My sweet angel

My sweet angel

Friday, November 14, 2014

Cancer Sucks...

Everyone knows this.  But not everyone knows what it's like to live with it.  You try to base decisions for your future thinking everything will be okay.  Really, whether you admit it or not, in the back of your mind, you don't know how far to plan.  Do you plan for 10 years, 5 years, 1 year, 1 month?  Of course this should be how everyone thinks, but we all know it's not.  Until you're faced with something that wants to kill you every day, do you really have any idea what it feels like?  And is every little ache and pain more cancer?  This is how I think now.  This is how I will think forever.

I know the statistics are ever changing, and to not look at them.  It's hard not too.  Stage 4 cancer is stage 4 cancer, and your odds aren't great.  Lung is the largest killer, but I'm not going to harp on that, even though it's Lung Cancer Awareness Month and this cancer is grossly underfunded.

Instead, I'm trying to figure out how far I want to try and plan my future.  I'm so sick and tired of the wait game of "every 3 months to see if it's still stable or spread".  Of course everyone says, "live in the moment" which I do for the most part, but living in the moment doesn't get you far if you're going to be around for a while.  But am I?  I've always been a planner, and the past two years have been a nightmare that I know is never going to end.

And to be quite honest, I'm scared.  After my last incident in October, I realized that I don't have much family here (blood related that is).  I am not sure all of the choices I've made and I'm going to make are the right ones for Karley and me.  I can only trust in God to give me peace with my decisions.  Miss Independent is forever gone and I don't recognize this person that's replaced her.  I'm not sure I even like her that much because she doesn't just depend on God, she's become too dependent on other people.  That has never been me.  It's getting to me lately, a lot.  I no longer feel like I have my own life.  I don't know how to put into words how much this disease has changed me, some ways it has been a good change and some ways bad.

Money is always tight and I'm tired of fighting insurance companies.  Oh, and I got my new estimated premium for mine and Karley's insurance, which quadrupled.  I can't even afford all of my bills now!  How am I ever going to afford this too?

Thank you all for your continuous prayers and listening to my petty ranting and pity party I'm throwing over here.   I haven't posted as much as I should for Lung Cancer Awareness Month because I have been in a funk.  All of these little galas take place on the West Coast and North East and survivors get to meet and have so much fun, but if you live far away, you don't hear about them or they don't exist.  Plus, I'm struggling to pay for everyday necessities.  I only wish I had the financial ability to do things like this.  So, it's disheartening.  I'll be better next blog, so please don't think I'm all depressed.  I mean, I have drugs for that people!

If you really want to give to lung cancer, go to your local cancer research institute and ask them how to donate to lung cancer.   That way you know it's going to research instead of a non-profit CEO's bank account.

Finally, please pray for Tina Roberts and family.  John Roberts recently passed away.  He was one of the first people to talk to me about this terrible new normal and lead me to different social media outlets to meet others.  RIP John, our "good morning man".  Also, please pray for my friend Amanda and her family.  She's lost someone very close to her and is continuing to struggle to help another (due to a car accident).  And pray for Molly Golbon, she is my carbon copy warrior on the West Coast.  Her husband Arash keeps me informed on her condition.

And one last thing, before writing this blog, I saw that Diem Brown passed away at 34 to cancer.  For those of you who don't know this person, she was a reality TV star on MTV's the Challenge.  She began fighting cancer at 23.  It came back for a 3rd time in her stomach and colon and finally took her too soon this morning.  I watched her on these challenges, each time thinking how amazing she was for overcoming the cancer every time it came back.  Maybe that's why I'm a little sad and scared today.  She was the picture of health and cancer took her at 34.

Cancer will always be with me.  It sucks.  I hate it so much for those who have lost loved ones and those that continue to fight.

The verse I leave you with is one for those, like me, who are somewhat lost in this world.  Not knowing what to do.  I have to remind myself of this quite often.  Today is one of those days.  I also threw in some photos.  The first being our annual Thanksgiving Feast at Karley's school, the next two are from the fair last week, and the last is just one I came across online that everyone should see.  Until next time, God bless you all, and thank you for your prayers.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make straight your paths.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

I'm Still Here...November

Monday this week, I got out of the shower and got terribly dizzy.  So much so, that I vomited on my couch, in the kitchen, and finally the bathroom before collapsing.  I was home alone.  Karley was at school (which I'm grateful for).  I managed to close one eye and see my phone with the other.  I called Karleys dad to come help me.  He arrived within 10 minutes and called 911 for me.

I live on the third floor of a condo.  This isn't easy for paramedics.  They tried to get me to sit in a chair to carry me to the ambulance but that just made me vomit more.  Finally, John just carried me down the 3 flights of stairs to the ambulance.  He had to pick Karley up, and we didn't want to scare her so decided not to tell her what was going on.   Did I mention I only had a robe on?  How embarrassing!  

