Saturday, May 06, 2017

Chemo Update: Cycle 1

Cycle 1 of Andy's chemo is complete!

Each cycle is 3 weeks long. The first week is the most grueling with 5 straight days that are 7 hours each. The second and third week have only one short treatment each week.

Andy did surprisingly well during the first cycle. He has not experienced much sickness. The first week left him completely wiped out with little to no energy and a desire to lie in a dark room with minimal lights and sound for a couple days. He has felt much better during the last 2 weeks of the cycle. He's had an increase in energy and has been able to get out and about some.

His appetite tanked during the first week of treatment. He managed to stay hydrated and eat small meals and snacks but didn't want to eat much. His appetite has increased significantly in the past week and a half though and has been able to eat a very healthy balanced diet.

Andy had an appointment with his oncologist yesterday. So far everything seems to be right on track. He had lost a good amount of weight and at yesterday's appointment his weight was up a little again which is good. They don't want too much weight loss too quickly.

The oncologist said that most patients react similarly to each cycle of chemo so we are hopeful for another fairly smooth cycle. Andy had extreme pain during the first night of chemo which they call "tumor flare". This is when the chemo drugs find those areas that are or were affected by the cancer. The cancerous cells get very "angry" causing extreme pain. Fortunately, this pain completely disappeared within 24 hours and hasn't been back. The chemo nurses said that it could come and go but the oncologist believes it is unlikely to return this time around. We do have a plan in place to deal with the pain should it happen again but it was very scary and quite horrible to see him in such intense pain.

Our concern right now is that his white blood cell count will continue to rise so as not to delay chemo. On Tuesday, the white blood cell count was lower than they like--not dangerously low--but low enough to delay some of the chemo treatment is it continues to drop. They drew blood again yesterday and his white cell count had increased some. Not quite enough but definitely headed in the right direction! The doctor feels that between Friday and starting treatment on Monday, there is enough time for it to get to normal levels. We pray for this to happen! In the meantime, we are following the precautions that the chemo nurse gave us. I also did some quick research for some foods that can help provide needed nutrients to help elevate white blood cell counts. We've added some of these foods in to every meal since Tuesday. Lower white blood cell count in cancer patients is quite common and can be caused by chemotherapy.

Meanwhile, we continue to pray in hope. We are so thankful for the peace of God that has been present in our hearts since the beginning of this ordeal. We have felt the prayers of God's people around the world and I know they have helped!

We've received a lot of cards and packages which has been so much fun! The picture above was sent by a friend. So appropriate for the season! A few days after we received this picture, my aunt sent me a letter which included this same verse (Isaiah 41:10). She went on to say that this verse was what helped my grandmother (Dad's mother) through many difficult times. I have really loved this verse but now it holds even more special significance to me. Isn't it wonderful how God's Word brings truth and comfort down through the generations and is always relevant to our lives?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Weekend and Monday Happenings

Thanks to all who left comments on my last post. I certainly appreciate the encouragement and prayers!

Andy was scheduled to start his first week of chemo today but because the cancer center will be closed on Good Friday, his first week was postponed to next week (17th) instead. The first week of each cycle is five full days so a four day week would not do. So we have one more week before chemo starts!

Andy's parents came last Wednesday for a visit and stayed through the weekend. We had a good time together. 

Andy's dad ended up at the ER on Friday morning with chest pains/pressure. He was tested and observed all day but nothing showed up as being wrong. He has scheduled a doctor appointment with a cardiologist back home for follow-up and a stress test. We are glad he seems to be ok! 


Our toaster oven gave it up this weekend so I toasted bread on the griddle this morning. It worked great! We don't make toast that often and the toaster oven doesn't see a whole lot of use on a regular basis so I think I'll wait and see how it goes without a toaster for a little while rather than rushing out to buy a new one. 

I had a trunk of donations to take to our favorite thrift store on Saturday so my  mother-in-law and I went on a little thrifting trip! According to my husband,  it is the "circle of life" to drop things off at the thrift store then go in and buy more. LOL! 


Sometimes I find nothing but on this trip I found this nice pair of Sketcher's shoes for $4, a cookbook and a craft book for 50 cents and two cute glass storage bowls with lids for $3. 


The yellow bowl already has food in it! (My food. Not the thrift store's. Hahaha)

I really like Mollie Katzen's cookbooks-- they are pretty and fun to read. The craft book has patchwork projects that use scraps. I thought these would be fun to peruse!

