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Thursday, October 31, 2013

More cancer

I didn’t anticipate writing this blog, especially not before our upcoming trip to MDA (Nov. 2-6 – I’ve listed my schedule below). And, I’ll apologize upfront. I usually allow time to let my emotions (and humanity) settle down before I write something . . . not today. Most of this will be raw. But, I want to get this hellish cancer business out of the way so I can post about my daughter tomorrow. Isn’t that what 34-year-old moms are supposed to be blogging about . . . their daughters, their families, their pregnancies, their exciting and often hectic lives? Not for me, my posts revolve around this stupid disease and its ugly realities. I mean, seriously, why did I ever have hope this might get better? With the answered prayer of removal of the tumor from my arm and the thought I could use my right hand again, I was so naïve about this cancer . . . so naïve.

We found out late yesterday evening that my cancer has spread to my hip/pelvis. The only reason we found out is because I had asked my OKC oncologist at an appointment last Thursday to provide a script so I could start some PT for my hip/lower back. If you’ve read my blog at all, you know it has been bothering me off and on (mostly on) for several months. He refused until I had an x-ray. It came back clean but he wanted an MRI as well. I knew when I hadn’t heard anything yesterday afternoon, it was probably more bad news. And . . . (shockingly) it was. I feel like my life is unraveling one scan at time. Anyway, the oncologist and my original orthopedic oncologist believe it is cancer. The ironic thing is I have even more pain in my lower back (and have since my diagnosis over six months ago). So, outside of a miracle, I dread the news I will be handed when we go to MDA this weekend/next week for follow-up scans of my entire body. I was dreading the upcoming MDA visit before this news. You can only imagine how much more so now. I would rather repeat seventh grade, relive my jaw surgery and give birth all at once.

I honestly feel like I have a target on my back. If the Enemy came to steal, kill and destroy, he’s doing a bang-up job. Chris and I have been trying to sort this all out (and yes, we know there is no sorting out that can be done). He is doing much better than I, but our trust and confidence in God has been shaken. I am angry – at moments, very angry. I am cynical about everything (can you tell). I am disappointed, discouraged. And most of all, I am deeply, deeply saddened. You grieve a lot with cancer – especially one that offers little (let’s be honest) NO hope . . . when it comes to targeted, effective treatments. I think about and have dealt with loss everyday since April 12. I never escape it. Loss . . . every day now for over half of a year. By the way, I hate 2013.

I can hardly look at my daughter without crying, and most of the time, I do. I just can’t help it. Tears well up . . .like they are now . . . and I wish I could be her healthy Mommy. I wish she didn’t have to see me cry all of the time. I wish I could promise her I will always be here. I wish for another life. I wish to wake-up from this nightmare. I wish to see God move. But, He isn’t – at least I don’t sense it. I feel as if He doesn’t even care. He just continues allowing more pain, more suffering. And, I wonder . . . why me . . . why our family . . . why now? All of these thoughts flood my mind, and this is after a brilliant sermon by my pastor on spiritual warfare. I know the Truth . . . I just feel absolutely, totally defeated (and hope-less) right now. I checked the closet for my spiritual armor, and I’m pretty sure the Enemy took it. I wouldn’t have the strength to put it on anyway. Weak excuse, but I ‘m using it until I can accept that this is my life (I don’t get to live anyone else’s). Here’s the struggle . . .


Here we were yesterday, I was having a grand time taking photos of Alexa Hope (mind you) and the beautiful maple in our yard before BSF. I see her smile. I see her carefree spirit and a part of me just dies to know she has to be exposed to such harsh realities at such a tender age. Children are supposed to run and play not go with their Mommy to cancer appointments, not learn about tumors, not pray for Mommy’s healing at every prayer, every day and wonder why God isn’t answering. Why would God allow my beautiful daughter to have to endure this at the age of three? Why does her Mommy have to be bald, go to endless appointments and be loaded with pain meds to simply function? Why do I even have to entertain the thought I might not be around to hold her hand, kiss her boo-boos, read her stories, sing with her in the car, rock her to sleep? It breaks my heart. Yes – my heart has been aching since April 12. And, let’s not add into the equation my rock of a husband. He carries the bulk of the load for our family, and he does it all without complaining. I’m serious. He’s been a knight and I’m just a bald, disintegrating mess. He deserves so much more.

