Thursday, September 30, 2010

Where my Cowboy Boots take me...

Smiling again... I just got home from doing a few things at my school. I told Andrew I would be there for an hour…ended up being there for three…oh, the life of a teacher. :) However, after tonight, I think I’m ready to not think about school for awhile. I thought that last week was mentally exhausting after going through everything I did with the rash, lump, and chemo. But this week has been worse in a way. It’s nothing that has to do with me or cancer, it’s the pain I am feeling for so many of my friends who are going through different kinds of pain in their own lives right now. I’m the kind of person who would rather feel the pain rather than anyone else feel the pain. I have friends who are hurting so badly because of different situations right now and I want to just take it all away. Make them feel better. How come we just never know what to say? You never know what to do to make the situation better. In reality, most of the time you can’t make the situation better, but you can show your support to let them know you care. Most of all, we can pray. We serve a God that parted the Red Sea, we can certainly believe that He can heal the sick, take our grief away with time, and simply give us the gift to TRUST in Him. That’s what we can do. You all are doing that for me while I am sick, so I’m trying to do that for others during their time of suffering. You all have taught me some great etiquette on helping someone while their down, so I just hope I can keep paying it forward…mostly through prayer because that’s something we all can do. I used to own a shirt that said Pray Hard. So my friends, please know that this week I have prayed hard for you. And I am doing so much better at listening to God, so I’m spending more time in prayer because it has become some what easier to pray.

So this morning, I woke up to Andrew bringing me coffee, a doughnut, and a card from his work that the entire B shift signed. I’m brought to tears on what a simple card can do for someone. With all the emotions from the past few weeks, I just needed to take a mental health break and start fresh again. I was told once 'How do you expect a change if you don't do anything different?' So I took that advice and did just that. I needed out of my funk mood and to breath in some fresh crisp air so that I can go into chemo with a clear mind and positive attitude tomorrow. So Andrew and I went horse back riding today. So relaxing to ride a horse and be out in the woods. I even wore my cowboy boots just like Kris Carr in the book Crazy Sexy Cancer...I’ll never live on a ranch with horses, so I can put on my boots and dream right? ;) I needed that time out in the country to clear my head, get myself together, and leave any sadness in the woods so that I can be a supporter to my friends in need. I also needed to get my mind off of this next treatment. I remember when I went 3 chemo rounds in a row last time, and it was not fun. I had some kind of negative symptom going on everyday for awhile after the third. So as I pray for my upcoming treatment, I also pray for my friends who are needing God’s comfort and understanding also. Crying when you need to cry is something I have finally come to do. It’s ok to cry and let your guard down. No one expects you to keep it together all the time. This blog has certainly shown that :) But those are the ups and downs in life that we all learn from and those experiences are what make us a unique person. Sometimes things happen to us, that way we can help others when the time comes to make their struggle just a little bit easier somehow.

I also lean on this song by Point of Grace and catch myself singing it all the time...

Trust, trust in the Lord
Lean not on your own understanding.
In all, all of your ways acknowledge Him,
He’ll make the path straight.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Two Faces of Cancer

This week I was reminded that cancer has two faces. One face is the face of defeat when we kick it’s cancer butt and hear the word remission. The other face is the face of victory when cancer finally takes its toll and our last breath is taken. Unfortunately this week, cancer took yet another life that deserved to stay on earth for much, much longer. Our friend’s cousin died this week from kidney cancer. He was young like me. He was a husband, a father, a son, and much more. It’s different for me now when I hear that someone dies from cancer. Some how you feel more connected even though you didn’t even know the person personally. Maybe it's because you are fighting the same fight, so you feel like you're on the same team.

This is the first time since I have been diagnosed that I have heard that someone lost the fight, and I've had to deal with a whole new kind of emotion that I've never dealt with before. Relating with someone you don’t even know because you both have cancer. Feeling probably the same emotions at certain times, the same drug side effects, the same insecurities. But the outcome was different. It makes me sad, yet mad at the same time. Because it’s really hard to rally for hope in cancer when it takes someone’s life. So desperately I want people to hear the word cancer and think of hope first, instead of death. But that's not realistic, I've come to realize that. How can anyone think that first when it continues to be such a deadly disease? So many medical people say that a positive attitude is like the secret weapon to surviving cancer. If it is, than why are people still dying? Did they not have a positive attitude? I’m sure they did, but cancer is so aggressive and it’s just not fair to some who live in this cancer world. It’s just not fair that no matter how positive of an attitude you have, some people live and some people die from cancer. It’s unfair that you don’t know the people who will get cancer. It’s unfair that the people who do get cancer have to wonder if they will live or not to hear the word remission. It’s not fair that the people who do live to hear the word remission have to live in suspense wondering if it will ever come back to take their life the next time.

I want so badly for cancer to have a different reaction than death. I want to hear stories of survival more than death. I don’t want to see movies like The Last Song or read books like My Sister’s Keeper. I don’t want people to die from cancer. It scares the hell out of the rest of us. I wish there was more hope stories out there. But that doesn't make for good cinema now, does it? :) The truth is that cancer will always have two faces. It will keep taking lives until the cure is found. We must remember those who have passed away from a crappy disease called cancer. But please, don't remember them because they had cancer...remember THEM. The person who was there the whole time before they ever heard the words 'you have cancer' and fighter that was in them til the end. My heart goes out to the family that lost the battle this week. However, I am reminded that we are made whole again when we enter the gates of Heaven. No more tears and no more suffering. No more pain and no more cancer. And hopefully some hair :) I will keep fighting the fight for the ones who can't, I will remain hopeful and do my best for the cancer world to make it the best it can be now that I am apart of it. I remain hopeful in my cancer diagnosis, I have nothing to lose there. However I am not oblivious to real life in my situation as well as other cancer patients where cancer has a mind of it's own and no one can predict it. Let’s all just make the very best of the time we do have left on earth. Live...Laugh...and Love my friends.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bathroom Prayers :)

After a great weekend away from Lima with family, I finished it off with a great small group (and steak supper!) We started our small groups this fall at church and God totally answered prayer when we were introduced to these 5 couples. It's awesome how some people just click and this group of people seem to be a great fit for us at this time in our lives. This afternoon, we talked about crazy because it goes hand in hand with what I was talking about last blog with the whole bathroom and reflection thing I have started lately because of cancer.

