Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Trying to do so Much...with so Little.

Day 1 is down and accounted for! I made it and am so glad a glass of wine is good for the body! :) I'm back to work with the kiddos and I almost forgot just how much I liked them and their unique personalities. I'm so grateful that I have energy that I wouldn't have had if chemo stayed on schedule. I'm honest when I say I was prepared on paper, but wasn't prepared in my mind for what was to come today...or this year. I'm still not. I couldn't concentrate and I was holding onto hope that it would all work out. This past week I could not find the concentration I was so desperately needing to accomplish my goals I set forth for the first day. But we all survived, only a paper cut today; everything got done and everyone left with a smile :) It's just that it takes me twice as long to accomplish things that took me minutes to do last year. My fear is that things will not be accomplished to MY standards this year, and I feel guilty for that. Guilty because I wanted to do so much more and so much better for the kids this year, but I got a diagnosis that is like a huge road block for me right now. I hate using cancer as an excuse to get away with anything in life, so I'm NOT going to use it as an excuse. I just need to be at peace in my own mind that this year the plans and ambitions I had might not just work out like previously planned. Because I'm starting to realize that cancer does have an effect on my attitude and body. I long to put in the work and hours I feel is needed for my job to be successful and feel guilty when I do not have the energy or concentration to do it to MY standard. I'm just crazy I know, because the job is getting done, it's just me and my personality that is causing me problems. I usually push myself to beyond my boundaries and right now, I'm not because I can't physically stay awake long enough to do it :) I don't just do this at my job, but anything in life. I push myself because success feels good and to be stagnant is mind numbing! I pray for a peace of mind during this time to know that I am doing my job to the best that I can... and that is all I can ask of myself.
My dad told me I am fighting two battles right now, my guilt in that I will let my students and coworkers down and the fight against my illness. I'm realizing that if I keep fighting both fights, I'm going to get more worn down, and ultimately, it's my fight for my health that will start to lose the battle. I need to always be aware of myself enough to know that if the time comes to call it quits because I feel that the students are not getting exactly what they deserve because of my health situation, I will have to take that step back and say I can only fight one battle at a time. My work has been amazing and supportive and I am grateful for that. They help make my choice that much easier if the time ever came. But I will keep fighting for both teams as long as I can, Promise, because I am not a quitter!
Now, on to funnier times...

Well, this was taken the last night I went to the fair with my wig on. When my sister and I get around each other, we get a little crazy! We were having such a great time and I was telling her about how my wig was just as thick as her natural hair...and the next thing I knew, my wig was on top of her already massively thick hair and a clip was in my very thin and patchy hair. I just had to put the picture on here for some good laughs! Oh do our husbands hate us when we get like this in public! See how tall her poof is on top of her head?! That's my wig! The picture doesn't even show it justice because it was MASSIVE in person! Totally a 'had to be there moment', but it just had to be preserved :)

"Well Sinead O'Rebellion. Shock me, shock me, shock me with that deviant behavior" For anyone that knows me, Empire Records is one of my favorite movies and this is a line that Renee Zellwager says as she sees Debra bald for the first time. Well, the time came. My hair was about 75% gone and I couldn't take it anymore. It looked awful and I looked so sick, I looked like I had cancer :) So at 11:00 when I was home alone, I took out Andrew's electric razor and went to town. I was disappointed as I only saw a few strands of hair in the sink it was that pathetic, but still, I look so much better! Even Andrew likes it better! He said the last few weeks have been difficult because I wasn't feeling good and I looked so sick. But now that I have my energy back and my hair buzzed like a rocker chick, I saw him smile again. Like a true Andrew smile, not the fake 'I'm putting this on for you because I have to be brave for you' smile. :)
So my first night back to work with kids is coming to an end...and I'm smiling. That's a good sign :) To God be the glory for ever and ever Amen. Phil. 4:20

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Hope: the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that
events will turn out for the best
'Hope…Lord, my hope is in You.' This was given to me on a decoration by my oldest sister Julie :) It pretty much sums up where hope should be. I'm learning that through having cancer, I can save myself a lot of time and just put my hope in God right away in any situation. Lance Armstrong also said something about hope, ‘If children have the ability to ignore all odds and percentages, then maybe we can all learn from them. When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up, or Fight Like Hell.'
Well, I already made my decision to fight when I heard the news about my cancer the first time. And my hope was in God to grant me wisdom and understanding for my past, present, and my future. When I look back a few days ago, I was leaning on hope to get me through my first week back on the job. I didn't have any other choice I thought, but to hope it went well. I was unsure of how my body would react to a new element of stress again, long hours (because believe it or not, teacher’s are still working when they go to bed and can’t turn off their brain), and the high energy needed to do my job, while having cancer. I was hoping I would just be able to get through the first two weeks without many problems, but my nerves were in high gear wondering how I would ever pull it off the day after chemo.
But then, God had a plan for me that I wasn't expecting. A bigger one than I could even comprehend at the moment actually. My hope I had was bigger than I thought He could hear. I never lost sight of Him during this time of uncertainty, knowing He still had the ultimate control. And then it happened. The cold I got in my eyes made us back up chemo for one week. My hope was restored and I’m now thrilled I will have the energy for my first week of school, thrilled! Yesterday, I was able to get through a day full of meetings AND go to the fair one last time (oh man, I got a picture coming of something that is SO FUNNY! Gotta keep up the laughter...it's the best medicine!) I mean, I felt good yesterday, and even today! Finally things with my body seem to be back on track, and it is great. It's like God had this plan for the viral infection in my eyes so that chemo would be cancelled and I would have the mental and physical strength needed for work this upcoming week. I wanted to start so bad on the first day...not only have I been able to start on the first day, but I get to start feeling really good :) Hope came through.
However, God also taught me an even more valuable lesson through it all, which I think was the real purpose of the infection (I'm sure He didn't give me an infection for kicks and giggles ;). Although I am so happy to feel good my first week back to school, He taught me just how easily it is for me to catch something when my immune system is so compromised. Sometimes I feel invincible, and it takes something visual for me to comprehend it. Swollen shut eyes was a pretty good visual :) Andrew had a cold, but it never developed into anything serious, thank God. But I got his cold in my eyes, even when being careful around him. This showed me that I have to be even more careful…which leaves my working situation even more up in the air than I thought. Although my heart and soul would love to be there every single day with my little kids at school, it is time that I put me first in my life.
So since I have chemo every other week, I am only going to teach every other week until my treatment is done. So I will now have chemo on Fridays (Sept. 3 is next), get my shot of Neulasta at the hospital on Saturdays, and rest until I go back to work that next Friday. It will be crazy trying to do all this healing with lesson plans and the million other things at work going on right now, but I have to do this for me. I have to put my hope once again back in God that He will take care of me, my sub, and my kids…and you too Dena! :) And just get us through this time. There is no point in standing still, we need to keep moving. We all just need to keep on moving forward with our lives and not hold on to the past. Some good advise I just read was to stop asking the ‘Why me?’ question and move on to the ‘What’s next?’ question. So lets all do this together. No matter what the situation is in your life, stop asking why me, and start asking what’s next. We will make so much more progress in our journey of Life! Please keep praying that I will not be stubborn and will make the right decisions in my life to keep me healthy and moving forward. My Pursuit is not over yet...I feel I have so much more to learn and put to use before this could ever be done. But for today, hope is key. Anything is possible with hope.