Today, I made new foods out of some leftovers from the weekend. The leftover sausage and roasted veggies from this sheet pan dinner was made into a rice salad. Leftover roast beef, potatoes, carrots and gravy was made into a pot pie. I used this recipe for an almond flour crust which turned out really good. 


Jeremiah 29:11 has been a favorite verse of late. I found this burlap canvas board for 50 cents at a yard sale recently. Using white paint and a black Sharpie marker I already had, I copied an idea I found via Pinterest to make this sign. It's quite imperfect but I love it! 

I hope you have a great week! 

Friday, March 31, 2017

The Unexpected

As I posted here, Andy had surgery on March 3rd to remove a tumor.

We have since found out that the tumor was malignant, as the doctor expected. A CT scan was ordered and when the results came back, we were told that unfortunately the cancer had spread some beyond the initial area. Because of this, chemo is necessary.

Beginning on April 10th, Andy will undergo three 3-week cycles of chemotherapy. Nine consecutive weeks in total. After chemo is complete, he will have surgery to remove some cancerous lymph glands.

The good news is that the cancer is very treatable and a full recovery is expected. There is an 85% or higher cure rate for this specific type of cancer. 

The bad news is that chemo is rough! The side effects of chemo are not fun. But the advantages of chemo definitely outweigh the cancer being left to itself to grow and spread. We are praying that the side effects will be minimal.

I continue to meditate on Jeremiah 29:11.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." 

In looking at 2017, I wouldn't have ever imagined that cancer would be a part of our year. But it doesn't surprise God. He already knew and has every thing we need in place.

Please pray for our family as we walk this journey. Thank you!

I will update as I can.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Snow Day in March


After a super mild and spring-like winter, we woke this morning to a snowfall!

On "time change" Sunday when we "spring forward" of all days--you gotta love South Carolina!

Of course, the high temp today is around 50 degrees so the snow didn't stay long but it was so pretty while it was here. 

The roads were clear so we drove to church with snow falling--so lovely! So nice Andy was feeling well enough to join me for church today. I know he was happy to get out of the house.

Then we came home to pot roast with veggies in the crock pot for lunch. I mixed up a pan of brownies from a mix for a quick dessert and made gravy while they baked. I heated some cooked brown rice that was in the fridge. A nice cozy Sunday dinner! 

Snow is a novelty here in the South. I've learned to just enjoy it while it's here as it rarely sticks around for more than a day or two.

Happy "time change" Sunday!  

Friday, March 10, 2017

When Life Happens...

Life has been moving right along. I must say that there has been a lot going on here the last little bit.

I don't share all these things to complain but rather to inform. God is and has been so very good to us!

2016 ended with me hitting a deer on the drive back from spending the holidays with family in KY. The damage was minimal, thankfully, but an out-of-pocket repair was necessary. (Small enough that we didn't want to claim on insurance and have our premiums go up! Been there, done that...)

Mid-January found us at the Urgent Care with Andy having a UTI infection and other symptoms. He took a round of antibiotics and began feeling better. But the other symptoms did not clear up...

Our heating unit started having issues--blowing only cold air. Again, thankfully not as bad as it could've been. We got it repaired rather quickly.


Meanwhile, we added a new dog to our family! Meet Willie...a 3 year old bassett hound mix adopted from a local shelter. He's adorable...and quite the little character! Don't let those short legs fool you. He is quite nimble and can get anywhere he pleases. He also does great in the house---completely house trained!

I had the opportunity to work full-time for a couple of weeks, filling in for an assistant teacher. Perfect timing as all of our life experiences were costing a good deal of money. So a little extra came in handy.

Andy continued feeling poorly and some symptoms began getting worse.  He made an appointment with the doctor but before he could see the doctor, he experienced severe pain which sent us back to Urgent Care who sent us right to the ER for an ultrasound. A great way to spend a Friday night/Saturday morning! We left our house at 1am and didn't get back home until 9am.  The ultrasound showed something suspicious that needed to be checked out by a specialist. Andy miraculously got an appointment with the specialist the following Tuesday, 2/28 where the doctor confirmed that there was a tumor that needed to come out as soon as possible. Instead of doing a biopsy first as the ER doctor suggested, the specialist said, "Let's get it out then test it!" We were in agreement with that! Again, miraculously, Andy was able to get in for surgery that same week on Friday, March 3rd!  Talk about a whirlwind week!

