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!