Friday, December 31, 2010

Appointments

Wendell went for his surgery to correct the root canal he had two years ago. He was pretty nervous about it on the drive to Crossville and so was I. I kept thinking about how I would have been physically sick if it was me instead of him. It was strange to me, thinking about how I hadn't felt that bad driving to any of my own surgeries. Then it dawned on me, I had known I was going to be put to sleep for mine, he was just numbed!!!! OUCH!!!! I went back with him but watched very little. The doctor said he would not experience much pain afterwards. Boy was he wrong. Shortly after arriving back home he was in incredible pain, and was, even after medicine, for most of the day. Yesterday he was swollen but feeling a lot better.

I woke up not wanting to make the drive to Nashville yesterday, but Wendell insisted we go and wouldn't let me cancel the appointment :( I couldn't help thinking, during the drive and the wait, how wonderful it was to be there without that sick feeling of doom in the pit of my stomach. I had made the appointment for 8:45 am hoping to avoid the normal 3-4 hour wait to be seen. We arrived around 8:30 and left the parking garage at 12:00!!!! Dr Netterville and his wonderful nurse, Jill, could not get over how well I look. They just kept commenting on it which really lifted my spirits and made me feel really good. I asked Dr. Netterville what he thought of my chances for a recurrence. His only answer to that was... it is unusual for this cancer to spread to the lymph nodes and he has felt as if mine showed up in that one lymph node, on the PET scan, (it was in three, I think, but was only visible in one), to give me more incentive to have the reconstruction surgery. He wanted to do the reconstruction surgery because he felt as if it would give me a much better quality of life. So I didn't really get a clear answer to my question but he did release me and said he hopes he never sees me again unless it was out on the street in Knoxville while shopping or something like that. I know the Lord led Wendell and I to Dr. Netterville as an answer to the many prayers that were being prayed for us. Dr. Netterville kept saying how glad he is that I am alive!!!! I honestly believe it is by the grace of God and through seeking His will, and trying desperately to follow His will, that I did survive and am alive!!!! I also believe Dr. Netterville is a good christian man and that it is truly his desire to be used to heal people and help to give them the best quality of life as possible. I know he has a deep heart felt desire to heal and help those who come to him. His "bed side manner" is remarkable!!!! If anyone ever needs a wonderful Otolaryngologist, Head and Neck Surgeon, Dr. Netterville is in the top 5 in the country. To me he is the best of the best!!!

I have a PET Scan scheduled for January 10, 2011. This will be the first one in six months. I have no visible signs of a recurrence. I have had to adapt to a new way of life and have some physical limitations but this has all became a "new normal" way of life for me and nothing too overwhelming that I can't deal with. My only real physical complaints would be the ever present bone pain and the overwhelming fatigue. Even with these two "ailments" I am extremely happy and blessed to be alive as we get ready to say goodbye to 2010 and welcome in the beginning of 2011!!!! I hope and pray that the PET scan will be "clean" and 2011 will begin on an upbeat.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Say A Little Prayer For Wendell!!!

I had forgot, until receiving a "reminder" phone call last night, that I have an appointment with Dr. Netterville in Nashville, this Thursday at 8:45 am. It has almost been a year since I last saw him. Wow, how time has flew!!!! Unless I have a problem I will just be seeing him once a year for the next several years. Like I said in the last post, I credit God leading us to Dr. Netterville, (and the prayers that went up on my behalf that actually gave us the wisdom to seek the medical help we were able to find), as the reason I have survived and done so well. Dr. Netterville was very thorough in removing the cancer and taking wide margins to help insure getting all the cancer. I still remember the shock of seeing the gigantic hole in my palette after the first surgery. It was amazing how by June, and my second cancer surgery, the healing process had caused the hole to close quite dramatically. I remember my difficulties with the obturator, getting it in and out, with my mouth opening so little. I had actually got to where I seldom even wore it before I had the second surgery. I had learnt how to eat and drink without using it. I can still direct liquids out my nose if I want!!! Anyway... I praise God for allowing me to go almost a year without having to make that long drive to Nashville!!!! I am not anticipating any bad news this trip, as far as I can tell I am doing great. I can not see any sign of a recurrence.

Wendell has an appointment with an oral surgeon tomorrow. He had a root canal 2 years ago that has never felt quite right. He woke up about two weeks ago with a terrible tooth ache. He went to his dentist who took x-rays and discovered that the root canal was not as thorough as it should have been. So, he went back to the doctor who had done the root canal, he saw the problem and is going to repair it tomorrow. He will be undergoing a minor surgery. They say it sounds worse than it actually is ....we'll see!!! They will have to slice open his gum and go in that way!!! YUCK!!!! I think Wendell is a little nervous about it. I can't blame him!!! I NEVER went to the dentist. I have always been scared to death of a dentist. I use to joke that I would rather go through the labor of having a baby than to have to go to the dentist and get a filling!!!! Isn't it ironic how things have a way of turning out? Of all the different forms of cancer, I ended up with oral!!!!Heeeheee!!!!

Please remember to say a little prayer for Wendell in the morning, and also that the Lord will grant us travelling mercies Thursday as we make the trip to Nashville.
I hope everyone has a blessed week!!!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

We Have Enjoyed A Very Blessed Christmas

I hope everyone has had a safe, healthy, blessed Christmas!!! We have at our house!!!! We actually had a white Christmas, the first one, I think they said, since 1976!!!! It is beautiful!!! It started snowing late on Christmas Eve and is still snowing off and on here tonight.



We had our annual store Christmas party on Sunday, December 18th. I love throwing this party. I have so much fun preparing and actually giving the party. It is the one time a year we are actually able to do something a little special for our employees. We have a great group of people working with us at the store. I could never thank them enough for all they did for us during the time I was so sick and going through treatments. They all worked whenever needed and took over and ran the store in the times when Wendell was with me and couldn't be there.




Our fellow workers: Punky, Jonathan, Jess, Shana, Justin, Wendell, Spot, Kiah, Me and Lindsey. Aunt Linda had left before we took the picture and two others, Kayla and Dexter, were unable to attend.



I was browsing through my pictures and found this one of me, a year ago at the store party. What a difference a year can make!!! How good the Lord has been to me!!!

We celebrated Christmas with our kids and close family on Thursday, December 23rd.


Punky, Stephanie, Michael, Renee, Misty, Josh, Mikiah, Me and Wendell.

We celebrated Christmas with Wendell's side of the family on Christmas Eve at my mother-in-laws house. I failed to take any pictures there :( We all had a really good time.

Then on Christmas Day we celebrated with my side of the family here at my house. We had 31 here!!! We were missing 14 others that are usually here. My living room was packed but everyone seemed ok with it and we all had a great time. The food was delicious as usual. My Dad fried the turkey and I baked the ham, Teresa made the dumplings and Misty made the sweet potato casserole then everyone else cooked and brought other dishes and desserts, It was all wonderful!!! No one went away hungry!!!!

This is a picture of my kids and Teresa's boys. Rachel, Teresa's daughter was unable to be here, one of her children were sick :(

Seth, Punky, Stephanie, Josh, Kiah, Malachi, Jason, Lucas and Aaron.

All and all, we had a wonderful Christmas this year. My family has been blessed with health this year which is one of the biggest blessings we could hope for. As this year draws to an end I am thankful for the Lord's blessings on my family this past year. 2009 and 2010 have been the hardest years we have gone through. There have been many ups and downs both physically and emotionally. We have faced trials that we could not have imagined would come our way. Kiah dealt with a diagnosis of Histoplasmosis, and the treatments that followed. She went from 20/20 vision, to off the charts, worse than 20/400. She endured injections in her eye and has came out with 20/20 vision once again, which is pretty much miraculous!! To God be the Glory!!! Then my Mother unexpectedly passing away the day before my first cancer surgery. Then, I have dealt with the oral cancer diagnosis and the surgeries, radiation and chemo that followed. My Mother-in-Law and I were discussing the other day the fact that I have came through it all so well when so many others have not. We both agreed that it was due to the fact that the Lord led us to Dr. Netterville, one of the best ENT surgeons in the country, and the fact that sooooo many people have prayed for me!!!! I am still in awe of how so many people prayed for me, friends, family, aquaintances, and many many people I have never even met!!! God sure has been good to me and my family.