-- I would continue to ask for miraculous healing. We kind of knew all along we’d need a miracle – especially if this cancer spread. (The docs have always called it nasty.) I know God can do miracles. My faith is very weak now, but I know He can still do it
-- I pray we might hear good news at MDA. I am almost certain that’s an impossibility in the Sarcoma Dept, but it would be wonderful to hear good news on our visit . . . particularly from Dr. Benjamin, who is never at a loss for negative certainties and always vague on hope. I don’t really like the man. His bedside manner is horrible. But who would like the doc who never dispenses good news? I have no desire to go to MDA this week. None. Zilch. Nada.
-- For my scans to be clear (forearm, chest and full body). God could do this. . . at the very least, no more surprises.
-- Wisdom for future treatment. We have been praying, I mean really seeking the Lord, for what to do next. We both felt fairly certain of the next step until this ball dropped. We are clueless and confused now. We really need direction at this visit. Also, pray for God’s clear leading and wisdom on the doctors’ parts.
-- That I would be released to start hand therapy.
-- Pain relief for my lower back and hip. Yep – I’m back on narcotics. Ironically, I have also been dealing with a cold, a gnarly cough, laryngitis and sinus issues. I pray it doesn’t develop into a full-blown sinus infection and I also pray it isn’t the “c” word. It really hurts my back to cough. Unfortunately, I cough often.
-- For our hearts to trust Him in this mess because we definitely don’t understand what He’s doing. We feel like we’ve been kicked in the gut.

Here’s my agenda for MDA if you’d like to pray during specific times. There will probably be some more scans added in once Dr. Benjamin knows of the cancer in my hip/pelvis.

Sunday, November 3
6:45am – Bloodwork
8:30am – MRI of right forearm

Monday, November 4
8:00am – Chest CT scan
10:30am – Appt with Dr. Lee in Integrative Medicine
1:00pm – Injection for PET scan
2:30pm – PET scan
3:30pm – Appt with Dr. Benjamin (Sarcoma Oncologist)
4:14pm – Appt with Dr. Lin (Orthopedic Surgeon)

Wednesday, November 6
7:30am – Appt with Dr. Sharaf (Plastic Surgeon)

** Although, I have not sensed His Presence or comfort over the last 24 hours (and yes, I know He’s with me regardless), I am so thankful for your precious prayers and reminders you love us and are hurting with us. It reminds me we aren’t alone when it can often feel that way.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Hungry, anyone?

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Matthew 5:6


Isn’t this cheesecake exquisite? More importantly, it was exquisite to my palette with its hints of honey, pear and homemade whipping cream. I mean, it can’t get any better than this . . . or can it?

In light of my study in BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) and my battle with cancer, I have been meditating on Matthew 5:6 quite a bit lately. You see, we are seriously considering and praying through alternative therapies instead of chemotherapy for the next step of my treatment. One particular therapy (the Gerson Therapy) includes a very regimented diet (among other holistic methods) for two years. I have already started implementing some of the juicing and restriction of sugar but have not come close to the recommended diet plan or required detoxification methods.

As I prepare my mind/body for what life might be like in the next two years under this therapy, I question if I can really endure such restriction (and quite honestly, the discipline needed to continue this for the rest of my life). I mean, if you know me at all, you know I can hold my sugar (be it a double-doozie cookie, fudge caramel cake, cinnamon rolls or a maple doughnut). In fact, I just love food. Don’t let my lean figure fool ya. To no merit of my own, the Lord gifted me with an unreal metabolism (for which I’m very grateful); however, I’ve abused it for 34 years. The more I read about healing and nutrition, I realize how malnourished my body has been. Even when I was filling my tummy with calories and what I thought was satisfaction, I was, in essence, starving my body of the very nutrients it desperately needed. Don’t get me wrong, the food I ate made me very happy, but the happiness was fleeting and only made me crave more bad stuff. My body was never “filled” even when I felt full.

So, the question remains . . . could I really alter my lifestyle in such a way that the very things that whet my appetite could be removed and I would still be satisfied? When I think “ain’t no way,” the Holy Spirit whispers Matthew 5:6 in my ear. This beatitude says, if I “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” the promise is I “will be filled.” In other words, if I desire the things of God . . . if I long to look like Jesus and know Him . . . if I hunger for His Word and place these longings above all else (even food), I will walk away filled. The New American Standard translation says, I “will be satisfied.” Even better, The Message Bible says, “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.” I have a feeling this type of “blessed filling” will far surpass a slice of apple pie. Unless, of course, that apple pie is served in Heaven.

