Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Chemo Update: 3rd Cycle Done!

Andy has now finished the 3rd cycle of chemo. He had a much harder time with the 3rd cycle and felt pretty rough for the full three weeks. He caught a bad cough during this cycle and has felt generally very run down.

Due to the cough, Andy wasn't able to finish the last treatment of the 3rd cycle. The chemo drug he would be receiving is known to cause lung issues so the nurse consulted immediately with the doctor as to what they should do. No chemo that day. He was sent to get a chest x-ray and a pulmonary function test. Later that week at a routine appointment with the oncologist, he was ordered to get a CT scan done on his lungs. This was to check for toxicity from the chemo drug. All tests came back clear and show no signs of anything wrong.

They believe the cough is most likely due to a suppressed immune system. He is using cough medicine and it seems to be improving slowly. They gave him this week off from chemo with hopes that his body will recover some.

From what it sounds like, the doctor plans to have him continue with a 4th cycle of chemo. We will find out more details at his appointment on Friday.

Once chemo is finished and he is strong enough to have surgery, he will have some cancerous lymph glands removed. We are hopeful life will return to "normal" by the end of the summer!

We are grateful for the strength the Lord has given us so far as we have traveled this journey and continue to rely on Him. Thank you all for your prayers!

Friday, June 09, 2017

Chemo Update: Cycle 2 and Cycle 3 Almost Done

We survived the 2nd cycle of chemo!

There weren't really any surprises this round. Thankfully... Andy handled the treatments very well again. He did get nauseous and threw up a bit once after the first week. This was the day he also ran a low-grade temp which kept crawling up to right below the "call the doctor" threshold. I was grateful when suddenly his temp was back to normal. Praise the Lord!

His white blood cell count was down in the last week of the 1st cycle. It was back to excellent numbers on the first day of the 2nd cycle which was an answer to prayer. This is a very normal part of chemo and seems to happen for Andy on the 3rd week of each cycle so far.

The big reason we did not want the beginning of the 2nd cycle to be delayed was because of an event that was scheduled. Andy has prayed and desired to start a Southern Gospel quartet for many years. In the past year, it has begun to come together. The quartet had their first performance scheduled for last Saturday. (Scheduled before diagnosis.) Had the beginning of the 2nd cycle been delayed a week, he would not have been able to perform. But, he was able and it went very well!

Time flies and now we're almost at the end of cycle 3 as well! He had a rougher time with nausea during the first week of the 3rd cycle. We actually used the at-home nausea meds for the first time.

The first day of cycle 3 landed on Memorial Day so the chemo center was closed. Because the regime Andy is on requires 5 straight days of chemo the first week of the cycle, they sent him to the local hospital for treatment that day. He was in a room in the oncology unit and received the infusions as usual. We were there for 10 1/2 hours instead of the typical 7 hours at the chemo center. We knew going in that it could take a good bit longer  just because of the difference in processes and they might need to keep him overnight if infusions went past a certain time. Thankfully, they didn't and he could come on home that evening! We're grateful that is behind us and hope treatment doesn't fall on another holiday!

He does seem to have caught some kind of chest congestion with lots of coughing. With his immune system being down, this is quite normal but we need to be careful to watch that it doesn't get worse. Our weather could also contribute to this although Andy doesn't usually suffer from seasonal allergies. I know he would appreciate your prayers that this will clear up.

When we first got the diagnosis, the oncologist said there would be three 3-week cycles of chemo. We then switched to another doctor within the same network in order to do chemo treatments close to home. The new doctor says that four 3-week cycles of chemo are protocol for the type and stage of the cancer Andy is dealing with. So the two doctors are discussing whether a 4th cycle is needed. We appreciate the doctors being thorough. The new doctor said he could see why the first doctor only prescribed three cycles but because four cycles is protocol, he wants to be sure and make the best decision. We are praying that they will have great wisdom as they make this decision!

So that, in a nutshell, is how the past few weeks have gone!

And just for fun, I leave you with a picture of our cute little Willie!


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!