P.S. I just canned my first jar of spaghetti sauce today...let's hope this new adventure I've taken on won't make us sick in the future :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Chemo got Cancelled

I woke up this morning, feeling the same feelings of 'Where did the two weeks go?! Can't I have more time to feel 'good'?!' Then other feelings of relief came when I thought about how after this I am half way done! But before I got another thought, the sound of Coopers whimpers reminded me that it's not all about me and I was up with my eyes half way shut from them being swollen this morning. I literally washed my face, threw on my hat, and I was out the door because people don't really care what you look like when you get treatments, right? I met my sister at the Cancer Center since Andrew was working and walked in. We sat down and laughed as we waited to see the doctor. At some points I didn't know if I was laughing so hard I was crying or if it was from the eye viral infection that's been bothering me for the past three days now. When we got called back to the ever so familiar office, Dr.Powell didn't walk in, it was a new doctor. My doc was getting re- certified by taking 'the big test' again. That made me happy knowing the board was keeping him on top of his game...I knew I was in good hands. This new oncologist worked in Washington D.C. and was just filling in for the moment. Well, both nurses and doc took a look at my eyes and blood work and gave me the news... 'The best thing for you and your body is to wait a week before chemo to get over whatever is going on.' I was thinking, 'Man! My wish came true! I get another week of good health!'. Now, I get to work in my room to get the finishing touches up and WORK next week feeling GOOD. They were thinking, 'Get this girl healthy before we make her sick again.' :)
They gave me some meds to clear up this infection and I was told to eat more leafy greens and red meats to keep my protein up. My red blood cells are a little low which shows that I'm slightly anemic right now. But its nothing that some good BEEF can't cure :) How lucky am I?! There are some bad parts though. Now that I am pushed back a week it is interfering with some fun future plans that we had :( Hopefully I will have strength to do these things cause I wouldn't want to miss a Labor Day Picnic, a wedding, a Hocking Hills trip, or a formal dinner for the Fire Dept. because of chemo. I was so lucky these events all fell on my 'good weeks'. I'm also not half way done with chemo after leaving the Cancer Center today like I thought....man, maybe I really DIDN'T want an extra week. Shoulda thought that one through before I wished for it ;)

Jeremiah 29:11
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

5 Years Ago Today...

It's been 5 years. 5 years! I wonder if in 5 years from now I will look back and think 'Wow, how fast time has flown by since having cancer!'. It was 5 years ago today that I was in ICU at The Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus recovering from brain surgery. It was another day in ICU and 6 more days after that on a recovery floor, that I was finally able to come back to Lima and heal at home. My surgery was for Chiari Malformation. To put it simply, it's when the bottom part of your brain starts to push against the spinal cord, leaving you with symptoms such as major fatigue, headaches, and in my case, weak or numb arms and legs. Since there was pressure on my spinal cord, my brain fluid wasn't flowing right and I developed cysts in my spinal cord (remember, that's what I thought was happening again when it was actually the tumor this time). It was crazy though, because even when I sneezed or coughed, a huge tingling happened throughout my whole upper body. I can't even begin to describe it! I give my chiropractor props because he is the one who found it and referred me to my amazing neurosurgeon in Columbus. I thought I was just sore from the car accident. Once again, another great doctor who puts his heart into his work and helped heal me, Dr. Jicha, he looked more into it and we found that the trauma from the car accident with the deer, triggered symptoms of this Chiari. I was just so blessed that he found it so soon. My cousin actually had the same thing when he was 14, although he suffered way longer, 4 years longer than I did before the doctors found out why he was so sick. He is an inspirational story for sure! After being basically chair bound for 4 years, he had the surgery, recovered with HUGE success and is now running miles and traveling and living all over the world. WOW! Doctors are a BLESSINGS!
I had the surgery a week after I saw Andrew graduate from Boot Camp, and I think I was still on a high from how amazing that was to really get nervous about the upcoming major surgery. The main thing I remember about that surgery was the doctors saying that this was a very painful surgery and that they didn't really know how to manage the pain except a great amount of pain medication (I slept for a LONG time that week the meds were so good!). So they just gave me lots of pain killers. I was on a IV morphine drip until the day I came home and I remember that was also where we found out I was allergic to codeine. One crazy memory was a couple days after I got home, we had to call down to the doctors office because my pain was so intense...but it wasn't pain from the surgery though...the doctors said I was going through withdrawal from the meds! Needless to say, I probably should have been weened off a little bit better...I had the shakes like an addict would!
But you know what? I got through that. And I am better today because of fabulous doctors who know what they are doing. Otherwise, I'd probably be wheel chaired bound, unable to have the life I have today. I also learned a lot from that time. I learned that I am definitely not the one who is in control of my life. I was all geared up to go to Taylor University for college and start without Andrew (he was still in the Army and wasn't sure where life would take him), but God had other plans. Because of my long recovery, I had to stay home that semester. I changed my major and they didn't have it at Taylor. So when Andrew got home, we decided to go to college at Bluffton University together. Who knows where we would be now if I never had to have that surgery?! So as I reflect on that, I realize that this too shall pass and new lessons will be learned. I have an amazing doctor now and I'm going to get through this, just like I got through that surgery 5 years ago...and count my blessings, again. :) And learn something too...life is all about learning from experiences.

There are some really bad pictures of me during this time because I couldn't open up my eyes for a couple days because I was on sensory overload like CRAZY! Lights bothered my eyes, and I could SWEAR I heard the Ohio State Marching Band practicing, they were just right around the corner I hear. People literally had to whisper in the room and I even got a room to myself my ears were so sensitive. Sometimes I wonder if the sensitivity part ever fully went away...but here is a pictures of my scar...pretty cool! The hair-do isn't too bad either!;) Now that most of my hair is gone, you can see the scar really good again...oh memories! The other picture is of me and Andrew at Fort Jackson in South Carolina (I still like the green Army BDU's better :) If anyone gets the opportunity to see an Army Boot Camp Graduation, do it! It is on my Top 5 neatest things I have ever seen! I was so glad I was able to go with my mom, Tim, and Jonny. I'm sure they loved wheeling me around in the airport...but I was so happy I had the energy for all the walking, I used a cane for support, and with Andrew's family and my mom there, I had a great support system!
Well, Andrew and I didn't get to our date night tonight. I woke up this morning with my eyes swelled, blood shot, and SORE! It felt like there was a bruise behind my eyes and every time my eyeball moved, someone was pressing on that bruise. So I went to the eye doctor because I just don't mess around anymore and luckily, it isn't anything serious. I just have a viral infection in both eyes. This can happen when you are around someone with a cold and your own immune system is down. So, I didn't get Andrew's cold the way I thought I would, for some reason I got it in my eyes. We have such STRANGE bodies! And Cooper got neutered today, too! He was so tired and sore when I picked him up that I just couldn't bare leaving him tonight when I heard his little whimpers. I guess this is what it's like when it's not all about each other anymore. Sometimes plans have to change for the kids...and to take care of yourself too :) We did get a motorcycle ride in...so that was a good date right there! Tomorrow I get chemo again and after I am finished, I have made it half way. Half way...that makes me smile :)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My Bitter Sweet Summer

So many things are reminding me that my summer is almost over... the Allen County Fair, the cooler days and nights, and getting my school room ready are just some of those things. I love this time of year, but it is so bitter sweet. Bitter because my pool days, iced tea, naps under the shade tree, vacations, and sundresses are leaving me. But sweet because of the crisp air, football games, colorful leaves, and the fresh start of a new school year that fall brings. We all complain about Ohio, but there are some perks. We get to experience all four seasons and secretly get excited as each new one comes:) This summer was a little different because of my diagnosis and cancer isn't really summer friendly, kind of another bitter part to this past summer I guess ;) But I am already looking forward to NEXT summer for sure with a clean bill of health to take me on MANY adventures!! I get to end my summer with a date with my husband tomorrow and I'm gonna try out my new wig! Today I went to the fair and that is always a sure sign that summer is officially coming to an end...I'm so glad I got to share that with Alaina tonight! The best news ?!?! I got to eat an elephant ear!! YEAH!!!

So this third chemo treatment really got to me and I really hope that the fourth in two days is much nicer to me (especially since I start work soon). There really wasn't one day where I felt 100% this past round. Something was always bothering me whether it be my hair just hurting, a headache, my back pain, the nausea, my nose running (I think it's because I have no more nose hair to help...it all fell out! CRAZY!), my digestive system, or just being plain out tired. Never did I have a day that felt 'completely good' :( And right now, I think I'm having some kind of eye issue. It keeps getting redder by the day and it hurts to blink. It can't be allergy time already, can it?? I pray though that I will keep on schedule with treatment even though I haven't felt great...I would hate to get behind!

Look at BIG COOPER!! Cooper is getting so big and so active...and into everything! I thought he is such a good dog, there is no way that he would every destroy anything. Well, one pair of sandals have perished so far :) He really is a good dog though and I have to realize that he is still a puppy. He is starting to learn tricks now and is still a lot fun! He has definitely given me a reason to be happy this summer! I also got the chance to visit Union Chapel again this past Sunday. Amazing people who really know how to pray and have a relationship with God. They have prayed for me since the beginning of this all and I wanted to thank them so much for their continued support for Andrew and I. It was nice to go to his old church and sit with his mom during service. Sometimes things stick with you during services more than others...and this time it was something that had to do with money. It was three simple sentences...

