Chemo No.7—Only one more after today!

As I have thought and prayed about this day (chemo No.7), I've felt more at ease about what  I might experience. Even though I'm in no way excited about getting infused with chemo today, it seems a little more bearable than it did the last time I posted. I know that this is a direct result of your prayers for comfort, peace and perseverance as I face these last, most difficult rounds of chemo. The familiar phrases of Thank You, Muchas Gracias, Merci, Danke Schoen do not even come close to expressing how thankful I am for your support for our family throughout these trying months.

 

Good News/ Things we are Thanking Jesus For!!!

I only have 2 rounds of chemo left!

After todays' infusion (+ my 2-weeks of chemo pills) I will only have one more round which is currently scheduled for April 11. Thank you JESUS for showing your awesome power and compassion as you have carried me through each of these. The ways that people have held us up in prayer serioulsy remind me of the way that Aaron and Hur supported Moses when God asked Moses to hold up his staff  (in faith) throughout an entire battle against the Amaleks. Here is a quick look at this amazing partnership and faith that Moses, Aaron and Hur expierenced that day as Joshua was down on the ground fighting the battle.

I now have a CEA level of 2!

If you look back to some of our original posts you'll see that I was diagnosed with CEA that was the highest our doctors had ever seen. It is now 2! (Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) is one of the markers used to follow patients with colorectal cancer during and after treatment. In this way CEA levels are used to see if the cancer is responding to treatment or to see if it has come back after treatment. People who do not have cancer have CEAs of 1-4.)

While the people of Israel were still at Rephidim, the warriors of Amalek attacked them. Moses commanded Joshua, “Choose some men to go out and fight the army of Amalek for us. Tomorrow, I will stand at the top of the hill, holding the staff of God in my hand.”

So Joshua did what Moses had commanded and fought the army of Amalek. Meanwhile, Moses, Aaron, and Hur climbed to the top of a nearby hill. As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage.* Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up.** So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset.*** As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle.*

Exodus 17: 8–13 (NLT)

So maybe it's the elementary teacher in me, but I love to differentiate things with COLOR!  I'm a visual learner, and  it just seems to help me to find the nuggets that I'm looking to learn from while I'm reading. So, please excuse my color-coded verses if you are a graphic designer like my dear artistic husband. 🙂 I just love that God used this simple physical arm-strength lesson to show us how much we need our friends, and how when we just obey his simple commands, even when they seem crazy, he will come through and take care of us. I'm sure that Moses thought that it was a little crazy, silly, even unnecessary for him to hold up the staff in order for his army to keep winning. But I love how this is a simple hands-on example of our need for God. By holding up his staff, he was actually giving God the glory for the success in battle. It was a simple thing for the soldiers on the ground to look up and see, and I can only imagine how it wowed them as they understood what was happening, and grew their view and understanding of God's personal provision for them.

 

us and you

Our Arms are Tired** You are our "Aarons" and "Hurs"!***

You are the ones holding up our hands:

  • Your belief in our all-powerful, HEALING GOD & your reminders that he has a plan for us
  • Your continual prayers on our behalf  (we are especially thankful for these when we realize that we are too overwhelmed, tired or fuzzy-brained to pray)
  • Encouraging cards and verses
  • Friends cleaning our house, walking our dog
  • Friends coming to visit me at the hospital & at home while I'm nauseous
  • Financial gifts that blow us away and humble us
  • Friends taking Josh out for FUN things like bike rides, coffee tasting and a good beer.
  • Mount Hermon's support of Josh taking off time to be with me through surgery and chemo
  • MH's amazingly generous offer to let Josh's mom stay in the cabin across the street for free so she can care for our kids 
  • My parents & Josh's mom's love and support through childcare, gifts, sacrificing their entire schedules & prayer.     
  • meals, encouraging gifts, vulnerable conversations
  • Our precious Vintage Faith staff & volunteer family carrying The Vintage Kids Ministry while I have not had the strength
  • Friends and family offering to watch our boys so that we can get out on a date!

 

The outcome*

I know that these parallels are not exact, but this story truly reminded me of our experience with you all, OUR AMAZING COMMUNITY.  And just as The Israelites were victorious to "overwhelm the army of Amalek," not by any great military power, but by simple faith, I believe that God is transforming our battle with cancer into a victory over this disease and a crazy platform to share his love.

Chemotherapy is NOT one of my favorite things

Walking along the beach, biking along the coast, coffee dates with friends, shopping, playing a hilarious Taboo-like game with friends, these are a few of my favorite things. (Thanks for the inspiration Maria!) But when the dog bites, it really bites with chemo.  Okay, enough of the sound of music analogy, but you know what I mean.  I have honestly had a really rough past couple of weeks and I would love your prayers for peace, joy and perseverance.  As I was writing my check-in email with my doctor today, I thought, maybe I should just copy and paste this thing to the blog so that you can get a feel for how I communicate with my lovely MD.  This email is much more personal and emotional than normal- because well, that's just who I am and where I'm at right now.

