Friday, October 9, 2015

Grandma D update October 2015

It has been a while since I updated everyone on Mom's progress. She recovered well after her mastectomy in August. Since that time she has had two more "big" chemo treatments, her latest (and hopefully last) was on Tuesday. She had an allergic reaction to the final drug, but luckily she and a friend realized it before she got the full dosage. They stopped that drug, pumped her with benedryl, fluids, and steroids and all was well (as well as can be following chemo). She's feeling pretty tired and worn down, but with the hope that this was the final treatment, she also feels optimistic. She will have to continue herceptin treatments until about next May, but she's been told the side effects won't knock her down the way these past treatments have. She will have a hysterectomy in November and after she heals from that she'll working her way back up to her super Grandma D strength.

I'm learning October can be a tough month for those with cancer. You can't look anywhere without a pink reminder staring back at you. For some it's a reminder of their prognosis, recent diagnosis, or a loved one they lost to breast cancer. Mom was diagnosed the week of Mother's Day. Do you know how many "feel good" stories are about moms and cancer during Mother's Day week? A lot. And for a daughter facing the unknown, each story seemed to bring sadness for me, not hope. I can only guess that October is much the same. And for people dealing with other types of cancer, it's a reminder that their illness is not getting the public's attention, and therefore possibly research dollars, as their mammary counterpart. I can make many a critique of the "pink movement" and various companies that use it as a marketing and PR tool that doesn't actually give money towards helping cancer patients. And I have to be honest that I don't know what to do with that discomfort in all the companies that profit off of this illness that is mixed with the connection I feel with my mom when I put on my "Volley for the Cure" tshirt last night. Or how proud my kids were when they wore their pink socks to school yesterday, the ones Grandma D gave them at our Christmas in August.

For today, that discomfort makes me become aware of where my dollars are going when I contribute to something related to any type of cancer (making sure the money is going to help actual people or that it is fully going to cancer research). It makes me aware of the people for whom the pink ribbon doesn't bring hope. Yet it also makes me thankful for the research and progress that has been made, however small. We didn't know it at the time, but mom was Stage III with an estrogen positive and HER-2 positive tumor. The chemo concoction that shrunk the tumor was only very recently (within the past year) approved for use. My true hope is that more actual dollars can go into research for finding cures for all types and stages of cancer...that is my grown up October wish.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Post-surgical update...GREAT NEWS!

Just over a week ago mom underwent a double mastectomy after 4 rounds of chemo. Her recovery after surgery has been amazing...due in part to the people that stopped in for a visit, brought meals, and helped out in other ways. Seriously, every time I called to check on her someone was there visiting or someone else had brought a casserole. It meant a lot to her and really kept her spirits up. All the help also helped me feel better since I was far away and wanted to be there to help, it meant a lot to Dad because he had to go back to work after the first few days, and it really helped Jacque who was trying to make sure mom's ladies were well taken care of while she was also checking in on Mom.

Today Mom had her follow up appointment with the surgeon. The tumor itself had shrunk and from what we understand there was no sign of cancer left...meaning the chemo drugs did what they were supposed to do. They are still waiting on results from the lymph nodes, but overall the report is the best we could have hoped for. After she recovers from surgery it sounds like she will have radiation and continue with one of her chemo drugs. But overall the report is positive.

Thank you for all the prayers, casseroles, visits, acts of services, cards, kind words, and general support. We are excited that she is recovering so well. The Greene family is headed her way on Wednesday and we are all looking forward to some much needed family time. We haven't all been together since Christmas.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Grandma D's Cancer Treatment Update

Jacque & I have both been having problems logging back in to the CaringBridge website to update the journal about mom's treatment, and we know a few others have been as well. I decided I'd use my blog to do the updating going forward.

Mom (aka Grandma D) received her fourth round of chemo on Wednesday. Each session leaves her a little more fatigued than the last. She hasn't gotten "sick", but definitely loses her appetite. But the great news is it seems the tumor has responded to the chemo and has shrunk significantly. Her oncologist determined she's ready for the next August 10 she's scheduled for a double mastectomy. She'll likely have some type of follow up treatment once she heals from the surgery.

Again, thank you everyone for your prayers, cards, and support in other ways. We (the Greene's) are hoping to be able to go back to Iowa toward the end of August before school starts. The kids haven't seen Grandma since she began treatment. Jac's family has been helping Grandma D, and Jacque has been taking care of mom's ladies during her recovery days.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The danger in polish

“Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go.” This is my usual chant every Sunday morning. I’m usually the last one flying out the door, often not ever being fully “ready.” My husband tells me I’m late because I plan on being late. I (usually) bite my tongue and think “I’m the one making sure everyone else is getting ready.”

Or I tried to fit in a quick game of Scramble with Friends.

Either way, I’m usually not early. Usually not fully put together. And often my kids can be seen in sweat pants or mismatched ensembles. We usually are not Christmas card perfect on a Sunday morning. Especially on the drive to church (can I get an Amen?)

A few weeks ago I was running especially behind and I decided my half put together self would have to be okay once again. As I flew into the van I noticed my husband still had a bleeding chin from an early morning shaving accident. As we drove to church I was trying to get the bleeding to stop. As we pulled into the parking lot with minutes to spare I proclaimed “you cannot go into church like that” (that being bleeding profusely). I searched my purse for a band aid. All I could find was a large purple band aid. My triage mind thought a) we go inside and he just keeps wiping away the bleeding, b) I throw on the big purple Band-Aid, or c) we run home so I can get some proper equipment to stop the bleeding. Even in my half put-together state, a purple Band-Aid to the face did not sound like a viable option.

So by the time husband was all patched up we were late. Really late. And half put together. We were a frustrated quartet. And slightly embarrassed.

I often wonder about the pressures of Sunday morning. Not just the pressure to get out of our pajamas and tame the bed head, but the pressure to walk in to church like everything is okay. We often put on the appearance that all is well, inside and out.  That fa├žade does more than just make church a place where we strive to keep up with the Jones’s. It makes it a place where it’s difficult to be real with the stuff in your life.

Church can be a lonely place to be when walking through a dark time. Maybe it’s a prodigal child or spouse, an addiction, a mental illness, a job loss, abuse, financial distress, broken relationships, doubts…the list could go on. But there are so many areas where it’s really hard to reach out and share our stuff when that stuff carries with it a stigma. Going through cancer with a loved one is hard, real hard. But within the church you’ll usually have no shame in putting your loved one on a prayer list or organizing meals for the family. Yet if your loved one is struggling with a mental illness, the stigma that would cause others to shy away from you or your loved one often ensures such struggles are endured in silence and isolation.

We often want to just cling to the polished side of ourselves. Jesus chastised the scribes and Pharisees: “For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness” (Matthew 23:27, NASB). We worship the polished version of ourselves, a polished version of the church, yet often fail to acknowledge that both within our own lives and the life of the church, there is brokenness. It makes us uncomfortable to acknowledge that life is far from rainbows and unicorns. It may cause us to question our faith or admit that we really don't have all the answers when we deal with some of the messes in life that are not easily cleaned up. We don’t fully carry out Matthew 9:12: “’It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick.’”

Jesus came to heal the sick. We often forget that Church is a hospital. Sometimes we are well and God allows us to be caregivers for the sick. Sometimes we are the sick in need of medicine or simply someone to sit and hold our hand.

Often I am both.