I sincerely hope everyone reading this has also had a wonderful Christmas filled with family, health, good food and most importantly the Love of God. As I think about the upcoming new year my mind becomes a little leary thinking of the unknown journey that lies before us in 2011. No matter what may come our way, I know by and through the Grace of God, all will be well. What ever our future holds, it is such a comfort knowing that our future is held in His hands!!!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Some Embarrassing Health Issues

I wake up each morning and role out of bed, to actually sit up and bend, after sleeping, is almost impossible these days. The bone pain, although it seemed as if it was going to be controlled with the new medications my doctor had prescribed for me, has returned with a vengeance. I hobble out of the bedroom each morning and down the hall, never lifting my feet, just shuffling across the floor, standing slightly un-erect, bent at the waist, like an eighty year old man!!! The kids find this new posture of mine rather humorous!!! It is repeated time and again throughout the day after sitting for awhile or riding in the car. I go from the bed to my recliner, in the mornings, where I spend 45 minutes to an hour, putting off taking the first dose of meds for the day, knowing the earlier I take them, the earlier they will wear off and loose their effectiveness. Once I give in and take the medication, within fifteen to twenty minutes, I am able to function fairly normal for most of the day. If I let my mind run untamed, I find myself wondering about this bone pain and it's source. Is it a result of chemo? radiation? arthritis? aging? cancer? I am scheduled for a PET Scan the first of January. It will have been six months since my last. This is my first six month span, I was going for one every three months previously. My mouth still opens only about a half inch at it's best and less than that often times. The less opening I have, the worse my speech is. It is hard to eat at times when my opening is small. Not only does it make it difficult to get the food in, it is also hard to get the food to fit between my teeth to chew. This can be quite comical at times but also quite embarrassing when eating out at a restaurant. My table manners appear less than appropriate. I carry plastic spoons in my purse to use when eating out. Wendell and I have one particular restaurant that we love to frequent when the kids are not with us. It's a nice dimly lite restaurant with fancy decor and cloth napkins!!!heehee!!! It's quite fun waiting to see the expression on the waiters face when I pull out my plastic spoon to eat with. I haven't used metal utensils since my first cancer surgery, the sound and feel of my teeth scraping across the metal is more than I can bear!!! It is even more fun when my opening is small, which in turn makes my speech pretty bad, and I order from the menu utilizing my abnormal speech and then pull out my little plastic spoon!!!! The waiters kind of look at Wendell differently after that!!! It's almost as if they have a new found respect for this man, out with this woman, with a less than normal mental capacity!!! Oh well, what can I say? This too I have to laugh about!!!! After all what good would any alternative do for me? On days when my opening is at least a half inch allowing my speech to be better, most strangers I come in contact with, think I am from a foreign country.
One health issue that I have failed to talk about in any of my blog posts, I once again experienced this morning. It's a very embarrassing, not to mention unpleasant, issue to experience or to talk about. That is why I have failed, or I guess more accurately "chosen not" to speak about it here on this blog. It is worse than any of the surgeries I have had, more painful than all the radiation I received, makes me more nauseated than the chemo ever did. That is why I decided to finally speak of it here in the hopes of saving someone else from ever having this problem. I know it is a side effect of the new medication I am taking. So if anyone else has started taking or have changed any of the meds they were taking, I just wanted to give you a little heads up on a possible side effect that you can take precautions to prevent. Well I guess at this point you may be a little curious? It's constipation. This is the second time I have had it to an extreme point. I won't go into great detail here but when I am in the throws of it's violent grip, I find myself thinking of Elvis!!!! I have honestly felt my heart stop beating, I was told by a nurse that it could actually be happening, caused by my Sciatic nerve. Today after about seven hours I finally got relief. By then I was running a temperature of 100.1 and just feeling miserable!!!! It is something that if you have never experienced to an extreme degree, you can not possibly understand.
It's hard sometimes, living in a body that doesn't function as it should. When my mind, although disputed by some :), functions normally, it's hard to deal with the effects of a less than normal functioning body. I couldn't hold back the emotions, I am normally so could at controlling, today.
I broke down sobbing in front of Punky today. I couldn't hold it back and even my will or resolve to hold it back just disappeared. My strong exterior became non existent today. I felt as if I had had all I could endure. I hate doing that. I hate placing that burden on my children. I realize how helpless they must feel. She went in the other room and I heard her dial the phone, Wendell arrived shortly after that. Wendell...what more can I say about him.....he has endured so much....more than a husband should ever have to...but oh how I thank God for letting Wendell be my husband. When he is taking care of me I feel so safe.
Once again, tonight as I write this, looking back over my day, I can still say Thank-You God for your marvelous grace!!!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Greater Opportunity To Tell Of God's Grace

As I have mentioned many times before, in various blog posts, I started this blog mainly to keep friends, family and acquaintances informed as to how I am doing as I dealt with my diagnosis. Call me somewhat selfish, I know, but I figured the more people who knew about my condition the more people would remember to keep me in their prayers :) I also felt from the beginning that God has a purpose to everything He allows to come into our lives. As I have walked this path my family and I have learned to lean on Him more than we ever have in our lives. I felt from the very beginning of this journey that I would need His precious Grace in my life more than I ever had before. I felt as if the only way I was going to be able to handle whatever my future held, was if I was armed with His marvelous Grace. From the beginning that is what I told Wendell and others to pray for when praying for me. I knew it may not be His will for me to fully recover, the uncertainty of my mortality has became ever so evident to me. But clothed in His Grace I knew was the only way I could handle whatever came my way, regardless of the final outcome. And Oh, how He has stood so true and faithful to His word...His promise that His Grace would be sufficient!!!! Having said all this brings me to the other reason I wanted to write this blog....After receiving my diagnosis I spent countless hours searching the web for any and all information I could find on my particular cancer. The Lord led me to a young woman's blog, that had been diagnosed with the same cancer, in almost the exact same spot as mine. She had recorded just about every aspect of her physical journey. This was such a blessing to me, it allowed me to more fully understand what I would be facing. Later, my computer got a virus and I lost a lot of the information I had stored. I have spent countless hours since, trying to find her blog again but have been unsuccessful. Her blog was such a help and blessing to me because this particular type of cancer is so rare. It is hard to find much information on it and even harder to find first hand accounts of people who have been diagnosed and went through treatment for it. For this reason I have wanted to keep a very detailed account of my experience in the hope of being a help to anyone diagnosed in the future. My real hope is to put both of these reasons together and be a help and blessing to others by sharing not only my physical journey but my spiritual one also. Not only do I wish to convey what this diagnosis entailed for me physically, the surgeries, treatments, side effects, etc... It is also my great desire to give God the glory for all He has done for my family and I, as we sometimes walked and often times crawled down this unexpected path we found ourselves on. How that no matter what we may face, we can always stand on God's promise that His Grace will be sufficient. There will Be Grace!!!!
When diagnosed almost two years ago, searching the web, I found a web site created by a man, Dennis, who was an oncology nurse and cancer survivor. He has set up his web site to list the various individual cancer blog sites he has found or been led to and to categorize them under titles of different cancer types. This site has been a tremendous blessing to me and countless others who have been diagnosed with cancer. It gives us a place to go to read others experiences with the form of cancer we have been diagnosed with. I finally emailed him this past weekend thanking him for the hard work he has put into his site and to also ask about adding my site to his list. It was exciting to hear back from him and to learn that he has added my blog to his list of Head and Neck cancers and has also reprinted my email on his home page, dated November 22, 2010 and titled "Cancer Site Kudos". I found this "expanded" opportunity to share not only my cancer experience but also my first hand experience of the precious, wonderful, marvelous Grace of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, with others, so exciting!!!!
For those who might be interested or are facing cancer themselves, his site is http://beingcancer.net/

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My Winter "Dread".

Well, I have no problem proclaiming my LOVE for summer, but have debated on whether or not it's ok to talk about my winter "dread". I guess it's the thought of the long months of being couped up in the house, I hate being cold. I find it incredibly hard to function when I am cold. I already miss taking walks in the evening, sitting by the pool for hours with the girls and all the other fun things that automatically go along with summer. It really hasn't even been all that cold yet, but my winter "dread" has already set in. It's almost as if with daylight savings time and setting back the clocks, my emotional clock gets set back too. When the sun shines bright, it is so easy to have happy thoughts, but when the days are dark and dreary it seems easier to let the unhappier side of things take over and I find myself thinking on some of the unpleasant things that have happened, more often than I normally would.