So let me ask a question first...Do you have a quiet place? A place in your house where you go just to get away from the kids, spouse, technology, pets, LIFE. Anything that causes you stress. I think it would be great to have a whole room dedicated as 'the quiet room', but if you're like me, you are already looking for more room because you have ran out! But if I had one, it would look like one of those rooms at a spa where you have a massage. Neutral colors on the wall, with the piano playing softly in the background, the water fountain trickling down the stones, and pictures of a little house somewhere on top of a hill in Italy with tall grass surrounding it. Well, I don't have a room to spare in my house as my quiet room, but one day I will :) But for now, my quiet place is my bathroom. I used to read in the bathtub, but now, I have a different view of my bathroom. I realize that I do not take enough time in my day to stop, reflect on my life and my day, and pray. I haven't experienced many things like this diagnosis over my lie span and the last three months can be a lot to swallow. Have you ever taken 5 minutes, wait lets be realistic, lets just do 2 minutes, to really stop...turn everything off...close your eyes and reflect on YOU? It can change you!

One of the things I have changed in my life since having cancer is taking time to reflect. I now choose to do this during my routine nightly bath. I used to take a bath with lights on, cell phone by my side, book in hand, and surrounded by everything that gave me anxiety because that was what the world told me would make me pretty (make up, hair supplies, razors, ect). Know what I really need during this time...I need a sanctuary. I read that when having cancer, having a place to go is key. I need a place to go to reflect and relax, and my bathtub has been my place of relaxation since I was in the sixth grade...I love my baths! Now though, it has changed. I made my bathroom a place of comfort for me too, and my place of comfort is the beach. Always has been. I want more than anything to say that I am a woodsy kinda girl, but if I had my choice, the beach will always and forever be my first pick. So I have made my bathroom into my own little ocean. No more bright lights, I have replaced them with candles. I have pictures up from the beaches I have been too as well as seashells lining the bathtub, the tropical flower shawl from Brunei, my porcelain sea turtle, and some of my other favorite things to make me relax. So now I can take the time in the tub to relax, reflect, and pray. It's like meditation. I see more clearly the things that I love about my life and the things that need a changing. Its a time where I listen to me for once instead of everyone else. I am totally enjoying this time because I have no distractions to keep me from really listening to my inner self. Now I'm not saying full meditation can happen every night in my bath tub, let's be realistic, but I would like to try to take at least some time at night to stop and reflect. Who knows? Maybe I will discover something amazing while actually doing more listening. Not just to myself, but to God.

I have learned so far that when I am relaxed, I can hear God better. We all pray so quick because our lives are so rushed. You know 'Dear God, help me get through the day. You're great, Thanks!' kinda prayers. I just can't do that anymore. My friends and I have more needs than to simply give God a quick shout out and expect something in return. He longs to have a relationship with us. We don't deserve it, the answered prayers, but our God is definitely a merciful God and nothing pleases Him more than to help his kids in need. So go to Him in prayer. And so you don't feel guilty for asking, give Him thanks and spend some quiet time with Him. That's all He really wants from us. This quiet time gives me the time I need to just sit and talk with God. It doesn't have to be in a prayer mode, I just simply talk because that's what I do best and He still hears. But the best thing is that I am a better listener now because I am relaxed and am taking the time to listen. And things in my life are starting to change because I am finally listening for once :)

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18- "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus"

Friday, September 24, 2010

Just a quick update

And I thought I would be bored when I didn't work!

Somehow I keep finding things to do! One of them is cook...I have been cooking so much better and healthier now that I have more energy and let me tell you, I honestly FEEL better when I eat food that is supposed to be eaten in a couple days rather than a couple months on a shelf. And so far, my cold is getting better. I hardly cough anymore and my nose runs just once in a while. So thankful for that. My jaw pain is getting better too. My back is still in pain though, whether its from the Neulasta shot or my kidneys working in overdrive, I'll never know...but that pain can go away at ANY TIME! Overall, I'm feeling MUCH better than I did last week. My, what rest can do! Last week was just awful, one of the worst I've had throughout this whole Pursuit (I'll explain later). However, things are looking up again :)

Yesterday I went to my school to let the kiddos know I won't be back for awhile. I read a book about cancer to them. Not much out there for kids on cancer and wondering if that's my calling in life to make my million...I'll write a children's cancer book :) We'll see. They were really awesome about it. I told them that hopefully I get a vacation after all of this is over and as I said good bye, one little guy said 'See when you get back from vacation Miss Laura!' Love it! I spent about two hours there and actually when I got into the car...I was EXHAUSTED! It REALLY made me realize why I was getting so sick before. I was really wearing myself down by being at work. I think things will be more smooth sailing from here on out. Tonight, since it's Friday, we got our traditional Kewpee's and I spent the night with my 'rents since AJ is working. We went and did our 'drive-bys' and watched a movie. The drive-bys are when we go 'drive by' football games and get the short version of it all. Sounds crazy, but I like it because it reminds me of Friday night football games way back when and I think my parents just like my company ;)

