Monday, December 14, 2015

December Update

Greetings to everyone!!!  Hope you are all relishing the knowledge that Jesus loves you so very much!  I'm always troubled during this time of year because it's so evident that so many people celebrate the Christmas season for all the wrong reasons.  Please remember that God gave his only Son to show us how to live on this earth.  Then Jesus gave his life, dying an inhumane and grueling death, to pay for our sins.  He arose!!!!!  He arose from death to make it possible for you and me to commune with Him and our heavenly Father and live with them forever!  Praise God and Praise Jesus!

And during this Christmas season, the cancer battle wages on for me and so many others.  However, my battle has been and will continue to be successful! 

I had a partial mastectomy the Monday before Thanksgiving.  Surgery went well, and I had a fabulous week that week!  I was stunned that I didn't hurt more have bandages.  Then the very morning after Thanksgiving, trouble began.  That story is sort of gross, so suffice it to say that one of my incisions got infected and there was some drainage.  Well, a LOT of drainage.  I called Dr. Valle on Saturday morning to report.  He explained the situation, offered to meet me at the hospital to tend to the wound and other issue, or I could keep LOTS of bandage on the incision and come in to see him Monday.  I chose Monday because it wasn't an emergency, and bless his heart, he has enough to do!  The Monday after Thanksgiving, he drained the wound, bandaged it lightly, and sent me on my way with instructions to come back in two days.  At that visit, everything was looking much better. 

So now, I'm back on track with the healing and recovery.  Yay!

Last Wednesday Kenny and I went to see Dr. Schlabach, my oncologist.  He was thrilled with the after-surgery pathology report.  I will be visiting him every two months for at least the next two years. 

Today, we visited Dr. Gefter, my radiation oncologist.  We are getting ready to begin the radiation treatments in mid to late January.

And that's that!  I am feeling really good, resting some each day, and cherishing time spent focusing on Jesus and all He means to me.  And I must tell you, even if things were not going so well, Jesus would still be wonderful, I would still be cherishing time spent with Him, and God would still be worthy of receiving all my praises!

Hope each and every one who reads this celebrates God's most precious gift to us this Christmas:  His Son and the gift of eternal life with Him!  Blessed Christmas!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Soak in the Sonshine!

Strange title for a blog entry created in the midst of days and days and days of rain (or so it seems.)  Mind you, I'm NOT complaining!  The weather fits right in with what Jesus is leading me to share.  So here goes:

For over a year now, I've been working my way through Jesus Today, a devotional in the series of devotionals written by Sarah Young.  Before I began this, our precious Sarah Marie (Ken's wife) had given me and both my girls copies of Jesus Calling by the same author.  We received this gift the day before Easter, 2013.  We were a family in crisis at that time.  So we began to read.  Every single day was unspeakably amazing how the devotion and verses for that day were precisely relevant to what was happening to me that day!  It became even more amazing when we all compared notes and shared how the devotional had to have been written just for each one of us.  I knew there was only ONE WAY this could be occurring:  JESUS obviously had a hand in Sarah Young's writing. 

For those of you not familiar with these devotionals, in each one the author shares how the devotional was inspired.  It is usually my habit to wait until I've finished a book of any kind before I read any of the author notes.  So once I had finished a year of Jesus Calling, I was amazed to realize how beautifully Jesus had used her trials and suffering to produce such a spiritually powerful book.  I couldn't believe a year had passed and I was without my daily devotional guide.  Off to the store I went to check out her other works.  I came home with Jesus Today.  From the very first devotional reading, I had this underlying feeling that this devotional wasn't for me.  As the days progressed, the feeling persisted:  this devotional seemed to be written for someone who was suffering devastating illness, and I wasn't that person in the spring of 2014. Everyone was fine  in my little world, or so I thought. After a couple of weeks, I gave in and read the author notes in hopes of determining whether I was to continue with this book or move on to something else.  Maybe Jesus was nudging me out of what had become a habit and was moving me on to something else.

Much to my amazement, the inspirations for these devotions came from a mysterious, long and maddening physical illness Sarah Young had experienced, and was still struggling with!  So I was right!  It WAS for suffering through sickness, but I wasn't sick! However,  I had long before realized that Jesus can use anything to teach me, mold me, make me who He wants me to be, so I prayed about it, didn't find another direction, and chose to keep reading.

December 2014:  Devastating news about our precious little grandson still in utero:  multiple heart defects.  We were stunned.  It was very difficult during this time, but this little one's mommy, daddy, grandmommy and papaw clung to Jesus for hope and spiritual sustenance.

Spring, 2015:  I had completed another devotional.  Time to find a new one.  As days progressed, I prayed for Jesus's guidance in finding another devotional.  I realize one mustn't have a devotional in order to study the Word or hear from Jesus; however, I had been in this for two years!  It had been an amazing journey!  I wanted more and more and more.  Strangely, I felt led to start the whole "sickness" devotional over again.  And then it happened:  a diagnosis of breast cancer.  A really bad form of breast cancer:  triple negative, very aggressive; etc.  Then it all made perfect sense to me.  Had Jesus been preparing me for this journey?  I believe so.  There had been so many people in my life with cancer:  an aunt with breast cancer (she won!), a precious friend at school who didn't survive; another precious friend at school who was years younger than me and had two small children to raise alone without the help of their father (she won her battle and gave amazing testimonies all through the journey!); another precious friend at school whose cancer battle didn't begin with breast cancer, but spread to that and more, so much more (she struggles even as I type at a local hospital with her family gathered round - and her praises and testimonies and determination to glorify God  even in and through  cancer!!!!! astounded me and have continued to astound me for over three years now!!!!!  A sweet friend at school with colon cancer (she won the battle!!); another precious friend at school with a mysterious sudden-onset and quick-killing form of cancer (she died within weeks of diagnosis and left a college-aged son and fourteen-year-old daughter to press on without her). Another aunt and an uncle who both lost the battle.   I could go on and on and on.  So when I sat on the examination table at Dr. Valle's office, and he told me about my breast cancer, my responses were, "Okay." and "I understand." and "Yes."  No tears; no sobs; no shock apparent (to me or him); Just okay.  In my mind at the time I was thinking, "Okay, it's my turn.  God will get us through this." Anyway, I wasn't about to get all tore up about me:  I had a new little grandchild who desperately clung to life waiting for Jesus to heal his heart!   Dr. Valle looked at me and sort of got right in front of my face and said, "Do you understand what I am telling you?"  When I responded in the positive, he said, "Tell me what I am telling you."  So I repeated it all back to him in total calm.  His response was, "You are a strong woman!"  I didn't argue at that point with his busy schedule to keep and all, but I so am NOT a strong woman.  I have a strong Friend in Jesus.  There's nothing strong about me at all. Besides, I had already realized by that point that Dr. Valle is a Christian.  He had said enough to show me that.   But back to the devotional.

