January 24, 2010
My last appointment at CTCA was January 11. It's hard to believe that a couple of weeks have passed since then and I have not updated yet! My last entry left off the night before my mom and I set off for Zion. I always say that we're headed to Chicago because most people know where Chicago is generally located. If I say that we're headed to Zion, more people would look at me funny, I am sure. It's kind of neat that the hospital is located in Zion though. The city was founded by a pastor who had actually gotten in trouble for practicing medicine without a license due to the volume of people who were healed during his church services. That kind of history is awesome, don't you think?
Well, my mom and I decided to fly this time. Mike and I have flown out two times before this, but my mom has not flown anywhere since she was a teenager. In the past, it always seemed like a winter storm would start up right around the time we were ready to make the drive out to Zion, and we joked about this all of the time. The weather could be beautiful all week long and then the night before we were to set out, a foot of snow would fall. People everywhere could tell it was time for us to make another trip based on the weather! This time, we were hoping for good weather since we were going to try the flying thing. Wouldn't you know it that the day before our flight, there would be a fire at the airport on power lines and the power would be lost at the entire airport for most of the say Sunday! The news said that if you had a flight scheduled for Sunday night or Monday morning to call ahead to make sure everything was still on time. We needed to leave the house by 5:30 am Monday morning to get to the airport so I called the night before to check the status of the flight. It still said it was on time, scheduled to leave at 8:10 am. Mike drove my mom and I there and on the way, I decided to call again. This time, the recording said that the flight would leave at 11:00 am. Now we were stuck with the dilemma of continuing to the airport, or go home and relax for a few hours. We decided since we were already on our way that we would just check in early and get some breakfast at the airport. The lines were longer than normal since people from the day before were catching flights to make up for their cancelled ones. We made it through security and got to our gate at 8:00. Had our flight left on time, we actually would have been rushed. We grabbed a bite to eat and just watched planes land and take off out of the window. At about 9:30, snow began to fall so heavily that you could not see very far anymore. We laughed that of course the snow would start now! Thankfully, it passed and our flight was bumped up to take off at 10:30. We were told that our earlier delay was because the plane needed some type of maintenance. Then, once the plane made it to the gate, we had to wait for the crew to arrive. We finally boarded and took our seats on a little plane that had two seats on one side of the aisle and one seat on the other side. My mom got the window seat because I wanted her to be able to see out of the window if she wanted to. I was really surprised how well my mom did on the flight.
(These are pictures of my mom and I on the plane! ... Hey, I never claimed to be serious all of the time, ok?)
It was only about an hour before we were landing in Chicago. Since we were only staying for the day, we had no luggage which made everything faster. We still had to go down to the baggage area and look for our driver with their CTCA sign. The hospital sends a limousine to pick up patients and take them back to the hospital or their hotel. We had to wait about 10 minutes for our driver, a woman, to arrive. She let us know that there were 2 other patients she was picking up also and each were on separate flights. We met up with an older man and also another woman. Through conversation, we learned they were both heading to CTCA for radiation... the woman would be staying 3 weeks and the man would be there 5 weeks. I have always wondered what it would be like to have to stay that long. You meet so many people, but it would be hard to be away from home so long. So my mom and I rode in the limo with the man and woman. At one point, I saw the man draw a smiley face on the frosted window and it made me laugh. Something small like that impacted me... he was headed to stay at the hospital for a month, yet he still had it in him to do what we all have done as kids... draw on the window!
We got to the hospital late but I was able to get in fairly quickly to have my port accessed and labs drawn. In the waiting room, my mom and I talked to a man who was there with his wife. His wife had been diagnosed with breast cancer like 20 some years ago and has had several other types of cancer along the way. Awhile back, her cancer had returned and tumors filled her body. Her scans at CTCA a few months prior showed her tumors were now gone. It was a neat conversation to have.
My blood work was drawn around 1:30. It takes about an hour to get the results processed and sent to my doctor so my mom and I had time to go down and get lunch in the cafeteria. After this, we headed back up to the waiting room. I saw my doctor getting coffee in the waiting area and he joked with me about arriving late. Not long after, I was taken back where my doctor's nurse went over my medications and looked at my hands to see how they were doing. I have said before that one of the main concerns of the chemotherapy pills I am on is Hand- Foot Syndrome which causes your hands and feet to become inflamed and cracked and peeled. The nurse commented on how great my hands looked, and took me in to see my doctor.