Once in the ambulance, the paramedic tried to start an IV.  I know my veins pretty well now so tried to tell him the size to use.  He didn't listen and blew a vein and never could get it started.  Additionally, there was no air.  After being so sick, I needed air.  

Stephen met me at the hospital and we were there for 9 hours.  After an EKG, CT scan, and ultrasound, it was decided that I had vertigo from the chemo pills.  I literally couldn't walk.  It was terrifying and not something I ever want to experience again. My oncologist and I have decided to reduce my dosage.  I've been on the highest dosage for nearly 2 years.  I guess my body is tired of it.  

After some great pain meds and more meds for dizziness and nausea, I was discharged.  The vertigo was  better but did last another day.  Luckily I had the meds.  Stephen helped out so much and my mom drove down to help out too.  I'm feeling much better now but my voice is still not back to normal. We had our couch professionally cleaned and told Karley I had a stomach virus.  No point in making her think the cancer had anything to do with the whole incident.  

I'm grateful to have such a great support system.  Thank you all for your continuous prayers and support.  They mean so much.  Yesterday was my birthday and I am eternally thankful that I was able to celebrate another one.  In the beginning, I didn't think it was possible.  Now I know, with Him, all things are possible.  

Yesterday was also Halloween so I'll throw in some pictures before I finish. 

Today is an important day.  It is officially Lung Cancer Awareness month.  Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths among both men and women. With a mere 15% 5 year survival rate (for all stages), it's past time we get this cancer the funding it so badly needs.  I'll be posting more blogs this month.  Not only because it's Lung Cancer Awareness month, but because Thanksgiving marks my 2 year cancerversary!  And there is no doubt that I'm thankful.  

Please keep our family in your prayers.  Also, please pray for our dear friends Tina and Jon Roberts and the family of my best friend, Amanda Davis.  Thank you all so much and God Bless!

1 Thessalonians 5:18
"give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you"

Friday, October 24, 2014

Learning to Fly

Lately, every time I go to a restaurant or other establishment, I hear this song by Tom Petty written in 1991.  I always loved the song, but now, it has a whole new meaning.  The thing about music is that in can be interpreted any way you want.  In the beginning, I always thought this song was more about drugs.   Now, it has a whole new meaning.  I'll put the lyrics and a link to the video below.  It's the lyrics that have hit so close to home.

"Learning To Fly"

Well I started out down a dirty road
Started out all alone
And the sun went down as I crossed the hill
And the town lit up, the world got still

I'm learning to fly, but I ain't got wings
Coming down is the hardest thing

Well the good ol' days may not return
And the rocks might melt and the sea may burn


Well some say life will beat you down
Break your heart, steal your crown
So I've started out for God knows where
I guess I'll know when I get there

I'm learning to fly, around the clouds
But what goes up must come down


So, as you can see, I think every cancer patient can relate.  We all started out down a dirty road and thought we were alone.  We have to relearn how to live, a different way.  "But the good ole days, may not return", means our lives have been changed forever.  We don't necessarily have the same opportunities we used to, but we don't we have to stay down.  We can "learn to fly, around the clouds".  We can learn to live with this illness we have, and still be happy.  

"Well some say life will beat you down, Break your heart, steal your crown".  No kidding!  This song to me is about losing a life we can never get back.   But we learn to deal with it.   We get back up, and we keep going.  It's about acceptance of our situation, no matter what it is.  I think Tom Petty is pretty much a genius, regardless of what the original meaning of the song is.  It's one of my all time favorites.  Just had to share.  I hope we can all Learn to Fly, even if we don't have wings...

God bless!  

Ecclesiastes 3:1
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

More Results, I'm an Aunt, and all things good

So much to get out without boring you all.  So, first things first.

Karley got her blue belt at The Brick.  We were so very proud.  She also got one B and all As on her progress report.  She couldn't be doing better.  She's overcome so much.  She still has a way to go, but she's come so far.  We thank God every day for watching over our little angel.

The next day my sister started  having contractions and I had to leave to go to Atlanta for some tests.  For the first time ever, my sister and I were in hospital beds at the same time, just in different states.  On 10/14/14, I became an aunt to such a sweet and beautiful little girl, Sarah Catherine Moore.   Congratulations to Patrick and Brook Moore.  We couldn't be happier!

I missed it because Brook delivered 3 weeks early and I had scheduled my appts earlier in the month to make it.  Murphy's Law.  My parents were in NC and unable to help through my appts this time.  Luckily, I was blessed to have Stephen and Amanda there.  It was rough.

But, the good news: my colonoscopy and annual MRI both came back clear!  Stephen and I got to have lunch with Jonathan and Robyn Hicks after my appointments on Wednesday.  Jonathan is also a Stage 4 Lung Cancer survivor and is working on a short indie film, Nirvana.  The film covers, from his personal experience, the emotions felt by a cancer patient in the beginning.  His wife, Robyn, is the main character.  They are great people!