Even with this encouraging Truth in mind, I told Chris this type of therapy will really bring me to the cusp of my trust in the Father. (It is pretty pathetic food could have such a grip on my life.) Can He really fill me in ways I never imagined? Can He really satisfy when I long for something so earthly and temporary? We all know the answer is yes, but it won’t be easy. It will require asking the Lord to help me position my longings (and my heart) in the right order so my soul desperately desires to feast on His Word over any other temptation. And when I’m weak, which I know I will be and already have been, I can confess my cravings to Him and know He will strengthen me in my weakness. If you’ve walked with Jesus for any amount of time, you know meeting with Him never disappoints.

How special it would be to look back at this very much unwanted season of my life and see the beauty and growth that resulted because of it. Oh what victory if I could proclaim like the Psalmist, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth,” Psalm 119:103.

I pray you might also be willing to experience His calorie-free fullness in unimaginable and unexpected ways. You won’t find it anywhere else.

If I could set this post to music, this would be its song.

Captivate Us - Watermark

Monday, October 21, 2013

Catchin’ up

Alexa is all smiles with Daddy at the State Fair of Texas. She is definitely a thrill-seeker and loved all of the rides.

I have been gently reminded by a few folks that I haven’t updated the blog in awhile. Okay – so it has been almost two weeks. Trust me, I have so many unwritten posts in my head - it’s ridiculous. My lame excuse - we’ve been s-l-o-w-l-y settling back into our daily routines (one week with Chris’ mom’s help and last week on our own). It seems to take much longer than anticipated to just “do life” again, and I am pathetically slower with my healing (but still-out-of-commission) hand. Regardless, we know we can never get too settled as we prepare for another trip to MDA on November 3-4 and perhaps more trips elsewhere as we seek out, study and pray about alternative therapies. Flexibility is our family’s new motto.

As I have said so often, I never intentioned for this blog to be about a cancer. Albeit that is a big part of my family’s life now, yet I still desire to capture a slice of our “try-to-make-it-somewhat-normal” life. There is, after all, life outside of fighting cancer and MDA. So, I wanted to catch everyone up on the more exciting comings and goings with family and friends over the last couple of months (fair warning: there are lots of pics). I will apologize in advance for lower quality photos. I have to use my iPhone instead of the DSLR until my index finger works again. I will bookend the post with cancer battle updates and prayer requests . . .


My right hand/arm continues to improve (check out my beautiful incision just four weeks shy of my surgery). Although they are incredibly weak and stiff, I can use my thumb and middle finger to help with tasks like tying my shoes, dressing, etc . . . That has been a huge asset in living independently. I will hopefully be released to start hand therapy after my MDA visits and then we’ll see what I can do. Also, my pain level has greatly decreased. (Ironically, the only reason I take a narcotic is for the crazy pain in my hip/left leg.) The biggest issue with my hand is adjusting to the numbness and occasional phantom nerve pain.


Six weeks after my last chemo treatment, my hair is making a comeback. It is hard to believe I might be able to keep my hair if we opt for an alternative therapy over chemo. I can’t wait to start going out without a head covering. Although with winter around the corner, hats, scarves and wigs may be a part of my future indefinitely. I feel so much better without chemo – gaining endurance and enjoying the real taste of food among many other perks most of us take for granted. I even joined the YMCA last week so I can start working out again! Woohoo!!



We decided to let Alexa try gymnastics this year. She is such a bundle of bouncing energy, it just seemed to make since. She wasn’t so sure about going the first day (check out her grumpypants look), but she was all smiles once she gave it a try. She loves her teacher, Miss Carol, and she loves her “gynnastics.”




Alexa also enjoyed her first day of BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) in September. This is her third year joining Mommy. This year, we are studying the book of Matthew. When you see her, ask her to sing her weekly Bible verse – it’s so cute. Alexa wanted to give her teachers flowers on the first day.



After seeing Wicked on Broadway in March, Chris and I enjoyed seeing it again at the OKC Civic Center in September. It was wonderful to dress-up and escape into the world of Oz for a night, even if it weren’t NYC.