I really, really, miss my Mom these days. When she was living, I know I got caught up with my life, family and obligations that I didn't see or speak to her as often as I should have. But all I had to do was pick up the phone and she was there. Now that opportunity no longer exists, it is hard to deal with at times. When I needed a recipe or just cooking advice in general she was there. When I couldn't remember details of something, she would. Just the simple little things is what I miss so much. Losing my Mom so sudden and so unexpectedly and battling cancer has brought me mentally to a point where I haven't been before. The uncertainties of life have became so much more evident in my mind than ever before. It has caused me to realize, even more, how so many things I may have dwelt on, or wasted time worrying over, are so insignificant in the scheme of things.

I kind of thought that once you went through the treatments and were declared "cancer free" all was good. What I have learned is, once you have had cancer, you are never completely rid of all the cancer cells in your body. They are still there, in a sense "travelling" through your body, you just hope and pray they don't stop and take up residence!!! So, I realize, now more than ever before, how fragile my life really is.

Sometimes it even becomes scary and somewhat depressing to be happy. Which I am. Happier and more content than I have ever been in my....um...well...lets just say... some where over thirty years on this earth!!! But get this, I find myself, in my winter "dread", battling depression over being happy!!!! Afraid of being "too" happy, afraid "the other shoe will drop". Like I said, it is so much easier to stay positive when the sun is shining bright, warming my heart and soul but a bit harder to fight the crazy depression that can linger in the back of my mind when the sky is cold and dreary.

I don't mean to sound all doom and gloom in this blog but just want to be honest in what I say. I always welcome input from others, by way of blog comments or email, who may or may not be feeling the same way. I know that we all have our own unique path to walk. We all have our own way of coping and dealing with the things we face in this life. I know so many others may not have dealt with cancer but are dealing with other issues that I have never had to face. Even though the issues may not be identical they can generate the same emotions. Emotions that can leave us feeling drained and somewhat down if we let ourselves think of and dwell on them.

On top of all the things I have already mentioned, I also face the quilt of feeling even the slightest bit of unease or depression when the Lord has blessed me far beyond anything I could ever begin to deserve. For the most part I feel like one of the luckiest and most blessed women on earth. I love my husband and kids more than I could ever begin to express and know I have never done anything worthy of deserving the family God has blessed me with. It's funny but I don't question the bad things that have happened because I know even though I may not like them or understand them, God is in control and has a reason for all He allows to happen in my life. The funny part is I question what I have ever did to deserve His countless blessings on me.

I realize this particular blog post may seem scattered and hard to truly understand what I am thinking or trying to convey. I guess the short of it is... I write all the time about the goodness of God and how he has blessed me beyond measure. I know it is through His precious Grace I have came through all that has transpired in my life. When I have had pain or have been scared, He has been there picking me up, supporting, and even carrying me when I had no strength to walk. Oh, the true joy there is in knowing and belonging to Him. The sweet peace that can come with communing with Him. I can't express how good He has been to me and my family. He has brought great peace in the midst of a raging storm. But having said all this, if I am going to be honest in my blogging then I feel as if I need to talk also about the depression I find myself fighting at times. The reason for talking about it is...if others read this blog and wonder why they are doing everything right but are experiencing depression and they feel as if it has somehow eluded me, rest assured it has not. For the most part I am upbeat and am able to cope and deal with the things that have happened, but I am not exempt from feeling the mental pain and anguish that comes along, walking this path. I do have to "fight" the feelings of depression to keep them at bay and from overtaking me. I do have times when the depression starts to wash over me and I know if I give in or succumb to those feelings I could find myself falling into a deep dark abyss that would be incredibly hard to climb back up and out of.

As I have already mentioned, I love getting input from others, by blog comments or email, who are experiencing some of the same emotions. I guess it helps me to talk to and with others about walking this road of life. I have learnt so much on my journey. One of the things that I now know is, we all have our own unique path to walk in this life. The things we encounter on this journey may be of different origin but the emotions our journey invokes (especially as women) are so similar. The issues may be different but our human emotions and heartbreaks are all so similar and we can learn so much by watching and listening to others and seeing and hearing how they cope and deal with the hardships in life.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Few Health Issues

Two posts in less than two weeks, what am I thinking? I don't know, I guess I am just in the mood to talk these days, LOL!!!!

One of the reasons I have written this blog, besides keeping everyone informed in the hopes of generating prayer for myself along the way :) Is because this cancer is so rare, when I was diagnosed I could only find one other blog of someone with this cancer in almost the exact spot orally that mine was and reading her blog helped prepare me for what was to come. Since then her blog has disappeared, I'm not quite sure why, but anyway I have always thought that chronicling my experiences here might be a help to someone in the future, if they too found themselves walking this path. Now that I have came through all the surgeries and all the treatments and still wake up every morning to share the days with my family, I feel so blessed that when most people ask how I am doing I reply with "wonderful" and tell them how the Lord has truly blessed me. It is because of His blessings on me that I hate to seem as if I am complaining about my health now, so that is why I haven't mentioned much about the physical problems I have been experiencing. In thinking over all this lately, I realized that in order to be a help to someone else I needed to keep chronicling my heath "woes" and the solutions.

I guess most people can clearly understand that when a person has battled cancer, from then on any health issue, no matter how minor it probably is, can send fear radiating down your spine until you have been reassured that it is not the cancer back, rearing it's nasty head again!!!!

A month or so ago I woke up in the middle of the night with an excruciating ear ache and a high fever. Not wanting to drive all the way to Nashville, to see my ENT, I went to my Radiology Oncologist who was willing to see me and prescribed some pretty potent antibiotics. After two weeks I was still no better, although the pain was somewhat better, I was still deaf in my left ear. Because Dr. Netterville had to remove my Eustacia tube during my original surgery my ears do not drain normally thus I am at an increased risk of having ear infections. My Oncologist referred me to an ENT in Knoxville to get the ear infection under control. After a few more days on antibiotics my ear returned to normal. About a week after curing the ear infection, I had a large lump come up on my neck on the right side. Needless to say I was once again terrified that the cancer was back, so once again I headed to the new ENT!!! He prescribed more antibiotics and also took a culture to send off. I got those results back last week. He said it had nothing to do with my cancer (Yeah!!!!) but was a pretty bad bacteria infection. I am now on my second round of antibiotics for this infection.

Before this cancer I was blessed with good health. Other than having my kids, or needing stitches due to an accident I never went to the doctor. Now it seems as if my week is just not complete without sitting in at least one doctors office!!!!!

About six months ago I began experiencing bone pain. I would wake up in the mornings hurting all over. Even my fingers and toes ached!!! It has gotten progressively worse over the last few months. It has become so bad on some days I just couldn't seem to function. I would get out of bed and go straight to my medicine bottle and then straight to my recliner where I would spend most of the day. I would rate the level of pain at a 7 or 8 on most days. I was taking so much Tylenol that I have became afraid of doing damage to my liver. Not only has the physical pain gotten to an almost unbearable point, but the mental stress of feeling so bad was really beginning to take its toll on me. I have never been a lazy person. Before cancer I would only sleep about four hours a night and while awake, would not stop. I was very productive. I know I will never be back to pre-cancer health and energy but would at least like to aspire to half of what I was before!!!!So I finally broke down and made another doctors appointment and went to see my family doctor last week. I was nervous going in because I felt as if I was on my last resort, that if I didn't get help from him there was going to be no relief from this pain. Physically I look very well, just to look at me, if you didn't know my history, you would not think anything was physically wrong with me. I have no outward sign of the inward pain I am feeling. I had been on the Internet researching the Chemo I had been given, to see if bone pain was a side effect. According to what I read, a lot of people who were given one of the chemo drugs I was given were experiencing bone pain two and three years out, but some of their oncologists were not convinced that the pain was related to the drug. So needless to say I was afraid my doctor would not understand and I would be unable to get any relief. My fears were quickly put to rest!!! He understood and even sympathized!!! He said that not only could it be partly the result of the chemo drugs but he also felt I was more than likely experiencing neuropathic pain. He explained several ways we could attack the pain and has started me on a few things he thinks will help. I was so thrilled he understood and had options for me, I could have shouted right there in his office!!!! On the down side he explained that this pain was something I would more than likely always have to deal with and there is a great possibility that over time it will get worse not better. Oh well, I just want to deal with today. I don't have the energy to deal with tomorrow's "possibilities"!!!LOL!!! I have learned to take one day at a time!!!! It's only been about a week since my visit to my family doctor but I am feeling some relief from the pain already, however my energy level is still pretty low. I know I need to wait a few more days before coming to any conclusions as to whether or not we are on the right track. I just thank God that He answered my prayer and my doctor understood!!!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Not What I Had In Mind To Write About.

