With Sad Hearts

Our precious daughter, Michelle, lost her battle to cancer this morning.  She was a fighter the whole time, even until her last breath.  She is now asleep in Jesus awaiting the resurrection.

Our hope and comfort is found in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.  And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And thus we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore comfort one another with these words.”

She has touched so many lives and will truly be missed by all.

This entry was posted on January 26, 2014. 30 Comments

Long Update

So I told you I would post a picture of the blankets. Here they are. Hopefully you can get a good idea of what they look like because the picture doesn’t do them justice.

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Here is a picture of the kids and me decorating the Christmas tree. photo

Also wanted to post some pics from Christmas morning.

DSCN1674The girls both got Sophia dolls. I guess this is a new princess but they love her.

DSCN1676Jett got the game Life. I played this game with my parents all the time and loved it. I was trying to find things special I can do with just him.

DSCN1682Jett also got football cards and plastic sleeves with a binder. He also got a fish aquarium. In October he won a Beta fish from the school fall festival. We told him if he could keep his fish alive for more than 3 months he could get more. He is super excited over getting some new fish.

DSCN1683The girls got American Girl beds too. Of course these were from Target so they were inexpensive. I had found woodworking plans for an American Girl bed that even John thought he could hep with but then I got sick so I had to go with store bought ones.

So fast forward to January 7,2014. Today once again found me on my way to the hospital. I started to have have the black tar stool again. Once I got to the Emergency Room and was taken through admitting and my blood pressure was so low that they rushed me into a trauma room. I had nurses and doctors working all around me trying to get my blood pressure up to normal. That was quite a scare. They decided I needed to be moved to the ICU. Here they pumped all sorts of fluids into me and got my blood levels up to normal. The idea was to do another scope to figure out where the black tar stool was coming from. Something inside of me was bleeding and they weren’t sure what. After a lot of discussion it was determined that this procedure was too risky. My body has been through so much recently that they afraid I wouldn’t make it out of this procedure. So I decided that I would enter Hospice and give myself at least a little more time with my family. So on Thursday January 9 I was taken over by ambulance (my first ride ever in an ambulance) over to Hospice House.

Let me try to explain this new development. I decided that my body is done fighting. It is just to weak to do any more treatments or chemo. It is my time to just spend my last days with my family. While this decision was very hard to make I knew it was coming. I decided to enter the Hospice House instead of going home for several reasons. Here I have a nurse 24/7 and other helpers to make my stay comfortable. I have pain medication here that the nurse can administer throughout the day or night. Most importantly this facility is very family friendly. The kids can come and go as they please, they have a little playroom, and several outside walkways and benches. The other very important reason I didn’t go home was that I didn’t want my kids to discover mommy at home or even see me in pain while at home. I wanted our house to remain a safe, good filled memory place. I never want my kids to have nightmares about our house or how safe it is. This overall was perfect.

I celebrated what will probably be my last birthday here. Thought I would share some pictures with you.

photo-1The girls made me a birthday cake that they were very proud of.

photo-2Jett made me a birthday card to hang in my room. I love it.

photo copyThis is something I have been wanting to do for some time now. We are planning of framing this and putting it somewhere in the house. The kids had a ball doing this and I think it turned out really good!

I really wanted to thank everyone for all their prayers. I know that God answered a lot of prayers and I have to trust that God is going to continue to answer prayers for my family. Please pray for peace for my family as well as myself as we go through this very difficult time. Mostly pray that God will keep my kids safe and continue to work in their lives.