At some point after my battle with cancer began, a sweet friend recommended another book to me, A Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  Another life-changing, life-challenging book!  Her book is all about seeing the gifts God showers upon us every single day.  I had already adopted that mindset years previous, but she has a way of putting it on paper that is truly thought-provoking, uplifting, and challenging all at the same read.  I don't want to write too much about that now because I intend to share more about it soon, but a very challenging focus has come to me out of her writing:  Even what we consider to be the bad things in life are truly gifts from God. God may not cause or create the chaotic situations in our lives, but He allows in His sovereignty and then blesses us with so many blessings through those situations.  Ann Voskamp goes into great detail about that with real-life examples to prove her point.  If we look, if we are willing to look, we will see God in every single particle of our existence, even the horrible.  Now for today's devotional: 

"I have done great things for you, so let Me fill you with Joy.  Take ample time to ponder all I have done for you.  Rejoice in My goodness and My greatness as you remember My marvelous deeds.  Rest in My intimate Presence; relax in My everlasting arms.  I long to fill you with Joy, but you must collaborate with Me in this process.

Do not be like a spoiled child on Christmas Day -- hastily tearing open all the presents and then saying, "Is that all?"  Every single day is a precious gift from Me!  Search for Me within the boundaries of this day, and you will surely find Me.  I am present not only in pleasant things, but also in unwanted circumstances.  My Joy is sufficient for all situations, and I adjust it according to your need.  When things are going your way, My gladness intensifies your delight.  When you encounter hard things, I give you a deep, bold Joy that clings to Me for help.  Receiving My Joy requires not only time but also courage."  p. 254  Jesus Today by Sarah Young.

But even better, from God's word:  "In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy."  1 Peter 1:6-8

With all this in my mind and heart today, as Kenny and I took our doggies out for precious rain-free moment outside, Kenny pointed to some evergreens we had planted along a hill.  He commented, "Isn't it amazing the way the amount of sun each tree gets determines how tall it grows?  They're like stair steps!"  Can you see them?

The first thought I had and the first words out of my mouth were, "The same could be said for time spent with Jesus.  That tall tree spends lots of time soaking in the Son, but that little one on the end thinks he's just too busy."  Not criticizing anyone, just speaking out loud the truth that the Spirit has been pouring into me, the Sonshine I've been soaking in lately.  I wish I soaked more.  I must soak more.  One can never get enough of that precious Sonshine.

Joy even in despair.  Joy is a gift from God!  He gives it even and because of the hard times in life.  Do you look for it?  You gotta be looking for it.  I hope we will all focus more on soaking in the Sonshine at Jesus's feet through the Word, through devotionals, through prayer, through song,  through looking for God's not so obvious but oh so precious joy blessings.  It is life changing! Oh, and let me tell you, they become obvious once you start looking.

Thanks for staying with me to the end.  I'm not known for my brevity.  Please know that Jesus through His Spirit told me to share this today, and now He is letting me know I've written enough.  Hope you get the message.  He loves you so, so, so much and wants to give you joys on top of joys.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Time for an Update

Surgery tomorrow . . . finally!!!  After meeting with Dr. Valle, I didn't hear anything from his office for almost two weeks.  At the end of last week, at 4:00 p.m. on a Friday, I called his office and asked for information on a surgery date.  Turned out I hadn't even been put on the calendar, so his assistant put me on the surgery calendar for tomorrow, Monday, November 23.  Turns out the delay was them wanting to get past the holidays in case I was planning to travel.  I reminded her again that I wasn't going anywhere and that my and Kenny's schedule these days is devoted to whatever medical needs I have, so let's get this show on the road! 

Surgery is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. tomorrow.  However, I will have two procedures prior to surgery.  The first one will be in the morning.  Dr. Valle will put a wire into the tumor (or into what's left of it).  This is so he can go directly to the tumor during surgery without hunting for it (because it's down to that small of a size thank and praise to God!!!)

The second procedure will be to inject dye into the breast tissue several hours before surgery.  The dye will then travel to the lymph nodes that feed the portion of breast tissue where the tumor is located.  As a result, any lymph nodes showing dye will be removed and tested for cancer.  I think I've got that right.  Any lymph nodes removed will be tested and if more cancer is found, I will return to surgery at a later date for a complete mastectomy.

The surgery I'm having is referred to as a "partial mastectomy."  In other words, I'm having a lumpectomy tomorrow.  Again, many praises and thanks to God! 

Many friends and family have asked if this is an outpatient procedure.  Ordinarily it is, but because my surgery is scheduled for so late in the day, whether or not I get to come home tomorrow night depends on how I do during and after surgery and, of course, how late surgery actually happens.

In the meantime, I have complete peace about the entire process.  I am so ready to move forward with treatment of this cancer.  After tomorrow, bring on the holidays!  I'm very much looking forward to Thanksgiving with family.  We all have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving season, and yes, every single moment of every single day.

I wanted to share a verse with this  post, and the first one that came to mind is Phillipians 1:6, but rather than contemplating this verse in reference to others (it's a great verse to pray for others and to encourage others) tonight I claim this verse for myself and for Kenny:

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in [me] will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. 

Blessed and happy Thanksgiving, y'all!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Moving On

It's been six weeks since I posted an update on my journey through breast cancer.  Today I have lots of news to share.  My sincere thanks to any and all of you who are interested in my journey.  I continue to be amazed at the number of people who truly care for me and have expressed their concern, support and encouragement. 

As I think back, it was right about the time of my last update that I noticed my hands and feet were feeling . . . strange . . . a sort of numb feeling.  Ironically, my oncologist had just asked me that week if I had noticed any numbness in my fingers or toes.  I joked with him the next week that it was the power of his suggestion that made me begin to notice the numbness because it was literally the day after he asked me that I began to notice it.  Within two weeks the numbness (called neuropathy - a form of nerve damage) had spread across the entire surface of my hands and feet.  I began to stumble occasionally, had trouble picking up little things, struggled with papers at school and found turning pages in textbooks nearly impossible (combination of dead fingernails and the numbness).  The week after that, my nurse asked me how the numbness was.  My response was "the same."  She was very determined and stern as she instructed me to let them know if it intensified or changed in any way.  The next week, she asked and I informed her that it hadn't lessened, may even have worsened.  When she began to ask questions about my ability to do the normal things we all do every day, and she got around to asking me if had tripped any, I just looked at Kenny, and we laughed.  I had tripped at least three times that very morning.  Little did I know what would result.  Before beginning administering my chemo, she wanted to contact the doctor and let him know about the neuropathy.  Since he was in the downtown office that day (he is usually in the Gunbarrel office on my chemo days), it took almost an hour for them to hear back from him.  The directive:  no chemo that day.  He wanted to see if the neuropathy would diminish if we halted the chemo temporarily.  I had two more treatments to go, and I was really anxious to finish the chemo.  However, he's the expert, and he had explained to me that the neuropathy could be permanent.  He was trying to keep that from happening.

The next week (the day I would have been finished with chemo):  no treatment.  Maybe next week.

The next week (last week):  Dr. Schlabach had decided I would have no more chemo.  I was finished!  That was it!  So with that, we had finished the first stage of breast cancer treatment.  I literally danced and jumped up and down in the lab upon hearing the news.

The sad part:  all my caregivers there were so sad because they said they wouldn't be seeing me anymore.  They were happy, but they were sad.  They had "graduated" several other patients just that week.  I promised I would come back to see them, and I will.  I will miss our visits.  They are all so caring and cheerful and professional all at the same time.  My experience with them combined with our experience with Ty's birth and surgeries has given me an entirely new perspective on nurses and what a ministry they have in caring for us.

