Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Stille Nacht....

"Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour is born
Christ, the Saviour is born

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth "

Every year I cry whenever we sing this beautiful hymn at church at Christmas time.  Last year was different.  I didn't.  You'd think I would have since it was just a couple of weeks after I had been diagnosed with breast cancer.  I remember Jim glancing towards me  (he was playing in the band on Christmas Eve), looking for my usual tears.  Probably expecting me to be sobbing.  But I wasn't.  I really felt calm and the Radiant beams shining down on me.

I did have tears rolling down my face this past Sunday when we were singing "Silent Night".  Not because I was sad but because I was truly focusing on the beautiful words and meaning of this song.

Twenty years ago today my Mama was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I will never forget her beautiful voice, singing "Silent Night" right next to me in the pew on Christmas Eve that year.  We had nothing but Hope to hold onto that year.  It was a confusing time.  No real answers - not yet.  It was a time to wait.  A time to remember why we were here on earth.  A time to celebrate the birth of our Savior who gives us Hope.

So my tears every year were because of the fact that I can hear my Mama's voice singing the glorious hymn and me missing her.  This year my tears are different.  They mean more than me missing Mama.  They mean that I am thankful for truly understanding the words to the hymn.  

Sometimes we would also sing a verse of "Silent Night" in German, "Stille Nacht" to close our Christmas Eve service.

Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht, alles schlaft, einsam wacht
Nur das traute heilige Paar. Holder Knab im lockigten Haar.
Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh', Schlafe in himmlischer Ruh'

I miss you Mama.  I know you are a Heavenly Host singing ALLELUIA!!!

Merry Christmas to you all from Texas!

May you truly remember the Gift that we are celebrating.

Love and Blessings from the top of my heart,


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

ONE YEAR Breast Cancer Survivor!!!

It's been a while since I last wrote.  I've had good intentions of sitting down and writing but I just haven't - no excuses!!!

Good day to you all!!  It was a year ago today that I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer.  It feels so good to be able to shout and sing "I am a one year breast cancer survivor!"  Truly I have God to thank for that.  I am so blessed!!!

One year ago I was beginning a journey into the unknown.  I am thankful for this journey.  I have grown, I have met so many amazing people and I have had you, my faithful Army of Prayer Warriors lifting me up.

This morning the quote that was on my friendship calendar, "Too often the I-can-handle-it-myself society we live in seems to promote loneliness rather than friendship.  Friends are an important part of sharing the burden and worry of each day. (Sheri Curry)".  I'd like to add in "sharing the Joy of each day."

Today I share with you the Joy that this day brings me!!!

When I look back over the year I realize how loved I am.  From old and new friends, family, medical staff, strangers, my children's teachers, I could go on forever.

I am thankful for my amazing husband who has walked by my side and taken care of me, held me up.  My children who have given me a reason to smile and fight.  My Papa and Monika, who drove 1500 miles to come care for me.  My Mom and Dad (Jim's parents) who also came to care for me.  For my  friend Danielle who took over the morning changing of my dressing after my mastectomy after Mom went back home.  For my friend Linda who had to come give me medicine and make me comfortable when I was in pain.

I feel like I am writing an award's acceptance speech.  I don't want anyone to feel left out.  I truly am thankful for all of you!!!

So since my last blog entry which I believe was in September - this is what has been going on (in a nutshell).

After 33 miles (each direction), I completed 33 radiation treatments.  My last radiation treatment was on October 7th.  Jim, Jakob, Kelli and Joey along with several of my friends, as well as Dr. Perkins, my radiation therapists and my gown room friends came to watch me ring the bell.

On October 20th I had the privilege to share "my story" in front of a group of 70 women.  Several of my friends attended - even a friend that I had never met who has been following my blog and praying faithfully for me.

I had an appointment with my Breast Oncologist yesterday.  Everything looked great!  I will see her again in 3 months for a check up.

Next up is my oophorectomy (ovary removal surgery).  My ovaries are normal, however because I won the lottery by having the BRAC-1 genetic mutation I am at a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer.  So as prevention my ovaries are coming out.  My surgery is scheduled for February 16th.

In March I will be meeting again with my Plastic Surgeon to discuss my other mastectomy and reconstruction.  That surgery will take place in May.

The good thing about being BRAC-1 positive is that I have more than one Oncologist following me.  I have a Breast Oncologist, a Radiation Oncologist and a Gynecological Oncologist.  Plus several research Doctors and nurses.  I still feel that I am in the best hands.  God has given these people very specialized skills.

Life is really wonderful.  Jim is healthy.  Jakob, Kelli and Joey are healthy.  Our parents are healthy.  Our brothers are healthy.  Our nieces and nephews are healthy.  I am healthy.  I am so thankful!

Here is a picture of me today.
A very happy girl!!!  Celebrating life!!!

