibiotic, but they fixed that, too...and I am starting to feel better already just a couple hours later.  I sure hope this makes a difference and helps me start really healing.  I have some truly wonderful doctors that are on my team and was so grateful for their time tonight.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Home again, Home again...Jiggety jig!

Scavenger Hunt was a success.  Addie was
terrified to crawl into my bed previous to this surgery.
Despite fevers and a bit of uncertainty, they doctor released me and I have slept in my own bed the last two nights.  Yehaw!  I was even cleared to shower (which felt amazing!)  There are no vampires sneaking in to take my blood in the middle of the night, no IV alarms going off at random times all day needing assistance, no more sponge baths by grumpy CNA's that don't really enjoy scrubbing my unreachables (yes, I am still feeling a bit rejected by a few of them.)  I am in my bed and have slept much better.  I still might need additional help if these fevers don't clear up, but I was happy for a break.  Being home is always an amazing milestone after surgery...but is harder than it sounds.  Just getting up and downstairs to fill up my water is a daunting task.  My bed is also much higher than most and feels like it engages every core muscle that was sliced just to awkwardly crawl in.  You'd think I'd have that figured out by surgery #12, but it is always hard.  I do think I am getting around a bit better than the others though.  I had tried to stay so active up until the day of my surgery because I could...and pushed through the pain. I think it is helping my recovery already.  They left a drain in the lower left area of my abdomen that is producing quite a bit of fluid and is the most awkward strap on drain that I have ever worn.  I will try to post a pic in the morning.

So many other things are on my mind...but battling cancer is much more than just chemo or those tag words you hear about so often.  My most important part of the battle is TODAY and is healing from THIS surgery and not letting small complications retell my story as they have threatened to do in the past.  I'm so disappointed that the Dr. missed a HUGE chance to do the heated chemo...but I have so much hope that amazing things are on the horizon.  I'm enjoying today...taking it one step at a time. (literally..)  I picture myself where I want to be in a few months.  I visualize my kids and I making crafts and laughing together, I picture my next doubles match in tennis and can't wait to swing my raquet.  I see myself walking with my family as the crisp fall approaches.  I see myself back to running the soccer carpools and teaching my primary kids music on Sundays. I can't wait to be back in my life doing what I love.  These chances where that is taken from me always remind me to fully appreciate each day...each moment. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Hospital Day 10:

Hospital Day 10: I'm excited for my family to come see me today. I'm trying to sweet-talk a nurse to help me wash my hair and give me a sponge bath. :) I'd do it myself, but I hurt pretty horrible still. They had to remove my epidural too early because of an infection in the spine...and they haven't figured out a reasonable pain control method since. I'm just trying to roll with the punches. My abdomen is swollen and is persistently making insane amounts of fluid. The small drain is trying to keep up, but it feels like I am going to rip my stiches from the pressure from the fluid. We aren't sure again what is causing that. I have had it for over a year, but now the drs. get a better firsthand look.


I'm still running constant fevers which are not good. Obvoiusly a sign of an infection somewhere...but which one. We don't know yet. Last year I was running fevers and had an abcess after this same surgery.  A radiologist went to drain it and missed the abcess completely, but stuck a drain in my intestines (that had already been cut on 5 times plus burned and poisoned)..so another emergency surgery was tried by my intenstines and stomach opening couldn't even be stitched closed. My skin and tissues where too compomised to even hold a simple stitch. It was so gross. You could see all the way to the inside of my intestines by looking in my stomach. If I coughed...it would shoot out of my abdomen and spray the wall. (sorry...there were worse stories...so be glad I chose the "safer" flashbacks.) It started a cycle of fighting for my life. I was 88 lbs, on a feeding tube, wound vac, borderline comatose, and almost lost my battle to a stupid abcess. Sorry for the long rant, but the Dr's think I have another one. You see why that makes me a bit nervous. I'm sure the darn fever I've had all week is from something else...pneumonia sounds good. That is their next best guess. Please just not another abcess. 
 