Everything has been pretty normal at the Ruppe house lately. Well, "normal" for our family. Kiah is enjoying her Senior year of high school at Oakdale. This is the first time in her life she has been to public school. We started home schooling the year she began kindergarten, then when we bought the store, after a couple of years it became too difficult for us to be at the store all day and still complete the school work, so we put them in Christian School. This year, because of a schedule conflict, we decided it was best for her to attend Oakdale. Her grades are great, she is doing extremely well academically and socially.
Kiah should be getting her car back from the body shop this week. She is working at the store after she gets out of school in order to have the money to pay her car insurance.
Punky also works quite a few hours a week at the store.
For those who read this blog but may not know our family personally.... we own a convenience store with a deli and gas station here in our small rural town. One of Wendell's friends bought the building and opened a store there in 2002. After a few months he decided it was not what he wanted to do so Wendell bought it from him. At first it was not something I was thrilled about doing. I am a very planned out person, not very spontaneous. I liked having a steady income and knowing how much that income would be weekly. I have never been a risk taker. But after much prayer, I became convinced it was definitely the Lord's will for us to purchase the store. I have prayed lots of prayers in my life and I would love to say that after praying I have always known exactly what the Lord would have me do, but that is not the case. But I can say that I know without a shadow of doubt it is the Lord's will for our family to be in this store. Wendell was working a very good job in Knoxville and continued to work there until he was laid off a few years later (I can't remember for sure the exact date). We purchased the store and opened it with the deli on March 10, 2003, this date was special to Wendell because he was saved on March 10, 1996, and nothing was going to stand in his way of opening on that date!!! We had the gas installed several months later. Me and my young girls ran the store daily by ourselves for the first three months. Wendell and Stephanie would join us after returning from their day jobs and we would all be there until at least 11:00 p.m. six days a week. We have always closed on Sundays. I was there at least 16 hours a day, six days a week, for the first three months. It was very hard. After leaving there each night I still had all the laundry and household chores to do and also all the bookwork for the store. There were times when we first opened that I would be there hours at a time without seeing one customer. I remember being so exhausted one afternoon, very close to tears, I hadn't had a customer in two hours, and I began to question God. I began to pray and tell the Lord I had honestly felt this was His will for us but I was so exhausted and so discouraged that I was afraid I had been mistaken. I asked the Lord to please help me to know for sure that we were still in His will because that was what mattered to me most and if He could just somehow let me know we were still in His will I knew I could find the strength to go on. Within a few minutes I had a customer, one of many. You see the rest of that day we had more customers than we had ever had. I remember smiling in my heart and soul and thanking the Lord for helping me understand that His will had not changed for us. That was the last time I have ever questioned the Lord on whether or not our family running that store is His will for us. Believe me it has not always been easy, there have been many times that I have prayed on Wednesday and told the Lord that I just didn't know how we were going to be able to pay the bills on Friday if he didn't intervene in some way. There has never yet been a Friday that I was unable to at least pay the bills that were due that day!!!! There were so many times after being there all day and being so tired and ready to go home and an employee would call in sick and I would have to stay the rest of the night till closing. Although we now have many customers and the store stays very busy I assure you we are not putting millions in the bank!!Ha ha!!! I assure you this is not a high profit business, financially. But the Lord has provided. There is nothing more comforting than knowing that no matter what happens you are where the Lord would have you to be!!! There is an unexplainable peace that fills you when you know that you are doing His will for you and no matter what happens, good or bad, He is in control. I truly believe that where the Lord leads He will provide. It may not always be in the ways we expect, but He will never direct us down a path He will not walk with us.
I don't know why I am writing all this tonight, when I started this blog entry this was not what I had in mind to talk about. Maybe someone that reads this is having a struggle with what the Lord's will is for them ? I don't know, I just know this is what is on my heart to talk about tonight.
When I was at Vanderbilt last year having my second and most extensive surgery on June 2, 2009, after closing the store, our employees and some other young people who were in the parking lot, were robbed at gun point by two men. The robbers tried to get back in the store but the employee with the key had just left. No one was hurt. We praise the Lord no one was hurt!!! They were eventually caught, as is always the case, and are now in jail. Wendell did not tell me about this until a week latter when we were driving home from Vanderbilt. The only reason he told me then was because he knew I would hear about it as soon as we got home. The most amazing part of his story, and the part that still brings tears down my checks, is how the people in our community reacted and came out to support us and protect our store and our employees. There were men there nightly after that. They sat in the parking lot armed and ready to defend our business and our employees. It is hard for a normal person to imagine the mind frame of people that would "kick those that are already down" so to speak. My family was already going through the lowest valley of our lives and then this happens. But isn't it amazing how God always has that remnant standing there ready to do all they possibly can to help and support those in need!!! God's people are people, they are not all perfect or without flaw, but they are some of the best people on earth. Wow, how honored and blessed I feel for my family as I think back on how during the lowest point in our lives there were soooo many people there lifting us up in prayer, helping us financially and supporting us in every way possible!!!! God is sooo good to have blessed us to live in such a wonderful community with some of the kindest, caring people in the world!!!!
I know there are so many people, who are now going through the lowest valley in their lives. My heart aches as I think of some of the things friends, family and acquaintances are going through. I have shed many tears and said many prayers for those I know who are struggling in different ways. It's so hard to understand why some things happen like they do, but if I have learned anything through the valley my family has walked through it would be..... We are not alone, God is ever willing and able to meet our needs, and His precious grace is sufficient to see us through!!!! I am one of the least deserving of all His children, but oh how He has been there for me. He can, He is, and He will be, there for all those who call upon Him!!!



For those who have never been here, this is a picture of our store, Wendell's Market And Deli, located at the top of the hill in Oakdale.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

What Did I Ever Do To Deserve His Mercy!!!

Two weeks ago Mikiah finished her shift at the store and walked out to see her seventeenth birthday present waiting for her in the parking lot.


We had gotten a GREAT deal on her dream car!!!!

Yesterday, Friday, October 1, 2010... I don't know whether to call it Mother's intuition or not, but the Lord has blessed me with a strong connection with my children. I have a certain "feeling" that comes over me when all is not well!!! I was at home, felt something wasn't right and had been calling Kiah's cell phone, calling the store, I called her friends house, and no one knew where she was. I knew she would not ignore my calls. I was pacing the floor. It was only 4:30 in the afternoon but I had just felt something was wrong. The third time I called her cell phone I left a message and told her to CALL ME and that I was worried she had gone over a hill!!! Wendell came home from his Mom's house and I questioned him but he hadn't heard from her either. I think he and Punky just thought I was crazy!!! He left to go help at the store. I continued to call and pace. About ten minutes later I saw him driving back up the driveway with Kiah in the truck. She had been able to hold in her emotions until she saw me:(
She had met the school bus as she was driving up our road. Our road is very narrow and curvy, with only a few spots actually wide enough to get over in the grass to pass. She was nervous, which I understand, It's hard to see exactly where to back around the steep curves. She got to a place where she could get over, backed too far, and started over the bank. The picture doesn't do justice to how steep it really is. Not that she was able to steer as she went over, but she missed all the trees, but went over a lot of really big rocks and ended up in the creek. She was wearing her seat belt but she also had the top down. I praise the Lord for protecting her. The car could very easily have flipped on those huge rocks and we would be facing a different outcome. Kiah walked away without a scratch. The accident had just happened a few minutes before Wendell had gotten there. Her cousin was behind the school bus and saw it happen. He had rushed down the bank to make sure she was ok.

Papaw came with his chain saw to cut some trees out of the way so as to not do more damage as the wrecker pulled it up. He's an amazing man!!!!


I came up on a wreck several years ago, of a teenage boy who was well liked by everyone in Oakdale, It was a horrible scene that I will never forget. I pass the cross that marks the spot where he passed away every day. I had just thought earlier that day how his loving parents had to pass that spot daily and how I could not even begin to imagine their pain.
The Lord sure has been merciful to my family!!!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A Day To Reflect.