GET all you can
SAVE all you can
GIVE all you can
I truly believe that you will be blessed when you work hard for your money, save what you can, and have a big giving heart. That's all people can ask of us right? But I also thought about this for life in general...ALL YOU CAN. Just do what you can, and if you work up to the peak of what you can, who can call you a failure? No one, because that's the best you've ever done when you always put forth the effort to do all or the best you can. I really have to learn this lesson before I go back to work :) If you can truly say you have given something your best effort or ALL THAT YOU CAN, than be happy, because that's all we can really do. Hope your summer was a blast ya'll! Thanks for helping me make mine the best it could really be!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

I Just Don't Want to Miss a Thing!

Hey all! Phew….I swear I have been UP, then DOWN, then UP, then DOWN…I’m just waiting for a steady feeling in my body and right now I don’t care if it’s good OR bad! Ok, I would prefer good more because then I wouldn’t be missing out on everything! I really do try to pace myself because I don’t want to miss a thing, but then it always catches up with me. I worked to get my room ready on Wednesday for a few hours and I was POOPED after I was done (never could have done it though if I didn't have you Dena!) I woke up that morning with a head ache that just never really went away and throughout the day it just got worse and worse. But I wasn’t going to skip out on supper with my grandparents at Red Lobster :) I started feeling a little better after we ate, so we went back to their place and played a couple rounds of euchre. I love ‘people older than me’ (cause Grandma and Grandpa you could never be old to me ;). You make me laugh so much and I had a GREAT time with you! Spend time with your grandparents people, because they are the ones who REALLY have it together. Way better insight to life than what we have now a days to guide us! Sometimes I wish I had my Grandma Mary around again…she had such a unique perspective and was a get to the point kind of lady. She would really kick me in the butt if she knew cancer was getting me down at any time. Hope I’m not letting you down, Grandma T.!
Thursday, I was out and about running some errands, and my back started KILLING me. Like before when it felt like labor pains! I went to see my sister at work because where it really hurt was were they did the bone marrow procedure. I have a nice size goose egg right there from it. She told me that when she had to have it done for her scoliosis surgery, she was able to get a pain killer shot to ease her pain. If this pain doesn’t let up with a massage or heating pad by next Wednesday, I am SOO getting that shot! Then on Friday, I made a big mistake…well, a ‘maximum dosage’ big mistake. I woke up and took Vicodine because I did not want to hurt like I did the day before. I took more than I have in the past and within an hour, I was out like a light. When Andrew got home from fishing, I went out to greet him and was walking in a zigzag line I was so dizzy. It made me nauseous with a headache too…so at this point, I was thinking ‘Geez, the back pain was more tolerable than all this!’. So note to self, maximum dosage does not work for you, Laura. Maybe others, not you. And on top of it all, my whole digestive system cannot make up its mind on how it would like to digest my food. Irritating!

So now that I have complained, I must say that I am not a slug, but through it all I have been able to do little things, just with more caution. I rested enough to go to the band/flag/twirler show. Although leaving early was for the best sometimes. And I rested even more so I could go to my friend’s graduation party. Tara is a nurse!! I’m so proud of her and wish I could have stayed longer for her party, but my body was just not cooperating today! That is what makes me so irritated. I want to do these things, celebrate with my friends, and enjoy shows, but right now I just can’t to the extent I want too. I have to prioritize my list, and count my blessing for at least being able to do some things :) They have been SO understanding and I am so thankful I have the friends I do. You’re the best ladies and love ya Tara! I’m toasting to you at home with my water dear…catch me in December and we will celebrate again!! :)
I have another prayer request before I sign off tonight…Andrew is feeling ‘under the weather’ and I just cannot have him getting sick on my watch! Please pray for his healing because us two sick is not a pretty picture :) And I love him dearly, but I do NOT want any sickness that isn’t on the ‘chemo side effects’ list in my body. Lysol is my best friend these days! And I also want to have strength to go to the fair with my friend Alaina this Tuesday and eat an elephant ear (unfortunately, they don’t sound good at all and that is my favorite! That’s how I know I really am sick!) Not to mention, school starts for good next Friday…oh, boy! And somewhere I am suppose to find time to finish my room…I just don’t want summer to end yet! Enjoy summer people…it is coming to a close before our very eyes!
I came across this phrase from an author unknown. It kinda helps me put things into perspective when I want to do so much, but realize that I WILL have a lifetime for these things…I just need to settle and take care of ME now.

"Cancer changes your life, often for the better. You learn what's important, you learn to prioritize, and you learn not to waste your time. You tell people you love them. My friend Gilda Radner (who died of ovarian cancer in 1989 at age 42) used to say, 'If it wasn't for the downside, having cancer would be the best thing and everyone would want it.' That's true. If it wasn't for the downside."
I have learned a lot through having cancer and I hope I can keep sharing it with you so you don’t have to learn through going through it :) Tell the ones you love that you love them today; take a second, even when you are in the shower and have nothing else to do, to think of the important things in your life...Keep those your priority and definitely don't waste time! Even if you can only give a little bit of your time, like me right now...it is better than nothing! I hope you know I would do anything for you guys, really just ask cause I owe you all so much, and thanks for sticking with me through this!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

In the Beginning...

I have been asked by some people how this whole Pursuit all started…so here it is from the beginning…

In 2005, I had surgery on my neck to relieve the pressure my brain was putting on my spinal cord. As a result of the pressure, cysts started to develop in my spinal cord. After surgery and many prayers sent my way, an MRI six months later proved that the cyst had decreased in size immensely. SUCCESS! :) Fast forward five years later...in October of 2009, I developed an itchy skin rash that started on one leg, and throughout the next 8 months spread randomly throughout my body. Towards April and May, the rash found its permanent home on the lower part of my legs and wouldn’t go away. After numerous dermatology appointments with different doctors, creams, pills, steroids, antibiotics, and a biopsy, no one had an answer to my itchy rash besides it’s dermatitis. In March, the back pain I had for months started to work its way in my chest and to take a deep breath started getting harder and harder. In April, I started having swallowing issues when I would take off my shirt or put my hands over my head. But do you think I went to the doctor? Nope, I'm stubborn and I waited until IEP season and the end of the school year was done before I scheduled an appointment with my family doctor. At this point, I even scheduled an appointment with my neurosurgeon in Columbus because I was SURE that the pain in my chest was because the cysts in my spine were so big that I could feel it through my chest.

So on Wednesday June 2, the first day of my summer vacation, I called my family doctor to schedule an appointment. They asked if it was an emergency and I said 'no', so we scheduled it for Friday June 11. I got to the appointment and described my symptoms to the doc. He pressed on my back and it hurt. He started asking unrelated questions to what I thought this was and I was actually getting kinda irritated. He said we already fixed the spinal cord problem, so it couldn't be that and he wanted to do blood work and an MRI. I left there, and on Monday June 14, I went to the Path Lab to get my blood work done. My first clue that something could be wrong was when the receptionist looked at my lab sheet request and she looked at me and said ‘Oh honey, you must be feeling awful!’ I was like, ‘I…guess so?’ in my head. Then, the nurse took five tubes of blood. I have never had that much drawn before. When I left, she said ‘Oh sweetie, I hope you feel better’. Hmmm. And went on my way to get our last minute stuff for our trip to Iowa on Wednesday.

The next day, Tuesday June 15, I got an MRI that took 50 minutes…torture! I did my routine MRI prayer and prayed for everyone I knew while I was in the cube…there really isn’t much else to do in there :) I went to bed that night excited for my first vacation to Iowa tomorrow. We were going to leave at 4:00 pm for Ft.Wayne and stay there for the night at Andrew's brother's house. On Wednesday morning, Andrew was mowing the lawn and I was at CVS picking up more medicine for my rash when I got the call. It was Katie from the doctor's office. I was glad it was her because I was just at her wedding a couple weeks before because she married a man from the fire department where Andrew works. She was so patient as she told me that they got the MRI back and it showed lesions on my chest and neck (explains the swallowing and breathing issues) and the doctor would like for me to get a CAT scan right away...like today. I heard what she was saying, but it was nothing about my spine. So I asked, ‘So is there anything wrong with my spine?’. She replied, ‘No, your spine is perfect, no cysts. There is a bulged disc on your spine, that would explain your back pain.’ I was relieved because I thought nothing was seriously wrong since it wasn't my spinal cord, so I asked her if the CAT scan could wait until I got home from Iowa, and she said no. That the doctor wanted this done TODAY because the MRI said this was an Emergency Read and that the hospital called the doctors office to tell Katie the results personally (Katie told me they don’t usually do this unless it’s serious). I said a confusing ok and realized I had to cancel going to Ft. Wayne and we would just have to leave Thursday morning. I went outside and told Andrew I was going back to the hospital, he looked at me confused, and I just shrugged my shoulders because I didn’t know what to think either.
Thankfully, my sister is a nurse and I explained what had just happened and after her shock, she told me her interpretation of what these lesions could be. Before she left my house that day, she said ‘You know, this could be cancer.’ I told her ‘There is no way, Sarah. That is just crazy. But because you said that, you can not tell ANYONE about what is going on until I know for sure what this is. Especially since baby Maci is going to be born tomorrow.’ She reluctantly agreed to my request, and I was on my way to the hospital for my CAT scan. That night, Andrew and I just laid in bed wondering about all the possibilities. We didn’t know what to say except that no matter what the diagnosis was tomorrow, we would be just fine. Everything will be fine. Then we prayed...the only thing we really knew to do.