Well, that's about it for now. Wanted to give you a short update. Oh-good news!! Cooper is completely potty trained!! It's SO GREAT!!! Bad news- he is chewing EVERYTHING! I really understand when kids say 'My dog ate my homework'. Honestly, Cooper ate my lesson plans...and my shoes, and wedding album, and boxes, the Library book, ect. The fun thing is when Cooper brings objects from around the house to me that he chews on when I'm at the computer. I have a collection of things sitting next to my computer as I write one of the blogs. Seriously, it's never less than 3 things he brings me, then I have to return it all to their original spot when I'm done. Oh, and the latest thing is that he likes the bathtub...when I'm in it! Oh, I've got a great story about my bathroom, cancer. and reflection...but I gotta wait until another day. I'm tired!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It's a 'Praise the Lord' kinda day!

CT scan showed that the tumors are HALF the size as they used to be! And no new tumors!! Chemo is working beautifully!

Yesterday I went to St.Rita's Wellness Center to get my mammogram done (very nice place by the way!) and when I got there, they said they would start with an ultrasound since I was so young. I laid down on the bed, and she asked what was going on. I told her I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma and now I have a 'lumpy booby too' :) She laughed and I showed the nurse where the lump was, and she put the warm goo on. As I looked at the ultrasound, I saw lots of gray...then a big black circle appeared. My heart sank into my stomach and I asked in a crackling voice 'Is that what I think it is?'. I waited to hear the words 'yes honey, I'm sorry.' and hear what my new future which now had TWO kinds of cancers had in store. However, she said, 'Actually, it's only a cyst. See how it is black in the middle? That's what we like to see. That means it is fluid filled cyst.' PHEW!!!! I took a deep breath of relief! She said with everything going on right now, we are just going to leave it alone until it really starts to bother me. I was even more relieved to hear that! I was not looking forward to having it removed while going through chemo...who knows what could happen in this body anymore?!

So needless to say, I am praising the Lord for not giving me any more than I can handle. I mean two cancers, REALLY would have tested my faith. Things in life happen for a reason, usually to teach you a lesson. I think I just needed shaken up a bit to make me realize I was doing to much. I was wearing myself down as each new week came along, trying to push myself and please everyone in my world. Now is not the time in my life to try to be pleasing people. It's about me, and I will use that 'Cancer Card' right now and be selfish. :) That means learning how to say the word 'No'. I gotta figure out the Laura of the past, the Laura of the present with cancer, and the Laura for the future... a healthy, strong, and useful Laura. But for now, 'I'm listening Lord. I may fight and yell along the way, but I am listening to You and I am resting. Because even when I kick and scream along the way...You remain faithful. Speak to me during this time. Give me clarity and purpose. Thank you for taking care of me, giving me opportunities in my times of distress, and giving me my time to figure things out (with little nudges along the way' :)

'You can't smooth out the surf, but you can learn to ride the waves."
- Author unknown

Sunday, September 19, 2010

It's My Night!

Lima Fire Department Banquet!!

I've been a little down lately, simply because my 'fun' plans have not worked out like I'd hoped. I really wanted to do the Hocking Hills trip planned, but chemo and being sick stopped me there. And I wasn't able to make it to the Labor Day picnic like planned either. Then, when this past week with the rash, the lump found, chemo, and now not going back to work came around, I was starting to get worried that my next 'fun' thing planned was going to get cancelled too, just like the rest. Since I found out about the Lima Fire Dept Banquet in July, I have had my heart set on going. Not only would I get to see my man all dressed up, but I would also get to see the fun group of girls that the firemen are all married too :) When Saturday came around, I was bound and determined that nothing was going to stop me. And I didn't let it either! I was tired and sore, but I didn't care. After everything I have been through lately, I felt like I deserved this night. And I am so glad I went. I was able to get all dressed up, become LuLu, and really have a great time! Even though I spent most of my time sitting and watching all the fun take place, I was just really happy to be there. In those moments, I felt like I had a normal life again. I didn't think about my treatments, or my upcoming ultrasound. I didn't think about my lesson plans, or when I was suppose to take my next pill. For one night, I felt like me, the old Laura. I felt pretty, happy, content. I think I was on adrenaline the whole night! And vicodine :) But I made it there and my body cooperated enough to allow me to smile...and have one slow dance with my husband. :)

I was so lucky to find the dress I did for this event too. Can you beat a $14.00 dress at Macy's?! It fit so well and covered my port just awesome! However, I wasn't sure on jewelry for this dress, until something came in the mail. A couple days before the banquet, I received a package in the mail from an unknown sender. My mind was completely boggled as I opened up the package to see a black velvet case with a silver bracelet inside. I was so confused though because I couldn't figure out who sent this beautiful beaded bracelet with a pearl, cross, and heart pendent. Then I saw the inscription on the heart, Warrior Chick. :) When I saw this, I knew right away. There are people out there who just 'know'. And if you are able to meet one of these people, you are truly a lucky person. I'm one of those lucky people. These are people who are not looking for praise, just showing how much they care. They are truly appreciated by me because they are not only my friends on earth and brother/sister in my Heavenly Family, but they are prayer warriors for me during this time. When I saw this bracelet, I thought about the words, Warrior Chick, and how right now I really look like one underneath all the hair and makeup. I'm still a fighter, even on my down days. And I'm still a chick, even with drawn on eyebrows, a wig, and about 12 eye lashes accounted for :) By the way, Mary Kay Ultimate Lash Mascara is took my 12 eye lashes left to new heights!! But not only do I look like a Warrior Chick with my hair all gone, better yet, I FEEL like one! Inside, I really do feel like I already have this cancer word conquered. My battle at this point, is the actual Laura that is inside there. I'm starting to find out who she really is. There is a fight going on inside me that is even bigger than cancer. It's how to live this Life the way it was truly meant to be lived. Oh my you guys, there are thoughts in my head that both scare me and excite me...and I am so glad that I have the time now to sit and reflect on them. Even though these eyes are tired, my mind is still awake and running like wild!