We also enjoyed sporting our crimson and cream pride (rather, all cream pride since we have tickets in the “white” section of the stadium) with Holly & Mark at the OU vs. West Virginia game. Unfortunately, we’ve missed some home games due to my surgery/recovery, but we hope to make it to this week’s game – OU vs. Texas Tech. BOOMER SOONER!!


And, we had to take Alexa to the State Fair of Texas to eat a corny dog and meet the new and improved, “Big Tex.” It was a gorgeous evening and we had a blast together.




Up in the Texas Star, the highest ferris wheel in North America (sorry for the red-eye). Don’t let the smile fool ya, Mom was a nervous wreck most of the time.


I never would have chosen cancer, but it’s been a great excuse to reconnect with people I love. Here are just a few examples over the last two months.

During a recent visit to MDA, my lifelong friend & her husband, Karmyn & Ryan, stopped by to visit my family. They happened to be in Houston for an adoption conference. We stayed up ‘til 1am laughing, crying & praying. It was just like old times. I am so grateful for Karmyn’s faithfulness to pray for & constantly encourage me.

During my recovery back in Dallas, I was able to meet Chad’s beautiful wife and son, Lynda & lil’ Boston. I met Chad at OBU. We had some seriously fun times together before settling into our domesticated lives. Please lift-up Lynda’s father who is also fighting his own cancer battle. We’re in this together, Lynda!!

My precious cousin, Rob, also stopped by to encourage my heart. He has been such a “light” for me on this journey. He is a firm believer in my healing and my ability to fight this nasty cancer until it never comes back. Love you, Rob! I am wearing my Superman tee right now and can’t wait to work-out to my “fighting” CD.


I became an adopted “Girls of ‘69” during my stay in Dallas (trust me, I have the t-shirt to prove it). Every year, my mom and her high school classmates get together for a girls’ weekend, and I was invited to join the elite group this year at the Gaylord Texan. I was absolutely honored! These gals are some of my strongest prayer warriors (and cheerleaders – seriously – I think all of them were cheerleaders). The high point was when they gathered around me and prayed for me, my family, my healing & God’s glory. It was beautiful and so encouraging.


While at my last visit to MDA, we met up with a longtime friend who literally lived about six houses from me. Ironically, Michael discovered a sarcoma on his hip in September and had it removed in Oklahoma (seriously, what is it with this stupid cancer). He was at MDA to visit my orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Lin, to make sure the removed sarcoma had a clean margin. It sounds like Dr. Lin wants to remove a bit more to make sure the margin is safe. Please lift-up Michael, his precious wife, Keri, and their three children. We are praying for total healing and no recurrence.


I had to stop by to see my lifelong bestie, Denise, who was visiting from CO to see her family and show off her 4th lil’ tike, Deacon. He was three weeks old when I had the privilege of holding him.


How cute is this lil’ man? Loving the crown his older brother, Laken, made for him.


Gotta love this “selfie” of Ama and Alexa. I was so grateful for Karen’s help when she visited from CA. She did it all from juicing to being Alexa’s constant playmate. Ty Karen!! I am so blessed to have the best parents-in-love in the world!!


I also had the opportunity to catch-up with two of my cousins, brothers, Austin & Ryan. We had a great time reconnecting at our cousin’s wedding (below).


A huge congratulations to my cousin, Jerrod, and his beautiful bride, Hillary!! We are so blessed to have Hillary in our family! Jerrod – God gave you a precious gift in Hillary. We’re so happy for you and can’t wait to get to know her better. Thank you so much for your faithful prayers for us on this journey. They mean so much to me.


Whew!! That’s it for the update. You can wake-up now (wink wink). Here are the most recent prayer requests on this journey.

- God’s clear leading and wisdom in the next treatment plan. We are asking for His peace and clear confirmation for the next steps. At this time, we’re praying over chemo, a holistic two-year treatment plan called Gerson Therapy or an alternative medical approach at the Burzynski Clinic in Houston.
- Wisdom for whoever ends up treating me.
- For pain management in my hip and left leg. We are wondering if I should pursue physical therapy and we’re praying it isn’t cancer. It can really worry me.
- Containment and death of cancer in C7 vertebrae. No recurrence. No more cancer.
- Restoration of my right arm/hand and discipline in my future physical therapy.
- My follow-up scans/appts at MDA (Nov. 3-4). I am still working on logistics for the appt with my plastic surgeon. We are praying for totally clean scans of my body, my spine and my arm.
- For balance for Chris as he takes care of me while working full-time and being an awesome Daddy.
- For hope and God-sized faith in what only the Lord can do. The Enemy has been busy trying to make me doubt in this waiting time.

”Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

MDA update

Well, we just arrived home after three follow-up appts yesterday at MDA. It's hard to believe it's been over three weeks since I slept in my Cal King at home. I definitely didn't expect I'd be gone that long, but I am so grateful for the care I received from my parents in Dallas before and after my surgery (as well as all the help with Lil' A). I don't know what I'd do without them!! They have been by my side since day one of my diagnosis - cheering, praying and serving.

Chris' mom, Karen, flew into Houston last night to help us out this week as we transition back home. I am also grateful for her willingness to travel from CA and serve us in this way until I feel confident I can function more independently.

The appointments concerning my post-op recovery went very well. Dr. Sharaf (my plastic surgeon) was pleased with how my incision is healing and I'm officially drain-less!! I didn't look but Chris said he pulled about 6" of tubing out of my arm. Although I feared what the sensation would feel like, it didn't bother me a bit. I am so thankful for your prayers in that regard. I knew the moment it was finished it was because of your prayers that it went so smoothly. It is thrilling to be free from the tubing. It was delicately stitched into my skin but there wasn't a day it didn't get caught on my clothing, a chair, my elbow, etc . . . and goodness, it would smart! So I'm very thankful to shower without taping the drain to my arm or safety pinning it to a pillow at night. I know my mom is also thankful she doesn't have to strip the drain (draining the fluid from the tubing) twice a day. Hooray!!

On another bright note, Dr. Lin (orthopedic surgeon) was pleasantly surprised by the progress of the movement of my fingers and wrist. He was also pleased with the reduction in swelling and the healing of my incision. He doesn't want me to pursue hand therapy for another four weeks as there is much healing to be done inside and outside my arm. The best thing about this appt was seeing Dr. Lin smile (quite a bit too). He seemed to be as satisfied and relieved with the outcome of my surgery as much as I was :) We thank God for these gifted surgeons!! There isn't a day that goes by now that I don't look down at my fingers, numb or not, and say, "Thank you Lord."

Both Sharaf and Lin want me to take it easy the next month. My focus is to be on healing. I am supposed to keep my arm elevated as much as possible to keep fluid from collecting in my arm and gently work on finger/hand exercises. They both want my incision and transferred tendons to heal, and it will just take time.

Those two appointments were super encouraging; however, my appointment with Dr. B ended my day at MDA on a sober note. When a doc starts his conversation with, "Well, you are very difficult to treat now," you know it's gonna be a doozy of an appt. He proceeded to explain different chemotherapy options (none with statistically high probabilities of success for epithelioid Sarcoma). We knew there wasn't much out there to treat me but it is always hard to hear that news from the doc you hoped could provide some answers.

The other issue is the primary tumor in my arm which served as the baseline for measuring the effectiveness of chemotherapy is now gone. (I for one am SUPER thankful it is gone but it's absence does present problems if you want a measuring stick.)

So not only do we not have a future treatment plan that's proven effective, but we also don't have a way to measure it's effectiveness. (Although, I still have cancer in my C7 vertebrae that is measurable, it won't reveal immediate results like the soft tissue tumor in my arm would. It normally takes several months to measure treatment effectiveness in bone.) Therefore, the difficulty is deciding on the best treatment option while figuring out how to measure it without filling my body full of several rounds of toxins that could very well be useless in killing the cancer.

I suppose one would say this it quite a conundrum. Definitely not one I am thrilled to face or report, but we are asking everyone to pray for God's wisdom (not man's) for what our next steps for treatment should be. We have been seriously considering alternative/holistic therapies for quite a while now. (Bonus: they don't include poison.)

Regardless of chemotherapy or alkaline diets, we are looking to the Great Physician for healing. He has performed miracles and bucked statistics before. We know, if He chooses, He could do the same thing in my body now. And that's exactly what we're pleading with Him to do.

So what next? The plan for now is to focus on healing for the next three to four weeks. Then, we'll return for follow-up appts at MDA to assess healing and discuss treatment opts again (and decide if we want to pursue any). I will also be undergoing another PET scan, CT scan of my chest, and MRI of my arm to make sure the cancer hasn't spread.

