Sing for the joy that's found in setting up the pins and knocking them down

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Surrendering to the new normal.

Chemo is hard.  There's a real reason that people have trouble making eye contact with you as they speak of it.  It's like a bad morning sickness.  Nothing tastes right and smells that used to be lovely now turn your stomach.  But I guess it's what you would call a necessary evil. I try to remind myself to be thankful for the battle that now rages inside me.

What came along with all these difficult symptoms this weekend, was the realization that my normal life was slipping away.  That my existence of even one month ago would never come back quite like it had been on those amber-leaved days of Fall 2013. The weather was strange this weekend--some of the darkest fall days I can remember..  All day long felt like evening hanging over us.  As the sun refused to shine, the reality of all of this settled in with a solid thud.
At one point I said to Eric, "I don't want to have to do this."  He said that he had seen that look on my face three times in my life--before delivering each of our children.  He'd do it for me if he could.  I know he would, but I'm on my own for this one.

After a foggy and dark weekend, I forced myself through the motions of a normal Monday morning.  I showered, dressed, woke the kids, made some breakfast and headed out the door with them.  I had things at work that needed my attention and I used that as my reason to keep moving.  I pretended pretty well.  To the untrained eye everything looked normal and it actually felt pretty good.
I still want to snap my fingers and go back.  Back to normal, back to what was, back to naively healthy.  This isn't something new, there are people everywhere who want to snap their fingers and go back, but that's not how God has set it up.  I'm trying really hard to reframe my new normal.  I'm trying to imagine what blessings I might miss out on if I were allowed to magically snap these fingers and leave this all behind.  Would it be better?  It might be easier for the moment, but would the payoff be there for the long haul.  Might I miss being part of some amazing thing.  So for now I'm going to lay my snapping fingers back into my lap and try to face the new normal of today.

Medical notes and prayer requests for those who want to get to the point:
Made it to Day 6 of Round 1.  It looks like days 3-5 will probably be my worst, at least for this round.  Yesterday, I was able to work with a 45 minute nap over lunch.  Today I feel a little post-fluish, but definitely on the upswing.  I know the worst of the tired phase is still on the horizon.
Prayer requests: that I'm through the worst of the sick part of this treatment and that my blood levels stay up for this round.  That I not be exposed to germs, etc. that will knock me backwards.  That my family stays healthy, as well.

Many thanks for the cards, prayers, meals, emails, texts that brighten my day and fill our tummies.  You all have been so good to us and thank you seems like a pretty small phrase in light of it all.
Resting in His peace that passes understanding,

Monday, November 11, 2013

Rynders, Pity Party of Two

When I decided that writing about my breast cancer would be good medicine for me, I secretly promised myself that I would be honest and open even on the really hard days.

Yesterday was evidently one of those days and truthfully, my cancer isn't even the main plot line.  As most of you know Eric has a genetic heart condition that we've lived with all our married life.  In a nutshell, his heart will never be fixed and most of our focus is upon managing the by-products of his condition--the worst of which is an irregular heart rhythm.  Some people float in and out of these rhythms, but Eric needs to be cardioverted, "shocked", to get out of them.  He has had several ablations (google it), with varying success, and is scheduled to have another one on December 13.  I know--it's one of those situations that polite people only speak of in a whisper "both of them...his heart, her cancer, oh dear."  It's fine, I know it's something that goes through everyone's heads--family, close friends, Facebook stalkers.

So you'll forgive me if talking about the both of us being health risks is a topic I can't settle into.  I'll be honest, I hate it.  When you venture near it, I'll change subjects, say I'm feeling fine or Eric's been doing great, anything to appease that concerned look on your face.  Don't worry that I'm in denial or that I don't fully grasp the peril that my children are in--okay, now I'm just being a little dramatic.  It's like we're both carrying buckets of water.  Some days I help with his and some day he helps with mine.  Some days we glance at each other encouragingly and take care of our own.  This is where our faith comes in.  I believe that our God will not give us one more drop than we can carry.  Are our buckets heavy right now--you better believe it.  Heavier than we've ever imagined.  But in a weird way we've been preparing, exercising our arms and backs,  for this day for a long time.