So, having finished the chemo, an MRI was scheduled.  We got that done yesterday.  Today we met with Dr. Schlabach for the results.  The tumor that had started so large is down to barely 1/2 cm in diameter.  So exciting!  The doctor is of the opinion that a lumpectomy will be the appropriate surgery for me.  He feels certain enough to say so.  He was so pleased with the results.  He texted my surgeon, Dr. Valle', right then and there to tell him I was ready for surgery.

Next week, on Wednesday, Kenny and I will meet with Dr. Valle' and determine a surgery date and confirm exactly what type of surgery I will have (probably a lumpectomy).  After recovery from the surgery, intensive radiation treatments will begin.  But that's the next stage.  We are so glad to be through the first stage and ready to begin the second stage of treatment.

Looking back at the last update, I have to smile at the progress I've made.  Almost everything tastes delicious!!!  I have really enjoyed eating this last week.  It took two weeks for the deadening of my taste-ability to wear off.  L.O.V.I.N.G. Couch's barbeque!!!!!  Every chance I get!  Today I had Ken's chili.  It was the perfect day for that yummy, spicy, chunky chili.  With Fritos.  Yummmmm!

A few days ago I noticed little hairs sticking out all over my head.  Sparse but there!  And noticeable.  And then there's the fuzz coming in that appears to be totally and completely white!!!  Won't that be interesting?!  Now I had plenty of gray hair back in May, but it wasn't WHITE! 

None of my fingernails have fallen off.  That's not how it works anyway.  They loosen and you have to cut them off.  I know that because I had to remove the big toenail on my right foot this morning.  The entire nail had died, turned white and let go.  So I cut it off.  Not having a dead nail on my toe feels so much better.  In fact, I've been cutting back my dead fingernails, too.  That makes them feel better and enables me to be able to function without having to be so careful and without hurting all the time.  Kenny predicts that in 30 days my nails will be back to normal.  I hope so.

The tiredness persists, but since I've begun my medical leave from school, it's not so intense.  If you have never taught school or worked in a school, you can have no idea how intense the work is and how worn out teachers and other school personnel can be!  If you know a teacher, school secretary, principal, custodian, guidance counselor or other school personnel, please thank them for their work and encourage them.  This is just my first week out of school, and I don't run out of energy at noon every day, but by 4:00 p.m. I'm out of steam and longing for a nap.

Oh! My! Stars! the itching!!!!  I itch all over.  It's just about driving me crazy.  I wake up in the middle of the night itching and have to get up and get a hairbrush or backscratcher and tend to my itchy back . . . and arms . . . and legs . . . and scalp . . . and eyes!  My eyes are driving me insane itching!  And as I suspected, this is withdrawal from the chemo.  The Taxol was administered with heavy doses of Benadryl and steroids.  Those two were to help my body not suffer side effects of the Taxol.  However, they also put my itchy skin to rest.  It was a wonderful few weeks of itchlessness.  My itching came back with a vengeance,  but Dr. Schlabach assures me this too shall pass.

On a side note, we took Kenny to see an orthopedic doctor today for his shoulder.  We knew from xrays done several years ago that Kenny has "a bone spur" on his right shoulder joint.  We figured we would see Dr. Smalley, he would have xrays made, he would come back and tell us he would take the spur out, and Kenny would be his wonderful, active self again.  Not gonna happen.  We were shocked to hear the words "need a shoulder replacement" come out of the doctor's mouth.  Shocked!  Kenny has absolutely no cartilage left in his right shoulder joint.  Dr.Smalley called it "bone-on-bone arthritis."  And there is not just "a bone spur."  There are several.  What???????  Kenny and I just looked at each other.  Could. Not. Believe. This.  My indestructible, busy, active, work-a-holic hubby.  Then came the good news.  Kenny can try a daily anti-inflammatory to see if it will help.  He also got a cortisone shot to the shoulder today.  Please pray these help ease his pain.  Dr. Smalley told Kenny we can wait until Kenny is ready for the replacement surgery.  Trust me, Kenny is no where near ready for that surgery!  That's a big one! 

So here we are, two "senior citizens," doing what senior citizens do, I guess:  the best we can as our bodies slowly wear out.  And thankful for each and every day God gives to us to live and praise Him!  To enjoy our lives, our children, our friends, our grandbabies, and so much more. 

And who decided that you become a "senior citizen" when you turn 60?  Oh well, one day at a time.  One challenge at a time.  Jesus promised to be with us all the time, in everything.  God is a very present help in time of trouble.  I know that for a fact.  I pray for His blessings upon you all and thank Him constantly for His love, patience, longsuffering with me, and the Hope of Heaven with Him.

I'll update y'all again when there's something to tell.  Love to all!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Update on My Journey

It's been a long time since I posted an update on my journey through breast cancer treatment.  Since July 1 to be exact.  To all who have wondered, please accept my apologies.  We as a family have traveled through some really difficult issues and times over the course of July and August.  Now here we are having survived and even overcome!  Thanks to all who prayed for us.

We finished the four rounds of really difficult chemo in July.  Those treatments were administered every other week for eight weeks.  Then we (Kenny and I - he does everything with me so we are both going through this! - God bless him!) moved into chemo every Wednesday for twelve weeks.  We have five more to go!  Mid-October we will be finished with chemo for good!

When school resumed in early August, back to work I went.  It's hard every day, but it has to be done to keep our insurance going.  God gets me through each day.

At this time, I am tired all the time.  That's normal response to chemo, I guess.  My fingernails are dying one by one and some of them (one very soon) are going to fall off.  My toes, fingers, soles of my feet and palm of my hands, and sometimes my tongue are numb.  This is a normal reaction to the chemo drug being given at this time.  I also have A LOT of trouble tasting things.  Most of the foods I can taste are foods I shouldn't be eating, but I have decided to deal with that (aka clean up my act) and get back to some good healthy eating when I get my sense of taste back.  Another really annoying side effect of this drug is weight gain.  It's happening.  Enough said.  How on earth can one gain weight when one is not eating much and not enjoying any of what is being eaten?  Oh well.

Pretty much all my hair is gone - ALL my hair.  My nose bleeds when I have to blow it, which is often because with no nose hair, my nose stays irritated.  Too much information?    Then let's stop there.

On the positive side, on my last physical exam two weeks ago, the doctor could "barely detect a slight thickening of tissue" as opposed to an obvious lump!  I am very excited about this.  The chemo is working!!!  When chemo is completed in five weeks, there will be a three to four week recoup time to build strength.  Then I will have surgery.  I am thinking mastectomy, but final decisions will be made early November.  Surgery mid-November.  Then I don't know, but I do know monitoring continues for a couple of years beyond chemo and surgery.

So there you go!  The latest.  I don't imagine anything will change between now and the end of the chemo treatments.  I really appreciate all your prayers, cards, thoughts and encouraging words and messages.

God bless!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Chemo #3: DONE!

