Thursday, June 27, 2013


I always knew that I was surrounded by great people.  But what surprised me is how many great people surrounded me that I didn’t know!  When tragedies happen or difficulties arise, it is such a blessing, but not surprising, when the people who love you rally behind you in a grand measure of support.  That is what true friends do, and it’s amazing to witness. And, boy, has God blessed me with the most amazing friends and family, near and far.  But it completely amazes me when people I’ve never met, or have just met casually, also show me that same support.
I’ve already told you about my Lakeway Fab 5, who daily amaze me with their sincere love and generosity.   But it’s been such a blessing to see that same love come jetting across the miles from California, Rhode Island, Kansas City, Chicago, Virginia, Washington and beyond.  You see, true friendship doesn’t end because your zip code changes.
From the first moments after my diagnosis I was overwhelmed by the show of support.  Cards and gifts flooded my mailbox, each one a sincere expression of love and faith and hope (and even humor), from the depths of their hearts straight to the recesses of mine.  Many of the cards were spiritually uplifting with beautiful scriptures that gave me strength.  Others were just so funny that they brought joy to my newly burdened heart.  There were cards from old friends, new friends, friends of friends, and some that I didn’t know, but now consider them friends even if we never meet.
That first week I received a huge Godiva chocolate gift basked from my dear friend Shelly.  Sometimes chocolate is all you need to feel better (well, it’s all I need anyways).  Shelly knew that was what I needed and that it would put a big smile on my face.  Shelly is a true friend.  That first week I also received two Willow Tree angels from my dear friend Terry.  She sent me the Angel of Hope and the Angel of Healing.  Terry got me started collecting them years ago after she gave me one as a gift.  They just give me joy and each one is a reminder of the things and people that are important.  Terry is my angel here on earth, miles away in Rhode Island, but close in my heart every day.  I also received a wonderful devotional from Margot, too, that keeps me rooted daily in my faith.
But the kindness and generosity have continued to brighten my life.  From my Aunt Claire sending me protein shakes and vitamins to keep me physically strong.  To flowers from Jim and rose to bring me cheer.  To a prayer shawl from the Lakeway Church.  To lunches with Carrie or Kelly.  To a ‘Faith’ bracelet from Chris and a ‘Courage’ bracelet from Heather.  To inspirational books from Becky.  To Ladybug chocolates from Torri. To a bear that sings and dances to 'I Feel Good' from Frank. To phone calls of support from Maggie, a cancer survivor, to let me know she is here to help me any way she can…I’ve met Maggie only once.  I had a friend (Terry) run a half marathon in support of me and her son, Josh, did the Relay for Life in support of me this past Friday.
Will’s Aunt Mary sent me the prayer cards she used as Don (Will’s uncle) fought so bravely and successfully in his very difficult battle with cancer.  I carry those with me to treatment every day.  Will’s parents gave me a beautiful silver and amber cross to commemorate the faith I have to conquer this beast.  My parents and brother have stepped up to help take care of the kids and dog (no small task) as we travel back and forth to Houston.  But the most special gift I’ve received came from Will.  It is a beautiful heart necklace with the word ‘Survivor’ inscribed so delicately on the front.  When I opened the box, tears flooded my eyes and I got a lump in my throat that left me speechless.  Survivor. I felt a moment of pause, not sure that I was worthy of wearing it yet alongside so many people who are truly survivors.  I hadn’t even started treatment after all.  Should I save it and put it on when they tell me once and for all I’m cured?  But I decided that, yes, I am worthy.  For every day I battle this disease, I am surviving.  Not a day (or treatment) goes by that I don’t wear that necklace.  I may not be cured YET, but there is no doubt I’m a SURVIVOR.
Sometimes the most ordinary things (food) can become an extraordinary gift.  And sometimes the most unexpected people can become the greatest of angels.  I had met Melinda a few times at Meghan’s volleyball games, but never had the opportunity for more than casual sporting chit chat.  Meghan had been to their lake house with their daughter (and Meghan adores them both), but we just didn’t cross paths enough to form a bond, even though I could tell she was a special lady.  She proved that to me when out of the blue she called, wanting to talk, to get to know me, to express her concern and offer help to my family.  That first night we really talked, she drove over 15 miles to Austin (at 9:00pm) to buy us groceries for the weekend.  She didn’t want me to worry about shopping for food when we came home on the weekend.  She was so generous and chose such thoughtful items…healthy choices for me and some yummy options for the girls (OK, I might have had an Oreo or two).  She is my grocery fairy!
Then, just this weekend, a friend from Community Bible Study said that they wanted to set up a care calendar for dinners on the weekends.  So, Gina, Candice and Stacy got to work on that and already people (many from CBS) have stepped up to provide amazing dinners for the next several weeks.  And, I must say, I think I’m going to have to up my cooking skills when this is all over to match the quality of meals we’ll be receiving over the next 5 weeks!  Cooking school anyone???
But the generosity abounds, and my dentist, Charley, offered to make me fluoride trays to use.  He knew that I would be needing those to protect my teeth.  I will be losing at least one of my salivary glands, and my jaw bone will be brittle from radiation treatments, so oral hygiene becomes a new obsession for me (so now I actually do have to floss every day…).  I will have to use these fluoride trays every day for the rest of my life.  Charley drove downtown on a Saturday morning to make them for me, and even dropped them by my house later that day.  He didn’t charge me a dime.  Charley is my tooth fairy!
I was surprised when my girlfriend Katie told me that a fellow church member at Placentia Presbyterian Church offered to pay for her to come visit me while I was in treatment. Katie is my dearest friend from my church in California.  We have been through many Bible studies together and we both shared the experience of reading the entire Bible cover to cover in 90 days.  We have a special friendship, rooted in Christ.  She will be coming in a few weeks, thanks to the heartfelt generosity of another friend.
But what I haven’t told you about are the gifts that came from complete strangers.  I received healing crystals for a friend of a friend that I don’t even know.  While I don’t believe in the power of crystals to heal (only God has that power), it was nonetheless a thoughtful gift from the heart of a special person.  One of them is shaped like an angel, so I carry that one just as a reminder that somewhere out there is my guardian angel looking over me.  I also received a prayer blanket with the colors of the rainbow and their biblical meaning to use during chemo.  This came from a parishioner of a church that Shelly’s step mom goes to.  Linda placed me on their prayer page and this complete stranger felt led to make this for me.  But maybe, when it comes to the kingdom of God, there really are no strangers.
The point I’m trying to make, as if it isn’t already abundantly clear, is that people are good.  This whole experience, while I wouldn’t have chosen it, has been such a blessing in so many ways (look for an entry on that later).  It has shown me that God’s people are amazing and will do incredible things when called upon.  It is both humbling and so special to be the recipient of such love.
One of the greatest gifts though, isn’t the tangible, but the intangible prayers being said by so many on my behalf across the word.  I have heard from so many people that I’ve been placed on a prayer page in churches I’ve never been to by people I’ve never met.  Not to mention all those who have done the same that I do know.  Christian hearts, praying to God for my healing, for His will to be done in my life, for my families comfort, for a miracle, for peace, for doctors wisdom and of course for strength.  These prayers are the most important of all, because they are the one thing that keeps me strong.  Each day I make it through this knowing God is protecting me and each prayer is an energy shot that keeps me going.  So, thank you for all the wonderful gifts.  Please continue that special gift of prayer for me and my family and my friends who are also burdened by this.  And, maybe, if there is one of you reading this who doesn’t pray, I ask that you take the time to seek the Lord.  I couldn’t make it through this without Him.  “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”  Jeremiah 29:13