That morning, we were on our way to pick up Andrew’s mom for our trip to Iowa when we talked to the doctor. I talked to Katie first and asked about my results, and she said that the doctor wanted to talk to me. I looked at Andrew who was driving and whispered ‘The doctor wants to talk to me!’. He pulled over in the Metro Park parking lot as we heard the news. I remember it like it was yesterday…
‘Hi Laura, well we got the results back from the CAT scan and it was what we suspected.’
‘It’s Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, do you know what that is?’
‘I think so.’
‘Don’t worry because although this seems scary, we can treat this. There is a really great oncologist here in Lima…’
At this point, I kinda knew what HL was, but it wasn't registering. What definitely registered was the word oncologist. ‘Wait…is this…cancer?’
‘Yes, Laura. Hodgkin's Lymphoma is a type of cancer that attacks the immune system, in the lymph nodes.’
My hand went to my mouth, just like in the movies, and I started crying, silently. All I can remember is me asking if it was ok to go to Iowa and after that, I said OK about twenty times to everything he was saying because my thoughts were everywhere. They were the thoughts I never thought I would ever think of in my lifetime...How much longer do I have? Will I need surgery? Do I have to go to a hospital for chemotherapy? What the heck?! How did I get cancer? Did I do something to deserve this? Was God not happy with me? Was I being punished...I mean I cheat in my putt putt score sometimes, but that's not too bad! Am I going to die? I can’t really remember what he said after he told me the diagnosis. Before I even spoke a word to Andrew after I got off the phone with the doctor, my sister was on call waiting to see if I had heard anything. I bawled to her and said ‘I have cancer!’ Through tears, she begged me not to go to Iowa and I begged her not to tell a sole until I got home in four days. I didn’t want to tell my family over the phone and not on the day my niece was born. The doctor cleared me to go to Iowa since it was only five days and Sarah kept her promise, although it was VERY hard I heard. Thank you, sis :)
At this point, I looked at Andrew and he squeezed my hand. We didn’t say a lot again because we were stunned. We just hugged a lot and for some reason I said sorry to him. He looked at me like I was crazy and hugged me harder. Like I said, thank GOD for Blackberry’s because the whole way to Iowa I thought about it as he read up on as much information as possible. Iowa and meeting Andrew’s family again was amazing. I told them what our newest battle was and because they are a praying family, they really started us on the right foot in this Pursuit. That night, June 17, 2010, the night I found out Andrew and I had cancer, I was in Iowa and I want to keep it personal, just between us. Andrew and I shared a lot of thoughts and feelings that bonded us closer than imaginable. I lean on my parents a lot for support, but this time, they where 13 hours away with no idea of my new health situation. I had to rely on my husband of not even a year yet for support. And he passed with flying colors that night :) I love you, Andrew.

Well, we stayed in Iowa though the weekend and got back Monday night. I had my CT guided biopsy that Wednesday June 23. Two days later, I got the call that it was definitely Hodgkin's Lymphoma and my oncology appointment at the Cancer Center was scheduled for July 1...the day this Pursuit all began…at that point, I put all my hope in God and knew that I was Never Giving In to cancer. God would still be glorified somehow, even through cancer, He can be glorified. What did I have to lose by putting my situation in God's hands...nothing. He gladly took it and said, 'That's all you got?' I'm good guys, I have God on my side :)
~Psalms 55:22
Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you.
~James 1:2-4
Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Cause I Would Be Curious Too :)

Laura by day...
LuLu Lola by night!!!I'm sure you were curious about what my hair looks like..I would be if I were you!! :) I'm trying to be sensitive with my natural hair because it's still falling out when I touch it. It's still weird to grab a pinch full of hair (I say 'pinch full' because 'hand full' would just be a complete lie ;), and what you just grabbed still falls out. You don't ever really get used to it. I was REALLY tired of the thin hair that I had. When it was wet, the pieces that were still long on top was honestly no thicker than a piece of paper when bundled together. I figured it was time to take those remaining long pieces off since I was still wrapping a towel on my wet hair after I got out of the shower :) Not much there to wrap up...force of habit I guess!
So today was a special day for me...
Ash, my hair stylist and bestest friend any girl could ask for, helped build my confidence one more time today. She has been a TOTAL sport with me through this, there from the beginning thinking of things I didn't, and she's there til the end. She cut my long hair short when I was indecisive, she was there to dry my tears and order my wig (from the internet Henry Marcu...way less expensive!), and was there to tell me I was still beautiful when my hair was no longer than a paper clip and thinner than I could ever imagine! So today was the big fitting to get the wig cut and styled! I told her I was booking an appointment for LuLu...she is my alternative personality that is gonna come out when the wig comes on :) This could be FUN!! I chose LuLu because Ash has called me Laura Loo forever...so the name is dedicated to her. Ash- May the personality that LuLu brings out during this time make you proud my friend ;) The last name Lola is to all of my old school church friends at 1CHOG...may my personality that Lola brought back then, shine through right now too :) That was one of the happiest times in my life and only you people could understand Lola!
See....cancer isn't all that bad! I get to wear fun wigs! I even have a blond one that I wore for Halloween last year...watch out people...this could get crazy!!! :D No really, I wanted something to wear when a hat just doesn't match, and for those days when I just want to have hair again. I am still a girl you know?! The bald head seems to be the sign of cancer, and I'm not ashamed of it. It's a part of my life right now, and at first it was hard to embrace, but it gets better with time. The best part?? I get to sleep-in like 15 extra minutes in the morning!! But, I don't think the bald look is for me, so I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited to have my hair come back in again:) Thanks friends for your hair support, you make me feel confident in the bald body I'm in :)
**HUGE props to My Hair Lady in Shawnee. Hair styles can totally help you feel better about yourself and give you the change that you need. The atmosphere at My Hair Lady is so awesome and the hair stylist are GREAT! Try them out!! My fav is Ash :) **

Monday, August 16, 2010

Awake from the Nightmare!

I'M BACK! HOORAY!! YES!!! The past weekend was just awful! Chemo has never been that bad and I am so glad that the worst of it is over. I woke up this morning and knew I'd have a good day because I didn't think of running to get my meds first thing my feet hit the floor! What a blessing to feel awake from that nightmare of a weekend I had. Over the weekend, I was overwhelmed by a headache worse than any migraine I have ever had. I could actually HEAR the blood flowing in and out of my head it was throbbing so bad. I slept more than I was awake. My jaw was in pain, but I could stand it because my whole body ached this time. My lower back started killing me again. If this is what back labor is like...I'm gonna be a pro! And literally every hair follicle on my body just HURT. I just laid in the bath tub pouring water over my body. I even saw some of my hair follicles bleeding on my head...OUCHY!!! I was actually glad Andrew wasn't around much this weekend (Blake is back from the Marines!!!) because I literally felt like I was 15 again I was so emotional and moody. I wasn't a nice Laura this weekend, so he kept some distance:) Kayla came over at the end of the week for egg drop soup and a movie...she helped me get out of my funk mood like always! I was sad though, because I wanted to go to Union Chapel on Sunday morning, but my body had different plans I guess. I'm so glad I listened...see I'm getting better at listening! ;) But it's ok, now Andrew gets to go with me next week and I will be feeling much more up to it anyway.

I'm going to try to do my best to keep things in order in my life from now on. I really let this round get to me and I don't like feeling out of control. I've just learned my lesson that it is better to just pray to God than be mad at the situation...it just saves you some time in the end :) So maybe this was a lesson learned through cancer. When you are going through a bad time, go directly to God for comfort, cause I wasted a good day and a half being mad when if I would have just seeked some comfort in the beginning, it could have been a different story. It's really not about how you got down in the first place, what really matters is how fast you pick yourself back (you can thank the Hoff for that one! ;) But it's true, get yourself back up and keep fighting. The second I quit fighting my battle with cancer, is the second cancer gets a step ahead of me. And I'm too strong to ever let it beat me!