Just a quick update for those who want to informed.  Kenny and I went for the works today:  blood work, doctor visit, chemo.  Dr. Schlabach is such a compassionate and loving person!  He greeted me with a big hug and left me with a big hug!  How could he have known I'm a hugger?  Only God could have orchestrated that I have three Christian doctors for this journey.  Each of my doctors has let me know they are Christians by things they say, not just alluding to the Bible or God, but mentioning them outright in comments meant to help me fight this fight and win this war!  Which reminds me of my devotion today.  I'm re-reading Jesus Today by Sarah Young.  Excellent devotional for anyone.  I remember when I started it thinking, "Well, I just don't know if this one is meant for me because it sounds like this was written for someone with a dire illness or something."  Hah!  Who could have known, but our precious loving God!  So, having just finished the final devotion Monday, I turned right back to the first devotion and started all over again.  In today's reading, Jesus points out that the worst possible thing that could ever happen to me, and/or to you, is that He would stop loving me.  He continues to point out that since that's not even within the realm of possibility, I can relax and live each day even more abundantly knowing that whatever comes my way, I win!!!!  Even if, and eventually one day, I die, even that will be a blessing because I will be immediately with Him!  So you see, no matter what a day brings to us, we are ultimately the receivers of the greatest blessing:  in His presence!  By the way, Sarah Young did indeed write this devotional over the course of three years while fighting debilitating illness.  How God has used her illness and her writing!  Amazing!

     "Neither height nor depth, or anything else in all
     creation, will be able to separate us from the love
     of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."  Rom. 8:39

Praises!!!!  Praises!!! And as the song we sang Sunday says, "How can it be?!"  But it is!  He has promised and He will not fail to deliver in His time.  What a blessed comfort to know this.

So, with all that in mind, back to the doctor and chemo report.  My blood work numbers looked really good.  To quote one of the nurses, "Those numbers look like a normal person."  That's very good news.  So that Newlasta (sp?) shot I got really worked!  Worth every little bit of resulting pain (and there wasn't much - which is wonderful because Dr. Schlabach said some people REALLY HURT after that shot).  

Then to the doc for an examination of the tumor.  He had a hard time finding it!!!  It's shrunk again!!!  So today he said the chemo is definitely working.  Praise God!!!  I am totally amazed!

On a not so positive note, I've been having some serious stabbing pains just below my right ribs.  When I told Dr. Schlabach about them, I mentioned that my mom thought it was my gall bladder.  Congratulations, Mama!  You nailed it!  The doc said he agrees with my mom.  It has to be my gall bladder.  Then when he asked what I had eaten, it became all too obvious.  It was really funny.  I told him pizza one night, barbeque the next.  He laughed and said, "Well, at least it wasn't fried chicken!"  Me and Kenny burst out laughing because a week ago, the first time I had the pains, we were loving us some home-fried chicken!!!!!!  Looks like I'm in for some serious diet makeover.

Then to chemo, where they took some blood directly from my port to run some extensive blood work (more so than the weekly finger-stick).  This time, some questions.  Have I not been drinking lots of liquids?  My kidney function wasn't looking right.  I am totally ignorant of the numbers and their meanings, but my production of   ________?????? was on the low end of high and was significantly higher than my beginning level.  So, I MUST force liquids.  Yuck.  But I must.  God will help me.

Y'all please pray for me to force liquids and be able to stomach healthier food.  Right now I couldn't eat a salad if I had to.  However, I could eat more vegetables and they are abundant right now.  In fact I had squash, zuchini and tomato pie for dinner last night.  Now that sounds healthy to me!

The chemo went well.  Since we were at Gunbarrel rather than downtown, and it was only Day 2 at this new location for the staff, I met another new nurse.  Please pray that God will show me how to witness to her.  I asked enough to be sure she does not know Jesus.  However, the other nurse who helped me was wearing a beautiful cross necklace.  When I complimented her, she said, "Thanks.  It helps me remember why I'm here."   Ahhhh! and there is was.  A fellow Christian to help me witness to the other.  

If I follow the pattern established by the first two chemo visits, I will be sound asleep this time tomorrow.  So you won't be hearing from me until Sunday, when I will groggily emerge from my drug-induced slumbers.

Two weeks ago tomorrow, little Ty was having open-heart surgery.  You should see him now!  He's home and thriving and doing what any little three-month-old baby should be doing! Check out Meagan's blog to see good pics.

 So much to be thankful for and praise God for!

Love y'all.  Happy July 4th!!  God help our country.


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Precious Week-end Getaway

Kenny whisked me away for a wonderful overnight getaway!  We spent Friday evening with Sarah and Malcolm at Thatch Farm.  We just took Toby, got in the car and away we went.  Didn't have to pack a thing!  Such freedom!  It was just the break I needed to get me inspired to get  back home and do what I do.  Thank you, Sarah and Malcolm, for being so good to us!  We love you more than we could ever put into words.  Thank you, God, for a daughter and son-in-love who love us and love spending time with us.  Thank you for their hospitality and generous, loving spirits.
As you may or may not know, Thatch Farm is 100 years old this year.  Going there is literally like stepping back in time.  Except you have all the modern conveniences, like air conditioning, indoor plumbing, and web access.  Every time we visit here I leave inspired.  Both of our daughters have this effect on me.  Sarah made this beautiful wreath that decorates the front door.

   After a delicious dinner of pizza (which Kenny and I brought and all four of us enjoy together frequently), the guys enjoyed a favorite television show while the girls and Toby enjoyed stitching and browsing around on Pinterest.  In the kitchen, homemade bread was rising in preparation for a Saturday morning bake.  Imagine the aroma of coffee and freshly baked bread!  Wonderful!
 Speaking of the kitchen, Sarah and Malcolm recently hung this shelf on which a piece of Sarah's quilting is displayed along with some antique Carnival Glass that she collected years ago.
Even Toby has his favorite places to hang out at Thatch Farm.  By the way, Toby doesn't know this place as Thatch Farm.  He knows it as Camp Johnson for Little Dogs, but that's another story for another blog.
Early Saturday morning, Toby and I woke up before everyone else (because that's what we do every day).  After a brief visit outside, we enjoyed some snuggle time in the living room.  Sarah's and Malcolm's house has two beautiful working fireplaces.  This one is in the living room.  Did I mention all the woodwork, windows and fireplaces are original to the house?  Amazing!  I've enjoyed the warmth from this fireplace many times, but today we were enjoying cool air conditioning.  No fire needed, thank you.
Not too much later, Sarah woke up, and we enjoyed coffee and tea on the porch.  We were treated to hummingbird wars and visits, numerous species of birds at their early morning activities, squirrels busy searching out the perfect hiding places for their walnuts, and, best of all, a mama deer and her fawn.  Sarah got some fabulous pictures of the deer after sneaking back in for her camera.  I'm sure she will share those with everybody in the not-so-distant future.  The deer are in this picture, but I couldn't zoom in enough to give you a good view (although every view from the porches is fabulous).
Spending time at Thatch Farm is refreshing to the mind and spirit.  Now don't be too disappointed when I tell you this:  Thatch Farm is a private residence, not a bed and breakfast or fancy inn where anyone can pay and stay.  However, Sarah and Malcolm are very gracious hosts and love showing their unique and beautiful home to those who are interested.  Warning:  it IS a working farm, so if you visit, you might get to take part in a little work.  This morning I got to put fresh-made biscuits in the oven for breakfast and watch as Sarah and Malcolm made creamed eggs for us.  The breakfast was delightful!  As was the company.  Oh yes, the homemade preserves were also delightful on those biscuits.
The view out one of the kitchen windows.  As you can tell, birding is a serious interest and activity at Thatch Farm.  I learn something every time we visit.  This morning we were treated to the song of an indigo bunting (which I had never heard) and the song of the rufus-sided towhee (also which I had never heard).  

