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!!!