Thursday, June 20, 2013


I’ve only been in treatment for one week at the time of this writing, yet there are a plethora of things I’ve already learned that may surprise you.

I’ve learned that:
·        Chemo does in fact make you nauseous
·        Proton radiation smells like a cross between bleach and smelly socks
·        Side effects of treatment already suck
·        Sometimes  I may not be as tough as I want to be
·        Jim Murphy is an overachiever!
·        Shopping for pill boxes can be fun
·        There is actually a bowel movement class
·        Apparently men with prostate cancer have it worse off than me during radiation
·        Monday is pediatric day at the radiation clinic L
·        God ranks over political correctness in Texas
·        Placentia Presbyterian Church is even more amazing than I thought
·        People are inherently good and will amaze you with their generosity and kindness

Now, if you’ll so indulge me, I’ll elaborate on some of my findings (big surprise there!).

I’m sure many of you know already that chemo (Cisplatin, for me) makes you nauseous.  You know because you’ve experienced it first hand in our own battle with cancer, or learned it from someone else.  But for those not too familiar I am here to confirm this ugly truth.  Just a note…I don’t like being nauseous.  I didn’t like it after anesthesia from a surgery and I didn’t like it when I was pregnant and sick for 5 months with each daughter.  But, at least I got two beautiful daughters in exchange for the nausea.  What do I get now?  Well, I guess I get the joy of knowing that when I’m feeling sick (Tues – Friday of each week), it’s an indication that this ugly plum sized cancer is getting destroyed.  And that, my friends, makes it totally worth it!

Yes, radiation smells like a cross between bleach and smelly socks.  No one informed me that there would be an odor of any kind (let alone one so pungent), while the beams so precisely work their destruction.  So, I was a little taken back, and yes, nauseous, when I smelled it.  When I mentioned it to the technician she seemed surprised.  She asked what I thought it smelled like, and informed me that usually only kids smell it.  Well, of course, I’m just a kid at heart (one that may be thrown into early menopause by all this, but a kid nonetheless).  Luckily, now I get an orange scented gauze that they wave under my nose before treatment.  Now it’s orange scented smelly socks.

I am only one week into my treatments and have already experienced some side effects.  They told me in Radiation 101 that around week 3 I would start experiencing side effects like painful sores in my mouth, dry/bloody nose, thick ropelike saliva, loss of taste, fatigue, irritated skin, etc.  Luckily I haven’t had to deal with most of them yet, but I did start getting the sores in my mouth and tongue.  And yes, they are painful.  I was prescribed a ‘Magic Mouthwash’ concoction that contains lidocaine, Benadryl and Maalox.  It succeeds in numbing the area for a while, but when it wears off the pain returns ready for the next round.  Luckily, I have my punching gloves on and feel like fighting back (well, most of the time).
This brings me to my next revelation from this past week.  Sometimes I may not be as tough as I want to be.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely still going to kick this thing in the A*# (I’m a Tough Mudder after all).  But, when I’m nauseous or tired or in pain from the sores, sometimes I just want to take my drugs and nap.  No big battle round, no declarations of pending victories, just sleep.  I may have been slightly over ambitious when I packed three sets of workout gear for my first week.  They are still neatly folded in the drawer.