Hope you've enjoyed this mini-visit to Thatch Farm.  Now I am refreshed, back home and ready to get a little creative myself.  Hope y'all have a wonderful weekend.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Thankful Thursday

I'm always intrigued with all the throw-back Thursday pics people post on Facebook each Thursday.  As I pondered on the fact that I haven't blogged in about two weeks (or more!) and knowing I needed to at least post an update, I've struggled with what to write.  Honestly, there just didn't seem to be much to say that anyone would be interested in reading.  Then today happened, and I knew what to blog about:  thanksgivings!  So Thursdays can also be Thankful Thursdays, though God gives us so much to be thankful for every single day of our lives.

1. Tyson Hugh Hooper:   There are no words sufficient to express how thankful I am for the improving health of our little grandson, Ty.  Today, one week after his second open-heart surgery, Ty is finally doing what babies do:  I actually got to hear him interrupt a phone conversation with his mommy today by crying and complaining.  So thankful for a baby who feels good enough to cry and complain about tummy gas.  So thankful to hear the joy, relief and peace in our daughter's voice on the phone.  It's as if the stress has drained away from her day by day since last Thursday.  I am so thankful that the Holy Spirit intercedes for me before our God because my thankfulness for His work in our lives through Ty and His healing in little Ty's body is literally impossible to express in words.  

2.  Kenny Stiner:  Is there no limit to the love this man has for me?   He sits with me while I sleep for days at a time; he's there every time I wake up; he remembers those things I forget, like today at the doctor.  He remembered to ask about the  knots that have developed in my right hand.  He has gotten up before 7 a.m. yesterday and today to work with me in my garden.  (Kenny is NOT a morning person, and gardening is my hobby, not his, so this is a true sacrifice for him.)  He has spent two days this week going to doctor appointments with me.  He cares not whether I cook a meal or not; he's the most patient and understanding and kind person I know.  He will wash dishes, go right back in Walmart for the thing I forgot and remembered before we even got to the car, take my dog to the groomer and/or pick up my dog from the groomer (and pay the fee!).  He has sat on the front porch and watched a storm with me.  He sits on the front porch and watches birds and other wildlife with me.  He's taking care of chickens all by himself every day in this heat because I'm not supposed to be around the poop.  I could go on for pages.  I'm so thankful to God for bringing me and Kenny together when we were just silly kids and thankful for a love that has lasted through 41 years of marriage and will continue to carry us through to the end of our lives on earth.  

3.  Friends:  I should blog about depression one of these days, but I could write a book about it, and it would be torturous to write and to read.  Suffice it to say, I (and others in my family) have had struggles with depression.  Most of you probably immediately think, "What do you have to be depressed about?"  EXACTLY!!  That's what I told my doctor when I finally asked for help:  I'm depressed and I have a wonderful life!   Please know depression is a true illness.  It's a physiological illness; a serious imbalance of brain chemicals.  It ruins relationships, damages children, destroys marriages, it kills.  Through my years of dealing with depression I had convinced myself that I had no friends.  NOW through this journey through cancer, I have been blessed with the awareness that many, many people truly love and care about me!  And I am so very thankful!  Thankful to God for showing me that people care about me; thankful for the many prayers, well-wishes and actions of my friends.  Like yesterday, a friend messaged me that he had been praying for me all day long.  I received the message middle of the afternoon and yesterday had been a phenomenally excellent day for me!  The power of prayer  by a friend.  And there are so many people who are praying for me . . . people I'll never know about.  I know this because we encountered another friend at Waffle House this morning.  He scooted in with us and visited for a while.  One of the things he told me was that he was involved in several prayer chains that stretched across several states and he knew tons of people were praying for Ty and for me.  Friends who sent meals.  Friends who sent gifts.  Friends who sent cards.  Friends who texted and messaged and called.  It's been absolutely amazing.  The first lesson I learned on this cancer journey was:  Love one another   and    Treat others the way you want to be treated.  I'm so thankful that God has brought this lesson so vividly clear to me.  THIS is what we are here to do:  praise God and love each other.  

4.  Doctors who truly care:  I am amazed at the compassion that has been shown me by my doctors and their staffs.  I have truly never experienced such compassion and caring from medical people.  Maybe if all people in the medical field maintained this attitude of caring so many people wouldn't stay sick.  Their care and compassion just make me want to be better and get well even more.  My surgical oncologist, Dr. Valle, gave me his personal phone number.  He said text if I had any questions.  The one time I texted him, he answered right back and called within the hour!  He calls me from time to time to check on me and give me new information!  My chemo oncologist, Dr. Schlabach, laughs with us and  just is so comforting and uplifting both with us and with his staff.  He comes into the chemo lab and pats shoulders and greets patients in pleasant and caring ways.  He opened his arms and hugged me after our first meeting together!  My radiology oncologist, Dr. Mefter, spent over an hour talking with me and Kenny today!  He explained things that I'm sure the other two had explained, but honestly the information overload is so overwhelming sometimes.  It was wonderful the way he patiently taught and explained.  Ty's cardiac surgeon, Dr. Mettler, is the same way.  You would think he had nothing else to do in a day but visit with you and encourage you and explain things to you.  After meetings with each of these doctors, Kenny's response was, "He's a really nice man."  That is a high compliment coming from my husband, who does not dish out comments easily!  I am so thankful for people in the medical field who have managed to maintain their compassion for the individual while juggling the myriad tasks for which they are responsible.

5.  Good News:  From the beginning of this journey through cancer until today, the only good news we had received was (1) the tumor shrunk by half its size after the first chemo treatment, and (2) my right breast does not appear to be affected at all.  I'm telling you, from the first examination of my lab report, through the biopsy, every little detail has been negative, negative, negative.  And most of what I'm referring to was information I figured out myself by reading the information the doctors gave me and aligning it to my lab report.  Triple negative; aggressive; outside the walls of its origin; larger area than first thought involved; on and on and on it came.  Then today!  Today, as Dr. Mefter went through my MRI report, he mentioned two things no one had told me:  (1) MRI shows no indication of cancer in my lymph nodes, and (2) MRI shows no indication of cancer in my chest wall!  Now there are two huge things for which to be thankful.  This will make surgery much simpler when it comes time for surgery.  I am so thankful for this gift of positive results on something.

And Ty get to go home tomorrow!!!!  