So here's to working towards being a true Warrior Chick...inside and out!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Time Has Come...

#5 chemo is D-O-N-E!! Can you say LUCKY?!?! I was like 95 % sure I would not have chemo because of this cold yesterday. However, since it just seems to be a virus and no infection (no fluid in my lungs and no fever) he said 'let's do it...and let's not go back to work'.

Chemo once again left me feeling nauseated and sick yesterday (thank goodness for anti-nausea shots and pills! It would be so much worse!), even more so I think because I was already tired and not feeling 100%. I slept forever and luckily my appetite started coming back later in the night. AJ and I rented a movie, I didn't even watch the first 5 minutes before I was asleep. However...the time has come. I didn't want to do it and I fought every person I know who told me I was crazy for not doing it. But yesterday after chemo, I went to my job and let them know that I would not be coming back until this whole thing is over. I've done enough crying over the last few weeks that I didn't cry there. They were all more than supportive. Dena told me that it was something that I needed to figure out on my own timing, even though everyone knew I shouldn't be there to begin with. She was right, but I was stubborn Laura :) I think if I would have a job where it wasn't so physically, mentally, and emotionally draining, I could persevere and keep on going. But my body is telling me no, and I have to go through the emotions of this...however right now I feel like a failure. I really wanted to work through cancer. I know, I know...but let me get through this emotion and I will come to my senses later :)

I think after my OB/GYN visit on Wednesday, I need now not only a physical break so my body can fight off all the germs better, but more importantly, I need a mental health break! Sometimes I feel on overload with this whole thing and forget about real Life. I'm in this pause mode and I can't move forward or backwards, I can't think, I can't talk, I'm just not me. Planning ahead is awful for me right now and those that know me, I have like my life planned out a year ahead (or at least thought about). This time in my life is not about cancer anymore, it is teaching me a much more valuable life lesson about me always wanting to having control. Unfortunately, we can only control so much of our lives and we all need to realize that. Not everyone is going to like us, not everything will go your way, and definitely we will not get everything we want. I'm going to take this time to work on these things in my life. I'll let you know how it goes! But, I want to say that I am sorry to a few people...

Andrew- Good thing you work 24 hour shifts my friend! ;) We will need this when we have to be around each other all the time now. You stuck with my through all of this, I'm not sure how many guys your age would. You are a trooper for sure with this crazy girl...and I look forward to many more RADICAL times my love. Thank you for reminding me that my body is temple and that I need to take care of it first. 1 Cor. 6:19-20 "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body".
Mom/Dad- you have dealt with me in all my moods. Even to the point where I had to give you your purse and say it's time to leave. Sorry :) Thanks for waiting me out on this one and letting me do it on my own timing.
Dena- sorry for my lack of concentration and leadership abilities at work. You know I hate telling you what to do, that's why I am so happy you read my mind so well. Thank you also for dealing with me during this time and being such a good friend.
To all of you- I'm sorry if I have not answered my phone right away (especially you Sarah J. cause I know how much it frustrates you!) answered my text, or simply thanked you for all the love, gifts, support, and most of all PRAYERS! I truly, truly believe that by having a RELATIONSHIP with God, He hears our prayers and listens carefully. He already has His plan for my life, keep praying for my guidance to listen to Him and follow His plan, not my own...and to all of you who told me to stop working a long time ago.

Today has started out good so far. I do not feel too nauseated yet, my head isn't too congested to the point where it feels like it could explode, and I started out energetic today. I got my Neulasta shot this morning, but it's starting to wear me down already. I have a night ahead of me that I have been looking forward too for awhile, so I am going to rest up now so I can go! Look for pictures of the night later on!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Really, God? Are You Serious??

Was NOT ready for this news today. But before that, let me catch you up...
My rash isn't doing any better or any worse. Just kinda the same :( And my cold isn't doing any better or any worse...more of just kinda the same :( :(
How's that for catching you up?? ;)

I've been working all week this week, but I only made it 3 1/2 days. I tried to do 4 for the kids, but when I got a call on Wednesday that my yearly 'girly exam' was tomorrow...I had to take a half day. Good thing, I was beat by noon today and I could hardly keep my eyes open. So I went to my exam ready to give her my list of new medications, my new conditions, ect... I was telling her all about chemo as she looked in my ears that were full of fluid and up my hairless nostrils full of snot. She told me it was pretty cloudy in there :) It was so funny, I love my OB/GYN, she makes me laugh! The good news is that she didn't hear fluid in my lungs and I don't have a fever. Phew!

