September 8, 2006

Well, it is nearing the one year mark of the day I was diagnosed. I have been going to the hospital every three weeks for almost a full year. Because I had the type of breast cancer that was fed off of hormones, I am on a fairly new treatment called Herceptin. It is a drug that is given through an IV over an hour an a half every three weeks. It is recommended that patients remain on this for a year, so that is the regimen I am on. I don't have any side effects from this so the only nuisances are that I have horrible veins and having an IV started can sometimes take up to an hour and several different nurses, and also just being sleepy the rest of the day. The nurses give me Benedryl before hand to prevent any type of allergic reaction to the Herceptin. I had a treatment this past Tuesday, the 5th. I only go one more time, on the 26th of this month. That will be the one year anniversary for me. The next day is my wedding anniversary. I remember last year, I felt so bad that was how we spent our two year anniversary. I arrived at the hospital at 8:30 on the morning of my first treatment, September 26, 2005. I was hooked to an IV until 6:30 that night, a full 10 hours. Mike was right there with me. For my next treatment, we borrowed a portable dvd player from Tommy and Jenn, but it wouldn't stay charged. Mike went out to Circuit City just down the road from the hospital and purchased one. He bought two sets of headphones, one for each of us so that we could watch movies to make the time go by without disturbing anyone else there. I will never forget sitting in my chair, hooked to my IV, and Mike sitting next to me in his little chair. We sat there and laughed out loud for hours at the movies we watched. We tried to make light of every part of this journey, and I am so thankful that Mike was there for me through this. We have had a rough couple of years, already facing things most couples never have to go through, but we are better for having gone through it. 

On September 23, 2005, my mom took me to the hospital to have my scheduled bone scan at 6:30 am. This would show if the cancer had spread to any of my bones. I was nervous for this test, because it would be a whole different fight if it had spread. I went in to radiology and received a shot that had radioactive material in it. This would have to circulate in my body for two and a half hours before the test could be administered. When we went back in to the hospital, it was about 9:00 am. When we sat down in the waiting room, there was a Bible open and face down on the end table. Out of curiosity, my mom picked it up to see what verse it was open to. It was open to Psalm 103. She said she felt like God was telling to read this chapter the day before, and she had put it off. It was as if God had put it there on that table just for us. Psalm 103:2-5 says " Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits- who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagles." I held onto this verse during my bone scan. Everything came out clear. This was the first verse I thought of when Jeff was placed in room 103 at the hospice house. 

I remember hoping that my hair would not fall out.  Sure enough, my hair and eyelashes began to fall out on October 10. Mike was out of town the day it started, and I remember calling him and crying. Anyone who knew me when I was growing up will remember that I had hair down to my waist. I always felt like my hair had been my defining feature, and here it was, coming out in my hands. On October 20, I asked Mike to shave my head. We set up a chair in our kitchen, and turned the radio on in the next room to 95.5 The Fish. When Jeff was first diagnosed, I heard the song "You raise me up" by Selah, and I remember feeling like that was God's song for Jeff. As I sat down in that chair in my kitchen, and Mike began shaving my head, I had mixed emotions. We had fun doing it, I think he was taking advantage of a once in a lifetime opportunity of being able to cut my hair any way he wanted! But just as I started to let it sink in what was happening, and how sick I really was, "You raise me up" came on the radio. I really felt like that was God's way of giving me a hug right when I needed it.

Use the control to listen to You Raise Me Up by Selah

When Mike finished shaving my head, he let me shave his too. (Click here to see pictures)

I was told before I started treatment that there would be a 25% chance that it would leave me unable to have children. We met with a fertility doctor to see about our options before my treatments began. We prayed for God's guidance and that he would only open the doors that were right for us. We learned that we really had no other options other than to leave it in God's hands because it was not wise to delay chemotherapy. I prayed that God would protect me and that the treatments would only be used for  good. On September 16, I found out my little Chihuahua Annie Belle was going to have puppies by my other dog, Tike. Tike is half Lab, half Border Collie (I know, I didn't think it was possible either!) On October 9th, Annie had four healthy puppies, literally right in my lap. I remember Mike's Aunt Laura telling me how neat she thought it was that God gave me a sign of life, right there in front of me. (Click here to see pictures) It turns out that I am still perfectly healthy, and that the treatments did not harm me at all. I really took something so simple as my dog having puppies, and praised God for the life He had given. My brother Tommy and his wife Jenn are expecting their second little girl in just over 3 months. One of the neatest things is that Jenn is due right on Jeff's birthday, December 15. I believe that this is another sign of life, specifically for Jeff.

I had my one year exam and check up and I am free and clear of cancer. One year ago, I felt like I was at the scariest point in my life. I am thankful to still be here, and to be a better person for having gone through it.

Jeff got an email the other day, and I just wanted to share part of it. It was a forward that I am sure was sent to lots of people, but I really thought it was neat and it has stayed with me since I read it. To summarize it, it said, the next time you want to feel like you are in the center of God's will, go the center of His word. The very center verse of the Bible, smack dab in the middle, is Psalm 118:8 "It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man." This was the verse that God gave me, and I gave to Jeff when he was moved to room 118 in the hospice house. It is little things like that that make me believe that God is in control and that He has not left.

Jeff's condition is stable. Physically, he has limitations but mentally he is still himself. He was able to get into a wheelchair on Monday and go with Gwen and the kids to the zoo. That was the first time Jeff has been out since June. (Click here to see pictures) We are thankful for God's hand and his faithfulness. I keep thinking about the day at the Cleveland Clinic when we had singing and worship in Jeff's room. I will never forget hearing Jeff sing "I'm alive and well, Your spirit is within me, Because you died and rose again". I am still praying for the day that Jeff stands up and walks out of that building. It can happen, I still have faith.

God has opened the door and provided a way for the kids to go to school. This has lifted the responsibility off of Gwen. However, Gwen takes the kids to and from school every day from the hospice house, which is 40 minutes there and 40 minutes back twice a day. There is a financial need for help in paying for gas. If you are wanting to help, I know Jeff and Gwen would appreciate gas cards. Also, with the kids being in school, they are bringing germs home! Jeff has a bit of a cold, so prayer for this would also be appreciated. So many people have reached out to help our family. Sometimes it feels like we are in the middle of this circle of people and prayer, providing a hedge of protection. We pray that God would bless you all the way that He has blessed us.

Click here to see more pictures of the Jeff, Gwen, and the kids

Click here to see more pictures of our family

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