As we drove to our motherland of Abbot Northwestern Hospital this weekend, I looked out the window and wondered if anyone would ever want to change places with the two of us.  We chuckled and said it was unlikely and then my dear husband reached over put his hand on my knee and said, "I wouldn't want to trade with any of them."

Medical Notes and Prayer Request for those of you who want to get to the point:
Chemo--this Thursday, pray that all the paperwork gets in order and it goes off as scheduled and that my side effects are manageable.
Eric--that his heart stays in rhythm as he transitions to a different med

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The facts, the plan...

Here are the high points and the plan for those of you who like medical updates as seen by a middle-aged mom.

I have infiltrating ductal carcinoma--breast cancer. I had a mammogram in July that appeared normal, but in all likelihood it was there already but not noticeable. For the record it was my left one that betrayed me and I stumbled upon the lump after feeling a twinge or pain or something that caused me to rub in that area. I'm saying it was God forcing me to do a self exam.

I'm also something called triple positive which was really scary to hear, but I find out that it's actually good because I'm more reactive to treatment. Evidently my breast cells are more receptive to things--go figure.

Lots of you have wanted to know what stage...I've heard they're putting me at Stage 2b. Two because of the size of the tumor, b because I have at least one node that's already positive for cancer.

One of the good/bad things of being triple positive is that I'm positive for the category of HER2/neu. It's a factor that might have been a death sentence as recent as 10-15 years ago, but because of progress in cancer treatment, it's now the cancer that you want to have. They have an antibody that works perfectly against this. On top of that they have an additional med, approved just 2 weeks ago by the FDA that improves the effectiveness of this by 30%! My oncologist was giddy--I kid you not. "You picked the most amazing time to have this kind of cancer!" I'll be the second patient at Abbott to get it this new med.

The plan:

Because of the positive node and the invasive nature of this cancer, they want to hit it with chemo first--6 treatments, every 3 weeks, 18 weeks--starting one week from today. That brings us to April. Then we'll do surgery--yet to be determined how extensive. Then I'll continue the antibody meds for the rest of the year, followed by an oral med for several years following. The ongoing med is because this cancer is a gypsy and likes to throw cells out into the body and we want to be sure that we keep those all in check for the future.

Okay, so that was way too long for a facebook post. This weekend I will be starting to post updates on my blog. There will be medical stuff, updates, my ramblings and hopefully a chance for me to get back at writing.

Love to you all. Thank you for the prayers, I truly feel carried by them.

This file faces me as I sit at my computer and type. More ominously, this category hangs over and underlines the next several months of my life, actually the rest of my life. Even when this is a distant memory I will always have had cancer. Wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, executive assistant, writer, photographer, Christian--all categories I'm happy to embrace and proudly promote. Cancer not so much.

When I took the call, I was sitting in a quiet unoccupied office. Oddly or fittingly I was in the exact same place where I was when I heard that my boss' wife had my exact same cancer several months ago. "Are you still at work and are you in a place where you can talk?" My heart sunk. "I'm so sorry to tell you..." The unlit room got even darker. As I numbly drove home, the tears came and I think I pounded my fist on the steering wheel--all vain thrashings to try to get out of this box I had so cruelly been thrown into. I opened my mouth to pray, not knowing what would come out. Anger, fear, panic? What the overflow of my heart would be? My heart said, "Don't squander it. If I have to do this thing, God, don't squander it! Use every miserable inch of it to do something, something big."

 So this is my sad post about moving in an instant from one type of life to another. People have these moments all the time, this was just mine that came on a dreary October afternoon. I now know lots of things about this category now and although I'd rather not, I know I can handle it. God made me strong for a time like this. I've seen the blessings and sweet things to be found in the bitterest of categories. And daily God is answering the pathetic, sad prayer that fell out of my mouth as I pounded my fists like a stubborn toddler. He is using this time to shape me, to show me that He is in control of my life, my health and my assigned categories.