Thursday, May 21, 2009

Jumbled Hurdles




Happy.  No, ecstatic.  Giddy, even.



I could list even more emotions -- all of which I have felt today.  

I knew my last chemo treatment would arrive and that it would bring with it the conflict of feelings.  

I knew it.

And yet I was totally unprepared.

Unprepared for the shakiness as I sat in the lab chair waiting for my port to be accessed.

Unprepared to have tears as I talked with nurse Katherine.  

Unprepared for the panic rising.  Literally rising.

Unprepared for the sadness as I realized I won't be able to follow Denny, the man who, -- in January, was given 10 weeks to live.  Or Eleanor.  The Russians.  The young girls, both of whom are probably barely 20.  

Unprepared for the surprise of the nurses -- "what?  today is your last treatment?  You're not doing more herceptin?  Aren't you coming for the weekly 1 year herceptin treatment?"

Unprepared for the second guessing of my decision to participate in the clinical trial.

Unprepared for more tears.  After treatment was finished, nurse Katherine said to me "o.k., when you get up and get your things together, I am going to give you a hug".  So, I get up, hobble to the bathroom, go in and shut the door, and immediately burst into tears.

Unprepared to deal with myself and all this crying.  Oh my goodness.  Wipe away the tears, give myself a verbal lashing -- "pull yourself together, Drenda".  Go back out, hug nurse Katherine, and more tears.  Not sobbing, but the silent tear rolling down the cheek type of crying.  Those eyes/tears ducts are not under my control apparently.

Since December 18th, my life has been chemo. 

Chemo and  its side effects.

I now move on into another unknown.  Knowledge, good and bad, in some ways equals safety. 

But now I feel unsafe.

Unsafe and unprepared.

Unprepared, even though the consent form for the clinical trial was 24 pages of possible side effects.  That is, supposedly, preparation.  That is a lot of side effects, I must say.
I am still unprepared.  

But I am just as happy and excited.

Because I have stayed the course.  

I have jumped one of the major hurdles of breast cancer treatment -- and I didn't fall.  I clipped that hurdle a few times, I hit it with my feet or my legs as I jumped.  But I did jump, and I cleared that hurdle.

There were times that I didn't think I'd make it.  I didn't think I could continue one more day, one more hour, one more minute, one more hot flash or one more night laying awake with severe bone aches.  

But I did.  

I made it.  And I think it is fair to say that I came through chemotherapy with flying colors. 

Jerry would agree.  I know he would.

God has protected me.  My immune system is compromised due to the chemo.  And yet, there have been times when Ellie was very ill, times when Don has been quite ill, people at work sick with coughs and colds, and I have been protected.  No colds.  No illness.  Even with all that illness around me, my blood counts have remained in the "safe" low levels.

I will focus on the excitement.  

I will focus on the achievement.  

I AM stronger because of chemotherapy.  

And I WILL be courageous as I face the next steps.  


Monday, May 18, 2009

Six Months

Six months.

One half of a year.

Six short months.

A lifetime.

And yet, just a few short weeks, really.

In some ways, I have come so far.

In other ways, I have not progressed at all.

Some days, it is two steps forward, one (or three) steps backward. But I AM stepping. There is something to be said for that. I did not completely curl up in a ball and retreat. Not completely.

I just read my cousin Hollace's blog. One entry entitled "Good words are good things". She stresses that we should focus on the positive, on the good, and not be weighed down by the negative. 

So, I will list the good of the past six months, the things and people I am eternally grateful for:

I have been overwhelmed.

Overwhelmed with love.





My God. I call Him "my" God because He is known to me. Not because I have "my" God and you have "yours". There is only One. And it is He.

My husband. He is amazing. Cancer has only proven, again, what a great and wonderful man he is. 

My family.

My friends.

My church family. 

My work friends.

Acquaintances that follow my journey through my blog, on facebook, or through others.

Fellow cancer survivors, some complete strangers, who speak words of encouragement just because they remember.

The Palm Spring Girl Friends. None of whom I have ever met.


So, there is a common thread through most of the good. 

That thread is people. 

People who take time to put action to their care and concern. Action of calling. Sending a card. Praying for me. Crying with me. Lifting me up. Encouraging me. Cheering me on. Propping me up when I am collapsing. Cooking dinners for my freezer. Leaving a comment or short message on facebook. 

This is not a journey I would ever want to take alone. O.k....it is not a journey I would ever want to take at all.

But I didn't get to choose, and I am on the journey. And so very thankful that I am accompanied along the road by people who love me and care for me and have made the effort, some over and over, to make sure I remember that they are there.

Thank you. 

Because I hate being alone on road trips.

Friday, May 15, 2009


"Courage is being scared to death -- but saddling up anyway." John Wayne

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the one thing you think you cannot do." Eleanor Roosevelt

Oh my goodness. Is it possible to be courageous and be "saddled up", but still scared to death? 


Scared of death? 


Is it possible to gain strength, courage and confidence by looking fear in the face, and still being scared to death? 


I know.

Because I am.

I am "saddled up"...on the breast cancer bucking bronco.

I am stopped and looking fear in the face.

I am doing the one thing I thought I could not do.  I am fighting cancer.

I am gaining strength, courage, and confidence.

But I am still scared to death.

And scared of death.

Looking fear in the face is a daily process. A moment to moment process.

I have learned that just because I look fear in the face, stare fear in the face, glare at fear in its face, it doesn't go away for long. Sometimes not at all.

I will keep staring at that monster called fear.

I will keep glaring at that monster.

And I will win.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Stop Talking Already


The Happiest Place on Earth.

I was riding as a single rider on Toy Story - the arcade ride/game. As soon as I got in the "car" and sat down, I took off my hat. Whew. It was hot and sunny out, so my head was hot and sweaty. The woman I was sitting with immediately asked me if I had cancer.


"Breast cancer?"


"I am a three year survivor!"

Turns out her cancer was later stage, but the same type as I have. She was so happy that I was in Disneyland..."I came here in mid-treatment, too! But my husband had to push me around in a wheelchair".

She asked about my treatment, and this is where I gave too much information. Too much scary information.

I told her about the clinical trial with lapatinib. I told her about the HER-2 neu cancer going to the brain. I told her herceptin doesn't cross into the brain.

I told too much.

Because she was obviously shaken.

Because she didn't know about the brain connection.

Because she didn't want to be scared by cancer again. I could tell.

Too late.

As I walked away and lost sight of her in the crowd, and ever since, I have felt terrible. Here this woman reached out to encourage me, and I frightened her.

Shut up, Drenda.

Close your mouth.

Stop talking already.

Join Team Strong and Courageous...

RACE FOR THE CURE - Walking for Drenda
STRONG AND COURAGEOUS is looking for walkers of all ages!
Join the team "STRONG AND COURAGEOUS" on September 20, 2009 in an untimed 5k walk to help raise money for the cure. (We're listed as a friends and family team.)

The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation: Oregon and SW Washington Affiliate - Race for the Cure®
Source: www.komenoregon.org