You must know where I’m going next, don’t you?  Yes, Jim Murphy is an over achiever!  You know him if you’ve read my other blogs.  He is a superhero in a prayer shawl capable of dueling chemo and radiation in a single bound and swishing down the ski slopes ready to save a ski bunny in distress in another.  He is my role model, and while I won’t be saving any ski bunnies (it’s 95 in Houston), I’m hoping to at least get some walking time in on the treadmill on those days the chemo has worn off and I’m feeling like my old self again.  I have fun teasing Jim a bit, but I am in awe at his strength, courage and faith.  He is an inspiration.  And, it’s because of him and the blog he wrote during his battle, that I have the courage to write my own.  We love you Jim (and Rose, of course!).

Oh, did you know that shopping for pill boxes can be fun? (Not a question I ever imagined coming from my lips).  It may sound silly, but for someone who has never taken any medications regularly and can’t remember to take her vitamins, the perfect pill box is a necessity.  Did you know there are so many options out there?  There is the typical 7 day pill box with one slot per day.  But there are 2 a day, 3 a day, 4 a day; some with individual days that pop out (perfect for your purse), some smaller purse size ones and some so big that I pity the poor person who has to take all those pills.  For me, I chose the smaller 4 a day box, with the individual days that can pop out.  Once a week I fill it up and then I can’t forget to take them.  I do love my little pill box.

OK, now I might be headed to unchartered territory, but it has to be done.  Yes, there is actually a bowel management class.  No, I haven’t been to it.  But I did receive all the information on it though.  Why, you ask?  (Well, maybe you didn’t ask, but I’m going to tell you anyways!).  Let’s just say that things get a little (actually, a lot) backed up.  And, yes, many of the pills in my pretty new pill box are round and pink…enough said.

Now, with regards to men with prostate cancer I clearly have no firsthand knowledge.  However, I met a man last week, Jerry was his name, who decided for whatever reason he would fill me in.  He was checking in at the proton radiation center in front of me.  He turned around and I smiled at him.  He was an older man, and it seemed like he was wondering if I, too, was a patient.  I had on a cute outfit and all the accessories to match…my hair still thick and full and intact.  I don’t look like I have cancer.  Anyways, after my treatment, he came over to me to ask about the proton radiation.  It was his first meeting there at the center.  I proceeded to tell him that I was a little tired, but that could’ve been from chemo.  I told him that you don’t feel anything as the radiation is working, and that for me, it wasn’t bad.  He then proceeded to tell me about his prostate cancer and that for each of his treatments they had to insert a balloon first.  OK, Jerry, TMI.  Yes, Jerry, you have it worse off than me.

I’ve realized that really, I am lucky.  There are so many people worse off than me.  I’ve learned that Monday is pediatric day at the proton center.  I just learned this today, because I didn’t start my treatments last week until Tuesday.  So, when I arrived for my treatment today, feeling great from a weekend at home with no nausea, I came upon a waiting area full of children undergoing treatment.  My heart was immediately broken in two for the babies and children suffering through this.  My heart broke for the parents and grandparents waiting for their precious gifts from God to come out of that treatment room.  I can’t imagine how scared they might be.  Having to wear a mask, stay still, smell those smells and all the while never understanding why.  The parents never understanding why.  But hopefully they know the Lord so personally that they don’t ask Him why.  Because only He knows the answers and we may never know why the bad in our life happens.  I can only hope for them that He gives them a little glimpse.  I give thanks to God that it is me going through this and not one of my precious daughters.  And, I pray for those children and their mothers.  ‘Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go’  Joshua 1:9.

I’ve learned that political correctness can be kicked out the door (with nice big pointy cowboy boots, I might add), and out of the hospitals in Texas.  I was so happy to walk in to the radiation center and hear the beautiful sounds of Christian music playing in the lobby.  That probably wouldn’t happen in California, for fear of offending someone.  I’m just glad I live in a state that recognizes the need for the Lord in our lives, in our homes, in our hospitals (and sometimes even in our schools).  Because, while medicine is truly amazing, there is only one true physician and healer and that is Jesus Christ.  They work together to heal us physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Medicine may be able to heal us physically, but if we aren’t also healed spiritually are we any better off?

On that note, I’ve learned again, what I already knew, that Placentia Presbyterian Church is an amazing place full of amazing people who love the Lord and each other.  This is the church my entire family was baptized in (including Will & I).  This is the church we were married in.  This is the church my kids took their First Communion in.  This is the church where we all came to love the Lord.  This church and its people mean everything to me.  My dear friend Katie updates the congregation every week with how I’m doing and what things they can specifically pray for.  Not a single day has gone by since my diagnosis, that I haven’t received a card, a note, a gift, a book, a call, a devotional or a prayer.  Even today, as I returned to our temporary apartment in Houston, I had several cards waiting for me.  This is the church we moved away from nearly two years ago when we moved to Texas.  But I feel as covered in love and prayer over 1800 miles away as I did worshipping with them right there in the sanctuary.  Thank you, precious Lord, for placing us in their midst for as long as you did.  They are truly your shepherds and disciples and I love them.