6.  Delicious Leftovers:  As I was emerging from my drug-induced two-day sleep, food was not something I enjoyed.  But for some strange reason, both times I've emerged from this forced hibernation, specific foods have come to mind and I WANTED them!  This time is was fried chicken.  Then at some point Sunday, while we celebrated Father's Day at Sarah's and Malcolm's home, Sarah mentioned that Malcolm had been wanting fried chicken.  Well, that sent me over the edge!  Fried chicken we had to have!  So Monday I purchased the chicken.  (Tuesday morning Kenny had to go back and buy more because I didn't buy enough for all of us - see?  that love and patience again!)  Tuesday morning, after Kenny cut up the chickens, I sat the chicken to brining in a salt sprinkle as Mama had taught me.  Later that day I let Mama know we were going to fry chicken and she was welcome to join us.  She brought with her the most delicious squash casserole - - and her chicken frying expertise!  Truly my intention had been for me and Sarah to practice what Mama had already taught and showed us a couple of times.  But she jumped right in and fried that chicken for us!  It took the better part of an hour, but oh, it was so good, that fried chicken!  And squash casserole, and fresh cucumbers from Mama's garden, and Sarah's potato salad (which she mentioned several times was Meagan's recipe), and gravy!   Tuesday night dinner was fabulous!!  I am so thankful for that time cooking together in the kitchen.  I enjoy doing that so much.  Now tonight, I am so thankful all over again because all I have to do is heat the oven, heat it all up, and enjoy it again.  But this time there will be homemade biscuits to go with that gravy!  I wimped out on the biscuits Tuesday because it was so hot in the kitchen.  Tonight not so much.  Surely I can show my appreciation to Kenny with some good homemade biscuits.  And leftover biscuits and gravy sounds like a wonderful beginning to a wonderful Friday for which I will be exceptionally thankful all over again.

7.  God:  and He lands in the #7 spot, seven being the number of perfection.  Father God, I am so thankful to you for your blessings, your wisdom, your watchcare, your love, for information you let us know about and information from which you guard us.  I thank you for the precious gift of your Son, who gave up His life to pay for my  sins, and for His gift of the Holy Spirit to help me live this life and show me and prompt me in how you want me to live it.  Thank you for this Thursday on which I am thankful for waaaaaaaaay too much to put in this blog.  Amen.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Chemo . . . NOT!

Received some fabulous news from Dr. Schlabach today:  the tumor in my breast has been reduced by half its original size!!!  Already!!!  I am praising God for this miraculous progress!  The doctor is now confident that the chemo treatment is going to work us.  I am so excited about this response to the chemo.  I never expected things to happen this fast!

Along with the good news came some not so great, but not unexpected news:  my white blood cell count is really low.  This is all new to me, and me and numbers never have been the best of friends.  Suffice it to say my white blood cell count is so low, Dr. Schlabach didn't let me receive chemo today.  He instructed me to come back next Wednesday for chemo.  Then I will return to the office on Thursday for a shot of Neulasta.  According to my friend Audrey, this is a drug that goes directly into the bone marrow and stimulates the marrow to produce more blood cells, thus raising my white blood cell count.  Apparently while the outcome is good, the side effects are not so fun.  While I'm not looking forward to it, I am so willing to do whatever it takes to get this cancer under control, killed and out of my body!

Then the other big news of the day:  Kenny shaved my head!  My hair's been falling out for days now, and it was getting very irritating.  I wanted to pull it all out (it's painless!), but Kenny, always one for caution and taking plenty of time to do things the right way, kept saying, "Wait."  Well, the doc told him today to buzz it off, and so we did!  Just as soon as we got home from the hospital.  How do you like the new look?

Pretty spooky!  Very white!  and prickly!  I'll be glad when all the prickles fall out.

Many thanks to my friend, Annie, who met me today to share some head wraps and hats.  I was immediately amazed at how cool my head felt without my hair to keep me warm.  This little wrap is just the thing!

So there you have it!  The latest update on me and the cancer battle.  I am so thankful for not having chemo today.  Now I think I'll be able to squeeze in a quick trip to Nashville to spend some quality time with Meagan.  Also, there's a little two-month-old boy who needs some one-on-one with his grandmommy.  Gonna be so wonderful to finally get to hold him.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A New Gardener in Rabbit Valley!

Well, folks, there's a new gardener round here!  He's really good at the gardening, too.  I think my hubby may be on the brink of discovering a new love . . . gardening, of course!

Because of the new gardening rules by which I must abide to remain healthy, Kenny has lovingly informed me he will plant some things for me.  I had really begun a full-blown dedication to organic gardening this year.  Then the "no poop handling" rule was enforced, and my little gardening world crashed around me.  For about two minutes.  Then common sense began to kick in, and I realized there were ways to deal with this momentary and light trial - Miracle Grow for anything from here on out and help for where the poop is already in place.  My hero to the rescue, as always!  Kenny helped me purchase, lug home, and plant two beautiful bougainvillea.  Let me correct myself:  Kenny planted the bougainvillea! 

I found this beautiful dahlia blooming this morning.  It's the first one to bloom this summer.  I can't believe it actually survived the winter, especially considering that I gave it no mulch blanket to help it along during the cold weather. 

The daylilies are just beginning their annual show.  I am excited to see some new plants in full bloom this year. These were just babies last year.  Next year, they will probably be ready to share, so take note and make your plans.

The poppies are winding down, but I did find this beauty still in full color.
 Finally, the bees are busy.  We didn't get any honey from our bees at all last year, so I'm really hoping we can harvest honey this summer.  Kenny and I are still learning about beekeeping.  We harvested a lot two years ago, and that was absolutely the best honey I have ever eaten. 

Hope you'll make an opportunity to visit the Gardens in Rabbit Valley.  If' I'm home, the gardens are open.  We'd love to take a garden walk with you.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Jesus and the MRI

The long-awaited day finally arrived.  Today was the day for my first blood work after last week's chemo treatment.  More momentous, today was the day I finally underwent an MRI to determine (I think) how far this cancer has spread or if it has spread.

At this point I'm wondering if every single medical appointment and/or event is going to produce a story to share.  I hope you can enjoy the comedy and the spiritual awesomeness of today's stories.  First for the blood work.

Prior to going to the  MRI appointment, we dashed up to the chemo doc's office for a finger stick.  While waiting for them to call me, I dashed back to the chemo room to ask the triage nurse a few questions.  In this office, the nurses take turns doing what they call triage.  As I understand it at this time, that involves answering phone calls from patients, answering questions, guiding patients through issues, whatever patients need who are (quite probably) not in the the office.  I had questions.  I always get my teeth cleaned in the summer; was that okay to do?  I had read that I shouldn't floss my teeth, but I thought that would surely be an issue later, not now.  But I thought better to be safe than sorry and ask.  Can I go see my grandbabies?  Can I go see Ty before his next surgery?  I know having to stay away from germs is going to become a big part of my life.  But surely my blood was strong enough now to do these things.  The nurse told me to bring back my blood report, and she would be able to tell me more.  Finger prick, report, back to the triage nurse.  In one week the chemo has managed to almost totally destroy my white blood cells.  Let's hope it's destroying some cancer, too.  No, I most definitely must NOT get my teeth cleaned.  Too much chance of bleeding.  No, I probably shouldn't be around babies and small children, but the nurse admitted if it was her grandbaby, she would go.  So she advised me to wear a mask, use lots and lots of hand sanitizer, and carry supplies to clean the toilet before I use public facilities.  Immediately in my mind I promised myself there would be no public facilities.  Who carries gloves and cleaning wipes around with them?  I had no previous experience with this type of information.  With all this precaution, I had to ask perhaps the most important question:  Could I still garden?  If I garden, I deal with poop.  The nurse just about came out of her chair!  "You absolutely may not be working with poop!!!!!  You can't even be around any form of poop . . . . . .!!!!!!!  If you catch . . . . .   get yourself in the hospital  . . . . . won't be able to fight it off . . . . . very, very dangerous!"