I don't get warm & fuzzy writing about my life anymore much less thinking about the reality of this ridiculous cancer. It is easy to feel hopeless at MDA. I do much better outside of that environment where I am surrounded by believing, encouraging family/friends and able to better focus my heart on Jesus and the Truth I receive from His Word. It's there I'm reminded He is over all of this. He always has been and always will be. Regardless of how I feel, of what ifs and whys, He has a purpose and a plan and it won't be thwarted - metastasized rare cancer or not. It isn't my plan (that's for sure), but I know He is working in my heart to submit to and trust His plan for my life even if it weren't the one I'd have chosen. I will continue to choose to believe that, "Those who hope in me will not be disappointed." Isaiah 49:23.

My dear prayer warriors, we would ask you to pray for . . .

--Wisdom as we seek the Lord for the next steps.
--Healing of my arm - incision and all.
--Regained functionality of my fingers.
--Containment & death to the cancer in my C7 vertebrae and a cancer-free arm. No more cancer anywhere!!
--Fun! With no scheduled treatments for a month, we are considering a getaway (that doesn't include a trip to MDA).

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A few updates

Just wanted to provide a few updates on how living left-handed has been going as well as when my appointments will be tomorrow at MDA. I also wanted to provide more info on my silly dog bite and my dear friend, Melinda.

I am doing surprising well with my post-op recovery. Well, I actually don't know what the doctors will say, but at least for me, I have been pleasantly surprised by my progress, and I laugh a lot about the adjustments that must be made living with only one functioning hand. I still deal with pain - mostly nerve and phantom nerve pain in my pinky and ring finger. Actually, the bulk of my pain is in my lower back and left leg. I still take Hydrocodone at night but I have been able to maintain my pain (for the most part) with Ibuprofen during the day. I felt like my other narcotic was causing weird side effects, so I just decided to see if I could survive without it. So far, so good. Ty Lord!!

Many areas in my lower forearm are still sensitive but I'm sure that will continue as things heal. No doubt, hand therapy will be another new level of pain. I have some movement in my thumb, index finger and middle finger. I can touch them together if I concentrate really hard. I cannot bend my index finger or thumb no matter how hard I try, so I am trusting that will come with time and lots of practice. My middle finger is the most productive and flexible at this point.

I will hopefully get my drain removed tomorrow and that would be wonderful!! No doubt, I will still be very dependent on others for help, but removing the drain will make my life more convenient in so many ways - from showering to changing clothes.

Speaking of, living life left-handed has been an eye-opening experince. Even when my right hand was deteriorating before the tumor was removed, I still had full function of my index finger and thumb on my right hand. Now, even with small progress in movement with the three working fingers of my right hand, I can't use them in practical ways (like holding things or bearing weight) . . . yet. My right arm is pretty useless thus far but goodness I am thankful to have it!! And, I WILL be using it before long!

So, it's been interesting to see what I can do and what is almost impossible without the help of others like - cleaning or applying deoderant to my left underarm, cutting food, spreading a condiment on food, tying my shoes, doing Alexa's hair, putting on my watch, strapping my bra, etc . . .

I wanted to challenge you to try to do a few things entirely left-handed or with your non-dominant hand (no cheating). I'm not asking you to do this so you'll feel sorry for me. Rather, so you will get a kick out of how creative you have to be to get little, everyday tasks accomplished without constantly asking for help. Hint: I have learned your mouth/teeth are a great asset as well as your legs. Who knows, maybe I will gain some flexibility in the next couple of months.

-- opening & closing a ziploc bag 
-- opening a pill bottle or anything with a screw lid
-- putting in contacts
-- applying make-up (specifically eye liner & mascara)
-- washing & drying your hand
-- using a zipper
-- folding clothes and hanging them up
-- dressing a rambuctious three-year-old
-- typing (just like I am now)
-- taking clothes off & on

**If you have any advice on how to accoplish these things with great ease, please share your secrets with me. I'll share mine too :)

We will be in Houston for three appointments tomorrow. Would you please be in prayer for the following?

9:30am - Dr. Sharaf (my plastic surgeon)

--Please pray Dr. Sharaf is pleased with how my incision is healing and that my drain would be removed. (We have been measuring my drainage ouput 2x a day, so hopefully it is low enough to remove without complications.) I am VERY nervous about having the drain pulled out. I am afraid of the sensation and afraid it will gross me out so much I may get sick. Pray I can be brave!!