There is probably more I should write, but my thoughts are on my kids coming.  This has always been a very scary place for both of them...and most of the time I was too critical for them to come anyway.  I want to make this fun.  I have gathered strange goodies from around the hospital and am making them a treasure hunt with clues that will take us around the floor of the hospital I am stuck on...but also am going to do a photo scavenger hunt around my room and the winner gets to cuddle with me for extra time. cheezy,  yes...but I want my kids to be distracted by games and just feel more comfortable and natural here than the past.  I hope it works.  Addie is terrified of hospital beds and always worries that she will hurt me.  If I can get her to snuggle a bit in my hospital bed, than that will be great.  I'll let you know how it goes.  I need to go make my clues and start hiding them.  I'm back in my blogging groove...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

More CaNcEr!

Yes...there is a very long, upsetting story behind it, but pathology came back yeterday and there was more cancer hidden in scar tissue.  They found a good sized tumor on my uteris wall, but knowing the Dr.didn't see this means that we have no idea what else is out there either.  It makes me VERY nervous.  Based on the size, it would appear that this tumor survived the heated chemo the first time and grew in scar tissue.  My abodmen is FULL of scar tissue...so I have to admit,  I am brokenhearted at the thought of what else might be looming.

Also, the reason I did this surgery was to do a needed hysterectomy , eliminate the pain I've been n the last months, remove any cancer found and most importantly...DO THE HEATED CHEMO...which is an amazing resource and has the potential to save my life.  I'm so grateful fo the hysterectomy, because that is how they found this hidden tumor.  But I am disheartened that the dr. missed the opportunity to make a big difference in my battle with this pesky disease.  Thanks for your continued prayers and thoughts!  I continue to feel so blessed despite the unending trials. Our life experience is largely a matter of our perspective, isn't it?  My process remains...each time a new trial is dumped on you...find the silver lining, no matter how small or descrete.  There will ALWAYS be one.  I am going to go find mine right now.  Thanks again to each of you!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wed Morning

       Shanda has now been in the hospital for six days and unfortunately we are now seeing some post surgery complications.  Recent blood work has not been favorable and will possibly require some blood transfusions for Shanda.  The epidural that was placed in her spine seems to be sliding out, and therefore making it more difficult to control Shanda's pain.  They are trying to get that resolved, but Shanda has moments of severe pain because of it. Poor thing.  She has had a fever on and off and now her belly seems to be building up with fluid.  That same fluid that required her to have a major surgery last August.  So that is a little concerning.  We don't know why its happening.  She is keeping a good spirit and remains upbeat and positive.  She is a fighter.  Hopefully this will be just some minor bumps in the road, but please continue to keep Shanda in your thoughts and prayers.

Larry

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday Morning


Well, it's time for another update. Shanda is continues to improve daily, I'm so proud of the progress she has made.  The very first night she was here was a night she would not like to repeat.  When she came back from surgery, she was very comfortable, but maybe a little too comfortable.  The epidural was too strong and the numbness in her body was climbing up to her chest, which slowed her breathing down.  They completely stopped the epidural for one hour, and thats when the hell started for Shanda.  One can understand how painful it must have been, hours out of surgery, not to have pain medication.  Poor shanda suffered the next 10 hrs while the nurses tried to get her pain under control.  Of course she didn't get any sleep and was just miserable.  Well, here we are two days later, and things are much better.  Her pain management is under control, and she is eager for the next step- "Get the dang tube out f my nose" .

Because her bowels are asleep, she is given a long tube that goes up her nose and down her throat to the stomach.  I know what you are thinking , I want one of those too.  Anyway, as you can imagine, Shanda hates this thing, her throat hurts, she can't talk, and is constantly thirsty ( no liquids until it is out).  MISERY is the best word I can come up with.  So, until her bowels wake up, that stays in.  Dr says the more she walks around, the quicker her bowels wake up and the dang tube can come out... so, she walks a TON, I love it, it is so who she is.  She gets something in her mind, and does anything to get it accomplished.  She is wearing me out with all the walking, but well worth it.  We do laps around the hospital floor 2-3 times per day, even in the middle of the night.  I love her.  We just saw the Dr and he listened to her bowels and he is hoping to pull the tube out tomorrow, so we will wait and see.