This entry was posted on January 14, 2014. 28 Comments

Here We Go Again

So there has been a lot going on. I actually had to go back and see my last post to see what I had told you guys. I will have to I apologize in advance for all the information but it is necessary to explain the issues I have been having. So in the the first of December I rushed to the hospital. I had noticed that the toilet bowel was full of blood. When I got there we found that my INR, the time it takes for your blood to clot, was too high. The average value that would be considered normal is 1-2. Mine however was 7. YIKES! They gave me lots of plasma which would help fix that. Unfortunately during all the labs that were drawn we found that the sodium levels were dangerously low. Normal levels would be 135-145. You can guess that mine were nowhere near those! Mine was 18. This was causing damage to my kidneys. I believe that God was working very hard and eventually everything started to return to a better level. My INR is back to normal and slowly my sodium is normal again. My kidneys took a very hard hit in that they are functioning at 47%. While that doesn’t sound good, a person who has donated a liver is only functioning at 50% and that is considered normal. Kinda makes me feel a little better.
Merry late Christmas!!! We had a wonderful Christmas!! We made it all about me and the kids. I think their favorite gift was the fleece quilt that I (well actually Walgreen did the printing- Very cool) had printed a huge collage of me and that specific child on. Each quilt had about 20 or so pictures of me and that child. Of course I cried which left John in tears. (Actually crying right now) Anyway I told the kids that whenever they needed a hug from mommy they could snuggle with their blankets. They all loved that idea! Hopefully I can remember to post a picture of one of the blankets. I really just enjoyed having them around laughing and playing with all of their new toys and showing me each one. It was great uninterrupted time without all the hustle and bustle of the holidays with the kids!
But of course like all good things it ends. Reality rears it’s ugly head! So I had been noticing that my stool was getting really dark. Not sure everyone has studied up on their liver but usually when your stool turns dark tar and tar like there is a problem. Then on Christmas morning I woke up to some blood in my stool. It wasn’t as much as the first time so I decided that I would wait and see if the blood would increase. Sure enough later that day the blood returned big time. I called the doctor and he said to go to the ER. Off we went. Now I don’t know about you but the ER is the last place in the world I want to be. They ran some labs and sure enough my INR once again was too high(blood clotting)They got that under control and I was sent to CDU which is the holding tank. This is where they bring everyone to figure out what is wrong and wait for a bed. I was moved into this room on Thursday and they finally found a room on Friday at midnight. Through all this I felt as though God was blessing us. WHAT I can hear you ask. We were blessed to be moved into the CDU (holding tank) because if not I would have still been in the ER until Friday. Also when we moved into our room my mom was blessed with a couch to sleep on which was much better than the fold out chair which she was sleeping in CDU (holding tank).
So I also was having some bleeding in the esophagus.  Let me just say that it is very technical and even after all the information the doctors gave me I am not sure I can explain it or really wrap my head around it. Needless to say it is very serious. I have some important decisions to make regarding the treatment of this condition. I am asking everyone to pray that I make the decision needed to fix this issue. I have decided to share the decisions so that you ask God specifically to guide me with the different solutions in mind.
The first option is to treat this with different chemicals. While this sounds like a no-brainer there are some things I have to keep in mind. First this is really just a band-aid that will fix the problem right now. It will keep happening until they can figure out the root of the problem. Also you can only do this so many times before you end up on the operating table and the doctor will be able to do nothing to keep you alive.

The second option is to have him go in ASAP and stick a tube down your throat and take a look and fix the issue right then and there. Hopefully they can increase the time between now and the next time this happens. It also allows to continue to use the scope in the future and still leaves the chemical route to go. Okay so no this sounds like the better plan. As of right now I am going with plan two but please continue to pray that this is the path I need to go down.

Thank you for all your prayers an continued support!

This entry was posted on December 28, 2013. 15 Comments

My Mean Liver

First I want to apologize for not posting sooner. Things here have been up in the air. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, my liver had been causing me problems. After we got back from Disney my stomach started to swell. I looked like I was 6 months pregnant. My doctor gave me a diuretic but that did little to help. I then was sent to a Gastroenterologist. He suggested that I get a 3D scan of my liver to make sure there wasn’t any blockage that was causing my liver not to work correctly. It showed that there wasn’t any problems in that area. We then decided to go ahead and do a liver biopsy. My oncologist felt that there was cancer in my liver that my previous scans didn’t pick up. During this time my skin and eyes turned very yellow. My stomach continued to grow larger filling with fluid.

The liver biopsy I did was called a Trans-jugular liver biopsy. The procedure involves threading a catheter down your jugular vein in your neck all the way down to your liver and then inserting a needle down it to cut some samples of your liver. OUCH. Oh and you are awake the whole time. I was very nervous about the procedure because it sounded very painful. Well luckily they gave me a lot of sedative and some pain medication as well. It wasn’t as bad as I had worked it up to be in my mind.

While we waited for the results my stomach started to fill up with fluid. It got so big that I looked like I was 9 months pregnant. I was so uncomfortable that it began to get very painful. Saturday night, after calling my oncologist’s on call line, we were told to go to the emergency room to see if they could drain the fluid. Let me just say the ER is not someplace you want to be! Finally on Sunday at around 3 pm I was able to get some of the fluid drained off my stomach. They ended up draining off 2 1/2 liters. I felt much better.

Now for the news that is very hard for me to share. Apparently this cancer has spread to my liver. The reason it was so difficult to diagnose is because it isn’t a tumor. I have very small spots throughout my liver which is causing my liver to go into liver failure. This means my liver is starting to shut down. The cancer is acting like alcohol and causing cirrhosis of the liver. So what is my outlook? The doctor has told me that I probably only have 3-6 months if it continues. My dad has taken a FMLA from work to spend 3 months with me and my mom is taking care of me as well.