The surgery went well. Andy is recovering well. The doctor said everything went as expected. We have a follow-up appointment in 2 weeks for a check-up and get the test results. The doctor is pretty optimistic that it will be a good report, however we won't know for sure until the appointment. For the time being, Andy is on restriction for lifting and activity so is not able to return to work until the doctor sees him at his follow-up.

So it has been a somewhat difficult season. But we have a peace concerning all of this because we serve the God of heaven and earth and He is in total control! 

Jeremiah 29:11 has been a comfort to me in the past two weeks: "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." 

Life comes at you fast, yes. But we are trusting Him through it all! 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Slow-er Week

We both started feeling ill over the weekend--unrelated ailments-- so the week has been slower in nature. Funny how not feeling well forces your body to slow down!

Andy required a trip to Urgent Care late Sunday night for some antibiotics. I already had Monday off for Martin Luther King Day so that was a relief after not getting much rest and battling a cold/flu symptoms. We rested and I made a pot of turkey and rice soup in the Instant Pot. Later in the day, I finished folding and putting laundry away then made a whole chicken in the Instant Pot. While the chicken was cooking, I washed salad greens and cut veggies. All this activity may have done me in as I started feeling worse at that point but it's a great feeling to have those foods ready to eat this week!

I woke up Tuesday morning still feeling sick but since I had already committed to substitute for one of the teachers all day, I was determined to make an effort to make it to work. God's strength and Alka-Seltzer cold meds helped and I ended up not feeling too bad throughout the day. I was exhausted once I got home though and we ate a light supper of foods I'd already prepared and I crashed in bed!

Today, Andy was feeling well enough to go to work. Yay! I don't feel too awful and I have my regular afternoon work schedule today. So I've taken it easy this morning in hopes of saving up my energy for this afternoon. I started some yogurt in the Instant Pot. It'll be ready when I get home tonight.

I'll need to write a post about the Instant Pot. I received one for Christmas and have really enjoyed learning how to use it!

Late last week, I made a trip to the library to pick up some books I had requested. Breaking Busy by Alli Worthington and Living Well Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life by Ruth Soukup.

I've already finished reading Breaking Busy and it was excellent. Her message goes right along with what I feel the Holy Spirit speaking to my heart for 2017. One (of many) quotes that stood out to me in this book is: "The world says we must do it all, but God says we must do only what He gives us to do." 

My plans for this week are not big and grand. Just to rest and get well and do what absolutely needs to be done. That's all!

Wishing you a great week!


Sunday, January 15, 2017

In Loving Memory Of Rock

Family Picture-2015
Our dog Rock became ill very suddenly in November and within 24 hours, we had to make the heart-wrenching decision to let him go. He was diagnosed with acute liver failure and was already showing signs of other organs shutting down. We don't know what caused this--whether he got into something we didn't know about or his body simply got sick. An ultrasound showed nothing wrong while blood tests concluded acute liver failure.

This was a difficult decision to say the least. We absolutely adored our "Little Rock" as we called him. At 70ish pounds, he was anything but little but since he was smaller than us, "Little Rock" he was!
First picture of Rock right after we brought him home. Approximately 4 months old.
We had Rock for almost 9 years. When we first brought him home, I was scared of dogs. But he was cute, we had talked about eventually getting a dog and at the time we lived in a sketchy neighborhood (cheaper rent!) so a large dog was a good thing.

At the time, Andy was going to work at oh-dark-thirty so the dog became my responsibility. I walked him, fed him, rescued him from ridiculous puppy plights, constantly washed my clothing of muddy puppy paws, tried to keep the household together with a large puppy and two toddler boys (I was caring for at the time) who simply could not coexist with one another. If in the house, Rock would chase them, stalk their loveys and eat the toys. Outside, Rock would get himself tangled up in the most amusing and complicated configurations requiring serious intervention.
Silly little puppy.
In the early days, I had many moments of tears and overwhelm. "We have to get rid of this dog!" I told Andy more than once.