This is our third major surgery and visit to this Hospital in Spokane.  She is usually here for a couple weeks at a time, so nurses around here start to look familiar.  They all know Shanda  and remember her very well from past visits.  They just love her.  They appreciate her upbeat personality and great positive spirit.  Shanda definitely sticks out on this floor, she is by far the youngest patient, (not a lot of cancer patients at 32), she loves to talk to everybody, and people just gravitate towards her.  It has been fun to see her interactions with staff and other patients.  I'm so proud to call her my wife.

Anyway, gotta go, more will come.

Larry

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Day one recovery

I'm not much of a blogger, but I'll do my best to explain what is going on. Shanda got out of surgery last night and we received the best possible news... NO CANCER FOUND!!! With all that had been going on the past six months with the severe pain, fluid build up in her abdomen, and just not a good overall feeling, we went into this surgery scared, heck, I was scared out of my mind. So to get this news, what a relief, what a miracle!!!!!! Our wonderful Dr did perform a hysterecomty ( which we expected), I can never imagine as a women how that must feel to have that done, but Shanda handled it very well. It was definitely a very difficult choice for her to make, but it had to be done. We have two beautiful girls and couldn't be happier. There was also tons of adhesions and scarring that the Dr also removed. Those adhesions, in addition to the softball size cyst on her remaining ovary, were most likey causing her severe pain and fluid build up. Most importantly, the Dr looked everywhere for any possible cancer lesions or tumors... and found nothing. YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

She is still left with a huge incision and a long recovery, but we are so greatful for all those who kept Shanda in their prayers. We have been blessed beyond

measure. We are hoping for a speedy recovery and zero complications. My wife is amazing, and the strongest person I know, I am so proud of her. Thank you all again. I will keep you posted.

Larry

Thursday, September 22, 2011

It begins...

I'm now on clear liquids and get the pleasure of starting a bowel prep. I check in at noon but will have the surgery tomorrow around 3pm. The dr will follow my same huge incision down my stomach and will cut out any tumors or anything that looks cancerous. He will drain the ascites (fluid) that has been building up again..and will send all of that off for pathology. He will also remove tons of adhesions and do a full hysterectomy this time. (I put it off as long as I could...and I am so sad about this...but has to be done now.) The Dr. will await pathology and decide if I need the Heated chemo pumped inside again or what else needs removed. The heated chemo is SO hard on the organs and abdomen. It basically creates severe burning on everything it touches and causes so much trauma. That is why it won't be used unless necessary. I know some peole had asked me why not just do it anyway.

Other than the hysterectomy, I have done this surgery 2ce before...and unfortunately KNOW all that can happen. I am trying to slow my mind from having flashbacks of all of the times I was hanging on for life after the last one. Not because of cancer, but because of surgical complications, etc. I coded the first time I had this surgery and was found in my room with no pulse by the cna trying to get my blood pressure. That was insanely scary...and I'd rather not repeat it. The last time I had this surgery, I tanked about a week in and had so many blood transfusions and ended up on a feeding tube and in serious condition for months. But whatever it is...I will do it. I'll do it 50 more times if I need to. I take one look at my girls and know I would do ANYTHING for the chance to raise them. I have to say, though...that I think I would rather NOT know what I am getting myself into. Oh well. :)

I am SO humbled and grateful for yor prayers. Thank you! Thank you! Please also pray for my doctors that they will be able to be alert, thorough, and that they will be guided to do what is needed and make sound decisions. My amazing mom will be taking care of my girls and Larry will be updating you from the hospital as it unfolds.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Surgery Delayed until Friday

The Dr. needs to move my surgery that was scheduled for tomorrow. The lady getting hers done tomorrow is in serious trouble if she waits...I remember being in the same position with the same surgeon last year. I'm frustrated because I have waited months now and am in constant pain...but I am counting my blessings that I am not the one needing the "emergency" surgery to save my life this time. Thanks again for your prayers and amazing support.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A beautiful song about the cancer experience...

It only takes a few minutes to listen to, but the words parallel my story so much. I love it! (Thanks Robin for sharing this with me)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

This Makes me Happy...and She's mine!

And this is my new Kayak...Just looking at it makes me happy!  I feel so lucky I got the chance to try this amazing sport this summer.