Then it was time for the good ol' breast exam. Are you ready to laugh??? I laugh as I type it because I can hardly believe it myself. She found a lump. Ya! I know..seriously?! I was in the shower before I left for my exam --you know, doing the whole 'Oh shoot, it's been a year already!' self exam --and I felt it too. It was a nodule for sure. She told me it's a cyst most likely and I have my first mammogram on Monday to find out more. I told her 'well geez, if it's cancer I'm like already half way done!' ;) I know...seriously?! Ya, I left there (after talking to a nurse about chiari malformation surgery because she had it too) and I laughed. Seriously. I laughed the whole way home. Then when I was about two minutes from my house, I burst into tears. It just had to come out. I mean, if it is cancer, at least I know what to expect right? And if it isn't, Praise the Lord, lets get it out of there! When I read up on information about Lymphoma way back in early summer, I read that I was at a higher chance of getting breast cancer years down the road after radiation. So I put it on the back of my mind for now, ready to deal with that when my kids where out of high school. Didn't think I would have to talk about it 3 months after my first cancer diagnosis. I'll have more answers after the mammogram results are in, but now I'm being serious...this could so easily be a benign cysts, a calcium deposit, or just a nice piece of fat! Or it could be cancer...I've been in that boat before where I have said 'Look, there is no way this is cancer, let's just see what they say and go from there.' So people, let's do just that. Let's just see what they say and go from there. I'm not worried in the least bit. I have made it this would be too easy for it to start getting easier right?? :)
Jer 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."

Chemo #5 is tomorrow...or next week if this cold sticks around :(

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Just a Little Scare…

Today while I was teaching my lovely kiddos about loving yourself just as you are (The book I’m Gonna Love Me by Jamie Lee Curtis is just awesome for little kids)…I started itching my arm. Then when I looked down a minute later, my arm was red and bumpy like a rash. By the end of my book, I looked like I had poison ivy on my arm! I had Dena, my other half in the classroom, and my supervisor take a look and they both said I should probably have it looked at because of everything going on right now. As I made my appointment for after school, I worked with a million thoughts running through my head. Then a billion more on the way to the doctor. Unfortunately, I thought the bad thoughts first. Mono was one thought, more tumors were another. I heard that sore throat and rashes can be signs of mono. That would be awful if that ever happened during treatments. And my rash was the first sign of my cancer. I was doing so good, how can I be back sliding, I thought. Also, I called Andrew and told him I was going to the doctor. I bet his first reaction was that the doctor was calling me in because of my CT results, so I’m sure I gave him a heart attack for a second. As I sat in that doctor’s room again, the room where it all started in, I just thought about the past three months. I’ve had ups and downs where I have been optimistic and down right mad. Today was a mad day. I looked at my arm and flashbacks to last year started. It was October when the first sign of my rash appeared. I was getting frustrated, thinking my body wasn’t kicking this thing. At that point, I was not liking me. And it didn’t get any better when I heard the doctor say the bittersweet word…dermatitis. NO!!! is what I thought. I’m glad it isn’t anything worse, but that word to me is just another way of saying…not quite sure. I’ve been down that road before, remember? I went through 9 months of people telling me dermatitis when it was really a good sign of Hodgkin's Lymphoma. So I came home and cleaned. Like hard core, cleaned my house with Lysol in a bitter rage of needing to feel healthy. I was not going to be around anything anymore that would get in my way of chemo this Friday. Cleaning, like usual, helped calm me down…I felt like I accomplished something. I saw progress visually and it helped me feel like I won. I want to win this battle with my health. But here I am again, de ja vue, sitting with cream on my arm. I can’t do the oral antibiotics because of chemo so soon. Please pray that I won’t get any sicker than this awfully annoying runny nose, the start of a scratchy throat again…and stupid dermatitis :) I gotta remember what the book said today…I just gotta like me, no matter what my current block in the road is. And F.R.O.G Fully Rely On God. Not just in my little health situation...but in the many bigger health situations that are going on with my friends and their families right now. God is bigger than this phase in time...I always get through the moments, I pray for the others who are sick right now to have the faith to get through it too!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My Bike Riding Accomplishment!

Last week I went to school after Labor Day and went home feeling tired. Later that night, my body ached and I got a sore throat :( I woke up and it didn't get too much worse, so I went to work again on Wednesday with my heating pad. After that day, I realized working after chemo treatments really are exhausting. And I didn't think I could catch anything so soon, but that sore throat found its way to me. So I took off Thursday and had my CT scan on Friday. CT scan went well, I had a problem with my port in the beginning. They couldn't get a blood draw, so they thought the port could be clogged. Luckily, we were able to make it work...just a fluke and needed to be flushed more than once. I felt so much better by the weekend because I was able to rest and I slept so much! I was able to go shopping with my momma, have supper, and get a much needed pedicure with Kayla. Then today, I was back to my old self ready for the next work week! So glad I listened to my body and took that extra time off my body needed to jump back. I felt so good that I conquered one of my goals this summer! I wanted to ride my bike from my house to my parent's house. Granted, it isn't that far away, only a 6 minute drive...but it was a huge accomplishment to me. I was so happy because I completed it. I kept going when it was rough, but the point is, I kept going and I finished. I made it to my parents house for a nice, I'm smiling I'm so happy! Here is a picture of me with Lance Armstrong...I mean Andrew :) Needless to say, he is in WAY better shape than I am. My dad took me home cause I wasn't sure I could do both ways yet. Andrew rode his bike back home, it took him literally HALF the time as it did with me. Oh well, I did it! That's all that matters right now :) Wish me luck, I'm headed back to work...I feel great so I am ready!! Thank you for the prayers of strength, I can really feel it. I would have never been able to conquer this goal without the encouragement of my husband and the prayers of strength from you guys. You can do ANYTHING you set your mind to, I promise, the mind is such an amazing tool. I'm not sure I could have said this a couple months ago...but I say it today with full confidence!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