I hope that you all have also learned that people are inherently good and will amaze you with their generosity.  I have so many examples of this, that I’m going to devote an entire entry to it.  Stay tuned.
Through everything, both good and bad, I’ve learned in just one short week of cancer treatments how truly blessed I am.  Praise God!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

SPLASH (Treatment #1)

Well, the time has come to take action and actually jump feet first into treatment.  Kind of like Louie Anderson on Splash (you know, celebrities trying to kill themselves on high dives).  When all 400 some odd pounds hit the water off the 30ft platform, he made quite a splash for sure.  It wasn’t pretty and he didn’t get style points, but he came up from the water with a victorious smile knowing he conquered his fears.   And when I finally come back up after treatment, it also may not be pretty, but I too will have a victorious smile knowing I conquered cancer.

So, today was quite a doozie (is that even a word?).  It started with blood work in the morning.  Based on the amount of blood they drew from my uncooperative vein, I would think they were feeding an entire vampire colony (Team Edward, anyone?).  OK, maybe not, but there were more than normal with extras for research.  That’s right, I’m the perfect research specimen.  Who knew?  That’s what’s amazing about MD Anderson.  It’s a research hospital and I’m participating in a couple different research studies.  My cancer, Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma, is so rare (approx. 1200 cases per year) that anything I can do to help further their knowledge is my privilege and duty as I see it.

Anyways, after blood work, we headed to an appointment with my chemo doctor.  Most of my doctors are very sweet and kind.  Not that Dr. G (whose name is being withheld for obvious reasons) isn’t kind, but she’s just more clinical.  She informed us of all the side effects of chemo.  For those of you not familiar with this lovely drug, let me list them for you:  nausea (obvious), vomiting (again, obvious), hearing issues which could be permanent (not so obvious), numbness/tingling in hands and feet (really?), low white blood count (cool), kidney issues (awesome), fever, fatigue and early onset menopause/hot flashes.  She did point out at my age that’s highly likely (she didn’t win too many brownie points with me over that comment J)  So, who’s ready for some chemo after that?  After dropping that lovely bombshell on me, we started talking about my nerve medication and pain.  I told her that maybe I’ll be so sick after chemo that I won’t even feel the pain.  She laughed at that.  Funny.

So, after that we headed to the dreaded chemotherapy department.  I checked in and was given a pager.  I had to think for a second, was I at the hospital or Cheesecake Factory?  How I wish it was the latter!  Oh, what I’d give for a piece of carrot cake cheesecake right now!

After an hour wait (maybe we were at Cheesecake Factory) they called me in and did the usual blood pressure, pulse and dreaded weigh in.  The nurse told me I’d be in Pod A Room 17.  I felt like a kid going to school for the first time, lost and alone trying to find my classroom.  I told him this was my first time, and that I didn’t know where that was.  He replies, “Oh, a newbie, I’ll take you there.  And newbies always get two warm blankets.”  Well I feel special now.  I had always heard from people and seen on TV shows that usually chemo is administered in one big room, with lots of recliners and different people getting treatment (anyone see Parenthood?).  But he led me to my own private room, with an adjustable bed, recliner and TV all to myself.  Sweet, this is living!

My IV was started and the nausea premedications were being administered for almost an hour.  Then it was time for the chemo treatment to begin.  As soon as it entered my body I felt a warmth in my veins.  I immediately thought, ‘I’m toxic’ like Britney Spears.  Anyways, I prayed to the Lord and asked that he protect me and heal me.  Maybe the warmth I felt in my veins was actually the Holy Spirit gently reminding me of the warmth of his presence in my life.

I made it through the chemo without any issues.  I felt fine and used the time to write my last two blogs.  After two hours of chemo, I was free to leave.  But don’t get too happy for me yet.  I then had to run straight to the Proton Radiation Center for my radiation treatments.  Again, I told you I was jumping feet first.  At radiation, I was reunited with my mold and mask, still unimpressed with their aesthetics.  I laid down on the stainless steel table with my head in the mold.  They snapped the mesh mask into place over my face, and I felt like I had to hold my breath, even though it had holes in it.  Maybe it was just the feeling of being confined and covered, and very claustrophobic at first.  Luckily, they informed we it was OK to breathe (hopefully I would have figured that out J).  The mask was a little tighter than when they made it (no, I didn’t get fatter, the mask just continues to shrink for a week after being made).  They took an xray to make sure I was positioned correctly.   They readjusted me, which unnerved me just slightly.  Finally we were ready to go.  I kept my eyes closed, but could see the lights from the beams that would ever so precisely destroy the tumor.  I felt like I was in some science fiction movie caught between two battling universes.  Anyways, I spend a lot of time praying during these treatments.  They spin me around on the table a few times and do the treatments at three different angles.  I feel nothing.  Then, after about 30 minutes, I’m done.

By the time we made it back to the apartment, I was exhausted.  Eleven hours at the hospital, two new treatments filling my body with toxins and radiation was all enough to physically and emotionally drain me.  I was able to eat a small meal prepared by my mother in law.  That night, however, I couldn’t sleep.  I had the worst headache I could imagine.  My eyeball felt like it was going to pop out of my head (does anyone remember those stress toys you squeeze and the eyeball pops out?).  Not even the pain meds could touch it.  I feared the road ahead…would it feel like this every day?  Luckily it wouldn’t.  A body can only take so much in one day.  But, on day one, I jumped in, made quite a splash and survived.  Only 32 more treatments to go!