I know everyone wants to know now how I am doing. I am now getting my stomach drained at least once a week to try and make me comfortable. Am I giving up? Absolutely not!!! My oncologist says that chemo would probably be to hard on my liver so right now I am taking an oral chemo which is said to be easier on your liver. I have read many women who say this chemo cleared their liver cancer up and they remain on it still. The hope is that it can kill some of the cancer and my liver can start to heal itself. I went to see my oncologist this week and she is encouraged that I am handling the oral chemo as well as I am. She also said I could always try a hormone blocker again. I am eating very healthy and have started drinking my beet and carrot juice again. My mom has done lots of research on things that can help clean and heal your liver so I am trying to include those. The good news is that I still have an appetite and am still able to get around. I also don’t have any pain in my liver which is a good sign as well. I am very tired and sometimes take two naps a day. Right now I am taking it one day at a time and am working on healing my liver. I am also spending as much time with my kids as I possibly can. If I only have 3-6 months then I want each moment with the kids to count.

This entry was posted on November 21, 2013. 19 Comments

Disney World

I know I haven’t posted in a while. My liver right now is causing some problems so I have had lots of doctor appointments and scans. Hopefully we will know something soon and I will try to explain everything as soon as we know what the diagnosis is.
In the meantime I know I promised pictures from Disney World so I thought I would post a few pictures.

So this is the third time we have been to Disney. Since the other two times were mostly about Jett, this year the trip was mostly what the girls wanted to do. They really wanted to get autographs from all the characters. I found some great graphics online and printed out some cards for the characters to sign. The girls got so many compliments on their books and they were excited to hand each character their card. Here is an example of what we ended up with. I think we got a total of 25 autographs.

DSCN1600Here are some more pictures.

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Here is John and Abby on the rocket ride and the tea cups.

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Here is Jett, Kaylee, and me on the tea cups. On every ride Kaylee and Jett wanted to ride with mommy and Abby wanted to ride with daddy. DSCN1525

 

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Here are the girls with Cinderella’s step sisters and step mother. I think this was one of their favorite character autograph sites. They were so fun and very interactive.DSCN1557

 

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DSCN1570All in all it was a fun trip. Because it was October there really weren’t too many people there and we were able to do things pretty quickly. It also wasn’t too hot so even if you had to wait in line it wasn’t miserable. Hope you enjoyed these pictures. I plan on putting all the outfits I made up on my sewing blog. I will share the links with you when that is finished.

This entry was posted on October 30, 2013. 6 Comments

Results

So I know that I just posted but I wanted to give everyone an update on what my scan results are and what my course of action is going to be. Let me just say that it was neither good nor bad.
When they do a PET scan they measure how much your cancer lights up and where it is. They can also see other problems in your body. I will try to explain this the best I can but it is even confusing to me at times. When I last had my PET scan in June, the cancer in my bones showed it was active and lit up at 6.7. This time around it lit up at 2.8. This means that the chemo is working and the cancer isn’t as active. That would be the good news part of the scan. The bad news part of the scan is that my liver is still very damaged! Apparently the Abraxane (the chemo I was on) is filtered through my liver. This caused my liver to sustain more damage and it has been unable to repair itself. The chemo was too toxic to my liver so for right now I have to stop the Abraxane. So what does all this mean I can hear you ask. It actually means several things.
1. My doctor isn’t comfortable with placing me on just a hormone treatment quite yet because she feels that it will be a repeat of what happened after Gemzar (the chemo I was on last time). She has compared the scan results to the scan results I had after the Gemzar and they are very similar right now. She feels that we should get my bones to completely stable before we try the hormone. I agree, and I have always said I want to be very aggressive. While the 6 or 7 months of just hormone treatment would be great I really don’t want the cancer to come back that soon. I think this will give me more time off chemo if I get my bones clear.
2. I can no longer do the Abraxane because it would damage my liver too much. The plan is to switch to a different chemo. We have decided to try an oral chemo called Xeloda. This is a pretty easy chemo as well and it is in pill form. I will take the pill for 14 days and then take 7 days off which is considered one cycle. From what I have read the side effects are stomach issues, dry and itchy skin, and hand-and-foot syndrome. Overall people say this is a pretty tolerable drug. The nice thing is that it doesn’t cause hair loss so hopefully I can start to regrow my hair.
3. My doctor is also sending me to a Gastroenterologist. He will work on getting my liver functions back to normal through diet and medications.