My Dad

My Dad. His name is Dave Hochstetler. He is my dad through and through. We act the same, think the same, eat the same, pay the bills the same... Oh boy. :)
If you know my dad, you may know him in different ways. A son, a brother, a coworker, a friend, a fellow soldier, a coach, the list goes on and on... But to me, he's my dad. My dad and my number one fan by a mile. He is knowledgeable, compassionate, wise, and most of all caring. He would do anything for his kids (sometimes I think he is part of the FBI or CIA or something because of his connections ;) Yes, that man Dave cares more about people, especially his family, than he lets on. He would never brag, so I'm doing it for him. He has more love for his children than I could ever understand. My dad came to my rescue with cancer as soon as he found out. With hours on the Internet, wristbands for all who knew, books, fruit bowls, gifts...that's how he shows his love the best...he's a giver for sure :) But I have come to know my dad in a new way through cancer. He's not only my dad, but right now he has taken on a whole new role. He is my Cancer Coach. When I was a quarter of the way done with treatment, he gave me a 1st quarter pep talk. Then at half way, he gave me his half time speech. As much as he would say that God is my coach through all of this, he is a great Assistant Coach then. I asked my dad if I could share his speeches with everyone..he said yes and I was so glad. Cancer gave me the opportunity to have these letters of encouragement and advice from my dad for the rest of my life, that I might not have gotten before. I will cherish them as I will read them again when I have children of my own and they are going through battles. These speeches have inspired me to want to write to my own children when they are growing up, so that they have advice on paper to always look back on. It changed our relationship, I understand him better now. To any daddy's out there, write a letter to your daughter...they will keep it and cherish it forever! :) Ok, here are the speeches, be prepared to be inspired by a father's love for his currently broken baby girl....

1st Quarter Speech...8/04/10
Hello Laura,
It’s your dad here. Bet you are surprised to see a comment from me since I always receive these on my Blackberry and this is the first time I looked at your blog on a full sized monitor. Wow, I did not know there was a friends section on the right side even. I recognized one coworker, but if everyone at work and those who are friends with mom and me tells us they keep up on your blog and look forward to reading it posted their name of the followers section you would have entries all the way to the bottom.
There is a recurring theme in their comments Laura and the consistency of them makes it true in my opinion. Comments like: What an amazing girl, how she faces everything with courage and realism, what a wonderful husband, for only being married a year this is a special couple, her spirituality is so strong it gives us encouragement, what an outlook on life, and how the blog ministers to different people in different ways because it is so inspirational, and they do not know what to say as a comment because they are left in complete awe and amazement.
I have told people that this is the real Laura and she not only has a totally supportive husband but also an extended family that is walking this journey with her in many different ways. I told mom and you the other night Laura that it has been difficult for me in ways not to be at my little girls side through all this but I have been totally comforted in knowing that Andrew “has your back” in my place and I am at peace because of the total trust and respect I have always had for him.
I was glad to see one time you make a comment about what my dad told us and I have told you kids in that, “Things are never so bad they couldn’t be worse, or, so good they couldn’t be better.” Your testimony to this in your blog comes through constantly. That in ways is the partial meaning to the inscription on the wristbands – “NEVER GIVE IN” (interpreted: do not let your Faith waver regardless of the circumstance).
I also chuckle about the humor you share with us. Lately, I liked that you made mention of the special family gifts we had at Christmas time with our family motto with the centerpiece saying – “Nothing Ever The Easy Way.” Boy, how our family could attest to that in ways but here we are stronger for it then and getting stronger by walking with you on your journey now.
Some of my proudest moments when you girls were little were when mom, your two sisters, and you would be the “special music” in our worship service at First Church of God. It seems like it was just yesterday and I can still see all of you around the podium with you standing on a stool to see over it. Right now I can picture that and honestly I can hear you all singing one of my favorite songs back then. It was during a certain part of the song Laura that you were just singing away (but in a joyous/heartfelt way for being on 5 or 6) and I can hear your words over the others – honestly. This special part had the words that went something like, “Through the years he’s blessed me, through the years he’s kept me, through the good times and the bad, he’s been the best friend that I have ever had.” Well, here we are some 20 years later, and your life and your blog is a living testimony to those words you sang back then.
It is easy to explain the love and respect I have for you in general and how proud I have always been of you. In this special journey God has put you on, I simply have to say it is difficult to put into words the feelings of how a father would want this journey you are now on to happen to him and not his children, but if it did not work out that way, the father would hope and pray that the son or daughter would be handling this exactly in the same way you are now.
You are through the 1st quarter of a basketball or football game with your treatment and I thought it was time for the coach to give a timeout talk between quarters. In sports, I simply would have said you guys are playing like you practiced and that is why we are winning. Laura, all of life’s event lets you practice for these kinds of journeys and because of the life you have lived you were ready for this journey and you are winning. With the Head Coach you have in your life, supporting team members like your husband, your immediate and extended families, God’s health care workers who are with you, and the multitudes of very good friends you have (okay, almost forgot Kota and Cooper) you will win if you keep to your game plan and “Never Give In” to anything and keep the Faith. To simply put it another way - stay focused with “The Pursuit.”

Catch Ya at Half-time “Me Lorla”
Love, Dad

Then my dad's Half Time speech...9/04/10

Okay Me Lorla, it seems pretty clear during the OSU-Marshall game what Coach Tressel was probably saying in the locker room at half-time:

1. There is no way you will lose this game if you play the 2nd half the way you played the 1st half.
2. You played the 1st half by listening to me and my assistants, preparing mentally/physically/emotionally for the game, and believing in yourself.
3. When things did not go exactly as planned here and there we sucked it up and persevered - we never gave in!
4. Yes, there was a lot of physical pain and exhaustion due to the weather which was out of our control, but you listened to the doctors and trainers and it did not get worse for you.
5. Now, this upcoming 2nd half may be more tiring for you and the other side is going to make an attempted come back against you because of your fine performance the 1st half against them. You may want to let down a little because you believe you can't lose. Well, do not let up and stay in the game mentally, physically, and emotionally. Talk to us if you're hurting and we haven't noticed yet. Don't get upset if we are constantly reminding you to tell us what's going on out there and us asking you questions.
6. Okay now, join me in our customary prayer at half-time which keeps us focused on those things in life which are important and helps us to remember that we are doing our best because we are prepared and pre-prayered.
7. And lastly, recite with me our motto: “Success is the peace of mind which is the direct result in knowing that we have done our best to become the best that we are capable of becoming” and remembering that “When the One Great Scorer comes to make his mark against our name in life he marks not that we won or lost but how we played the game.”