Living it up and facing fears...

 The last year and a half of my life, fear has been such a HUGE part of my life.  Not that I dwell on it, but there is a mean cycle of scary "what if's" that can occur with a cancer diagnosis.  What they find more?  What if they can't remove it?  What if the chemo doesn't work?  What if this surgery ends up as bad as the last one? What if I dont make it?  What if my girls lose their mom? What if..what if..what if? (even lame things like...what if I end up in the hospital and someone has to come take care of my kids and finds my house in such a mess?)  I am always trying to push back the what if's and focus my attention on the awesome things going on around me each day.  I try to listen to every word, enjoy every conversation, savor every laugh, remember every little gesture and expression, internalize the feeling of every hug.  I used to live a very FULL and busy life...and I still do, but now I slow down to notice things so much more meaningful to me (even just in the simple, daily routine.)

I have learned to embrace my fears, but not let them control me.  I have watched some people allow their fears to limit the potential of their lives...and I refuse to do that.  Yes, I am scared...truthfully terrified at what might occur.  I own that...but I don't focus on that at all.  I am overwhelmed by the blessings each day brings and find peace in the hope that I have.  I hope I can mantain that perspective.

On a separate note: We just came back from a fun cruise with my in-laws and many of my husband's siblings.  I pushed back my surgery to be able to go and wasn't sure I was going to make it because of pain.  I ended up giving in and getting help.  I don't like pain meds because I have seen so many people get addicted...so I usually avoid them.  I needed to go and have fun for my kids..and the meds made that possible.

We had a wonderful time and made awesome memories.  It was the perfect thing to do before the next surgery.  It was an extention of my new focus on LIVNG.  My husband and I faced fears of a lesser type...but we parasailed (I am terribly afraid of heights.)...and we both sang karaoke (which is NOT our thing.).  Random, I know...but they were two new experiences we can say we did.  My kids both parasailed also...which was awesome.  My 4 year old was fear less and wanted to hang upside-down in her harness.  We danced,ATE, saw Dolphins, snorkeled, ATE, swam, played, went to a water park, watched fun shows, played games, entered funny tournaments on the boat, ATE, laughed, and much more.  It was a great trip.  We even rented a car and went to see the home my husband grew up in on our way to the airport going home.  We crammed fun into every minute possible.  It was perfect!  


Aana got picked out of the audience to help with the dolophin show.

Almost all of Larry's immediate family
Crazy Cousins that made the trip so FUN for my kids!

All of us that went on the cruise on a water taxi going snorkeling.


My Mother In Law and Some Sis in Laws

Saturday, September 3, 2011

SO true!

Aana's first day of school

This girl LOVES school and couldn't wait to get back. I miss her already.  Addie starts preschool again next week.

I have SO much to blog...but for today...

I wanted to show you that we are enjoying every last minute of warm, summer weather together as a family...and we cherish those moments. 

Since my kayaking retreat...I've been hooked and am trying to get my family involved.

I went by myself to Hood River, OR and did a girls whitewater kayaking trip to try it again before I took the plunge and bought a boat.  And I loved it even more!
 I have so many pics to post and most are on other memory cards..but we have been camping, floating the river, bowling, riding bikes, playing games, reading books, laughing, hula hooping, pretending to be pirates, snuggling...and living it up.  We have truly made the most of our summer together. I love being a mom!

On a more serious note: There are 17 more days until my next big surgery in spokane.  I many of you think that I am recovered and doing well.  I am doing so much better than I was, but in truth, I am hurting badly. I just don't want to let that stop me from enjoying my time with my family...so I am trying to push through it. I have been in a LOT of pain.  It frequently has me doubled over where I can't move and takes my breath away.  It is sharp, near constant, and in my lower abdomen.  I have had to give in and rely on pain meds so I don't have to lay in bed all day.  I can hurt in bed...or I can live.  I am trying to just keep moving... my kids have seen me sick enough.  I have never been excited for surgery before, but I am for this one.  I am hoping it will help with the pain.  I don't want to start the cycle over again that happened last year, but I can't keep hurting like this...so I pray that they can fix it.  My hope is that the pain is somehow from all of the trauma in my abdomen...and not a symptom of cancer.  We are planning to do the heated chemo again if needed and I will be opened all the way up again.  I am grateful the dr. will be able to look again in every nook and cranny inside and see if anything has grown or spread.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

We are packing for another little family trip.  My last outing before a long hospital stay.  I better go for now.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

First Descents = Pure amazingness!