I have read lots of great things about the Xeloda with some patients still on it after 3 years and it is keeping them stable with very little side effects. The nice thing is that I now know that Abraxane and Gemzar both work for me. This just means that I can put those two in my back pocket for later use if I need to. There are also several other chemos that are “easier” chemos that I still haven’t tried so I can always turn to those in the future. Of course there are the very hard chemos too that I could use if I had to. My doctor also said that there are some very exciting clinical trials going on right now as well.

Overall I am very happy with the decision we made and I think this will give my body more of a fighting chance to remain cancer free for a longer period of time. I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed that my scans weren’t clear but right now I have to focus on getting my liver back to normal and go from there.

This entry was posted on October 8, 2013. 2 Comments

Waiting

This week I had a PET scan done on Tuesday. It is a fairly easy scan where I am injected with radioactive poison and then I have to drink some contrast dye that I am sure is just as bad for me. I then have to wait until October 7th to have a doctor’s appointment and go over the scan results. I have to say this is one of the hardest things to do. When I was first diagnosed I didn’t prepare myself for the cancer being in my bones so now I don’t really put too much stock in thinking that the results will be good. I guess I prepare myself for bad news just as much as good news.
Over this past week I have been doing a lot of thinking about what the future holds for me. I have also done a lot of reading. I follow several other blogs of women who have stage 4 breast cancer. Most of them have lived well past the 5 years that most doctors say we have. Some of them have even lived with the cancer spreading to their liver or lungs. Some of the things I learned was that over the last 20 years the average life of a stage 4 patient has gone up quite dramatically. With all the targeted chemos and hormone treatments, patients have so many more options. There are also so many new drugs being tested right now that those options keep increasing. That is great news for me. I also read recently that stage 4 patients who go more than 5 months between chemo treatments fair much better than those who have been switching chemo without a break. I have gotten 8-9 months between each of my chemo treatments. I guess it has something to do with how your tumor responds to chemo. I don’t put much stock into the average life span for stage 4 breast cancer patients. I have seen many women who surpass those statistics. John on the other had is a little more pessimistic and always points out that most patients follow the statistics. My doctors always tell me that I have so many options that we will treat this as a chronic illness. So until you tell me we have run out of options or that I am no longer responding to any treatments or give me a time table, I will continue living my life. I never want to live my life in the world of “what ifs.” I can’t plan to die in 5 years because that takes to much time away from having fun now! I always tell John that it is pointless to worry about the future when I have the present to enjoy.

Something funny that I read about this week was the Gold Cancer Card. I received one of these when I was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. Okay so it isn’t really a card. Now there are correct uses of this card.

1. When you are going through chemo you have the right to use the card to deal with the side effects of the chemo.

2. When you are admitted to the hospital you have the right to use the card to rest and get the help you need.

3. You are allowed to use the card to quit work.

4. You are allowed to use the card to spend every second you can with your children, making memories and just being around them with no questions asked.

I think sometimes the power of the cancer card can be abused. I try really hard not to use it, even when it is justified because I don’t want to be the kind of person who constantly uses cancer as an excuse for everything or to get things I don’t need or deserve. For example, because I have stage 4 breast cancer I could get a handicap tag for my car. Now those who know me, know that I look like a pretty healthy person and can still get around with no problems so I really don’t need a tag and would probably get lots of looks or comments if I were to have one.

So this week I did abuse the power of this card. We had a sales lady call wanting to sell us a week on a cruise. I politely told her I wasn’t interested. She ignored me and continued on with her presentation. I once again told her we weren’t interested but she still wouldn’t listen. I then told her I had stage 4 breast cancer and unless the cruise came with an oncologist and nurse I just didn’t see myself going on a cruise anytime soon. She grew silent then said “well good luck with that.” This would probably be how not to use my cancer card.

I do have to include a little bragging on my kids. We had parent teacher conferences this last week for Jett and Abby. I don’t know if I have mentioned this already but this year Jett was placed in an Advanced Content Class which is like a gifted class. Apparently last year when he took the Georgia state test he scored well above the state average. His grades were also all in the high 90s. His teacher told us that he is the perfect student and is getting all A’s in her class. Now that is something to be very proud of! Abby’s teacher also reported that her behavior was great. She never gets in trouble and seems to just absorb everything that is being said. She is currently placed in the highest level group and works well ahead of her other classmates. She was given a computer test at the beginning of the year in which she scored in the 99th percentile for both math and reading. I guess she is following in her brother’s footsteps. Abby also is such a caring little girl. One of the girls in her class has a peanut allergy and has to sit at a separate table away from her class. When Abby saw this she asked the teacher if she could sit with this little girl and the teacher said yes. Each day the teacher checks Abby’s lunch to make sure it has no nut products in it and I always make sure to pack things she can eat at the little girl’s table. I am very proud of both of them and know that I am teaching them to be their very best for God.