Okay Laura, read what you want between the lines to draw some analogies for this being my half-time talk to you. Hope you see some of the themes: Stay focused and faithful through the good and the bad and you will win this - Remember when things are bad it is not the old Laura facing it with mind, spirit and body - it is the temporary Laura with drugs in her body/mind that are delivering knockout blows to a vicious opponent that makes her feel different. But everyone is still here for you Laura until the battle is over very soon and then get a much stronger Laura back in mind/body/spirit who has grown so much from this. Your unbelievable blog nourishes you, and sustains us, so keep at it as difficult as that is at times.

Your Coach - who you love to hate and hate to love, but who you know is your biggest fan.

That’s my dad…aren’t I lucky?
Love you Daddy.

One of my favorite dad looking in at my mom and I on my wedding day.

All I can think of is that overly popular Butterfly Kisses song when I see this photo...
She'll change her name today.
She'll make a promise and I'll give her away.
Standing in the bride-room just staring at her.
She asked me what I'm thinking and I said "I'm not
sure-I just feel like I'm losing my baby girl."
She leaned over...gave me butterfly kisses with her mama there,
Sticking little white flowers all up in her hair
"Walk my down the aisle, Daddy-it's just about time."
"Does my wedding gown look pretty, Daddy? Daddy, don't cry!"
Oh, with all that I've done wrong I must have
done something right.
To deserve your love every morning and butterfly kisses at night.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Some thoughts on the 'C Word'

Happy Labor Day! I hope you all enjoyed this day off! Everyone who works hard deserves a break…aren’t they so nice?! Especially when you can spend them with friends and family. My weekend didn’t go exactly as planned, but such is life right?! I will get my picture one day with the whole fam together. But for now, a pic of just AJ and Coop at the lake will have to do :) So I am three days out of chemo and I can honestly say I feel really good! I think that three week break was a huge blessing to me. Not only for school, but for my body to recovery from the previous treatments so it can handle these next couple rounds. It’s like I finally understand this whole process so I can prepare myself for the side effects now and manage them better. I felt nauseated the first day of chemo, tired the next day, and now I have some jaw and back pain again...but it's nothing that I haven't experienced before! SO COOL!! If I can keep this up and not get a cold or flu in the next two months, I will be smooth sailing from here on out :)

So in my last blog, I wanted everyone to know something about chemotherapy. But before I get on the chemo subject, I want to explain my cancer real quick. Cancer is basically just messed up cells that grow out of control and cause tumors on different parts of the body. Somewhere down the road, my immune system started to weaken, and could not keep up to fight off the cancer cells (in my case with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma it was the lymphatic cells) in my body anymore. Cancer cells are dumb because they don’t know when to stop dividing and growing like the normal cells in our body do. That’s how it spreads and grows tumors. I was lucky I listened to my body because I caught this early. My cancer had only spread to the chest and neck, but it could have broken off and traveled anywhere in my body. To any major organ and this could have been really bad. I am so lucky! So please, if you don’t feel right for ANY reason, see a doctor. As the old saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry! But my big thing now and in the future is to KEEP YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM UP! Cancer cannot survive in your body when your immune system is working awesome. A way to do this is by taking Vitamin D3. I’m serious, I will take it everyday from now on to make sure my immune system will always be rockin’ as much as possible. :)

I’ve had a lot of time now, almost 3 months, to process the word chemotherapy and what it means to me. I’ve come to this conclusion…I am using chemotherapy to CURE my cancer. It is a harsh and nasty drug to have in your system, but it will CURE me. Cure, Gone, Bye-Bye. However, I know chemotherapy has a lot of controversy on what it does to your body now and in the future. But please hear me. I trust my doctor. And when he told me he could cure me, I never had a bad feeling. And I did not have the time to be ‘all natural and chew on a leaf’ and see what other options could work. My tumor was getting bigger and everyday was a day closer to that thing cutting off my breathing. And trust me, I am going to do everything in my power from now on to prevent ever getting this disease again (by concentrating on ALL 4 parts of my life…physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual). After this is said and done, I want to remain healthy. Get rid of all this nonsense stress, foods, laziness, and negative state of mind. I told Andrew that a 'better life' would be to just be happy. He said that happiness is a state of mind. If that’s true, we could all chose to be happy…my, how our world and lifestyles would change just by making that choice everyday! God did not create suffering you guys, He created CHOICE! Let that sink in for a minute…I love when Sunday sermons stick with me :)

I have complete faith that one day chemotherapy will no longer be around because medicine will advance enough that other less harsh drugs will be used to cure cancer. But right now, I AM GETTING CURED, so I am happy. Remission is a word I look forward to hearing in my future, and you know what…chemo and radiation will get me that word. It’s been proven time and time again. Hopefully none of you will ever have to go through cancer and treatment, but if you do, I hope it is in the far future when treatment can be prescribed at CVS :) But for now, find a good doctor that you trust, do your own background research, and find what fits for you. You are the only person who is advocating for YOU and it is YOUR life to control. Go with gut instincts because they are usually right. My instinct said this will work…I get the CAT scan this Friday to see if I'm right :)