Thursday, June 13, 2013


You know how kids in school have themed weeks to commemorate, remember or learn about something in particular?  Think Red Ribbon Week or Teacher Appreciation week.  Well, I figured I deserved a week of my own to kick off my battle against cancer and enjoy my last week of freedom, per se.

So, celebrate I did!  It started early in the week with Chris & Jen at Flores (best queso ever)for Happy Hour.  I love that there is a designated hour to be happy.  Anyways, I was prepared to enjoy some of the things they told me to avoid during treatment…alcohol, spicy food, sharp edged chips.  I savored the Mexican martini (only one) and munched on the chips and queso.  Of course, the girls were being much more restrained than I was, but remember I ‘m not worried about gaining weight right now and there is a real freedom in that!  I just enjoyed my friends and being normal.  Whatever my normal is it would soon be changing.

There was a lovely brunch the next day with some fabulous women from my CBS (Community Bible Study).  It was to welcome new core leaders to the group and spend time getting to know one another.  I was asked at the end of last session if I would be a core leader and God kept telling me that I needed to.  This was before my diagnosis.  I responded and know that I will have such a testimony to share with those beautiful women in my group.  The prayers and support from these women have been so amazing and essential in keeping me strong.

Pedicures followed the next day, and I chose the brightest, neon orange I could find.  During a time when I may not be too cheery, my toes deserve to be!  Once again I just enjoyed the time of bonding with my ‘sister’ Chris.  And, by the way, Nancy the nail lady gave the best calf massage ever.

Wednesday afternoon  it was a girls luncheon at Rough Hollow Grille.  Sipping on white wine, overlooking the beautiful, yet depleted lake, I couldn’t help but think that’s how I would feel soon…still beautiful in my own way, but depleted.  But my family, faith and friends would help to fill me up.  It was the normal gang of girls, the Five Amigos, the Spongebabes, the Wet your Whistle Wednedsay crew.  A united group gathering in support of my upcoming treatment and Torri’s surgery last week.  I told you earlier about my dear Torri who was diagnosed with Thyroid cancer a week or so after I was diagnosed.  The surgery was a success, thyroid and cancer were removed.  Now she was waiting on the lymph node biopsies.  She had her follow up appointment before lunch, and told us that she is all clear.  She is cancer free!  Praise God!  I just hugged her and cried tears of joy that she is free of the burden that I am bearing.  And I cried tears of joy knowing that the next time it will be her hugging me when I, too, can say I’m cancer free.

Thursday was the girls(Meghan &  Molly’s) last day of school.  It was full of awards and skits for Molly as she enters Fifth grade next year.  And, for Meghan it was finals as she heads to high school (when did she grow up??).  The each headed to end of year parties and Will and I ended up with Stacy and Kameron, eating leftover hot dogs from the 4th grade class party and drinking margaritas (remember, I won’t be able to drink for months!)  We just sat around the bar at their house, and talked and ate and drank and laughed.  We just had fun.  This was my normal.

Friday night was dinner with David and Kellye at the Hills Country Club.  Great food, great conversation, great friends…oh, and being told that we had to order because the kitchen was closing at 9:00!  What kitchen closes at 9pm on a Friday night?  Well, the waitress was none too please when we ordered the second bottle of wine then too.  A great night, but the highlight was when we all grabbed hands and David prayed for us right there in the middle of the restaurant.  That was a special moment.

Saturday was kind of the culmination of “Kick Cancer’s Ass Week” with our Kick Cancer’s Ass pool party.  I don’t play by normal rules, and I wanted to celebrate with my friends the pending booty kicking of the cancer.  I almost wrote ‘my’ cancer, but I take no ownership of it.  I’m just borrowing it for a short time until God is sure I’ve learned the lessons I need to move forward.  It will not be returned, but destroyed forever, never to be seen again.

Anyways, it was a wonderful day.  Friends came in waves throughout the day, and it was so overwhelming to feel their support.  The Fab 5 (Chris, Torri, Stacy, Gina and Jen) all pitched in to get me an awesome basket filled with things to help keep me physically and spiritually healthy.  A Ninja blender/juicer for smoothies and juices when I won’t be able to eat solid food.  Several smoothie recipe books, protein powder, cozy slippers, insulated cups, purse size journal, inspirational music, kettle ball and notes of love and hope on everything.  How blessed I am to have these women in my life!  We topped of the array of junk food with a “Let’s Kick Cancer’s A$$” cookie cake.  Molly told me that the dollar signs don’t hide the fact that it’s a bad word.  I told her sometimes there are things that deserve bad words and cancer is one of them!

The week didn’t end any slower than it began.  Church on Sunday morning was nice and we learned to “Go”.  Go where, we still aren’t sure, but we’ll go!  Then it was time to relish in the fun of summer time on the lake.  Once treatments start, I won’t be able to get any lake water on my face, so that pretty much kills any watersports for me all summer.  So we headed out with Will’s parents , Meghan & Molly for my last day of fun on the lake.  I love to waterski, and like usual I popped right up and smiled like I didn’t have a care in the world.  And, I didn’t.  I skied and skied, popping from side to side over the wake.  The fighter in me didn’t want to let go.  And, I didn’t.  Finally when Jerry’s hat blew off his head into the water in front of me, I decided to let go.  My hands could hold on no longer.  I didn’t want to let go of the freedom, the excitement or the joy.  I didn’t want to let go and remember that the next day I would be starting cancer treatments.  But, even though I had to let go, I know that Jesus is holding me and holding on for me always.