I thanked her for teaching me and giving of her time, began the short walk out to Kenny, and totally lost it!  I was crying so badly when I got to Kenny, he actually rose up out of his chair and exclaimed, "What's wrong?"  I hate that I scared him.  Kenny is always so calm.  Well, the crying storm lasted all of one minute.  That's how my crying has been ever since this journey began.  I've always been a big cryer, but since getting on a wonderful antidepressant, crying has become almost unheard of.  Now, the tears are always just under the surface, waiting for a reason be it happy or sad.  So then I explained about the white blood cells and that I couldn't garden!.  He totally understood immediately.  Gardening is my comfort; my escape (from housework  :-)   ); my therapy; my joy.  After a little comforting and holding me, we were off to the MRI office.

Am I about to get a serious adjustment of priorities?  Looks like it, and I thought I had all my priorities in order.  Time will tell.

Out of my clothes, into scrubs.  I asked if I could use the restroom before the MRI because I knew I would be in there a while.  Sure, two doors to your right.  I walk over, open the door, and there is a MAN IN THE RESTROOM WITH THE DOOR UNLOCKED!!!  I quickly apologized and retreated back to the waiting room.  The man came out and sat in the waiting room with me.  So there we sat:  a man in street clothes and me naked in ugly blue scrubs.  I simply couldn't bring myself to go back in the restroom with him sitting there.  Eventually he finally left the room, I gathered up my gumption, and went back into the restroom only to find HE HAD PEED ALL OVER THE TOILET!!!!!  Retreat!  I sat back down and waited until a nurse came by.  I explained my situation and asked to be taken to another restroom.  Instead, much to my amazement, she offered to clean it for me!  And then she actually cleaned it!  God provides in the most unexpected ways, doesn't He?

I wasn't worried about having an MRI; I've had one before on my knee.  The technician almost laughed in my face when I told her that.  She proceeded to explain that I would have an I.V. so they could inject some dye; I would be lying face-down on the machine; I would have my arms extended over my head (I could feel my shoulders hurting already!); the entire procedure would take at least 45 minutes; she needed me to lay absolutely still the entire time . . . . . .

We got off to a little of a rough start when she couldn't get the I.V. in on her first attempt.  That was a first for me; I'm an easy stick.  Second time was fine.  Ear plugs in; up onto the machine, situated, adjusted, arms up, head down in a little padded donut; sliding back; some kind of door closed.  Then her voice very muffled, telling me to call her name if I needed anything.  The first "one" would last about three minutes.  And so we began.  I was fine, I thought.  No problem I thought.  Remembered that during my last MRI I took a nap and was super-surprised when they said it was over.

Let me tell you:  this was no knee MRI!!!!!!!  This was excruciating!!!  The first thing that happened was a few tears made an appearance, which of course, made my nose run, and the little drip hung just on the tip of my nose and drove me cccccrrrrraaaaazzzzzyyyyy!  Of course I prayed for help.  Immediately I realized I wasn't alone.  A Christian is never alone.  Jesus is everywhere.  God is omnipresent.  He's even in the MRI machine with me!!!!!!  Then the soreness began:  I get really stiff if I stay in one position for too long, my shoulders were hyperextended, and I don't do that anymore, my head was hating the little donut pillow, and I was having sensations I never felt before, and those sensations were not pleasant.  After many, many rounds of whatever the machine was doing, I realized I absolutely had to take break for my shoulders.  When the huge noise stopped I called as instructed.  No response.  I called again.  No response.  The machine started up again.  I was near hysteria - or what I thought hysteria in this machine might feel like.  When it stopped again, before I could call out, she started to say, "The next one will last . . "  and I yelled "STOP!  I need help!"  She came in and asked me what I needed.  I said I needed a break.  Her heavy sigh let me know this was not a good thing.  She said if we took a break, at this point, we would have to start all over again.  That was all I needed to hear.  She wiped my nose and left the room.  She started the machine again.  I literally thought I was going to get up and crawl out, I was hurting so bad.  Then I realized, there was some type of door and they closed it.  I'm in here, and I can't get out by myself!!!!!

I was coming unglued.  I couldn't do this another minute.  I was hurting!  I remembered Daddy telling me how hard a time he had numerous times when they asked him to lie on his back in the MRI machine.  Pure, unadulterated suffering.  And then it hit me.  My morning devotion had referred to the Apostle Paul's experiences of stonings, beatings, imprisonments, shipwrecks, starvation, and more, and he referred to these experiences, and ours, as light and momentary sufferings when compared with the sufferings of Jesus.  All my Bible studies came back to me, and I remembered that Jesus hung for HOURS on a cross, naked, with nails through his feet and hands, with a spear gash in his side, with a circle of thorny vines on his head, while people ridiculed him, spat at him, made fun of him.  And he was innocent of all sin!  At some point in the past I had heard in a Sunday-school lesson that crucifixion was the absolute most torturous way to die.  As Jesus hung there, the only way He could breathe was to push up on his feet.  The feet with the nails stabbed through them.  And/or pull up on his hands.  Those delicate-boned hands nailed to cross.  There was absolutely no way He could draw a breath without suffering even more intense pain.  And this went on for H.O.U.R.S.  And he endured that pain and suffering for me.  And for you.  Surely I could compose myself and lay in this deafening machine for a few more minutes.  Then I thought about singing.  Singing has always been such a comfort to me.  So I sang the first song that came to my mind:  "Amazing grace!  How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now I'm found; was blind, but now I see!"

The most amazing thing happened.  As I was singing I could hear a choir singing with me!  It was so clear but soft. I could actually hear the various harmonies!   This went on for a while, then the machine stopped.  I decided to keep on singing, because it was helping me so much.  Everytime the machine started up, the choir did, too!  Please believe me!  I am NOT a creative writer at any level.  I could hear a choir singing with me!  I sang through at least a dozen hymns, repeated some, sang the Doxology, sang Jesus Loves Me.  Pretty soon the nurse's voice came in muffled.  She said, "Valerie, I know you're in there singing and praying, but I need you to stop now.  You need to lie very, very still for the next round, and you'll feel the dye going into your arm.  Then one more and we're finished."  I thanked her, and my mouth stopped singing.  But oh!  I was singing in my brain and in my heart!  I was praising Jesus during this light and momentary trouble.  I prayed and thanked Jesus for suffering and dying for me.  I thanked Him for this opportunity to suffer a little and be able to glorify him through it.  Most especially, I thanked Him for being in that machine with me.

And then they were sliding me out of the machine, and it was over.  I was very stiff getting up, but I had survived whatever type of MRI procedure this had been.  More importantly, the entire experience had been turned into a praise session.  I was so excited that I couldn't wait to tell Kenny all about it.

When we got home, Meagan called, and I had to tell her all about it!  I had already realized that this would be my blog entry for today.  So here it is.  "I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus of Galilee!"