What ever may happen with my health in the future because of chemotherapy, I will take it because I was given that much longer to live here on earth. And remember, I am not wasting my time on earth anymore. I am LIVING from now on. LIVING AND LEARNING. None of us know when our last breath will be so please start living too and letting go of the ‘what if’s’. I have. I am blessed to feel as great as I do with the current treatment I am getting. But you know what....while chemotherapy is curing my body, it is also giving me life lessons that I 'm not sure I would have ever gotten if I hadn't experienced this part of my life. Everything from my food intake, to my digestive system; my struggle with emotions, to my reliance on God; my attitude towards money, to my new marriage with my husband where our health is not suppose to be the concern right now...all kinds of things that test your strength at your weakest time in life. It's crazy, but I'm learning...and the deeper I get into this Pursuit, the deeper my thoughts are going into every aspect of my life. Viewing it from all angles; learning, polishing, understanding...sharing.....I'm gaining more confidence in myself now to be even more open about my experience with cancer and the life lessons it is exposing me too. So be patient as I gather my thoughts, it takes longer than usual, I'm still so interested in seeing where this all goes :)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

This girl is HALF WAY done!

Greetings! Good things are happening!! I survived my first week of school, Cooper has learned a ton of new tricks (and potty training is going VERY well), Ohio State won it's first game of the season, and I'm starting to look for a vacation spot over Christmas break to celebrate my recovery!
My Pursuit is HALF WAY done people!!! I wish I can say that it has flown by, but really it hasn’t. I’m anxious for the day when I am cancer free! We changed my chemo treatments to Fridays now, that way I can now spend a full 4 days with the students instead of just 3. I am grateful that change was able to be made! I get the Neulasta shot at the hospital oncology floor now, and let me tell you, I'm glad there is a place called the Cancer Center! Talk about really feeling sick when you are at the hospital! It just looked too much like a hospital room and the encouragement level was quite minimal. At least at the Cancer Center, it is inviting and warm. No offence to the hospital, it just makes me appreciate the extra love and care I get from just the buildings presence at the Cancer Center. Definitely made the right decision there :) I was able to make it to round 4 of chemo and that means just 4 more treatments and some radiation left. HOORAY!! Thank you for the prayers to make me healthy again. You are appreciated for helping me fight this battle more than I can express! Sometimes it’s your strength for me that helps get me through, you all are so encouraging and totally helping me fight the fight that will win this battle! I’m really ready now for treatment to stay on schedule and to just get this all done. My blood work came back much better yesterday. Although my white blood cell count was a little low, it wasn’t bad enough to stop the fight this time. They say it could be from this past week of working…I’m exhausted! Thank God for a 3 day weekend of complete rest! I was able to get through my first week of the kiddos being back at school and with the Serenity Prayer said everyday, I can make it through the rest.

The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
--Reinhold Niebuhr

Let me be honest. This is a hard battle to fight. The drugs they give me are strong and effective, but they totally take a toll on your body…and now my emotions. During the summer, my concentration was fully on my complete recovery. Now with working again, I feel like I have to divide my time. This is leaving me tired, but living through it with adrenaline. I can’t quite explain exactly why I am more emotional than I have ever been. I can cry at anything it seems. And unfortunately, I say what’s on my mind. Thank God I have a family and husband who forgives me for my outburst :) I’m really just ready to be over this fight with cancer and move the heck on! Good thing though is that I have some fun things coming up to take my mind off of the cancer life! Can't wait to show you pictures of it all!
Through the good and bad though, God has been a constant source of strength for me, I don't know who could ever fight cancer without Him. I'm just so relieved in knowing that He picks me up when I fall, when I feel alone, and when I just need a shoulder to cry on. He is there, all the time, always forgiving me of my short comings, and encouraging me along this fight. Somehow my Bible opens to just the words I need to hear, or a card comes in the mail with just the right verse. I'm not a perfect person. This blog is used to share the good and bad times honestly through living a life that was once on track, then whirl winded by the 'C word'. I have had more struggles these past few months that I thought I would never ever have. Cancer has effected my whole health, my job, my relationships with family, friends, God, and my husband. I have learned more life lessons than many people my age in a short time, and yearn to share them with you. I feel there are more lessons are to be learned. I'm not done with my treatment yet, I am right in the meat of it and I can not let my mind and body sway at all from the prize that is to be won. It's so easy to lose focus right now, because cancer is more real than ever to me with my newest struggles. I have to except that life is going to be different for me these next few months and learn from it. Cancer is a nasty, mean disease that means business and the action taken is very aggressive. But my mind is an even more aggressive tool in this fight. I just have to whip it out more often :)

Knowing I am half way done is comforting. However, I had to ask the question. I finally got the courage to ask the nurse if this cancer would come back. All I really know is that I got this disease because of a weakened immune system. So what if my immune system gets weak again? She told me that they have done a ton of research to make sure the dosages are just right for a full recovery of this kind of cancer. Having chemotherapy for this long will help the cancer stay a way for a long time. I’m looking forward to a full recovery after this with the word remission in my life for the next 50 years :) I am just starting a new book my cousin Cindi gave me from California. It’s called ‘The Makers Diet’. Right up my alley! It’s all about a man’s journey to complete health through the first diet recorded, the Bible. I can’t wait to share his story with you because it seems so interesting from the first few pages. I have my own thoughts on chemotherapy though...but that's for the next blog though :)