 Last week was a life changing for me. I signed up for what I thought was going to be "cancer camp" and came home with a whole new perspectice on life. It was a blast...but more than that...it was an experience that I hope will help shape my path in the future. I was there with 14 other cancer survivors...several amazing volunteers...an Emmy winning camera crew...and a phenominal staff. I was pushed far outside my comfort zone...faced fears (over and over), tested the physical limits of my cancer riddled body, enjoyed nature, had a blast, and was inspired on SO many levels. I felt ALIVE...and it was wonderful!!!
I can't tell you what a blessing that is. There were athletes all around that beat cancer and took control back of their body and lives...and push themselves to accomplish amazing things. I am inspired by their courage and fortitude. I have faced my trials...but have to admit, that I felt physically much weaker than I used to. I learned that is all in my head...and I am going to start training for big events of my own.
Who cares that I can't feel my legs?.. or that I'll be in the hospital for another huge surgery next month.
This is MY life... I can't "pause" life to heal...my life is NOW...every moment counts.
I have SO many thoughts and so much to say, but am packing to go take my girls camping.
My ramblings will continue...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

All I can say is...WOW!

I have SO much that I can't wait to write about but until I get home, but I am having the time of my life.  This is truly the most amazing experience I have ever had! Whitewater kayaking rocks... I'm HOOKED!!!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

I'M DOING IT!!!

I fly out in the morning...to an amazing ranch between Vail and Apen, CO...and will train all week with the top whitewater kayakers in the world.  It is through an amazing young adult cancer program called FIRST DESCENTS.  Day one after breakfast we'll be learning to roll and taking on the river...and it will be full speed ahead from there.  Fun will be hiking, horseback riding, and more.  I can't tell you how excited I have been since I was accepted into this program.  I don't know anyone that has ever done it.  No doctors ever told me about it.  I found it about 6 months ago through a web search and a series of links.  It happened to have been the week before they started taking applications.  I feel like I was led to it...and the timing was perfect...so that I actually got in!!!  More tender mercies...
(here is the link and video I posted before...but it gives you an idea of what I am doing...)
http://www.firstdescents.org/

I wasn't sure I could go with recent events...but I met with my surgical oncologist Thursday and begged him to wait.  Due to logisitical issues we can't do it until Sept. 21st...but it gives me time to get ready.  ALL of my other surgeries have been emergency surgeries.  I feel quietly relieved that he is letting me wait.   It will be similar to my other huge ones...and we will be ready to do the heated chemo again as well if they find more cancer involvement.  The incision will be the same huge one I have had... and it will be in spokane again.  All the same, except one crucial thing...I am SO much stronger this time.  It will brutal and another long hospitalization...but I've done it before...and will do it again.  I'll update more later but need to finish packing.  My pain isn't going to stop me from taking on the Colorado river...and I AM SO EXCITED!!!!!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Another Surgery...

 I don't know the dates or details yet as my oncologist and surgeon are working that out.   They did an outpatient procedure with an injection yesterday to shut down my remaining ovary.  We are hoping that decrease the pain while I await surgery.  I am trying to put it off so that I can go on the cancer survivors kayaking retreat I mentioned.  I am supposed to leave next Sunday...and despite pain....I WANT TO GO SO BADLY~

