Today is January 2, 2015. I've spent the past couple of days thinking a lot about the new year. The way this new year is beginning compared to how 2014 began. Last January the Governor of Alabama appointed me to serve on the Montgomery County Commission, this January I am enduring chemotherapy as I fight to rid my body of cancer. Last January was filled with excitement and expectation. This January is different. I feel no excitement, but I do still have great expectations. An expectation that I will survive. An expectation that I will be cancer free by this summer. An expectation that I will learn more and grow more from this one experience than all of my other life experiences combined. An expectation that by January 2016 I will know how to love more deeply and more compassionately than I ever dreamt possible. I will no longer sweat the small stuff. I will appreciate people - not processes or politics or platitudes - but people. I will stop beating myself up for my perceived failures, instead I will celebrate the everyday joys of life. Cliff Sims, founder of Yellowhammer News, wrote a very nice piece last month on the juxtaposition of how 2014 began and ended for me that explains it better than I have, please take time to read it. Yellowhammer Article
But right now, in January 2015, I am seeing through the expectation glass dimly. It's only been eighteen days since the doctor told me I have cancer. My journey is still new. The road will be long and hard, but my expectations will remain great.
Last Monday, December 29 I had my first chemo treatment. I wish y'all could all know how funny my husband is. He made me laugh the very first night I met him in February 2003 and I haven't stopped laughing since. And sitting in the chemo room was no exception. The guy is funny. Which is good because it was a long three hours of drips. We got home about 4:00PM and Jason and our teenage boys headed off to the hunting camp. My 6 & 7 year olds were with my in laws in Hueytown (just west of Birmingham). Now, before you panic that I was left all alone, this was MY plan! And those who know me well will understand that I love my downtime. Anyway, I was assured the first night and the first day after chemo I would feel pretty normal. Then my family was all due back on Wednesday afternoon, right about the time I might be feeling bad. It was a good plan. But, that's not exactly how it all went down.
By 6:00PM Monday night I was overcome with extreme nausea, chills, dizziness. I could not believe how badly I felt. I remember sitting down on the couch hoping it would pass but it never did. I finally took a nausea pill that would help me sleep and passed out at 7:15PM and slept until 7:15AM the next morning. I awoke groggy but improved. I took my time getting going and by 9:00AM felt fine. I later was told this MIGHT have been a reaction to the Benadryl that MIGHT have put in my IV. Makes sense, I'll check on that.
Catalina Trivino, a reporter with our local CBS news affiliate (WAKA), asked if she could follow my cancer journey in the hope of educating our community on the disease and perhaps bringing less fear to the diagnosis. I said yes so on Tuesday morning at 10:00AM I met my girlfriend Stefanie at the YMCA for some "light exercise" per the doctor's orders and the cameras met us there. After we finished at the YMCA, Cat asked to do a segment at my house. Now, all of you know how a house looks the week after Christmas! I had a mess in every room, not a clear counter to spare, toys strewn all over the floor. But I said yes -- if she would limit the interview to one room!
While it is not easy for me to put myself in front of a camera, talk about my fears, and show my dirty house I truly pray this will have some small impact. Make one person go get a mammogram. Encourage one person going through a tough time. Point one person to the hope and strength I get through Jesus Christ.
Tuesday afternoon I had to go to The Center for an immune booster shot (the chemo breaks down my white blood cells and this shot should help that - how's that for a very medically sounding explanation). Tuesday evening I had dinner out with some wonderful girlfriends then home to bed. Wednesday morning I woke up and felt like I had a mouth full of molasses coupled with low grade nausea. I popped a Zofran and drank as much water as I could and ate half an apple. I felt mostly fine. There were several things I needed to accomplish before the family arrived home that afternoon including de-cluttering the kitchen, so I got to work. I was feeling fine until my sister-in-law Leslie called to tell me my 6 year old daughter had gotten up that morning with a stomach virus. Worried for my girl and realizing she could not bring a virus home to me my mood diminished quickly. But let me tell you something about my baby girl, Margaret. Margaret awoke in the wee hours of the morning in a strange house, she made her way to the hallway bathroom where she got very ill. When the episode ended, she cleaned up the mess, changed her clothes, and got back into bed all without waking a soul. I'm telling you, that girl is tough! But, her virus persisted into the day so Eli and Margaret could not come home to me. Then my mood bottomed out! They were ready to be home and I needed them home. But, they will come home today. Meanwhile, Jason and our older boys did come home on Wednesday and we had a great night and all day Thursday watching football. (One of my three teams won, no need to discuss those details.)
Sad mood aside I felt OK on Wednesday. Low energy and low grade nausea but not terrible. Same for Thursday. Oh, except for waking up at 2AM Thursday morning with full blown body aches. They told me this would happen (because of the shot I got on Tuesday) and some Advil helped tremendously.
Bottom line, my symptoms thus far have been uncomfortable not unbearable. So much of this is a mental game. I cannot THINK about my nausea. I cannot THINK about my fatigue, I cannot THINK about my cancer. I have to press on - live life. When I need to rest I will rest, but mostly I need to press on. And press in. Press in to Jesus. "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."
And just because she's the toughest, funniest girl I know here's my Margaret!