1:00pm - Bloodwork 

--Please ask the Lord for great numbers and no reason for concern.

2:00pm - Dr. Benjamin (Sarcoma Oncologist)

--We will be discussing future treatment in light of my post-op recovery. We believe he will recommend chemotherapy but we are also going to ask about future radiation to my arm and the possibilty of another PET scan. Please pray for God's timing and direction with all of this. We don't want to move too fast and hinder recovery of my arm or move to slow and encourage cancer growth.

4:30pm - Dr. Lin (orthopedic surgeon)

-- He will be assessing my recovery. I assume we will talk about hand therapy and what I might expect to accomplish with my hand/arm in the future. We will probably discuss treatment options with him and the possibility of reconstructtive surgery to my "numb" fingers further down the road. Please pray Dr. Lin would be pleased with how I've been progressing. I am also hoping to share more about our mighty God and the miracle He pulled off in helping Lin save my arm.

Well, the dog we thought might be the culprit - wasn't :( It just didn't look like the same dog when the animal welfare man brought pictures by for me. We thought we might have seen another possibility today but I don't really care anymore. My wound is healing and the colorful bruises and swelling are starting to go away. Needless to say, I walked at a public park the rest of my time in Dallas.

I apologize for not updating you sooner. The surgeon was able to completely remove the tumor. Her recovery and pain control has gone well and her speech was protected. Praise the Lord! However, pathology revealed her tumor was a spindle cell sarcoma of the bone. This is a different cancer than Melinda had before, and shockingly, it's a sarcoma like mine (not the same kind though). They believe it was caused by her radiation.

I received this news while I was in the hospital last week and it was very hard for me to process. My heart is deeply saddened for Melinda and reminded, even when you are free of cancer, it can come back and even be different. Ironically, Melinda will meet with my sarcoma doctor (Benjamin) next Monday, October 14. He is the best and she'll be in great hands. They believe chemotherapy may be the next step for her. Melinda's attitude is remarkable as she faces another hurdle on her journey. Her trust in and praise of Her Father despite another setback is humbling. Please pray for endurance and complete healing for Melinda.

In closing, the music minister at church today read Psalm 34. This passage (especially the last half) has been very meaningful to me throughout this journey. However, a different section of this passage jumped out and grabbed a hold of my heart. It caused a welling up in my soul - a deep, deep joy one can only have when they know and experience the goodness of our great God. As of September 24, 2013, I am more cancer-free than I've been in several years!! My God accomplished this and even though the road ahead will more than likely be filled with many challenges, may His name remain on my lips . . .

"I will extol the Lord at all times; His praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name together. I sought the Lord and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them. Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him."  -- Psalm 34:1-8

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

My new look

I thought I'd reveal my new look. If you have a weak stomach, it may bother you. I don't think it's that bad but fair warning. This was after my 1st shower yesterday. The incision gets cleaned and dressed with ointment everyday. It will stay covered this week and once my drain is removed next week, I'll be able to leave it unwrapped. I'm sure it will make for a good story someday. I hope, at the very least, Alexa will think her Mommy was brave when she gets older.

It's interesting to compare my forearm's profile with the tumor and without the tumor. Needless to say, I definitely lost some weight (and anatomy) with its removal.


And if my life weren't colorful enough, I was bit by a dog during a walk this evening in my parent's neighborhood. Ironically, it was the only time I left the house today. I was minding my own business when a collared beagle ran across the street and bit right through my pants into the back of my leg. I guess a bald women with her arm in a sling is incredibly threatening. I am, however, very thankful Alexa didn't come with me as she usually does.

My dad thinks he found the dog and its owner based on my description. (Meanwhile, I was getting treated at an urgent care clinic.) The owner denied the dog's wrong doing and was confrontational with my dad. A worker from animal welfare is going to visit with me and the owner tomorrow, so you can pray that goes well. If it is the same dog, my dad found out it was vaccinated so that is good news. Otherwise, could you please pray God would protect my body from a gnarly infection (I know there will be a gnarly bruise regardless). It's the last thing my body needs as we're trying to nurse it back to health from surgery and in preparation for another round of chemotherapy. The silver lining is I was pumped full of antibiotics last week and am taking an oral antibiotic now. I guess God wanted to take my mind off the pain in my arm or perhaps He wants us to get very efficient at wound care.