Today's date, September 23rd, is a significant date in my life.

Twenty one years ago today, Wendell and I were married, in a rather small ceremony at my Mom and Dad's house. Josh, 9 years old at the time, gave me away, not so happily!!! He loved Wendell, but was not happy about us going away for our honeymoon without him!!! We ended up only spending two nights away because he wanted us home. We didn't mind, we missed him and Stephanie too. Stephanie was six years old at the time. She loved Wendell and called him her "hummy bunch". I think she secretly dreamed of marrying him herself, back then, although she WOULD NEVER admit it now!!!! Now... Josh is thirty years old and Stephanie is twenty seven....and of course Wendell has gotten older too!!!LOL!!!! Where did all the time go.... every time we are all together we spend hours reminiscing about their childhood. (Sorry Misty and Michael :( I know our stories must have gotten boring after about the hundred time!!!) We never had a lot of money or material things, Wendell and I worked a lot of long, hard hours, but our house was filled with a lot of laughter. We spent time together...going to amusement parks...water parks...state parks.. and just spent time being together....playing whiffle ball or kick ball in the front yard. Then Punky and Kiah came along and from that moment on there has never been a dull moment in our home!!!!

September 23, one year ago, was the day I had my last radiation treatment. I remember that last week of radiation more than any of the 37 treatments. Wendell had drove me the 70 something mile, round trip to Knoxville, five days a week, for seven and a half weeks. I was physically at the lowest point I had ever been in and hope to ever be in again. I remember being so weak and frail that I had a hard time even vocalizing a prayer. At one point I didn't think I could go on and finish the treatments. My mouth was full of blisters, I couldn't eat and could barely drink, I had lost over fifty pounds. Once again I had turned to those that had kept up with my journey via this blog and had asked for prayer. Once again the Lord's grace was sufficient and I was able to finish the treatments. It's sometimes hard to believe it has been one year ago today!!! I am still feeling the physical effects from the cancer. I have jaw pain, mouth pain, ear infections, tooth aches, and pretty bad bone pain. My diet consists of soft moist foods, my swallowing, I have come to terms with, will never be normal again. My mouth will open about a half inch. My speech is abnormal and can be quite comical at times!!! New acquaintances think I am either mental, deaf, or from a foreign country!!!! There are several words best left unsaid by me!!! The girls, if I'm ordering at a drive thru, no longer ask for cheese sticks!!!!

As I reflect back over the memorable September 23rds in my life, I wouldn't change them if I could. The Lord has taught me soooo much. I am so thankful for the life he has given me and has allowed me to live thus far. Wendell and my marriage has not always been a bed of roses, there were times I didn't know if we would make it or not. But God's grace in our marriage has been sufficient. With His Help, Grace, Mercy and Guidance we have spent twenty one years together. I love him even more on this September 23rd than I did on the September 23rd twenty one years ago!!! And, like my marriage, this cancer journey has not been a bed of roses either!!!LOL!!! But with God's Help, Grace, Mercy, Guidance, and Your Prayers, I am ECSTATIC to be here to celebrate this September 23, 2010!!!! God Is Good!!!!






Preacher Mason Goodman, Me, Wendell, Steph & Josh.







Punky & Kiah LOVE my fashion sense!!!!

My Granny Roxie, My sisters Teresa & Kim, Me, Wendell, My Mom & Dad, Teresa's happy son Aaron, Teresa's Daughter Rachel, Stephanie, & my happy son Josh!!!



Wendell's sister-in-law Becky, His sister Pam, His sister Tiny and Scott, His Dad, His brother Tim, Wendell & I, His sister Donna, His Mom, Becky's daughter Ashley and son Rex.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Happy Birthday Mom.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Mikiah Is Still Seeing 20/20!!!!

I was just sitting here thinking of all God's blessings on my family. I can never thank Him enough for the life He has given to us. No our lives have not been a bed of roses, so to speak, but through the good times and the bad we have had Him to turn to.
August 2008, I think the date was the 4th, on a Sunday night, I saw Kiah having Bryon put eye drops in her eye. When I questioned her about it she said her eye was blurry. Kiah has allergies so we thought it probably had something to do with that. Two nights later she came in the living room and told me her eye was still blurry and the wall looked wavy. Needless to say that scared me to death, although I tried not to let her know. I called Carolee and she got us in with one of the eye doctors she works for, first thing the next morning. I don't think I slept at all that night, being the optimist I am, not, all I could think of was a brain tumor pressing on the optic nerve. As soon as Dr. Mende checked Kiah she had a diagnosis, Histoplasmosis. I had heard this word before because Stephanie had came home from an eye exam several months prior and told me Dr. Mende asked if she knew she had it. Stephanie did not know. Dr. Mende had told Stephanie at that time it was dormant and was just something to keep an eye on (haha no pun intended). Anyway, she sent us directly from her office to a retina specialist in Knoxville where we spent the rest of that day having tests done on Kiah's left eye. To make a long story a little shorter...Histoplasmosis is a very serious disease. Kiah went from having 20/20 vision in her left eye, to off the charts, over 20/400 in a matter of days. People go blind from this disease. It causes bleeding on the retina, when they are able to stop the bleeding the patient is left with scars which cause the blind spots. It is not curable and can happen at any time. I have since learnt that we live, here in the south, in what is known as the Histo belt. Histoplasmosis is caused by chicken and bat droppings. The fungus is in the air. If we were all tested for it most of us would test positive for it, but it remains dormant in most people, they do not know why it becomes active in some. When it does become active it is usually in some one a lot older than Kiah. The doctors were shocked that she had it at such a young age. We had people everywhere praying for Kiah. She had a laser surgery which made her vision worse not better. Finally after much research and changing doctors, Kiah was given three injections, one a month for three months, in her eye. She was just 15 years old at the time. She was wide awake for the injections. Can you imagine having your eye held open with a clamp and watching as a needle is fixing to be stuck in it? It was a very traumatic experience for her and I. It is something that I pray she never has to endure again. It was all I could do to hold it together each time until we got back home and I could go "loose it" privately. Everyone we know, and people we didn't know, were praying for her. When all was said and done she was left with what is virtually unheard of ... 20/20 vision in that eye!!! She has a blind spot and has to adjust the way she uses that eye when reading but she has her vision!!!! The Dr. was left amazed by her, we were left amazed at God's grace and power!!! I am thinking of this now because....She had her last injection in October 2008. The last time she saw the specialist we made a follow up appointment for three months later but had to cancel because she was playing basketball at that time and had an away game on that day. We were suppose to reschedule but then I got my diagnosis and we started my battle. Of course I asked her constantly about her vision and she would say it seemed the same. Anyway, we finally went for a checkup this past Friday. Her vision is still 20/20, even though she has to look "around" the scar. Dr. Miller was amazed that she has done so well for two years now. I just want to give God the praise and glory. I know He hears and answers prayer!!!! He has proven that to my family time and time again. I thank Him for His precious grace that is still sufficient. Please, when you think of it from time to time, say a little prayer for Kiah and that if it is God's will this disease will continue to amaze the Doctor by remaining dormant in Kiah!!!
Tomorrow's the last holiday of the summer!!! I hope everyone has a great Labor Day!!!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

So Much To Thank Him For!!!!