Right away by my doctors questions, I could tell he was going to try and increase my chemotherapy dosage. I thought that my blood work must have come back with higher tumor markers than my previous visit. I have to tell you that I think this was one of the strangest visits I have had with my doctor. Everything just seemed to be a little off, I don't know how to describe it any other way than that. He told me how concerned he was about my hands, which was confusing because my nurse had just commented on how great they looked. Not to mention that leading up to this particular appointment, I have felt great. I have been able to work out without any hand or feet problems. So to have him say he was concerned was frustrating. My CEA tumor marker had increased from 128 to 162.3. The tumor marker specific to breast cancer is called the CA 15-3. I don't talk much about this one because mine have always been normal. "Normal" is considered between 0 and 31 for this one, and I am usually around a 9 or 11. This time, it had jumped to a 27. I can usually take these tumor markers in stride without letting them get to me. But this time, I just really felt the enemy. I let him get to me for a bit. I started to wonder what was going on inside me that my doctor wasn't catching and the radiologist isn't reading on my scans. I started to worry with every pain, regardless of how minor. This was not like me.
I was scheduled for my 15 minute Zometa infusion, plus a Lupron shot which is designed to stop my ovaries from producing hormones which my type of cancer is sensitive to. During that infusion, I just could not wait to go home. I just needed out of there and time to think. The limo came to pick us up at 5 pm and our flight home was delayed a bit. We arrived back in Cleveland around 11:30 pm and Mike came to pick us up to take us home. He showed up in a silly hat, which made me laugh. It was good to be home.
I have scans scheduled for February 22, which is my next visit. Mike will probably go with me this time and we are thinking of flying again. The past couple of weeks I have done alot of self reflection. More so than I may have ever done before. I have been working out with my brother, Tommy since the beginning of the year. One of his Christmas presents to me was 3 weeks of personal training. I was excited to have the help and also to get to spend more time with him. When I was at CTCA, I was in the middle of my two week cycle of chemo pills. My doctor increased my dosage, which really discouraged me when it came to working out. His concern for my hands and feet made me wonder if I should back off from working out. When I got home, I started the increased dose and decided to continue working out to see how I would do. I would back off at the first signs my hands and feet were distressed, but I really wanted to continue trying. I have been told by my doctors that it may be best to avoid running and treadmills because of the friction on my feet. A goal I set when I started working out was to get to where I could run mile without stopping after two months of training. I have always been a walker...I can walk and walk. But I could never run. I was always an athlete, but for some reason, I could never just run a mile around the track. The day after I got home from my visit to CTCA, I was on my was to Tommy's to work out again. I was stopped at red light behind an SUV that had a breast cancer ribbon on its license plate and it said "FGHTBCK"... FIGHT BACK. I am not saying this was God, but maybe it was. Regardless, it was enough to make me sit and think at that red light. To fight means to do just that... Fight. Not give in. Not quit. Not back down. Fight. I got to Tommy's house and ran a full mile that night without stopping for the first time in my life. On the increased chemo dose and all. A few nights later, at that same stop light on my way over to his house to work out again, I was behind a van whose license plate had the same breast cancer ribbon on it. What are the chances of that? This license plate read: " CURED2X"... CURED 2 TIMES. Again, I am not saying it was God, but why couldn't it have been? It just gave me a lot of hope that night. Yesterday, Mike and I went to the gym and I used the treadmill. Would you believe that I was able to run 2 miles without stopping?! This may seem small to some, but to me it was a huge feat. I had only been training to do the one mile thing for 10 days before I was able to do it... 10 days after that I was able to run 2 miles. I was so proud of myself.
My self reflection has really continued, I guess as I continue to work out, more things come to the surface. I am so tired of limiting myself and holding back. It's not that I am going against my doctor's recommendations or being careless. I will be the first to take care of myself so that my treatments are not delayed. But I have always put my faith in Jesus and all of these "I can'ts" just seem to be putting limits on that faith. I am trusting God for healing. I can't explain what I feel adequately through the words I am typing on this screen. But I feel awakened. A part of me has been stirred that has never been before. I will not continue to put these limits on what God can do and wants to do in my life. There will always be things that hold us back in our lives. Cancer has robbed me of so much. But I have just begun to realize that is partly because I have allowed it. I have not truly begun to FIGHT BACK until now. I decided today to begin training for some type of marathon. It's something that I would love to know that I did, yet symbolizes a lot of things as well. With God's help, it's reclaiming ground that I feel was lost to me before. To show the doctors I can when they said I can't... when they said I shouldn't even be alive let alone running. God has amazing things in store. Stay tuned!
There is a really great song by Kutlass called "What Faith Can Do". It's perfect for the season I am in right now.
Click here to listen to it!
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