Please know if you are a Jesus follower, He is with you no matter what you are going through, no matter where you are located, no matter what.  He cares for you.  He feels your pain and confusion and anger and worry and tiredness.  Cognitive brain knowledge of that is one thing, but claiming that in real-life experience . . . priceless!  If you don't know Jesus, you probably haven't read this far, but if you have read this far, and you don't know Jesus, He's waiting for you to ask Him into your life.  He's all you need for whatever your life is dishing out to you right now.  Please accept Him.  He loves you so much.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A Very Good Day

What a wonderful day!  Today was the day the Lord made, and I rejoiced in it!  All day long!

I began my day thinking I would garden lightly and only for a short while.  Try ten minutes.  Why does every single little thing seem like it requires massive amounts of energy I no longer have?  So I pulled a very few weeds, watered a pot or two, then took a lawn chair to the cabin to sit and watch Kenny and Malcolm work.

If I had to describe this morning weatherwise, I would tell y'all we are livin' in Seattle, Washington!  I love it!  Cloudy, cool, perfect garden weather for those who aren't supposed to be out in the sun.  The afternoon got sunny and warm, though.  But it was still beautiful.

I ran one errand and got to visit with four friends!  Then at dinner another friend from way back showed up with her husband, and Sarah Ellen and I got to visit with them!  A day full of friend visits. I loved it.

Friend at the restaurant asked about my treatment.  She suggested I blog about it.  I can't imagine why anyone would want to know the details (duh! because they care! lol), but here it is.  Mind you, I don't get into all the drug names and gory amount details, etc., because I don't plan to be living on this stuff forever.  This is a journey, not a destination!

So, because this cancer is what is known as triple negative (and therefore not hormone related), ductile (meaning it originated in a mamory duct), invasive (meaning it has already grown through the duct wall), and very aggressive (whew!) chemo was started almost immediately.  On Tuesday, May 26, I had a surgical procedure to place a chemo port under the skin on my chest.  Quite frankly, that knot there grosses me out.  It's kind of silly really:  the fact that I have a malignant and aggressive cancer tumor in my left breast really doesn't throw me for a loop, but that port thing - - yuck!  I went on Thursday, May 28, for my first treatment.  I was given steroids to avoid skin reactions; something else to protect my stomach; other drugs (I lost track - it was a lot of liquids and drugs); and two cancer-fighting drugs.  Kenny watched the entire procedure and could not believe the amount of liquids that were put into me.

My nurse that day, Natalie, told me I would have pink tears and pink pee.  While the drugs were being dripped into me, Meagan called to let us know that her father-in-law, Harris Hooper had gone home to heaven.  So I cried.  A lot.  For our son-in-law, Chris, who loved his daddy so very much.  They were best buds.  For Penny, Chris's mom, who had spent 50 plus years with Harris; for the other siblings; for the grandchildren; for my daughter with yet another burden to bear and challenging situation to work through.  My tears were not pink.  I was disappointed.  However, because of Kenny's exclaiming about the amount of liquids they put into me, I thought I better visit the ladies' room before we left.  Pink pee!!!!!!  Flourescent pink pee!!!  Kinda cool, very weird, obvious chemical reactions happening in my body.  Life went on.

I left with instructions to take the two anti-nausea pills, alternating them every three hours.  Piece of cake.  Proceeded to do so.  It took twelve hours for the effects to kick in.  No, there was no nausea.  There was sleep!  But not the good kind.  The creepy, drugged, not restful kind.  Plus there was the timer going off every three hours. That would have been fine, except this went on Friday afternoon, Friday night, ALL  DAY  LONG Saturday, and all of Saturday night.  I literallly slept away almost 48 hours. I was shocked!  But no nausea!  Yay!  I was relieved.

The other days have been a mixture of things:  hurting stomach; extreme tiredness; extreme hunger; total lack of appetite (I have to laugh at that one because I didn't know it was possible for my body to experience any degree of loss of appetite, let alone TOTAL lack of appetite.  Kenny would take me to what I thought I was wanting, or go get what I thought I was wanting, or go prepare what I thought I was wanting only to see me eat maybe half or less and push it away.  I'm telling you I have never pushed away food in my life!!!  This is crazy!!!  But, hey, maybe I'll lose a pound or two.  That would certainly be a unique experience - losing weight without having to work for it.

Well, that's all about my treatment at this time.  I go for chemo every other week.  I go for blood work every week.  I'm having an MRI this week to see if the cancer is anywhere else (like lymph nodes).  My hair will fall out not this weekend, but next weekend (and don't fret - my hair is not something I cherish - the less the better).  As my son has said, "Mom, you always wanted a haircut like mine!"

This has been a long blog entry, but I have one more thought:  Where is Jesus in all this?  The answer?  Right smack-dab in the middle of everything!!!!  He has divine reasons for all this, and I've already begun to learn and be changed for His glory (more on that on another day).  Not one iota of any of this will be wasted:  not the time spent; not the tears; not the drugs; not the interactions with each and every person involved; not anything; not even the gas used to get here and there and everywhere!  I've had conversations with people I wouldn't have dared to have one week ago.  Lives will be changed.  Jesus will be praised!

Thanks for reading.  Love y'all!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Life in Rabbit Valley

Welcome to the first entry on my new blog!  I am the Rabbit Valley Gardener.  As you read,  you're going to very quickly realize that this entry is NOT about gardening.  There's a very good reason for that.  Originally I intended this blog to be all about gardening, farming and enjoying a restored 100-year-old cabin in my home town of Ooltewah, Tennessee.  However, within two weeks (literally) of establishing my identity and names for this new adventure, I learned that I have breast cancer.  So . . . this is going to be a blog about my journey fighting the breast cancer battle.  I'll get to the gardening, farming and cabin all in God's timing.  Today I want to introduce myself.  My name is Valerie, which means strong and valorous!  I don't know the story behind why my mother chose my name, but I can tell you people do consider me strong and brave.  I so am not!!!!  If there is any strength or bravery, it comes from Jesus.  My most important roll in this life is that of a follower of Jesus.  I love Him with my heart, soul and mind, and this cancer journey is all about learning how to love Him with ALL my heart, soul, mind and body!  Ahhh, there's the rub.  The body.  I like what the Apostle Paul talks about how the spirit is so willing, but the flesh is so weak.  So true, so true.  And now Jesus is going to help me strengthen my commitment to Him by allowing a little physical suffering for a little while.  This journey will enable me to gather treasures which I can cast before Him when we meet in glory.  Quite honestly, I always worried about not having anything to give Him on that day.  But dear reader, my journey is not all about me.  My journey is about you, as well.  You see, our God can take anything, anything at all involving any one at all in our world, and teach you, mold  you to be more like Him.  As I share my thoughts and experiences, my prayer is that God will teach someone something He wants that someone to learn.  It  might be my husband, one of my children, one of my grandchildren, one of my precious children-in-love, one of my friends.  It will definitely be me!!!  But it might also be you!  I've already learned so much in two weeks about Jesus.  All those Bible studies and Bible verses and sermons!  They are all coming together now into a reality I never dreamed possible for me.  THIS is Jesus.  Every day can be like this!  Giving all to Him.  May it be in your life and in mine.  Come travel this journey with me.  It's going to be an adventure like no other.  May all the glory and thanksgiving and praises go to our God and Saviour, Jesus Christ!