Today was fun and relaxing...I was much better company today :) Took Cooper to the vet and he is perfect! Sat in the shade with the cool breeze today...LOVED IT! And had wonderful conversations in my back yard with my 'Other Mom Judi' and then out to eat at the new Fat Jacks with the ladies...(and Josh ;) Just a fun way to celebrate me feeling a little like my old self today. I love feeling good, I swear, and I will celebrate that fact that I feel good anyday now! And I took a pill so I was able to eat Pizza and not die from it...I LOVE MEDS!!! Tomorrow is another day to relax...and then a hair date with Ash...here we go, stay tuned!!!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

AND....breathe :) Much better now....

Hey! So I need to add another sentence to my post a few days ago…the guy who was drinking the tall Bud Light when we were on our way to Newport in the morning, Yeah… he was also DRIVING!! Drinking his beer and driving at the same time…on the highway…hmmmmm. It’s a scary world sometimes!

So anyways, I’m back on track today. Sorry again for my moment yesterday, but hey, that’s life…I’m just glad that God always takes us back after we start to drift away at times :) I really needed to take a deep breath, and just breathe. And THANK YOU for encouraging me and listening to my story...through the good and bad times! I’m still not feeling 100% yet. Today, I woke up with an awful headache and cold/hot chills. Last night, I went to bed with sweats and a long sleeve shirt on. I think Andrew looked at me like I was crazy, but right now he knows better than to say anything :) I feel more nauseated today, which stinks because I was looking forward to a possible night out (wishful thinking, I know!) So this means I just need to take my medication on time. And I’m not sure if it’s allergies or what, but my nose keeps running too. So I think I’m just in for the rest of the weekend to build my body back up. Although I really want to go to Union Chapel tomorrow to see some old friends, so I’m hoping I really feel better by tomorrow morning!

So I’ve decided that when I start to feel sick and things are out of my control, I just need to go to a ‘calm place’...and breathe :) Everyone needs to have a calm place to just gather thoughts again, right? I love to take a bath, and I used a candle last night that Amy got me and that totally helped relax me! I just need to take time to chill, think about things like my future, my big house in the country one day, and vacations to exotic places (or just go over to Linda’s tropical garden in her backyard! So relaxing!) I feel much better when I think about life's possibilities rather than dwelling on the now moment. I might just have to make a poster of my favorite things and hang it on my bedroom door. That way its visual motivation to help me get through these bad times, like this last round of chemo. I really never know how I’m going to react anymore to chemo since my side effects have been so different and I know I can’t change anything. But I can use precaution. I can keep up on my meds and eat healthy. And drink more water…augh…..I swear I have already drank the reservoir dry by now!! On a better note, I got a new cell phone because my old touch phone was losing its touch. Kinda hard to make a phone call when the screen doesn’t work :) Guess how much after the rebate my phone was…$3.25! Cool! I was annoyed though, because I don’t need the Internet on my phone just yet, and they only had 2 phones in that whole store that didn’t have an Internet package…I felt like they were trying to tell me something!

I also got my stitches taken out of my port and neck yesterday. The doctors at the Cancer Center said they should have dissolved by now, so I needed to go back to St. Rita’s to get them out. So back to Radiology I went...wonder how much that nice bill will be?! I wasn’t sure where the nurse was taking me, until I was in it…it was the dreaded room where I watched them prep me for my port surgery! Lots of memories came flooding back, but this time I was way calmer :) I just propped myself back on the bed, they laid the blankets over me again, and I was just fine. I tell ya, I’m like a pro at this now!! I asked why the stitches hadn’t dissolved yet and they said that some people just don’t have enough acid in their body to dissolve the stitches. I think that just means I’m super sweet instead ;) They took them out anyway because the stitches were starting to sting and get red/irritated when something rubbed against them. Anyway, they are out and it feels good to have one less foreign object in my body :)

So tonight, I will try to eat something, try to stay a consistent body temperature, and try not to lose my mind. No guarantees :) I think a nice night in with my hubby will suit me just fine on this rainy, hot night!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

3 Chemo Treatments Down, 5 to Go! So why am I still Running??

I'm just warning you, I'm having one of those days. So pardon my rant as I may just blurt out unorganized and rambling sentences because that's just how I feel right now. I'm letting out my frustrations and I'm going to blame it on treatment today :) I had my 3rd treatment today. Only 5 more left to do. My mom went with me (I let Andrew finish out his golf league today-Good job on an almost Hole-in-One!!) and my lab work is perfect, got another CT scan scheduled to see the progress made with my tumors, and treatment went smoothly. The doctor is so pleased with my progress, and don't get me wrong, I am too! I think I'm just mad about 'this'. And I'm mad that I can't put 'this' into words right. But I'm gonna try so that if any of you would (God forbid!)get cancer one day, you can see that even two months into it, you still have your moments. During treatment, the drugs still makes me tired when the IV drugs were administered, and this time I was more nauseated than last time. I came home and slept until 5 pm. Nothing sounds good to eat, I have the start of a migraine, and my body is just sore. It feels like the flu, and I honestly hate it.

This is the week where cancer seems more real to me. I can make myself feel like I don't have cancer during my 'good week', but now it's here again. Getting me down and I hate that its not easy right now. It's not easy to forget about and live a life that doesn't revolve around cancer. I hate that I can't be positive like my mom all the time. I hate not feeling balanced in my life. My cure is making me sick before I get better and it just doesn't seem balanced to me. I'm uncomfortable and don't know what to do to make me comfortable. More of my already 'almost gone hair' is coming out and I'm looking like one of those old baby dolls, you know like the ones with one eye, and in the morning I look like Albert Einstein! ;) Andrew cleaned the dreaded basement mess today and did outside work, so I feel helpless. It's scary sometimes when I let it get to me.

I'm frustrated because I'm 26 with cancer. What the heck? Aren't old people suppose to get cancer? I'm mad that I'm still asking myself the 'why me?' question. What purpose does this part of my life serve? What is it that I'm supposed to learn from this all? I know I'm learning a lesson through cancer, but it annoys me that at seven weeks into my Pursuit, I still can't put into words what the true lesson I've learned is. I can't figure it out. The other times in my life when I just can't figure it out, I realize it is because I'm running. I'm running away from the problem instead of finding the answers for it. Today, I just feel like running. I just feel like I don't have the strength to find the answers today. So I'm running away from my strength in all this. I'm running away from God, and trying to do it on my own strength...which is just not good enough. Then it comes back to haunt me, and when I cry back to Jesus in guilt for leaving His side, He holds no grudge. We really serve an amazing God. Like the Reliant K 'I so hate Consequences' song says...'When I got tired from running from You, I stopped right there to catch my breath. There the words they caught my ear, You said 'I miss you son, come home.' And my sins they watched me leave, and in my heart I so believe, the love you have for me was mine. The love I'd wished for all this time....and when the doors were closed, I heard no 'I told you so's', except the words I knew You knew, 'Oh God, Oh God, I needed you. God all this time, I needed you, I needed you'. And I so hate consequences, running from you is what my best defense is. I hate these consequences, cause I know that I let you down, and I don't want to deal with that.' I feel like when I'm running away, when I turn my back to lean on my own strength, I fall. And my consequence at the end is me crying, wondering why I ever left God's side to begin with. But God doesn't care, like in the song. I run, but God always calls me home without any 'I told you so.' I'm so glad I have a relationship with Him so that when I do fall, when I do lose sight of my strength through my illness, He catches me every time with open arms and asks, 'why are you not letting me carry you, I have the strength to do it for you right now, why??' I can't answer that...I don't know why I do it sometimes. I know I'm only human and it's our instinct, and maybe it's because I hate asking for help. So what I really need to do, is what I do when I don't know what else to do...is pray :)

'God, please...just like in the Footprints poem, I'm going through a hard time. I'm sorry for thinking my own strength could carry me through this today. I need You to carry me. Again, I need You to carry me when I am so undeserving to be carried. I let You down more than I ever want to in my life, and hate my consequences at the end of the day, but I praise You for carrying me in the times I need it and forgive me for not coming to you sooner. I pray I can do the same for others. I praise You because You never say No...You always let me come back to you, with open arms. My gratitude will never be enough to You. So please, let my love for You be enough. Let me live up to NEVER GIVING IN! I will never understand why I have had these illnesses in my life, but all I can ask is that through my suffering, You can still somehow be glorified. Use me, show me strength unknown again, just like in the beginning of all this. Thank You for understanding that not everyday will be positive, and for giving me people in my life to set me straight again. And God, thanks for not saying 'I told you so'.'