Our week ended with a family gathering at our home.  My parents and brother, Will’s parents and the four of us gathering before the Lord, in praise and thanksgiving for everything He is doing not only in my life, but the lives of those around me.  So, after a week of preparing to ‘Kick Cancer’s Ass’, I am ready to do it!


As most of you know, the last month has been full of doctors appointments and scans While this may seem like a sad and tedious process, it has actually been filled with moments of hope and laughter.  Heck, I even received the BEST CRAPPY NEWS EVER!

I have to say that MD Anderson is overwhelming at first.  The skyway between the buildings rivals those of some of the biggest airport terminals I’ve ever been in.  There is no underground train to transport you, but there is a 6 person shuttle cart if you dare (with an 80 year old driver who probably can’t drive a car anymore...I’ll pass).  Anyways, you get my point.  The place is huge!

I had no idea what to expect when I met my doctors.  I had been forewarned about oncologist painting the bleakest picture possible (mostly to avoid litigation I presume).  But an insider (who shall remain nameless) told me that my main oncologist (Dr. Hanna) was the Head of the Head and Neck Department (I wonder who was the neck?), and that he was a great man with a caring heart.  So, when I met him I was relieved to know he was the latter of the two types.

A little background for you…I had my pet scan the week before my first appointment with Dr. Hanna.  I didn’t want to wait any longer for any more results.  The Pet CT would show if the cancer had spread.  So, on that first appointment we were anxious, but I kept praying, “ Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”  Philippians 4:6   We overhead Dr. Hanna outside my room saying, “And the PET?  It was clean?”.  When we heard the resident reply “yes”, a wave of relief fell over us.  But, what if he walked into the room across the hall with that message?  So, with guarded hope, we waited and heard the doorknob turn into my room.  And, there he was with one of many answered prayers.

Hallelujah!  The cancer was isolated and had not spread.  After learning that my cancer had been growing for nearly 10 years, we were concerned with reason.  But meeting Dr. Hanna for the first time and hearing this great news, I realized quickly he was the right doctor for me.  He proceeded to talk about how rare Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma is, how there aren’t large trials to base treatment on, but they were convinced they would be able to take care of me.  At that first meeting, he was optimistic about shrinking the tumor about 80% and living with the other 20% like a chronic illness.  Strangely, I was somehow OK with that.  It wasn’t the fact that he was convincing but that I felt a peace about it through the Lord.  He went on to explain the mass itself, and said there are “three flavors of tumors”, and I had the best one.  What, is it chocolate or something?  No, but it was the best darn tumor available (well, of course, it was mine).  So, Will says to him, “So you’re telling us that’s the best crappy news we could get?”  Dr. Hanna laughed, agreed and said he may use that line one day.

The next day led us to Dr. Frank who leads the Proton Radiation department.  I was curious as to his opinion on the shrink and control theory presented by Dr. Hanna.  We were shocked when he used the “C” word (get your minds out of the gutter).  Not cancer either, but CURE!  That was new, and Will and I just stared at each other wondering if we had heard him correctly.  We most certainly had…he thinks he can cure me.  He didn’t seem like an egomaniac, so I didn’t think he was trying to garner a God complex.  But doctors just don’t use that word.  He had cured a young lady a few years back with the same cancer.  She was a few years younger than me, healthy like me (other than that stupid tumor) and eerily enough she even looked like me.  Who would imagine my doppelganger would have my cancer too. 

While hearing the word “Cure” certainly provides a positive outlook for my treatment, I don’t hold on to that.  I hold on to the hope that Jesus Christ will ultimately be the one to cure me, whether in this lifetime or in the next.  And, that really, is all I need to know.

On May 30th I was fitted for my proton radiation mask.  Talk about a weird appointment! A mold of the back of my shoulders, neck and head was made out of something like the expandable foam used in home insulation.  Then a mesh material was placed over the top of my face, neck and shoulders and three nurses looked like they were artists sculpting a masterpiece that happened to be my face.  But the real sculptor is God the Father.  Ironically I received a text that day from my dear friend Lydia that read, “To God we are like clay in his hands being molded together into his likeness.”  She didn’t know I was making my mask that day.  God is truly amazing.  And that day I knew that this mask that looked like a cross between Chewbaca and Hannibal Lecter, was so much more.  God was using my illness to mold me into his likeness.  Wow!

After my radiation 101, I met with a nutritionist who gave me the scoop on calories and protein required for weight management.  For the first time in my life I was worried about keeping weight on verses getting it off.  I’m sorry but that is counter intuitive for a woman to do!  Anyways, after a series of questions, she asks me what I had for dinner the night before.  Now, before I tell you my answer, know that we drove to and from Houston that day and headed straight to Molly’s piano recital back in Austin.  So, dinner was a cupcake served after the recital (Terry P., can I get an Amen!?)  Well not too thrilled with that answer, she asked about lunch.  Well my friends that answer wasn’t much better.  “Chick-Fil-A”, I said with some trepidation in my voice.  She asked if I ate the fries too.  Now isn’t that a dumb question!  Of course I ate the fries!  Slightly embarrassed at my two responses, I said, “That’s kind of embarrassing.  Probably not what I should be telling a nutritionist.  But I work out though (like that somehow makes my poor choices OK in her mind).  It does for me J  Lucky for me (if having radiation and chemo can be lucky) I will pretty much get free reign on what I can eat.  Once the side effects start, eating will be much more difficult, so they just want me to eat whatever I can get down.  I told her I would probably be the first patient to gain weight.  She laughed, wrote that in her notebook and smiled.  I think she will be most likely throwing that comment back at me one day.  So in preparation for the weight loss to come, I decided I’d try to bulk up.  My efforts haven’t worked out too well so far.  But, as I sat in my kitchen chair and it collapsed to the floor, Will said, “Maybe you better stop bulking up!”  LOL.  We must find the humor in our situations.  Humor and a relationship with the Lord, will be the two things that keep you sane!