My CT was inconclusive (as expected) regarding any cancer involvement...but showed large cysts(over 2 inches) again on my ovary and a few other things that need to come out.  Last August I was taken in for emergency surgery because of ascites and severe ovary pain. That was the beginning of a pretty bad spiral that I barely made it through.  It sounds routine, but my body is so ravaged inside that it isn't a small surgery like it would be for someone else.  That is typically done laparoscopic, but I am no longer a candidate for those because of all the scarring and chaos in  my abdomen.   I will likely be cut open following my larger scar from breast area to pubic bone as usual.  I will know for sure next week.  I was supposed to have a total hysterectomy with my first heated chemo super surgery, but after coersion the doctor allowed me to keep those organs in the miracle chance that I might heal enough to have another child someday.  With all that has happened, that is no longer an option and it is a sore loss for our family.  We consider ourselves so blessed to have the amazing girls that we do.   In an effort to save my ovaries from the cancer, the surgeon sliced off the entire outside (or peeled) them and then poured the heated chemo on them that caused severe burns.  THey have tried to heal, but the damage was too great.  I tried to keep them... obvoiusly shouldn't have.  I am so glad I am stronger now than the last time I had surgery.  I will let you know the details as they evolve.  We will not know if there is more cancer until the surgery, after the pathology is determined.  I am convinced there won't be cancer...and that this is just another bump in my road to recovery.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

If you don't mind...

I would really appreciate your prayers.  Tomorrow is a big day full of lots of Ct scans, tests and another draining of the stomach fluid (ascites)that has been filling up my abdomen.  The last few months, my stomach has been growing and is full of fluid again...looking similiar to pregnancy.  It has grown quite a bit in the last week since I got sick...and the pain is near constant now. 

I have been trying to keep my fears on the down low... but I am really starting to try to mentally prepare myself for what is next.  They will drain the fluid again and test it for malignancy.  We don't know the cause of it.  Last August I had it really bad and was taken in for emergency surgery that I barely made it out of.  It is typically caused by cancer...but we can't seem to find where it is.  It is usually produced by the liver, but mine seems to be produced lower by my remaining ovary or something around it.  Organs don't typicaly weep...this is a bit exteme, but my abdomen has endured severe trauma.  I hope that is the cause.  That's also where the pain is centralized.  It is a deep, sharp pain that often takes away my breath and stops me in my tracks. I know it isn't normal...and I need to get it fixed.  My cancer usually spreads on the outside of organs and shuts them down...this feels much deeper.  The difference in the pain worries me in all honesty.  I am still very hopeful and know I will WIN this darn battle.  I have to admit, though, that I feel like I am possibly at the beginning a scary cycle again.  If you can remember, please keep me in your prayers.   I will share the results as soon as they are known.  My mind is FULL of positive self talk. Here we go!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Just thinking...

Another experience I had today.  I was talking with a group of ladies and I had a conversation so seeped in irony that it made me think.  One insisted that she will never go to church because she doesn't like feeling pressured to service others or to give anything of herself.  She said she does enough for her kids...and that there was no way she would give more to church. I had never heard such calloused selfish declarations before...it was strange.  My heart pounded and I knew I needed to say something  but I wasn't sure what to say.

I explained in the best way I could that my faith has added so much to my life.  Giving of myself to others has been such a source of joy and true happiness to me.  It is what has kept my mind off my own trials and frustrations.  I recognize the Lord's hand each day in my life.  She spoke with such an attitude of indifference that it made me sad for her...but as she kept talking she explained how she struggles deeply with depression,   I wish she could understand that charity and following Christ are such a source of joy. Not the fleeting joy that is felt by superficial worldly things...but true, lasting joy.  My faith doesn't mean that my life will be easy each day, perfect, or without trial...it just means I will know my purpose and feel his support during those trials.  I know without doubt that the Lord didn't make us and send us to Earth just to have fun...live a little, and die.  Our universe has too much brilliant organization and order for life to be so haphazard and so senseless.  I know our lives have purpose.  I am so grateful for that knowledge.  Our conversation was brief...most of the "aha" moments were in my head as I listened to her.

Fantastic Day!

Sometimes I have wonderful moments that I think I will never forget.  Today I wanted to record this one so that I don't forget it.  (I was hurting all morning pretty badly, but decided to try to play tennis anyway.  I have figured out that if I keep myself moving and as busy as possible, sometimes what I am doing can overshadow the pain.)  Anyway...

I was a FUN doubles match of tennis...the court to the right of me had Aana playing with friends of hers.   I could hear her laughing...and saw a big grin on her face.  Addie was on the players bench cheering me on and making sign language "I love you" signs each time I looked at her.  It is a moment that I felt truly ALIVE.  I have a lot of those...and don't want to ever take them for granted. 