Wow, It's hard to believe school is already starting again. Summer vacation is officially over. Sad face. I LOVE spring and summer. Smiley face. The hotter the better. I love waking up in the morning, opening the blinds and doors and filling the house with sunshine. It literally seems to warm my heart and soul!!!! I love letting the kids stay up half the night, with their best friends, raiding the kitchen and giggling. I love allowing them to sleep late and waking them at a not so early hour to put their swim suits on and join me at our pool to spend hours just laying around sunning, talking and enjoying each others company. I love having them come in at curfew and climbing onto my bed and telling me all about their evening and the fun they had!!! We have spent soooo many lazy days this summer just enjoying life together!!!!! We were able to take our annual trip to the beach in Destin, Florida and to go on our annual camping trip to Lazy Daze in Townsend. I have loved being able to take walks, late in the evenings, with Wendell. It has been a special time for us just to slow down, talk and reconnect. Call it selfish, but I honestly felt it was ok for us (the girls and I, it's hard to get Wendell to slow down much), to be somewhat lazy this summer, considering last summer. Don't get me wrong we worked some too, and even the work has been fun. We shucked, silked, cut off, cooked, bagged and froze over 24 dozen ears of corn, (The girls didn't complain while doing the corn, they joked and made it a fun process. You see, last year my wonderful Mother in-law gave Wendell every bag of corn she had worked so hard over the summer before to put up, to cook for me. I honestly don't know how I would have survived without it. Her precious corn and his mashed potatoes were what kept me going during my radiation treatments when swallowing was an almost impossible feat!!! It is still my meal of choice, easy to swallow and delicious!!! The girls know this and I believe, is why they were willing to do this job so enthusiastically!!!! Sentimental, teary eyed face. ) We also strung, broke and canned 27 jars of beans, picked, bagged and froze 2 gallons of blueberries. The girls helped their dad with the yard work and Punky has worked quite a few hours at the store. But I guess if you put it all in a balance the fun definitely outweighed the work this summer!!!! The Lord sure has been good to our family!!!! Happy, Thankful face.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A True Inspiration To Me

A few years ago I was working at the store when a lady came in that I had gotten acquainted with through her frequent visits to our store and through her husband who worked for my father in-law digging graves. She was always upbeat, energetic, and friendly. She would usually stop in on her way to work. She worked as a nurse in the emergency room at Harriman Hospital. On this particular day Wendell was asking her about the news we had heard. She had been diagnosed with cancer. Lung cancer. As I stood there listening to her answer his questions, I will never forget how profoundly her attitude and demeanor affected me. I stood there listening to her, in awe of her attitude. She still had that same familiar smile on her face as she talked. I remember thinking... she is about my same age....how in the world is she still functioning, not just functioning, but smiling. Smiling as she spoke of, what to me, sounded like a death sentence. I remember thinking she is my age...that could very easily be me...how would I function. I was sure I would not. I was sure I would go home, climb in bed, pull the covers over my head, cry uncontrollably and enter into a deep dark depression. Since that time I had the privilege of becoming better acquainted with her. Bonnita Patterson. I would ask about her, every time anyone came in that would know her condition, as she went through her treatments. I prayed for her. There were times she was deathly sick and I wouldn't see her for a period of time and then there were times when you would never know anything was physically wrong with her. But no matter her condition, every time I saw her she was still upbeat and smiling. I never heard her complain. She was always telling me how the doctors were amazed by her and how she knew the Lord was keeping her around for a reason, still smiling as she talked. When I was diagnosed I could hardly get her to tell me what was going on with her, she was to concerned with finding out how I was doing. She sent me cards and books she knew would be a help to me. She even came to the house to visit me when I was going through my treatments. There was a time, after being discharged from Vanderbilt, after one of my surgeries, that I was in an extremely bad condition. Wendell had called to ask her advice, and she insisted on coming and stayed for hours using her nursing skills to help me. She was such an inspiration to me. I am still in awe of the attitude and spirit she displayed over the last few years. She had a beautiful heart. Sadly she passed away this past week. My heart is grieved. She will be greatly missed. She was an inspiration to me. As I listened, as Wendell was given the honor of reading her obituary at her funeral, I realized just how close to my age she actually was. We both just celebrated a birthday. Mine on August 7 and hers on August 8. She was one year and one day younger than me. My heart goes out to her husband, children, wonderful family and her many friends. Even though we are grieved, I am thankful that we can find comfort in knowing she is no longer in pain, but is truly LIVING in the presence of the Lord.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Back From Knoxville

We just got back from Knoxville it's been a long day. We went for the PET Scan at 10:30 this morning it takes 2 hours for the whole process. Since my appointment with Dr. Boppanna is fairly early in the morning they gave me a disk of the CT scan to take with me in case they were unable to get it to him in time for my appointment, the PET Scan he is able to view and read over the Internet. I have felt pretty ill today from having to drink the contrast last night and another large bottle this morning. It leaves me feeling pretty yucky!!!! I can't eat after midnight the day before my scan so I was also pretty hungry when we got out. We went to have lunch and then to Sam's to pick up some things for the store and house. In Sam's Wendell turned to me and said he had a confession to make. Thinking, oh goodness, what has he done, I said ok, what? He told me to put on my glasses and then he showed me a text message from Dr. Boppanna. Apparently Wendell has been worried and didn't want to have to wait until tomorrow to find out the results, so he had text Dr. Boppanna this morning and asked him to review it today. The text said "Good News Clean PET Scan"!!!!! I couldn't hold back a few tears right there in the middle of Sam's. The tears were partly thankfulness over the good result and partly because I had no idea Wendell was that worried. I couldn't help but feel sad that he has had to endure so much with me over the past year and has had a front row seat on this emotional roller coaster that we have been riding. He has never complained even one time over having to do any of this with me. He has been by my side for every appointment, every trip to Nashville. He has sat for days in the hospital with me even through what was suppose to be his vacations and has never complained once. Wow, what did I ever do to deserve such love and devotion? He is my Knight in Shining Amour!!!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Third PET Scan

I just got through drinking what seems like a five gallon bucket of "contrast" in preperation for my PET Scan scheduled for tomorrow morning. This will be my third one, it has been a little more than nine months since my treatments ended!!! Yeah!!! Dr. Boppanna says the first year is critical. I have to admit I get a little uneasy at these times, I wonder if it will ever get easier or if I will always feel this way. Thankfully I go Friday morning to get the results. I'll let you know what happens!!!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lazy Daze Camping

We just returned, this past weekend, from our annual camping trip. We have been going, along with several other families, to Townsend, (at the foot of the Smokies), on a camping trip for the last twelve years or so. My kids have grown up looking forward to this trip every summer. We have made some of our families fondest memories on these trips. This year as I cleaned and readied our camper, I shed many tears thinking about where I was last year at this time and where I am now, physically. Last year I was discharged from the hospital after having my second cancer surgery and came home for one night and then joined the kids on the camping trip. I was in pretty rough shape!!! Wendell, Kim and Karen spent a lot of their time caring for me on this trip last year. We also went camping in September last year and I ended up being admitted to the hospital on that trip. This year I felt pretty much back to my old self. I was able to cook and clean and do all the things I did in previous years. The Lord has been soooo good to me. I feel so blessed!!!! We were able to have several others come, stay, and enjoy part of the week with us. Punky's friend Brook came up from South Georgia and stayed from Saturday to Saturday with us, Reid spent Saturday night and Sunday with us, Jonathan spent Sunday and Monday night with us, Stephanie spent Monday and Tuesday nights with us and Joe, Brooks' boyfriend, drove up and spent Thursday and Friday nights with us. Teresa, Seth and Pam came up and spent Friday with us and Dad came up and spent Monday with us. We had a camper full most nights!!!! I love having my children with us and it is an added blessing to be able to spend time with their friends too. Wendell and I have had many conversations dreading the day they all leave home and we're left alone :( Brook and Joe came back home with us and spent Saturday night and left Sunday after dinner. We really enjoyed having them and hopefully they will get to come back before the summer is over!!!

Wendell, Me, Punky and Kiah.
Punky and Kiah
Joe and Brook
Lauren, Punky and Kiah.
Stephanie and Punky.
Kiah and Jonathan.
Me and Dad at "The Burger Master".

Joe, Brook, Wendell, Punky and Kiah before church on Sunday, Father's Day.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Back To The Real World :(

We left Destin at about 7:00 p.m. last night, and arrived home about 5:00 a.m. this morning :(
I wasn't excited about returning to "the real world". Kiah and I would have loved to have stayed another week!!!!! The weather was absolutely gorgeous every day but Sunday, our first full day there, it was cloudy and rainy. We had a wonderful time just staying at the beach and pool during the day and going to dinner at night. We did very little shopping this time, we were just too content to be on the beach!!!! I have been to a lot of different beaches, in the states, and feel none compare to the beaches at Destin. I highly recommend this vacation spot to anyone planning a trip to the beach. We have actually been going there for the last eight or ten years, and look forward to it every year!!!! The white sand beaches are beautiful!!!











I have no idea what possessed the girls to buy these tacky hats!!!











































Monday, May 17, 2010

A Destin Reunion.