I pray that this holiday season brings you happiness and Joy!!  We are celebrating Jesus' birth and the Gift of Life!!

Merry Christmas!!

Love and Blessings from the top of my heart,



Wednesday, September 29, 2010

6 more!!!!!...

Yes only 6 more radiation treatments.  I started my boost radiation treatments yesterday.  

Here is an explanation about radiation "boost" from www.breastcancer.org.

External radiation boost

During the final week or so of the 5- to 7-week radiation regimen, you will also receive a supplemental dose of radiation targeted directly to the area around your surgery, where the cancer was. This dose is called the "boost" and is usually delivered in a method similar to your regular radiation. The boost dose will be calculated such that each day you’ll get a slightly higher amount of radiation than you did for the first few weeks of your regimen. A different treatment field is used for the boost dose, so a separate planning and set-up session is usually required before the boost radiation is started.

Most people get their boost dose with a special form of external radiation called electrons. This form is used because the dose can be targeted specifically to a small area near the skin surface, sparing the tissue underneath.

Before the "boost" my treatment time lasted about 20 minutes - now it takes about 10-15 minutes.

To some of the ladies in the "gown room" I've been referring to my daily dose of radiation as time in the tanning bed.  My skin has turned pretty red.  It hasn't peeled, I've been using Aquaphor as directed by Dr. Perkins.  Well, because I'm very diligent about putting Aquaphor on my skin the lines that Terrence, Neil and Adela (Radiation Therapists) draw on me keep rubbing off as does the tape they put over the lines.  Neil finally brought out this stuff called Castellani's.  It's a type of paint that is used on skin where there is too much moisture.  Yesterday he begged me to be careful so that the Castellani's doesn't wear off - they need my lines to stay.  Everyday I get a touch up.  

I'm still doing my Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) and wrapping my arm in the compression bandages to prevent Lymphedema.  I've been making great progress in Physical Therapy.  Ron (Physical Therapist) and I have many wonderful conversations about life and what this journey is bringing into my life.  

Kelly's Dad George and me
One day last week my friend Holly came down to MDA with me for my treatment and then we went and had a great lunch.  It's nice to have someone come along - especially for the drive.  From my driveway to my regular parking spot in the parking garage at MDA it is 33 miles.  What a blessing that I live so close to such an amazing cancer treatment hospital - and not to mention that it is one of the best!!
Holly and me

Mondie and me (breaking HIPPA rules)
Last Thursday I got to meet with my friend Mondie, who is about 8 months ahead of me on this journey.  She lives in the Austin area so it was nice to spend some time with her.  Back in the winter, when we first introduced ourselves to each other it was in the waiting room for the lab.  We were both waiting to have our blood drawn.  Her friendship is a blessing!!

Lee Ellen and me

When I write these blogs I always feel like I'm leaving so many things out.  Everyday I see so many miracles.  I hear so many miracle stories from fellow cancer survivors.  

Judy and me
My friend Judy (we met in the "gown room") graduated from radiation last week.  I got to watch her ring the bell.  My turn is next week on the 7th.
Please pray for Judy as she just found out she now has thyroid cancer.
This coming Saturday is the Houston Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.  The Ladybug Warriors Team has 22 team members now.  There are some team members that I haven't met yet, I'm looking forward to meeting them. We will be walking the 5K.  I'm so excited!  I will be proudly walking down Survivor lane.  Thank you all for your support!!

I'm going to sign off for now.  Like I said, I feel like I'm forgetting something.  

Oh yeah, Kelli measured my hair a couple of days ago 1 5/8" (it's grown 1/2" in 2 weeks).  Very exciting!!!

Pray those prayers of thanksgiving that I've come this far.  Look for Joy in your life everyday!!!
Thank you for your continued prayers and support for me and my family!!

Love and Blessings from the Top of my Heart,



Sunday, September 19, 2010

More than halfway through...

I've completed 19 radiation treatments.  I have 14 to go!!  I feel great!  I am getting fairly red.  And I am more wiped out than usual.  But I don't want to complain.

I've become one of the senior girls in the "gown room".  On Monday I'll be able to say I'm in my 5th week.  There are some new girls.  Some have just completed 2 treatments and some just completed their first week.

It is such a blessing to live here in Houston where MD Anderson is.  Many of the girls are coming in from out of the city, out of state and even out of the country.  One of the girls is from Peru and she's only 24 years old.

Ron and me
Physical therapy is going well too.  Ron is giving me many tools on preventing Lymphedema and how to manage swelling.  My numbers have remained stable the last 2 weeks.  I've been trying to be a good patient.  Working on my arm stretching exercises as well as Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD) and wrapping my arm with the compression bandages.  I was fitted for my compression sleeve and should be getting that in the next 2 weeks.

