December 7, 2007

One day last week I was driving in my car and I passed a church that regularly posts catchy phrases or verses on their sign out front. That day, it simply said "Read Psalm 105:1-5" This stuck in my head throughout that day, but I somehow forgot to read it. On our drive out to CTCA, I asked if my mom had her little Bible in her purse. I always pack mine, but it was in my suitcase and I could not get to it. She had hers, but I realized it was too dark at that point to try and look it up in the car. The first half of our trip we went through some pretty heavy rain. This makes it difficult to see, especially in the dark and with the semi trucks continuously spraying dirty water onto the windshield. Elkhart, Indiana is about halfway between home and CTCA, so we usually try and stop there to take a break and get dinner. After we stopped, the rest of the ride was free from the rain so it was much easier. The hospital makes our hotel reservations for us, so all we have to do is check in when we get there. We are typically on the third floor each time we stay, and the rooms are very nice and clean. They have a microwave and a refrigerator so it is nice to be able to keep cold water and some snacks with us.  On the first floor is a lobby area where they have free soup and coffee and tea. There is a fireplace and a television with a computer (that is how I can still get my emails when I am there.) This particular hotel is only a few miles from the hospital and it seems like the majority of guests are patients at the hospital. There is almost always a group of people talking about they cancer they have and how they came to seek treatment at CTCA.

If you remember the last time we made the trip out, I had said that my mom had a cold. I thought I was going to get by without catching it, but a few days before we were to leave to go again, I could tell I was finally getting it. The trip down I was sneezing and I was really congested. I had hoped that I did not have a fever, as I was not sure how they would progress with the treatment in that case.

We got up on Monday morning at the hotel, my mom went down to get breakfast while I showered. She always wakes up earlier than I do. I had her bring me an apple and just before we set out for the hospital, I was reminded again to read Psalm 105:1-5. I got out my Bible and read: Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known among the nations what he has done. Sing praise to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts. Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgements he pronounced," I decided that this is the attitude I needed to have for this trip, and I knew that is why God kept reminding me to read this passage.

I will tell you what a typical visit consists of. Around 9:00, I check in at the front desk. They put an identification bracelet on my arm with my name, birth date, my doctor's name, and my id #. Then, I go to the Return Patient Clinic on the second floor and sign in there. Shortly after, a nurse takes my vital signs: my blood pressure, temperature, weight, and oxygen level in my blood. Despite not feeling well, I had no temperature! That was good news. From there, I go back to the waiting room until I am called back again. Armed with Kleenex and Purell, I went back out to sit with my mom. We also bring a handheld electronic Yahtzee game and have some pretty serious competitions with each other while we wait! I am then called back again to have what they call a port access. The port I have is on the left side of my chest and it is all under the skin. You can feel it there, but you cannot see it. The nurse has to put on a sterile gown and mask on her face, and I have to wear a mask as well before they can start. They insert 2 needles into my port through my chest. They are able to draw my blood work from this and also give me my treatment. This is not a pain free process, but this time was much easier than the first time I had to have it done. The IVs stay in until my 2 day treatment is complete and then they are removed until I come back. I meet with one more nurse to go over any side effects I had, questions on medications, and they list all of the supplements I am on (which is over 20 a day!). Then it is time to see the doctor. I have been seeing my doctor's assistant the last two times I have gone out. She met me in the waiting room with a big hug for both me and my mom! She asked about our Thanksgiving and I told her I did not feel very well for it. You would not believe the extent they will go to in order to help you feel better. She said it was not good that I am down for a whole week, and she spent an hour with us just trying to think of other options. I guess sometimes you just take the sickness as a normal side effect, but they are determined to make me feel better as well. She answered lots of my questions and really made my mom and I feel like we were the only people she had to see that day! I inquired about what would happen at the end of the 6 cycles I am having (I just completed #4). She said I would have a scan done after the holidays to determine if the tumors were gone, smaller, stable, or worse. In any case, I will more than likely have an additional 6 cycles over 12 weeks, making it 12 cycles total. If the tumors are stable or worse, they would change the treatment, but if they were smaller or even gone, they may stay with the same treatment. So I am still looking at a few more months of this. I feel very confident in my doctors there. I know they are being aggressive in order to save my life.

From the doctor's office, I go to the third floor infusion center to start my 7 hour treatment. One thing the doctor recommended that I try was acupuncture. I don't really know anything about it or how it works, but thought it was worth a try. They have someone available to do this as you receive treatment, so that is what I did. They recommended using c bands on your wrists, which have a little magnet in them. They are used sailors and pregnant women to control motion sickness. I am still wearing them, and surprisingly, I have not gotten sick at all since I have been home. I have only needed my medication a couple of times. I am so thankful for all of the prayers specifically for this, especially for the holidays! My cold is also almost completely gone.

I was really thankful, too, for the people I got to meet and talk to on this trip. I am not embarrassed to walk around without my hat on. I think a bald head is a great conversation starter! People still comment to me that I am so young to be there, or so young to have this disease, and I told my mom that is because I am not a statistic. I never have been and I refuse to let this make me one. I will continue to seek my Savior's face, tell of His works, and remember the miracles He has done. That is how I will beat this.

The weather coming home was a bit tricky. Chicago was getting a snowstorm right around the time we were heading home. We could not go faster than 10mph through Chicago, and no more than about 40 mph after that. It took us 4 hours to go what should have taken 2 hours. We passed two overturned semi trucks on the side of the road and one car in a ditch. Knowing we would not make it all the way home, we decided to stop. The hotel was definitely not the greatest, but God kept us safe and continues to give us a sense of humor. We started home Wednesday morning, and hit a couple of white outs in Ohio, but finally made it home safe around 1:30. The weather could be a challenge in the upcoming months, especially if I have to go every two weeks until April. Please continue to pray for our safety in driving, and of course for my upcoming scan... we want good news!

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