The weather was absolutely gorgeous here in Destin today. We all got pretty burnt after spending all day at the beach and pool.
Wendell has kept in touch with Dr. Seifer, the Dr. that took such great care of me the last time we were here. We met Dr. Seifer, his son James, and his surgical nurse Michelle, along with Jeff and Karen, at The Crab Trap for dinner tonight. We had a great time. It was really good to see Dr. Seifer again, not only is he a wonderful doctor but he is also a very kind, caring man. Michelle remembered everything about taking care of us, it was pretty amazing.

Wendell, Dr. Seifer, James, Me & Michelle.
Punky, Me, Wendell & Kiah


Karen & Me

Jeff & Wendell

Kiah, Me, Wendell & Punky at The Back Porch restraunt last night.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What A Difference The Lord Can Make!!!

Wow!!! What a difference seven months can make!!! Every May for the last 8 or so years, with the exception of last year, our family has came to Destin for a much anticipated vacation. Last year we were dealing with cancer, surgeries, sickness and pain, so we did not make the trip in May, but came down in October, just a couple weeks after completing my chemo and radiation treatments. As most probably remember, I ended up in the emergency room, the day after we arrived, and then was admitted to the Fort Walden Beach Hospital, were I stayed all week until the day before we were to return home. I went through two surgeries at that time to remove the infection from my neck. Although that sounds like an awful vacation, Wendell and I both feel the Lord directed us here, and that trip saved my life. We were directed to a wonderful doctor, Dr. Seifer, who in turn called in an infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anistasio. We were told at that time we were dealing with a life threatening infection, and if we had waited 24 hours longer before seeking treatment, the infection would have spread throughout my body. We stand in aw of how the Lord works and brings things together!!! Even after we returned home I had to have IV antibiotics for a week, that Dr. Anistasio had arranged for me. I was so sick and weak before going to the hospital, that Bro. Jeff, loaded a chair onto a luggage cart and pushed me from the Condo to our truck. I was skin and bones without hair at that time!!! When I think back now, of how sick I was then, and how far the Lord has brought me, I can't hold back the tears or praise!!! The Lord has truly been great to me!!!

We arrived here yesterday to beautiful sunny weather!!! Today it is cloudy and raining off and on, but the clouds have not dampened the true joy I feel in my heart just to be alive, and well, and able to make this trip with my family.
Punky and Reid on the beach.

Punky, Reid, Kiah and Wendell Playing football on the beach.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Results!!!

ALL CLEAR!!!! The results from my six month PET Scan. As a matter of fact he said this one looked even better than the last one. I guess that just means everything had healed!!!! I will still have a scan every three months for the rest of the year. He said the first year is pretty critical, if all goes well then I will be scheduled for a new scan every six months. THANKS for the prayers!!! My relief is great!!!!

I'm No Longer Afraid Of The Dentist!

Well my wondering mind has been put to rest over one concern I have had...I have often wondered what would happen if I needed to have dental work done....since my mouth will only open about a half an inch, I have had a hard time understanding how anything could possibly be done. I broke a tooth, about six months before my cancer diagnosis, it hurt for a couple of days then quit and I hadn't had any problem with it since. Because of my lifelong TERROR of dentist's and oral surgeries I just let it go!!! That terror has kept me from going to a dentist for 30 years now!!! Funny how things work sometimes huh!!! Of all the types of cancers to acquire, mine would be oral!!! LOL!!! I have to admit I no longer have a fear of dentists, needles or even the relatively simple surgery to remove a tooth!!!! Anyway, the weekend before Easter that tooth began aching so bad it brought me to tears!!! I ate pain meds like candy all weekend and went to a dentist first thing Monday morning. He was unable to do anything, so he referred me to an oral surgeon and assured me he would be able to help me. Long story short, the oral surgeon has assured me he will be able to remove the tooth, he will shave it off first to create more room and that should allow him enough room to remove the roots. YEAH!!!! He prescribed antibiotics for me but agreed with my desire to wait until after my PET Scan to do the surgery. I don't want anything questionable to show up on the PET Scan, so, I will not have the tooth removed until next Tuesday April 13th.
I had a PET Scan yesterday and will go today at 1:15 for the results. I have to admit it is a little nerve racking waiting to hear the results. I know the drill....I do ok until... I get into the exam room...waiting on the Doctor...then I become a nervous wreck!!! During this time...Wendell likes to talk...about the weather, the store, and a million other topics, that seem at that point in time unimportant to me! LOL!!! I on the other hand don't like to talk, I just want to sit there being a nervous wreck until the doctor comes in and declares me CANCER FREE!!!! Oh well, I guess we all have our different ways of dealing with things!!! I wonder if this process will ever become easier? It's so wierd going to different appointments and seeing the signs outside the buildings and on the office doors that declare those particular buildings some form of "Cancer" centers. I had an overwhelming since of hate wash over me yesterday for that word, when I saw it on the door I was fixing to enter. The emotion surprised me, but I couldn't help it. It is a wierd sensation when that is no longer just a word to you but a part of your life, day in and day out, you never really get away from it. Uncertainty is the forefront thought. Then I walk in these places and see others, mostly older than myself, in different stages of treatments. Sometimes you have to fight really hard not to lose your joy. Seeing so many others around you suffering, is something hard to forget or place in the back portion of your mind. It's funny how "Cancer" has a look. You become able to spot it even from a distance.
My hair is getting really thick but not very long. The look is one that I have not been very fond of!!! I thought about going to a stylist to see if they could do anything to make it look better, but the thought of them cutting one single hair sends shivers down my spine!!!!LOL!!! So I got the moose bottle out the other day and applied it generously:) The look is different!!! I laughingly refered to it as "My Ellen Degenerous" look!!! (Because of my broad shoulders and boyish build I have never liked short hair on me. I feel like it makes me look manly!!!) Now Wendell and the girls no longer refer to me as "Mom" they now call me Ellen!!! They always know how to bring my joy back!!! Whether it's mocking my speech or making fun of my weight, or hair, or my sometimes surprisingly emotional state, they have a way of bringing laughter back into my life!!! They are a huge part of my joy in this world!!!! I couldn't have survived without them!!!
If you have a spare moment today please say a little prayer for me and Wendell. What ever the results I know God's amazing grace will be sufficient.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Two Dates That Have Forever Changed My Life.

Here I am, one year later. The one year anniversary of the two dates that have forever changed me, my life, are here. March 23rd and March 24th 2009, are dates that are forever engraved on my brain. I remember vividly March 22 of last year. It was a Sunday. I went to bed that night, having a hard time falling to sleep, planning everything I needed to accomplish the next day before we headed to Nashville to spend Monday night in preperation of my first cancer surgery on Tuesday March, 24. I have thought a lot about that Sunday night lately. I have thought a lot about how we make plans for our lives, we think about the things we plan to accomplish, what order we will do things in...when we will be done. There is a song that Breaking Ground sings, that talks about just these things. I may not have it word for word but it goes something like this...
"It's funny how we do it, Make plans for our lives. We plan for success and try to pass the pain right by. But it just doesn't work that way, God has a different plan, He works in ways we never see, beyond the scope of man. When the journey takes a detour unexpectedly and I try to accept and understand what it all means. When I'm pressed to show the world what I really believe, I will trust you Lord...With my life."
I have to fight to keep my emotions in check everytime I hear this song. It describes how I have felt over this past year. March 23, 2009 is a date that my life began to take an unexpected detour, one that If I tried to understand it or make since out of it, I would have a difficult time. I can remember so many times sitting in Church listening to Bro. Jones preach to those with broken hearts and those facing difficult trials in their lives. I remember thanking God for my life and His blessings and knowing that although it was not me at that moment the message was meant for, It could very well be me one day in the future.
That Sunday night last year, as I laid there making plans in my mind, I had no idea those plans were to become so insignificant within a few short hours. I had called and talked to my Dad earlier that day and knew my Mom still had a terrible headache that she had had for several days. That Sunday night around midnight Dad called to tell Wendell he had taken Mom to the hospital and he would keep us informed. Every other time anyone in my family was taken to the hospital I would have immediately went. This time I didn't. We did not know how serious it was at that time. After a pretty sleepless night, we found out through phone calls early Monday morning that they thought Mom had had a stroke. Wendell and I immediately headed up there. By the time we got there Mom was already on life support. She went to be with the Lord that Monday night March 23, 2009 at about 7:00 p.m.
My family insisted I go ahead with my surgery, the cancer had grown a lot since my surgery was first scheduled and if I cancelled, it would be several weeks before I could reschedule. The threat of the cancer spreading more within that time frame was real. Dad let me know he wanted me to go ahead and he would wait to have Mom's services until I got back. Part of me felt almost selfish in going ahead with the surgery but there was the part that thought my kids needed me around and I didn't want the cancer to spread even more. So Wendell and I left the hospital that night, drove home, packed our bags and left for Nashville around 10:00 p.m. It was a long drive. We were both exhausted and almost in a numb state. I remember telling him, on the drive out, that I know God has a reason, but I was sure having a hard time understanding what it was...why this order of events?
Since that time I have to say I still don't understand everything but He has revealed some things to me. I miss my Mom terribly. I was on so much medication over the past year that I find myself grieving even more now, than I did then. I guess if there is a blessing in this that I can partially understand right now, it is the fact that she didn't have to see me suffer through all the cancer "stuff". Being a Mother myself and knowing the love that a Mother has for her children I am glad she didn't have to endure seeing me in the shape I was in. My Mom was such a beautiful, young looking, vibrant woman, that I never dreamed she would leave us at such a relatively young age. She was just 66.
Then of course the other date, March 24, 2009 was the date of my first cancer surgery which has definately changed life as I knew it!!! I guess if there was one thing I miss the most, more than pizza or breads, it would be the ability to sing!!! Ok, before those that know me well, start cracking the jokes...I didn't say sing WELL!!! I just said sing!!! When our Church congregation is all standing singing a hymn I guess I miss being able to join in more than anything else.
But, all in all, as I sit in Church and listen to Brother Jones preach to those with a broken heart or those that are going through a trial in there life right now, I thank God for my life and His blessings and I know that although the message is not meant for me at this moment, It could very well be, one day in the future.