I'm trying really hard to avoid things that cause swelling.  Such as sodium, red meat, being out in the heat (very hard in a place like Houston, Texas), wearing bug spray to prevent mosquito bites.  I'm amazed at how much I actually use my left arm considering I'm right hand dominant.

I am experiencing some tightness in my skin from the radiation.  Dr. Skoracki (plastic surgeon) and his assistant Gordon are very pleased with how well I'm taking care of my skin.  A week after I'm done with radiation they will begin adding fluid to my tissue expander.

Great Day Houston
Tiffany and me
Many great things have happened since my last blog.  I finally got to meet Tiffany in person.  She's my new friend that was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer just as I had.  I have another new friend that is also a breast cancer survivor -- her name is Tricia.  We got to ride in together to the "Great Day Houston" show.  We also were part of the Houston Komen group of women that taped a public service announcement for the October 2nd "Komen Race for the Cure".  I also got hang out in the green room with Molly and her beautiful sisters and Mom.  And I was given a behind the scenes tour of the KHOU newsroom/studio.

My Radiation Therapists (Terrence, Neil and Adela) continue to make me laugh and they take great care of me.  Dr. Perkins (Radiation Oncologist) is pleased with how treatment is coming along.  I've been making more new friends in the "gown room".  Everyone's story of their cancer journey is so amazing!!
Terrence, me, Adela and Neil

Kelli measured my hair the other night.  It's 1 1/8 inches long.  Not very long, but I have hair!!!  I've decided to no longer wear a wig or a hat.  It's very freeing!!  Some people may stare but it really doesn't bother me.  It doesn't bother the kids either (they watch to see if anyone stares).

Kelli and I got to have a girl's only weekend, while the boys were off hunting.  We had such a wonderful time!  Movies, dinner out, dinner in, going shopping, staying up late, sleeping in.  It was just great!!!

So we continue to be blessed!  Very blessed!  Please keep those prayers coming.  This week please pray for my medical team, minimal side effects from radiation and continue to pray that Lymphedema stays away.

Thanks for continuing to follow my journey and for being part of it.  Y'all's prayers continue to bless me!!

I love you!!

Love and Blessings from the top of my Heart,



Tuesday, September 7, 2010

one third...


Hope y'all had a nice Labor Day Weekend.  We sure did!!  Nice and relaxing - for the most part.

I met with Dr. Perkins this morning.  I'm right on track with the shade of pink I should be at this point and the rash that I am developing.  He gave me some creams that I need to apply twice a day to relieve burning and itchiness.  I love him - he is such a wonderfully, caring and kind man.

Off to radiation.  On time today -- which most times they are.  Jennifer wasn't there today as she was having her baby today.  Terrence was there, nice guy!!  And so was Dustin, who's real name is Neil.  I got his name wrong in the last blog.  Neil also wanted me to describe him as a tall, muscular man.  I have some really great Radiation Therapists. 

Today was treatment number 11 which means I'm 1/3 of the way through!!  Only 22 more to go!!

Last Friday was a blessed day, my friend Stephanie graduated from her radiation treatments.  It was such an honor to be part of her bell ringing ceremony!!

During Physical Therapy I'm now learning how to bandage my arm to reduce swelling.  The bandages are Comprilan compression bandages -- they look just like Ace bandages but aren't stretchy like them.  

I forgot to tell y'all during my last post that have made great progress at my arm stretching exercises.  I can now stretch to 168 degrees on one stretch and 173 degrees on another stretch -- 180 degrees is where I should be.  So I'm almost there!!  I remember writing that I could only stretch to 105 degrees.  My Physical Therapists, Renee and Ron have taught me so much about Lymphedema prevention.

I will be getting fitted for a compression sleeve soon.  This Thursday is also my reevaluation as to whether or not I need to continue Physical Therapy.

The drive home from MD Anderson today was an interesting one.  Well a really slow one -- we are getting rain bands (heavy rain) from Tropical Storm Hermine.  Thankfully people were being very cautious.

Tomorrow I get to be part of the Great Day Houston audience.  After the show all the Komen audience members will be recording a plug for the Susan G. Komen Race that will air at a later date closer to the race.  Over 100 people RSVP'd but only 25 were chosen.  I'm excited!!!

Speaking of the race -- one of my friend's asked that I include the website to my/our team in the blog.  I would love for you all to join our team but I know that's not possible.  Please consider making a small donation.  The money goes towards Breast Cancer research, which I feel very passionate about since I took part in a research study and was given a research drug along with my chemotherapy.  

Here is the link http://rfch.convio.net/goto/monimonk . Thank you for your consideration in helping out.  And to those of you that have joined our team -YAY!!  Or made a donation - THANK YOU!!

What to pray for??  Please pray for all the therapists, nurses, doctors and other staff that are caring for me.  Please pray for minimal radiation side effects.  Please pray for a cure!!

I love you!!

Love and Blessings from the Top of my Heart,