Friends, my post today is to show you that not every day is perfect in life. You didn't need me to tell you that :) But, not everyday is it easy for me to go to God and remain focused that He is the ultimate healer here. There are those days when we do want to run, feel sorry for ourselves. But, I'm telling you, it's doesn't take cancer or an illness to have you running. We all lose focus sometimes because of money situations, your relationship with family or friends, your job, your health, even your habits in life that only you may know about. This is NOT the first time I have ran away from my source of strength - God. I hate the consequences at the end when I know I've been running because I cry, and I don't want to cry. But never once has God denied me when I get tired of running and come back to Him. He has ALWAYS forgiven me, dried my tears, and has me smiling again at the end of my day, giving me another chance. We instinctively run from God during the hard times times in life to try and figure it out on our own...I've ran away before. And the times when I was running, that was when I should have been holding on to God's hand even tighter and longer. I'll get through this, like always, but I just wanted to be honest that this Pursuit hasn't been all uphill. Not one person has said ths was going to be an easy process, and it's hasn't for sure. But trust me, having God there first, with my family and friends right beside me has made this a heck of a lot better to get though...as you have seen throughout this whole diagnosis. So thank you, I love you guys and thanks for letting me use this blog to share the good and the bad :)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

August 11, 2010 - Trading Hilton Head Island for Newport Aquarium

It seemed like only yesterday when school let out and my mom and I bought our plane tickets to Hilton Head Island for August 11-15. It was going to be our last big, relaxing vacation before school started for the both of us again. We were supposed to leave today...but cancer had other plans for us ;) Unfortunately, we had to cancel our vacation because of chemo tomorrow. Plus, chemotherapy and the beach really just don't go together very well. I thought I would try to somehow get my fill of the ocean through the Newport Aquarium in Kentucky today...little did I know I would be getting so much more than Hilton Head could ever offer me!

Andrew and I headed down to Newport and I couldn't believe my eyes! It was 10:30 in the morning and we passed a guy drinking a tall Bud Light! I was speechless! What surprised me the most was that it was 10:30 IN THE MORNING!!! Disturbing! Anyway, we got to Kentucky where we picked up my friend Amy and her beautiful daughter, Juliana. I was feeling a little fatigued, but I was like a kid in a candy store when we got to the Aquarium. SO EXCITED to see all the fish, sharks, stingrays, jellyfish, and most of all the SEA TURTLES!! It was crowded, but I could have stayed all day reading all of the information about the different ocean life. I took frequent breaks because I was getting so tired, more than usual for some reason. But then it happened...I went to Heaven I think. I got to the coral reef part and literally felt like I was in the ocean! Right there with all the animals! The aquarium literally surrounded you... beside you, above you, and under you. It was incredible...I took a video of it but it won't upload on here for you too see! :( (I'm gonna keep trying to make it work!) The sharks swam RIGHT beside you with their teeth out, and the sea turtle looked me in the EYES! I swear!!! Now I have swam with the sea turtles in real life while snorkeling in the Virgin Islands (I even got to touch them I got so close!!), but I never saw one this big and stay this close to me. I couldn't believe how good I felt in those moments. Whether it was excitement or a burst of energy, I don't know, but I felt SO GOOD being in that coral reef after feeling so weird the whole afternoon . Literally, for that 30 minutes I was in there just staring at the animals, I didn't have one care in the world. Not ONE! I was lost in the ocean with all the animals. So much so that Andrew and Amy were sitting outside waiting for me and I didn't even notice! I could have been in there ALL DAY! I went out, sat beside them on the bench speechless, and just smiled...then teared up and almost cried I was so happy! Nothing could top my day at that point...but I was wrong again!!
Just SOME of the pictures from today at the Aquarium...
Me and my favorite animal (The animal at the bottom is a mix between a shart and a sting ray...COOL! I have another pic of it 5 pics down)
After the Aquarium, we had Cold Stone Creamery...YUMM!!! Then went across the Purple People Bridge that connected Kentucky to Ohio...unfortunately, the Cincinnati Reds lost today :( Then, we went to Amy's home and she made us her famous authentic curry while Andrew was playing with Juliana and claiming he was going to teach her to walk today. Oh boy you guys, you have not had curry until you have had hers! She makes it the real way with all the spices to make it just like the curry in Sri Lanka! We even attempted to eat it with our hands and it was a success! Clean plates without even touching a fork...you would have been proud Johannas!! He was working unfortunately so he couldn't join us for most of the day. But we stuck around until he got home...and then the best part of the day happened. Their daughter, Juliana took her first steps!!! She was playing with her dad, and all the sudden, there it was...she took like five steps! I got to witness a child taking her first steps and it was beautiful! To see the look on a mom and dad's face when their first child takes their first steps was priceless. I want that. We want that. Andrew and I want to have children and see them take their first steps and have that joy in our lives like Amy and Johannas had today. I want that more than swimming with the sea turtles again! CRAZY!!! (I must be either growing up or cancer has shaken me up a it :) All I really know is God had a bigger plan in store for me on this August 11, 2010...it wasn't shopping and the beach in Hilton Head, it wasn't my love for sea turtles at Newport Aquarium...it was for me to witness such an amazing part of life that I now, without a doubt, do not want to live without. I want to be a mommy :)

Amy, Juliana, and I crossing the Purple People Bridge

The beautiful beauty that took her first steps today!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Meet 'Moma Mia' Mazda

Like Mother, Like Daughter...

First of all, the video below works now!!! Please, if you haven't watched this dance to the song 'Fix You' yet, you need to watch it now. Just click right on the arrow and click on 'watch on YouTube', and listen to the judges comments at the end, too! It is SO moving and so inspirational and really makes you appreciate your mommy...and the picture up above is why I appreciate my mommy!! I GOT A NEW SUV! I've always dreamed of owning a SUV one day and I finally got one :) My moma loves me so much she let me buy her 2003 Madza from her which she LOVES!!! Our lease is up as you know, and we have been looking and so has my dad for a truck for the lake. Since they just got the Edge, my mom is gonna be styling in her NEWER car, dad gets his truck, and I have the Mazda which I have ALWAYS loved! I love when we pray and things just work out...God is good! And aren't parents just the best?!? Always putting your needs before their own :) One day I hope to be like them and will repay them...I guess they just won't have to go to the nursing home so quick now! ;) Just Kidding!! LOVE YOU Mom and Dad and would do anything for you!!! So Moma Mia is going to sit next to Andrew's big Studly Silverado truck in the drive way and I couldn't be happier.
Being a preschool teacher and owning a SUV is a must. We switch out toys so often and I am SO excited to not have a trunk anymore, but a door to open and put everything in! You would have to be a teacher to know what I'm talking about...sometimes we LIVE out of our trunks :) Speaking of...I went to work today to put my room back together with my mom, and it got me excited, anxious, and nervous. My mind is ready to get this year started, but I think my body is saying 'lets take it a day at a time'. After just two hours of work, I'm tired. But I shouldn't complain! So many people out there do not have a job right now and I almost feel guilty for taking a prayer slot and filling it with this request. But if you could, please pray for this upcoming school year for me. For the physical strength to work, the stubborn part in me to let go and ask for help when I need it, and that we can touch 'God's little spys' one more year :) Thank you friends and family. I love the goody bag sent my way from my favorite ladies ;) I love the cards and visits with such wonderful words of encouragment, and yummy suppers, and most of all your prayers. You have been a CONSTANT strength for me during this diagnosis, keeping me positive, strong, and motivated! Now, if I can just carry this attitude into my work life that starts again here in the two weeks...