Monday, March 15, 2010

I'll Take Boring!!!

I haven't written a post in awhile, not because I have been busy, but because my life has somewhat returned to normal, and my normal is probably very boring to any one else. However, I will take "boring" over the "excitement" of the last year any day!!!!
I went to a dermatologist on the 9th for the place on my arm I had mentioned in an earlier post. It turned out to be Squamous Cell Carcinoma. I went back and had it cut out and will go back tomorrow to have the stitches removed. The place was small but he cut out quite a bit, I had to have eleven stitches. The good thing was it was on my left arm, the one already deformed from my previous surgery!!! I have now found a small knot on the right side of my neck, I will ask him about tomorrow. After all I have experienced over the past year every little bump or pain seems to trigger a response in me now. I just try to continue to pray and ask the Lord for His will to be done and most of all for the grace to make it from day to day.
I also go tomorrow for blood work in anticipation of my up coming PET Scan which is scheduled for April 6th.
As time goes on, I find myself living life with a very different attitude than I had before cancer. When I was first diagnosed it was so easy for me to just pray and turn it all over to God and know His will would be the best for me. Now having gone through all I have gone through there is always the fear, of the cancer returning, lingering in the back of my mind. I know if it does God's grace will still be sufficient for me, but I can't help but be a little scared now that I know what physical suffering is like. I am not afraid of dying. I don't wish to die. I want to live here with my family as long as the Lord allows. But I am afraid of physical suffering. I know I have probably spent way too much time on the Internet researching oral cancer, because now I know more than I wish to, of the possibilities.
As far as my physical state right now.... I still struggle with swallowing. I eat mostly soft foods, but I can eat a little chicken or steak if I cut it in very small bites and "wash" it down with gravy or mashed potatoes or pinto bean juice!!!! I still can't eat pizza or burgers or bread or chips, so fast food is not an option for me when we go out. I have to go somewhere where potatoes are fixed in ways other than french fried!!! I wasn't able to eat anything acidy, like ketchup or dressings because it would for some reason burn my mouth. But that seems to be getting a little better. I was even able to drink a few sips of a beloved Diet Coke the other day!!!!! My arm and leg, (where they took the graphs), although they look awful do not give me any problem at all. The only place I still experience pain is in my jaws, teeth, and ears, but pain meds take care of that. My speech is understandable unless I talk too fast, but I have been thought to be mentally challenged by some when I open my mouth and speak!!! I must admit there have been a few times when I have felt a little self conscious over my speech but for the most part I am able to laugh about it. I still have the port in my chest where they administered the chemo and I can't wait to get it out!!! The chemo doc told me to leave it in until I have had two clean PET Scans. My second one is coming up soon so hopefully......

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Wanting only My will...

I had called Stephanie on our way back from Nashville the other day and asked her to update my blog since I knew it would be so late when we got home. Since she gave the update it has took me awhile to blog again. Sorry :(
I was so nervous waiting on that appointment. Not knowing what I was going to be told. I was able to hold back my emotions until we were leaving the office. Then I let go and cried. I thanked the Lord every few minutes on the ride home. I had wondered on the way out there what the ride home would be like. Needless to say it was a JOYOUS one!!!!
At the time of that appointment, all I wanted to hear was it was not the cancer back so soon, once I heard those words it didn't matter to me what it actually was, so I didn't ask a whole lot of questions. The radiation has caused the skin to come off my jaw bone, in this spot. The place was about the size of a pencil eraser, but has expanded since, and now is a little bigger than a nickel. At the time I thought the soreness in my mouth was from thrush but now that the thrush is gone I realize it is from this place. I got to the point last week where I couldn't eat much of anything, it hurt so bad. I lost three pounds, which a year ago would have made me happy, now it is so hard for me to eat and get the proper nutrition that losing even a pound or two is concerning for me. To keep my immune system up I have to force myself to eat. Wendell was able to contact my Doctor and get me some pain medication and some Lydicane to numb my mouth. He takes such great care of me!!!! I am now able to numb my mouth enough to eat some.
This cancer has changed my life in so many ways, physically and mentally. From time to time I do find myself having pity parties for myself over the physical changes this cancer has caused. I honestly try not to have these parties often or to let them last too long!!! I know my blessings far out weigh any of the negative things this cancer has caused. The Lord has truly been good to me. His grace has been sufficient. I am beginning to realize, however, the constant fear of it coming back will be something I am going to have to learn to live with. Now, every little ache or pain or anything physically unusual brings on the fear that the cancer could be back. I know all the logical things like... my life is in God's hands and His Grace Will be sufficient...and I truly believe these things...but I haven't, as of yet, learned how to not be fearful. I am not afraid of dying. I am, however, terrified of suffering. It was so easy before to turn it completely over to God. Now that I have experienced some of the physical suffering that I have experienced, and would never have imagined, I must admit it is harder to pray as I did before... "No matter what, Thy will be done." Last week all I wanted was MY will... for it NOT to be cancer.I had no peace and I was terrified. You know, just now, as I am writing this, I am realizing something!!!! I was absolutely terrified last week. I couldn't eat. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't think of anything else. the terror consumed me.I had never felt that way before. I never felt that way during any moment of the last year. It is now, right now, becoming more clear to me. When I totally surrendered to God's will, with that surrender came a peace. Wanting only "my" will brought no peace. Desiring and surrendering totally to His will, came with peace and grace!!! We serve an amazing God!!!!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Good News

This is Stephanie. Mom wanted me to post for her. The doctor said the hard white spot was just exposed bone from where the radiation has affected her gums. I'm sure she'll post more later when she gets home tonight.

Please Pray, I am Terrified.

I am coming to you today to once again ask you to pray for me. I am at a point where I am unable to even pray for myself. Only those who have been in the deepest of valleys can understand this.
I found a lump on my jaw the other day. At first I thought it was just thrush. It's hard to see since my mouth doesn't open very wide. I don't know how long it has been there. It's white and very hard. I am terrified. I wish I could say I wasn't but I am. The last time I was at Dr. Nettervilles office, I met a man who had his bottom jaw removed because of cancer. My mind keeps going back to him and our conversation. I am terrified.
Wendell has got me a very hard to get appointment in Nashville for today. Dr. Netterville is in surgery all day so I will be seeing his assistant. My appointment time is 2:00 Central time, 3:00 eastern time. PLEASE PRAY FOR ME!!!!
I know God's grace has been sufficient in the past. I know that it can be sufficient for now and in the future. I need that grace more now than ever.
I will report here when we get back tonight but it will be very late.
Please, please pray for me.

Friday, January 29, 2010

It's Snowing!!!!





It's been snowing steadily since about 1:30 this afternoon, It's now 5:15 pm. It's looking beautiful here!!!!