Treasure those simple moments...think about the abundance of things that make you smile each day.  Count your blessing.  I am... and I hope I always DO! :)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

It won't slow me down...

But I should tell you that the pain I have been having the past few months has increased.  It is near constant, but often takes my breath away and completely stops me in my tracks.  I have had tests that are inconclusive.  A likely cause is cancer, but...it could be from extreme trauma to my abdominal cavity...a ton of surgery, boiling chemo poured in creating 3rd degree burns on every surface, iv chemo pumped inside, adhesions galore, more surgery, cancer...etc.  The pain is located in the same area where the fluid (ascites) has been building up.  It isn't as large as last sept when I looked so pregnant, but it is definitely there.    Please continue to keep me in your prayers.  I have felt the power of prayer and witnessed its miracles.  I continue to press forward with GREAT HOPE...and am living my life to the fullest each day.  I know each day is a gift...and that perspective has changed everything.   I have more ct scans and tests early in July.  For now, I am trying to gain strength and health so that my body will be ready if I need surgery again.  I hurt...but feel SO much better than I did 6 months ago.  I am not writing this to complain...just to keep you updated.  I'm still raising my own kids.  I'm NOT in a hospital.  I'm not on a feeding tube.  I'm not hooked to iv's.  I'm not on chemo.  And I'm STILL playing tennis.   I am so LUCKY!!!

Monday, June 20, 2011

And they NEVER told me...

Most of you probably don't know this, but when we lived in Cleveland, OH...we spent 2 years living as some of the ONLY "Gentiles" in an exclusively Hacidic (or Orthodox) Jewish neighborhood.  We adored living there! 
They were clean, respectful, fantastic neighbors.  We loved learning about their culture and religion.  They firmly followed their beliefs...and people from all around would come to our neighborhood after sundown on Friday evenings to Saturday evening (which was their sabbath.)  This picture isn't the best...but is what we saw from our front windows each day.  On their Sabbath they couldn't drive, or even close their car doors.   You would see them walking to temple in groups.  The men in black suits, with black kaftans (or top hats), and long beards.  When you saw the women, they would have their hair covered, or wear a wig...with long skirts and sleeves.  They strongly valued their modesty.  They walked several times a day to temple and study of the ancient scrolls in Hebrew. They couldn't cook on the Sabbath... or turn on their heaters, or even turn on or off a light.  (Their lights would be in timers or they had blackening shades they would put on lamps so that they didn't break their rules.)  They loved having token "gentiles" (US) nearby...because if something needed done on their Sabbath...they would call us.  It gave us many opportunities to see firsthand how they lived.  They would have their Shabbat dinner like clockwork on Friday evenings...and you could see them from through their front windows going through their ceremonies.  We were invited several times and it was a wonderful experience. 
Passover and other holidays were simply amazing and I will have to post later to explain it all.  There are times of the year like Sukkot that they have to build Sukkahs (temporary shelters like forts) and live in them for 7 days to commemorate the forty-year period during which the children of Israel were wandering in the desert, living in temporary shelters.   When we first moved in...no one warned us what was going on and I woke up one day thinking I was in a dream.  It is hard to explain how unique this subculture was.   I could go on an on about this... but...We gained such respect for them and the adherence to their faith...and I think they gained the same respect for our faith and devotion.
ANYWAY...as much as we were around the Orthodox Jews and spent time with them...none of them ever told me what my names means to Jewish people.  I just learned by chance that a "Shanda" is a shame of great proportions."   Awesome.  I now am trying to remember if they ever laughed behind my back.  How come they never told me.  That is worse than having spinach stuck between my front teeth at a dinner party.

Grateful for Good men in my life...


I am grateful for a good husband, who works hard, but is a fun, caring father.  My girls adore him and he is smitten by them.   I think Larry had a good Father's Day.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Shattering the Illusion that cancer makes people Fragile...

I just got my plane ticket and I am offically going to a week long young cancer survivors kayaking retreat in Vail, Co.  It is through an amazing organization called First Descents.  I was accepted a few months ago, but worried that I might not have the health to be able to go.  I decided I'm going...positive thoughts!