Philippians 4:6-7
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

This was taken from what I wrote a few weeks ago about this video...
Ok, so this dance brought me to tears! My mom said how good it was and I watched it once, then twice…then came home and YouTube’d it. If anyone out there wants to say that dance is not inspirational after seeing this, they are crazy! The dancers are from the show called So You Think You Can Dance and the song is by Cold Play called Fix You. Travis Wall, the choreographer, made up this dance to represent his mom after her surgery and how he felt. They are dancing, but also telling a story through their dance about a person who is trying to so hard to fix their loved one. When I relate this dance and words back to my life...I am completely moved by it. Maybe Andrew and I could take up dancing after this! Just Kidding Andrew! (he has to put his foot down somewhere :) Maybe it will touch you somehow like it touched me :)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My Summer weekend away...found me Laughter

I'm back! I had a really great weekend away from Lima! For some reason, I came away from this weekend appreciating laughter and summertime even more. I LOVE the summer and the time it gives me to relax. And when we all relax, don't we smile and laugh even more?? :) And I love that I have enough energy to still do some traveling during this cancer process (it's not the motorcycle trip or Hilton Head trip I had planned, but these little trips will work for this summer I guess. :) And it may not be 'full energy' all of the time, but I'm grateful for the moments I do have. I especially love the summer nights. I love taking a car ride in the country (a very Hochstetler thing to do :) when the sun starts to set. I love the color the sun makes on everything, its like a yellowish orange color that should just be called 'Summer SunSet'. It makes everything look so calm, cool, clean, and relaxing. I love driving in the country and seeing all the wildflowers on the side of the road when the grass is really tall and green, and the sky is orange near the sun but still light blue on top of the sky (especially when there is pond water around for reflecting! Not ocean or lake water, ocean has a COMPLETELY different sunset feel :). I love the summer car rides when I feel the cool breeze on my face and Michael Buble singing to me in the background...needless to say, the drive home today was a perfect summer sunset and a great way to end my weekend away. I didn't have my camera with me, but I found this picture I took 5 years ago that helps capture the scene I'm trying so hard to describe right now. If this is earth, Heaven must really be indescribable! Oh, and ice cream from The Creamery in Delphos just tops those summer sunset car ride's right off!! (Thanks Mom and Dad for my first waffle cone in AGES!! And for making me remember memories that make me laugh and smile :)

My summer weekend away started though on Friday with another entertaining day at the Garage Sale with my nephews selling cookies and lemonade. They were hilarious and made us all laugh as my littlest 4 year old nephew tapped on an old man's belly and said, 'hey, wanna buy a cookie?', and then another gentleman said, 'Hi, I haven't had breakfast yet, can I have a cookie?', and my nephew replied 'This is NOT breakfast food!' Good job Julie on raising the kids! So my family is close, we love being together...even at Garage Sales....see the picture to prove it :) The only people missing were the one's that were working! There were so many laughs that I wouldn't want to be anywhere else...well, at least most of the time ;)
My niece is growing too fast!! Slow down Miss Blue Eyes!

So is my Cooper! Stay little forever Cooper! (and thanks for the scarf Natalie!)

A Garage Sale - A Family Affair

Then on Saturday, Andrew, Cooper, and I went to Fort Wayne to see his brother and sister-in-law...ALWAYS a blast going out there! Tim and Andrew went golfing while Beth and I had some girl time and were on the hunt in Fort Wayne for a certain movie..'Hello Puppies!' :) Our time together is just TOO FUN...seriously!! I have the very best sister-in-law anyone could ask for! She makes me laugh just as much as when I'm with my own sister's! Now that's a great in-law!Then we went to Asakusa, another Japanese restaurant and the sushi was to die for! Oh, it is sooo yummy! We went home and just crashed we ate so much (I was exhausted!)...but that didn't stop us from watching another couple episodes of Shark Week on the Discovery Channel! (does anyone else think it is addicting to watch?!) We went to a Greek restaurant called Skyro's for breakfast in the morning...this was a weekend for food for sure! My energy was up most of the time...which I was totally thankful for cause I wouldn't want to miss a minute with these in-laws! Love you guys! The best part of the trip, besides laughing with family of course, was that Cooper got to meet his puppy cousins! We both don't have any kids yet (but we will one day!!), so our dogs are our kids for now :) I was so surprised with how well Cooper did with the other dogs. He played with Mocha and Bear so much, that today...he is exhausted. Cooper thought he could handle Mocha's big bone...not quite yet Cooper! The puppy cousins...Bear, Cooper, and Mocha (it's the best pic we could get with this wild bunch, but look at what a treat-treat can do! :)

The Newest Groman Group (Tim, Beth, Laura, Andrew)

After coming home to Lima, I left again to go down to the lake with my sister and her family because Andrew went to work and why let the fun stop, right?! My parents, both my aunts and uncles who have a place down there too, and my grandparents were there too. Another entertaining, fun, and hilarious time had by all! I tell you what, no one laughs like my family and I wouldn't have it any other way! In Ecclesiates 3:4 it says that 'There is a time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.' My family gives me my time to weep, and definitely make me laugh through this crazy time even more. Luckily, there will be no mourning, and if there is...it better be short. And dance...well, like George says in My Best Friend's Wedding- '...and by God, there will be dancing!!' :) I am so blessed that I am able to go through all of these emotions with my family. They accept me with open arms right now, the broken way I am. I'm lucky. I hope you have something like this in your life. I hope you have someone you can count on always. It doesn't have to be family, because friends can be closer than family sometimes and make you laugh just as much, if not more! But I hope you have some people in your life that you believe in and can without a doubt, count on through thick and thin. If you don't, I encourage you to open yourself up to find it and hang on to it for the rest of your life, because you don't want to miss out on true, meaningful friendship and family...those people who will be there with you through all of Life's emotions--the weeping, laughing, grieving and dancing. Especially the dancing :)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Deep Breath, Garage Sale, and RELAY FOR LIFE!!

My sis sporting some head gear with me on our double date night :)

I thought Tuesday might be a fluke…but it happened Wednesday and today too! Even in the humidity…I took a deep breath!! AND NO PAIN!! Wow, it feels so good to take a deep breath again! Praise God and praise Chemo drugs!! :) I am just so thrilled. This must mean that the tumor has shrunk so I’m on the right track! I never doubted I wouldn’t be :) (BTW, jaw pain is completely gone again...just like last time!) So to celebrate that and my brother-in-law's new job…we 4 went on a double date to Japan West in Findlay. One of our FAVORITE Japanese restaurants! Andrew and I love our sushi and thought we would get a head start for when we eat at the Fort Wayne Sushi restaurant on Saturday with his family. Once again, I am grateful for family to keep me busy. Even with all my jumbled up thoughts, I’m still doing a lot of thinking and processing about cancer, and yesterday was a good distraction with great conversations (and funny moments that involved unnoticed poles ;) Glad I’m not the only clumsy Hochstetler! We also went to a movie, but before that I drove through the 'red part on the weather radar map' that shows you should be inside of your house instead of driving a car because BAD weather is coming! My sister and I were doing our usual karaoke singing to the Glee soundtrack when all of the sudden, we saw lightening like we have never seen! It was literally blinding when it would strike it was so bright and close. And the rain came down in such a weird pattern that I was driving 40 MPH on I-75. Ford needs to make faster windshield wipers I have decided! SO SCARY! I was tense the whole time driving back that I woke up with sore back muscles today:) But I prayed we would just get home safe and God carried us there.

The Garage Sale Gang (my Moma, my sis Sarah, and me...Our other Amigo, my sis Julie was getting us lunch, and helped out when Sarah had to work. She's her own moma of 3 so those kiddies keep her busy. But all 3 came to the Garage Sale and they get more cute everyday! And SO funny!! I love my nieces and nephews and am SO glad we all live so close :)Our Garage Sale has been a success too! I was a real champ and hung in there for the whole 8 hours! And I couldn't believe how many people I met who have been diagnosed with cancer in their life at the Garage Sale!! They saw my port (who can't since it sticks out like the Grand Canyon!) and would start asking questions. Many ladies had breast cancer, one other lady had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and another family had a daughter with leukemia. Each person had their own unique take on cancer, and everyone had their own interesting journey with encouraging words for me. Honestly, it felt weird to be able to relate with someone who has cancer. I never would have before this, and it makes it seem that much more real to me.
I knew I wanted to donate the money I made this year at the Garage Sale to something, but I couldn’t figure out what. Last year, I donated the money to our church who was going on a missions trip to Mexico. They used the money to buy bed sheets for the children at the orphanage to sleep on. The things we take for granted, huh? Then, like God sent her here, I met a lady at the Garage Sale who is on the committee for Relay For Life here in Lima. She also fills in for the nurses at the Cancer Center, so I may even see her there too! Then it dawned on me…makes sense to donate the money to Relay for Life this year since it’s so close to my heart right now, right? Relay For Life is a fundraising event for the American Cancer Society. People can create a team and then walk and donate money to help do more research for prevention, detection, and treatment programs and to community support programs as well as other things! It was like a light went on in my brain, so she is going to give me a call next year when they do another event in Lima. I can't believe I'm going to say this...but I think I am going to take this on! I’m not sure how long I will be doing this blog, but if you are interested in joining my team next year, send me an email at laurabelle03@hotmail.com and I will contact you when I get more information on this event in the Spring! :) Go to www.relayforlife.org to get tons of information. I’m actually getting more excited the more I think about it! This definitely feels like the right donation decision this year. I've NEVER done anything like this so I am taking another step out of my box :) It's so much easier to just make a donation, but I told myself I was going to start doing MORE with my Life, so 'why not?' right? If you have never done Relay for Life, or even if you have, do it for the first time with me so I'm not alone!! Yes, I'm one of those people who don't like to do anything alone quite yet...maybe that will change too one day...but not just yet :) I know so many people are supporting me through my Pursuit this year, and actually, this would be a great way to CELEBRATE my REMISSION in the Spring with you all, too! Oh, I'm getting excited thinking about this, do you think this is a good idea?!? OOOh, I hope you can join me next year and make me stick to this Relay for Life commitment...again, way out of my comfort zone to do, but the cause is so worth it!!! I can finally say thank you to all of you, and meet some of you I have never met before at this Relay event!! I will definitely be praying about this and I will look into it more and get you more information in the future. And contact me at that email if you know anything more about Relay for Life or if you have any questions I can hopefully get answered. This is down the road a ways and I am WAY new at this, but you know what...I am really excited! Thanks for your continues, on going, never ending, full support you all!!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Drive-In Doosy!