Hi Dr. Cho-Phan,

How are you?  I'm not sure where to start with how how this round of chemo has been on me.  I want to stay positive and be a fighter, but this round has really torn me down emotionally, mainly because of the nausea.  The day of the infusion (2 weeks ago tomorrow) was pretty horrible.  I was doing fine until the Oxaliplatin started in the IV, and then almost immediately I had this sick, nauseas feeling and it literally felt like a cold poison was pulsing through my body.  I actually had tears rolling down my face for most of the 3 hours. 🙁  The cold on my arm (at my IV location) was so bad that thinking about it or looking at it made me more nauseas, and this was the first time that I actaully thought I might throw-up in the ITA.  Though the nausea was obviously worse then the past infusions I thought that maybe this was because I had had a break from the chemo and my body was having to re-adjust to the "assault" of chemo on my system  However the nausea that I have continued to experience throughout the past two weeks has made me curious.  I was also wondering if the healing in my colon and liver effected how much nausea I experienced? What are you thoughts on this? (more…)

Back on Chemo Today

Josh and I had mixed emotions as we drove back to Stanford for my post-opp appointments on Thursday. It felt so wonderful to be on the other side of surgery, and that I could actually walk from the parking lot to the Cancer Center without a wheelchair! On the other hand it was weird to be back because it's a blaring reminder that just 2 and 1/2 weeks ago I was a patient in the hospital, longingly watching people maneuver ever so easily through their daily routines on the main walking thorough-faire. I got to walk down that path on Thursday and it was fantastic to be out in the fresh air and "free" from my hospital room.

e wing photo

See ya E-Wing! Amy celebrating while making a break for it after her second hospital stay.

Speaking of two weeks, WOW, what a difference they make in the world of healing! I can not tell you how much better I feel. I am actually feeling like a real person again! Woo Hoo! As I gain a little more perspective through this journey, I'm realizing that it was really hard for me to know what to expect with surgery since I have never had any experience with "more than baby delivery" hospital stays. I knew that I would need to lay low and rest for six weeks, but I guess it was just hard to know what it would actually feel like until I was in the middle of it.

It's hard to prepare for how cancer/chemo/surgery/post surgery healing will effect you emotionally. I now realize that this healing process is not only for my physical body, but it is a type of grieving/emotional healing process as well. No matter how positive I'd like to be, I can't change the fact that it is really hard not to be able to do the things that you really want to do after surgery. I first experienced this, "it's hard not to be able to do my own life" feeling with my chemo treatments because of little things like not being able to chase my kids, or even care for them. It was also a bit of a shock to lose some brain power (they call this "chemo-brain") which means that I have been losing my keys more often and don't always quite have the word that I want to say on the tip of my tongue. If you know me well, you know that this can be a really frustrating thing to deal with sometimes because I love people and I love to talk. It's weird and a little scary not to be able to be as quick with every word. I've tried to embrace this fuzzy brain feeling (very similar to pregnancy-brain for all of you who have had a taste of that!) and I feel like I've dealt with it pretty well. Unfortunately, this past Thursday I found out more that made this side-effect hard to swallow. As I chatted with my chemo doctor, she mentioned that chemo-brain might not fully go away after chemo—ever. Whoa. This was a hard thing to hear because everything that I had read and heard before that was that my brain would re-sharpen about a year after chemo. Thankfully this is not 100%, but what really gives me hope is that we have an amazingly powerful and compassionate God who knows exactly what I need to love well and live my life to the fullest for Him. No matter how hard-core and nasty this chemo might be on my brain, I know that God is bigger and he can protect me from long-term side effects. Thank you so much for walking this road with me and especially for interceding and lifting me up to Jesus, THE HEALER. I would love your prayer that my chemo-brain would not be permanent.

liver image

It takes just six weeks for this lobe to grow back. Amazing!

The rest of my post-operation appointments and conversations went really well. My colon surgeon checked out my incisions and told me that they are healing beautifully and my oncologist confirmed that my blood counts are excellent. I had known that I would have about three more months of chemo after surgery (4 more 3-week cycles) so we talked about starting that process as soon as possible. Even though the surgery had fantastic results, the protocol for my stage of colon cancer is always more chemo after surgery to get any microscopic cancer cells that might be looming in my body. I know how important this is in the fight to not have it come back, but it is also the first time that I have had thoughts that this chemo is semi-optional (and is there any way I can do without it?!)  But then I think of what we have already been through, and I think of Josh and my boys and the wonderful life that God has given me and I know that it would be unwise not to do everything in my power to eradicate any tiny cancer cells. Here is the approximate treatment game-plan that we discussed:

Today (Monday 2/6) Chemo infusion #1: (I am typing this in my infusion room!)
Wednesday (2/29) Chemo infusion #2
Wednesday (3/21) Chemo infusion #3
Wednesday (4/11) LAST CHEMO!! Which means by April 25th I will be chemo free if all goes well.

The last part of this treatment plan is a small surgery that I will have to have in late May. This second surgery was not expected, and therefore a big bummer for us. Because of the location of my colon tumor, my surgeon found that he will need to do one more quick corrective surgery once I am done with chemo.

The most exciting part of this plan is that I should be all done with everything in time for summer—my favorite season! I love summer in Mount Hermon and Santa Cruz. I can't wait for the swim lessons, beach days, late nights, the fun MH summer staff vibe and for the SUNSHINE. BTW, all of you out-of-town-ers are more than welcome to come visit!

I have so much more to share with you, but for now I will leave you with a ((BIG HUG)) and a few prayer requests.

Thank you so much for praying for...