Here is their story: n 2001, ten young adults took to the rivers of Colorado in whitewater kayaks. For seven days, they learned the basics of the sport, eventually conquering Class III rapids before the week’s end. They were there to prove themselves and to prove a point: that cancer, no matter how aggressive, dormant, advanced, or invasive, would never be stronger than they were.

I am going July 31-Aug 6th...and I am nervous, but SO excited.  My body is weakened, but still strong.  It is trying to heal... and has been rallying for me.  This will be something that I do just for me...and I can't wait!!!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

I pulled of a TRUE surprise!

I haven't been blogging much lately, because I have been busy LIVING!  I count my blessings daily for that and so much more!

The last few weeks I have been busy planning a big SURPRISE party for my mom's 50th bday.  She has been my rock this past year and has kept my life running and raised my girls the past year when I wasn't able to.  Her big birthday was the perfect opportunity to show her how much she means to me and so many of her friends.  All of the pictures I took didn't work because in all my preparations...I forgot the memory card in my camera. 

She got out of the car..looked confused, then cried...HAPPY tears.  It was awesome.  I was so grateful that many of her friends were there to make it so special.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Soaking up the Sun...

Can I tell you how amazing it feels to sit and weed my flower beds...hear my kids giggling as they run through the sprinklers...and feel the sun on my face?  Amazing day full of simple pleasures!

I have symptoms returning and am in pain...but compared to last summer...I have no complaints!  Life is GOOD!

Monday, May 30, 2011

So Grateful for our Freedoms!


 And ALL those who have made it possible!


We went to a local cemetery where 1004 flags were out in honor of local veterans who have lost their lives in combat.  My hearts swells when I see our flag flying across a blue sky.  I get teary thinking of all of the sacrifices that have been made for our freedoms.  I am so grateful to be an American~

Metamorposis...and Butterflies!

My oldest has been learning about metamorposis in school, so I decided to order some caterpillars for my girls to watch as they change into butterflies.  They LOVED it.  They would check everyday and Aana would teach us all about the caterpillars.  We learned that caterpillar waste is called "Fras."...and SO much more.  She is reading insect encyclopedias in her free time, so she was full of fun information.  After about a week, they got into their "J" shapes and became a chrysalis.  My girls checked on them several times and day and we were so lucky that we were in the room watching while three of them emerged as butterflies.   They are now outside and hopefully safe.  Do you know butterflies only live a couple of weeks?  That was news to me.
It got me thinking though...about the amazing processes of change that occur in our lives.  In mortality, a large part of our existence is to have experiences, grow, and change.   I have watched some of the most amazing transformations of lives, hearts, attitudes, and more...in my life and those around me.  I am grateful for those experiences that push me out of my comfort zone and cause me to change...and polish my rough edges.  For some reason our family's butterflies reminded me of our potential...as God's children...to grow and learn to fill our roles as the beautiful individuals he knows we can be. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bugz...and Bugs!

 Last week Aana was in a musical at her school called, "Bugz."  They sang, danced, and made us all laugh.  It was great!  All of the kids had to dress up like the bug of their choice.  I thought for sure she would want to be something beautiful like a butterfly, dragonfly or ladybug...but I was WRONG.  She wanted to be a beetle (more specifically a stink bug!)  Kids are SO random!  She stunk (by her own doing) and put a pillow up her back to look like a rounded exoskeleton.  I wasn't sure what else to do for that one. 


Friday, May 20, 2011

Don't let anything stop you from enjoying the sunshine in YOUR life!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Friday, I was given the opportunity to speak to over 500 middle school students and tell them my "survival" story to promote cancer awarenes.  I was asked the day before and had very little time to prepare...but the words just came to me and I think it went well.  Beyond talking about cancer...my goal was to give them all "hope" in their own trials...and remind them that they also can do hard things!

Best Mothers Day gifts ever...


 
Aana wrote this for me and laminated it for Mother's Day.  I LOVED IT!

Outside of Heart Card from Addie

Inside: "Mom, HABE! MOTHERS" (she forgot day)...she spelled it herself. I LOVE phoenetic spelling.