But within weeks, the dog had become "my dog". Within months, we had begun to settle into a routine. Within a year, he mostly lived in the house.
Rock and Amelia-2010
Within two years, Rock had calmed down to where he didn't need constant supervision anymore. When I began caring for a young baby, we trained him to be calm around her and not touch the toys. Those few days of training reaped huge benefits as from that day forward, Rock was great with young children and would walk around the toys, never once grabbing things that weren't his or putting the little ones in danger.
Rock and Gabriel-2013
As the years moved on, I couldn't imagine our life without Rock. Somehow I had become a "dog person." I walked him nearly every day which was by far his favorite activity. He understood the words: 'walk', 'stroll', 'go', 'outside', 'treat', 'cookie', 'clean up' and probably some others too.
Rock with his beloved chenille blanket-2015
If we dropped food on the floor, we would call, "Clean up, Rock!" and he would come, head bent down looking at the floor. Even out of a dead sleep, he would come. He had an uncanny sense of cheese being removed from the refrigerator and would come at a high rate of speed and park under me at the counter hoping for a morsel. The smell of bacon cooking also lured him into the kitchen.
Bacon!
He kept us laughing-- the way he lurked around when we were eating meals together at the table...how he would put himself in "time out" and lay with his head in a corner...when he'd roll in the grass or leaves and be covered with debris and stand at the door like he expected us to let him in like that. How he inspected every.single.item that came into the house and how alert he would become if I walked into the laundry room as that's where his leash was stored. Even a plastic bag would grab his attention as I would use those to pick up his waste on our walks.
Walk + Snow= Best Day Ever!
Rock as the subject of Mommy's humor when drying him off.
Being silly trying to rub his "Gentle Leader" off; even though we used it for walks from the time he was a young puppy, he still tried to get it off every.time. We called this activity the "Guided Missile".
Rock was big and looked rather gruff but other than occasional barks at strangers and a few moments where he seemed to get protective of us or the kids, we were certain that he was convinced that we were here to protect HIM, not the other way around! However, his size kept many strangers at bay which wasn't a bad thing. Andy jokes that he protected us from tortilla chips since if one fell on the floor, Rock would leap over our feet to get to it as if his very life depended on that crunchy little chip.
Go Cubs! Last picture taken of Rock in a Cubs bandana I sewed for him. Rock passed away the morning after the Cubs won the World Series. A bittersweet day for Andy as a lifelong Cubs fan.
 
 It is ironic to note that on his first car ride with us as a puppy, I refused to sit in the backseat with him. But on what turned out to be his last car ride, I sat on the floor of the van beside him as we rushed him to the Emergency Animal Hospital in the middle of the night after he experienced a massive seizure and was completely unresponsive.
Rock loved snow! Also staring at his people...
Time and experience changes us. Rock added an extra something to our lives that we would have never thought a dog could give.  He bumbled his way into our home and then into our hearts. He wasn't a person but he was definitely a member of our family.

We miss you, Rachmaninov P., and are certain you will never be forgotten!

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

First Week of 2017

Happy New Year to all of you!

While we do have a few goals we wish to accomplish in 2017, I don't feel the urge to make lots of big plans. Yesterday at church the sentence, "Don't make 2017 harder than it needs to be" was stated. This resonated deeply in my spirit on both spiritual and practical life levels and reflects some of the same things the Holy Spirit has been speaking to my heart lately.

I said, "No" to many things in 2016 and I sense that I will be doing more of that this year. My personality tends to over complicate EVERYTHING and I want to live uncomplicated this year. As a family, we want to streamline and simplify our schedules a bit more.

I'm once again participating in the Good Cheap Eats Pantry Challenge this month. Will I last for a whole month? I don't know...my goal is two weeks and then we'll see where we stand. The pantry and freezer are nice and full so I will shop there first before heading to the store. My goal is to spend only $150 this month which is half of our regular monthly grocery budget. I'll still buy milk, eggs, cheese, fresh produce and any other necessities we need.

January is a lower income month for us because of my workplace closing for two weeks over the holidays. This means that I only worked 2 weeks in December and therefore, my December paycheck (which comes in January) will be much smaller than a normal month. This isn't usually a big deal--we just look ahead and plan accordingly by tightening our spending a bit to make it through without having to dip into savings to cover regular bills. I really do like the time off over Christmas--it gives us time and freedom to travel and spend the holidays with family.

I purposely kept this week's "To Do" list much shorter than it had been and hope to make shorter lists a more permanent habit throughout this year. In addition to cooking meals, keeping the house in shape, running errands and working my part-time job, my big home projects this week are putting the Christmas decorations away and hemming a stack of pants.  I'm trying to keep it simple to create more time to just be, which sounds so nice!

Wishing you and yours His grace and peace in the coming year!