The jaw pain is almost gone! And just around the same time as it did last round, too. So that means that tomorrow should be an even better day and by Thursday (garage sale day) I will be back to ‘normal’!! YEAH!!! I have been tired again these last few days, but that was to be expected because I’m in the rebuilding period. And especially since I am a busy body and can’t sit for too long, I just have to take short breaks, and then I am good to go again. The best thing is that I sleep like a BABY at night :) I feel so happy!

Today, my family was at my sister’s getting ready for the garage sale and I wish I would have had my camera! I had some Kodak moments for sure! So picture this…we took Cooper with us and Andrew found a baby carrier you put around your shoulders and a baby sits in it so your arms are free. Andrew put it on him and put Cooper in it…it was so funny! Then, Chloe was holding on to Cooper by his leash and next thing I know, she is sitting in a little cardboard box playing Santa Claus while Cooper is trying to pull her! It was SO CUTE!! I totally saw how God can use kids to make us laugh too! I forgot how much effort went into a garage sale though, and it was so hot. My hair is REALLY thin right now, so I wore a hat over it. But thank God for my awesome family because it was just so hot outside that I was able to take the hat off and feel somewhat comfortable around them (I'm not sure I'd ever be 100% comfortable with THIS hairstyle I'm sporting ;). Sarah tried to do something with what’s left of my hair, and we ended up just laughing about it. It feels good to laugh over it now. I realize that is how it is with most things in life that you shouldn't get too down about. It’s seems hard at first, but you ALWAYS laugh about it later. So don't fuss for too too long, Laura :) And hair isn’t that big of deal (unless you are me who really likes to match and coordinate outfits, and when you have to now accessorize with a hat…oh boy its a challenge! But my Moma comes through and rescues me when I need it. Thanks for the short notice shopping trip Moma!) And thanks for letting me have my emotional period these last few days. Like I said, it’s been a roller coaster and I’ve felt like I was on the down side of the coaster when my hair started falling out. My spirits are starting to get up again, like normal…but I wouldn’t be normal if I didn’t have those down days. And how can I be down for too long when I get 2 beautiful painted pictures from two very talented young ladies! Thank you girls!! Along with great friends, I really have the best family ever! They just make me laugh with this whole diagnosis and we make jokes to get through this time. I think that’s our family coping mechanism. Nothing Ever The Easy Way, right fam? So lets just laugh about it and have fun Living! It’s awesome…It works and it makes me feels better! Crazy!

This is me at the Drive-In tonight! I had all the essentials…a truck, a pickle and M&M snack, and a hot date :) Although my senses were in over load the first half of the night...it ended on a funny note! We went to Van Del and it's still hard to concentrate lately, I swear it has to be a chemo side effect, because I get so distracted and my thoughts and words get so jumbled up! Some of you know what I'm talking about :) So the extra distractions during the movie DID NOT help. My eyes were on overload from the strobe light show because of the heat lightning; and then the cars driving past about made me go blind from the headlights. The smell wasn't so great either. We were on the truck bed and since we were in the country, the nice country ‘air’ smell was heavy :) As if it isn't hard to breath already! I could also barely hear the movie because of the summer critter noises and the cars driving by and I spent most of the first movie feeling sweaty and swatting away mosquitoes! So I could honestly not tell you what the first movie was about. I was way to distracted. We wised up for the second movie and watched from the inside of the truck…much more enjoyable! I might have been a little hostile during the first movie because of my sensory overload, but from what I learned from the second movie was that when you are in love, you are hostile. So true at times! Sorry you had to bare with me through the first movie Andrew...I still love you!! :) Again, second movie...much, much better time and I was much happier being able to concentrate on ONE thing!

I haven’t been to a Drive-In movie in I don’t know HOW long and it brought back lots of memories for us. The last memorable time we went to a Drive In was in 2005 in Kenton when I flipped my car because of a deer on the way home! Another crazy story which makes me believe that guardian angels really do exist and that I wasn’t finished here on earth quite yet back then either. To make a long story short, I was on Reservoir Rd, about a mile out of Ada, when I swerved going really fast to miss a dead deer in the road (a 190 lbs. deer to be exact!). I re-corrected the car too much, slid into a ditch and flipped my car 3 times into a field full of burrs, landing on the driver's side door. Luckily, I was conscious with only a laceration on my head. The battery flew out of the car when it was tumbling, so when the car came to a stop, it was pitch black and I couldn't find my cell phone. I was in the country at 1:20 in the morning with blood all down my face, so I wasn’t thrilled about walking to the nearest house to get help. However, in that moment, Andrew became my hero because he text me, so my phone lit up on the passengers seat side. I was able to make the phone call to my dad because I found my phone…thank you Andrew! I crawled out of the back window because it had shattered and walked away, alive! The angels were looking out for me that night and God had bigger plans for my life than to take me in 2005! I'm sure He has bigger plans for me now too. So needless to say, I was watching out for deer tonight :)

P.S. So we ended our night on a funny note...about 2:15 in the morning I got out of the shower and decided my hair needed a trim (probably something I should have waited til I was WAY more awake to do!). This is how you know you're in love...my man helped me in my distress and redeamed me. Never did I think I would have my husband be razoring my hair! We didn't shave it, I just needed a reshape because of the amount of hair falling out and he is much better than I am...he proved it tonight by fixing my mess I made! Let's just say the vacuum cleaner got involved too...so at that point, it was time to call it a night and say goodnight :) I'm going to bed with a better looking hair cut than what I gave myself (you saved the day again Andrew :) and a smile on my face cause it was a memorable moment!! Oh boy...the week after chemo I think I just need to be watched 24/7 now :)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Spoke too soon...again :)

Well, I spoke too soon. I.AM. TIRED.! I was go, go, go for three days and it caught up with me. I should have learned my lesson by now, so next time... MAKE me slow down after chemo, alright? :) Even though I feel ok mentally, my body always catches up with me. My jaw pain has turned into a sore throat and it is red and swollen. It is so tight and hard to breath sometimes because it feels like I swallowed 20 cotten balls! My tongue feels like it is three times its size, but my sis says it isn't swollen so that's the good news! I really thought I was having an allergic reaction or something...nope, just more side effects. I need to drink some tea tonight to help sooth it I think. And I'm up for anything so if you have any home remedies for sore throats, please let me know!
I went to church this morning and met my sis and her family there (I probably should have taken it easy and rested more, but I was feeling ok at the time and can't give up an opportunity to see my nieces and nephews ;), and had my aunt and cousin stop out with some yummy homemade goodies :) Then, Cooper and I took a nap for 3 hours!! I could have slept longer, but I got up and the pain had gotten worse. That's when I went to Sarah to check me out, just in case it was anything bad. So now, to bed I go and tomorrow is more rest! No exceptions, Laura! Thanks for understanding, I hate plans being staled because of my health. I want to do so much, just need to remember to take it a little bit slower during these weeks. HOWEVER...progress has been made with Kota and Cooper!!! Look at this, last night I was reading my book, AJ was playing his PlayStation, then the unthinkable happened...BOTH my cat and dog where on the SAME chair with me...no fighting (even though Kota is giving the evil eye)...I LOVE IT!!! Two thumbs up...If I had more thumbs, it would be more like 10 thumbs up!!
Night everyone!