Sunday, June 9, 2013


I have always loved to write.  Since I was a child, I would love to write short stories, but more than anything I love to write poetry.  This is a skill that Molly, my youngest, has developed as well, which makes me ever so happy.  I have journal upon journal of sappy poetry from a lovesick teen until now.  I think there are more than  100 poems altogether.  Even as an adult I took online writing classes at UCLA after I stopped working at Kodak, so I could nurture that skill (and find myself again).  And, I loved it.  It’s always been my dream to get published someday.  So needless to say, when I was diagnosed cancer everyone thought this was a great opportunity for me to write.

Now, typically, I think many writers experience a writers block.  This is definitely true for me.  When I write, it’s not that I can necessarily sit down and write a poem (like many people think).  Poetry for me is God given, God delivered, on His terms.  Because of my skill (spiritual gift), I have always been expected to write a poem for all memorial services for family members.  Looking at this from an outside perspective might seem odd, but it is really the most perfect way to eulogize a loved one.  I have done this for almost all of my grandparents.  And, each time, I felt pressure to write it.  I would sit with my pen and paper, and nothing would come…until it came.  And when it came it was usually while I was in bed in silence with no paper around.  So I would repeat lines over and over in my head hoping to remember them in the morning.  And the next morning, just those few lines would trigger the poem.  You see, when I had no expectation, or pressure, but just silent, is the only time I could hear God speak the words to me.  Most of my poems come that way. 

So when everyone said I should write about my cancer, I wasn’t sure what that would look like.  I didn’t see poetry fitting the situation, and honestly, I just had nothing.  I had nothing to give that first few weeks after my diagnosis.  Everything in my head was black. I couldn’t have written anything then if I had tried.  Then one early morning, I received a 5am wakeup call from Jesus.  Then, just like it always comes, the ideas just started popping in my head, like fireworks being shot into the sky.  One by one, God delivered the messages to me that He wanted me to speak about (or that He thought I could speak about).  So, like usual, I tried to repeat them over and over in my head, but there were at least five ideas, with literal bullet points in my head that needed to be recorded.  I had been keeping a piece of paper by my bed, in case I received any calls from MD Anderson or my doctors while I was resting after my biopsy.  So there, in the dark, I started writing the ideas on the paper, trying not to write them over each other, but not being able to see what I was doing.  But in the morning, slightly messy, there they were.  The God breathed words that I now had so that I could begin to write once again. 

It took me several weeks actually, before I started to write, because I wasn’t exactly sure what format I would be writing in.  Would it be a blog, like our dear friend Jim Murphy who is finishing his cancer journey?  And if it was, would it compare to his beautifully written account of his cancer and faith journey?  Even though I think I’m a good writer, I wasn’t so convinced after reading his eloquent entries.  I pictured it as a blog that my friends and family could see, that could express my own journey and faith accounts.  But I think that idea has grown.

As I wrote my very first “entry” a few weeks back, I began with the words spoken to me that first evening, and quickly realized that it was only the beginning of my dialogue with the Lord.  The keystrokes began almost to type themselves and the entry that I thought would be my first blog, turned into two pages (11 point, single spaced).  I thought OK, so the first entry will be a little long.  Then, as I sat to do the second entry, it turned into 4 pages (11 point, single spaced).  Then it hit me.  I was writing a book.  Remember I had always wanted to be published, but never in my life did I think it would be a book about cancer. Heck, a book about anything.  I thought it would be a collection of poetry.  And never in my life did I think I could write something both humorous and moving at the same time. I wrote about sad, sappy things.   But never in my life have I experienced such a thing.  This is part of my journey, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me!


I’m a pretty tough chick.  Not tough in the leather pants/tattoo kind of way, but physically and mentally tough.  I’ve prepared for events that I never thought would be possible( think Warrior, Gladiator, marathons, triathlons, etc.), and I’ve learned to have a thick skin from moving every four years as a kid (try moving from New York to California as a Sophomore in High School!).  But nothing can prepare you for how tough hearing the words cancer can be.  But even tougher is going to be the journey.

I’m not going to get all cliché on you, and begin to compare this journey to training for and completing a marathon.  That’s been done over and over again.  So I’m going a different route…a much more muddy, hilly, frigid, shocking, terrifying route that allowed me to conquer fears and finish the race set out for me.  Isn’t that what it’s all about anyways?  “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us”  Hebrews 12:1-2

You see I’m talking about Tough Mudder.  Twelve miles of extreme obstacles, from electroshock therapy to arctic enema, to trench warfare, walk the plank to hanging tough.  Don’t forget about the double black diamond slopes that we had to tredge up as well.  This event was aptly named.  It is tough…and I’m one Tough Mudder.  Did I fail to mention that we needed to sign a death waiver to participate?  Just sayin’.  I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the obstacles too were aptly named.  Electroshock therapy required you to walk through a forest of hanging electric wires with up to 10,000 volts of electricity.  This was the one obstacle I swore I wouldn’t do.  I’ve been shocked before, and it wasn’t a pleasant feeling(plus, it really messes up your hair ;)).  But in the heat of the event, and surrounded by my teammates, the Mudalicious Mama’s, I succumbed to the pressure and faced my fear.  I got slightly shocked, but it was nothing compared to some of the people lying on the ground bouncing like they had stuck their finger into an electric socket, and weren’t able to pull it out.  Plus, it was at the finish line and I’m not a quitter.  I wasn’t about to walk around it with everyone watching!  The other event that concerned me just slightly (OK, I was freaking out) was the arctic enema.  You see, I’m not one for cold water.  I did a triathlon once in 55 degree water and nearly had to be dragged out because I couldn’t catch my breath.  So, needless to say I was not happy about any of the cold water events.  And, this was definitely cold…mountain runoff cold. But, once again I faced my fears.  And, one by one, my teammates and I conquered each obstacle, no matter how hard they were.  We were going to walk, crawl or climb our way to the finish line, regardless of the mental or physical barricades placed in our way.  When it was all over (almost 4.5 hours later) and we crossed that finish line battered and bruised, we did so with arms raised and smiles on our dirty faces, amazed that we had done it.  We were given a bright orange headband to wear with pride(and a beer J).  Really, every race should end with a beer!

And that my friends, is how I’m going to tackle cancer.  I’m going to get shocked, and I’m going to have to walk the plank a time or two.  In the midst of my proton radiation and chemo, I may feel like I’m embattled in trench warfare, but I will always hang tough.  And, who knows, I may even need an arctic enema or two…sorry, I had to go there J  I will do whatever it takes to beat this.  I will walk, crawl or climb my way through it. But this time, there is no death waiver for me to sign.  No bright orange headband for me to wear.  This time, the finish line isn’t 4.5 hours away, it’s 7 weeks away.  This time they told me death isn’t even an option (praise the Lord).  This time I’m running this race wearing the armor of God.  That, my friends, is how you run a race.  And when I cross that finish line my face won’t be dirty (maybe a little dry), but my hands will most definitely be raised.  This time they will be raised to the Lord who got me through it.  I’m tough, but He’s much tougher.  And for those obstacles that I just can’t finish on my own, I know the He will be there carrying me and strengthening me.  After all, who could ask for a better teammate?

“But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.”  1 Thessalonians 5:7-9

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  Philippians 4:13


When you usually think of receiving a Welcome Packet, it is most often associated with some happy moment or milestone.  Think along the lines of your college acceptance letter or the Welcome Wagon letter you receive upon purchasing your new home.  Joy…pure joy comes from these letters.  Pride oozing from your eyes knowing you just received news that would change your life for the better.

Well, last month I received a welcome packet of my own.  No, it wasn’t a college acceptance (that ship has sailed) and it’s been a few years since we got our Welcome Wagon letter (does anyone ever use those coupons?).  But it was definitely a milestone.  You see, it was a Welcome Packet for MD Anderson Cancer Hospital.  Not a letter I ever expected to receive…ever.  Not a milestone I ever wanted to have…ever.  But I found myself reading this very welcoming, lovely packet and almost feeling like I was outside my body watching someone else read it.  I had been very strong, accepting my diagnosis, ready to take it on and kick it’s A$$ (I apologize, but sometimes bad words are just appropriate).  But while reading about the hospital and seeing my medical record number written clearly and plainly next to my name, it hit me like a brick…I have cancer.  Of course, I already knew that, but it hit me deep in the recesses of my heart and for the first time in weeks since my diagnosis, I broke down in tears.  But Will was there, as he’s been from the start, to hold me.  That is all I needed at that moment.  Part of me felt guilty about crying.  Was I not trusting the Lord enough?  Was I being too weak?  But quickly I realized that the answer to both of those questions was an irrevocable “NO”!  I am trusting the Lord completely.  It is the only way I am able to be so strong (most of the time).  But I am human, and those tears that fall when I do break down are the tears of living water.  My Lord cries for me too.  This isn’t what He wanted for me.  As our pastor said in our series on suffering (how’s that for timing?), it is easy to trust the Lord when it’s raining down Skittles from the sky (I would prefer M&M’s, just saying).  But when the hard times come, where will you turn?  I turned to God, hands raised in praise and thanksgiving, because that is what He expects of His people.  

So, I have mixed feelings about that Welcome Letter and personal milestone.  Looking beyond my emotions I saw the amazing things that MD Anderson can do for me.  I read a caring letter that made me feel like I was the most important person they would be treating.  I learned a number that would be my new ID for the 6 ½ weeks of treatment.  I will keep that number proudly, knowing that it will be the number that I look back on with joy, knowing that it will change my life for the better.  That may sound strange, but I’ve already seen the blessing bestowed upon me because of this.  My eyes are opened to accepting them.  So, while it isn’t a milestone I would’ve ever wanted or expected, it is one I will take with pride, just like that Welcome Letter.