We got back Thursday and yesterday was the fall festival at Oglethorpe Point Elementary.  We went with some friends and had a great time.

Now we are looking forward to tomorrow for the St. Baldrick's event at Ocean Lodge in honor of one of Karley's school mates, Alexa.  Go Team Alexa!  Karley will be selling wristbands. So, those in the St. Simons area, come on out to Ocean Lodge at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow.  It's for a good cause.  (I heard a few teachers will be shaving their heads!)

Donation link for Team Alexa

Thank you all for your continuous prayers and please don't stop.  They are working!   Please also pray for Alexa, my friend Molly who has upcoming scans, and Jon & Tina Roberts.  Jon has been so courageous as our "good morning" friend throughout this cancer journey.  I just hope he is resting well and do miss him.

Isaiah 41:10
"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous hand."

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Changing the Face of Lung Cancer

Before I got my petscan results, I had the pleasure of representing Team Draft, along with Jackie Archer, for the Falcons alumni game against Tampa Bay.  I guess you could call it a game (56-14 w).  Go Falcons!

For those of you who are unaware, Jackie Archer is a Stage III life long non smoker lung cancer survivor that advocated, along with former NFL player, Chris Draft to get the Georgia "Lung Cancer Matters" license plate signed into law.

Chris Draft co-founded "Team Draft", along with his wife, Keasha Rutledge Draft, on November 27, 2011.  It's ironic I was diagnosed November 27, 1012.  Sadly, she passed away of the dreadful disease a month after their marriage.  She was only 38 and in picture perfect health until lung cancer came along.  Don't think you are safe because you don't smoke or are's simply not true.

Now, Chris Draft spends his time advocating for lung cancer awareness and relentlessly showing the world what real lung cancer patients look like.  He shows us that anyone with lungs can get lung cancer.  If you didn't know I had lung cancer, would you ever really think that I did?

I met him last year after an ad I did for Piedmont Hospital.  Since then, I've looked up to him due to his dedication and continuous drive to change the face of lung cancer.  When it seems hopeless, he will give you the hope to keep going.  I'm very thankful to have met him and to recently meet Jackie.  Also, thank you Sharon for hosting us in the suite!  We had a great time.

Beginning in November, we will be promoting a Super Bowl Challenge, so stay tuned for details.  In the meantime, go "Like" Team Draft.  Here are a few photos from the game.  We had a great time.   I got to attend with one of my oldest friends, Ron, as well as my little sister, Brook, and her husband, Patrick.  Maybe next time Karley can go again.

Once again, thank you Chris, Jackie, and Sharon for your hospitality.  And thank all of you, including my family and friends, for your continuous prayers.  They always mean so much.  I will blog about my sister's baby shower later.  It came the day after I was really down, but I knew I'd get up and feel better.  God helps me out with that a lot!

God bless you all!  And thanks for the pictures Chris!

John 8:12
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light in the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

(Another one of my favorite verses)

Friday, September 19, 2014

Results 9/19/14

I was going to blog about the Falcons game and the Super Bowl Challenge, but it deserves it's own it will have to wait a day or two because I've gotten a lot of calls and emails and haven't responded yet.

So, I got my results today from my latest petscan.  The good news is, still no visible active cancer!  The aggravating news...I have two tumors that have decided to hang out.  These tumors did not light up, meaning they aren't spitting out cancer cells.

Since they've decided to hang out and drive me crazy, I've decided they should be named after my favorite insurance company (in my most sarcastic voice).  Blue Cross is the largest one from now on.  The smaller, is Blue Shield.  So, from this point forward, I will refer to them as such.  Blue Cross is about the size of a golf ball.  So long as the Tarceva continues to do it's job, it will keep Blue Cross and Blue Shield at bay.

I also got my blood drawn to send off for the Bonnie J. Addario Young Lung Study.  Yay!

It was a very long day full of appointments with various specialists.  So, when I finally got to my last appointment, I just broke down front of my gyno.  Why?  Who knows.  Fatigue, loss of blood from appointments, the stress of all of the upcoming appointments, the fact that my phone died and I was bored, or just tired of being at hospitals and with doctors all day.  Don't get me wrong, they are all great!  But, I will think twice about trying to take in so much in one day (especially without my charger).

I'm really happy to have this news...still cautiously optimistic.  I'm praying this Tarceva keeps up it's end of the deal for a very long time....because quite frankly, Blue Cross and Blue Shield scare me a little.  I do know that I'm very blessed though.  I just don't like things that scare me very much....  It could be worse, I know.  I know a lot have it so much worse.  So, I'm not going to dwell on it.  I'm going to get some sleep and help throw my lil sis a baby shower tomorrow.  Hope you all have a good night!  I will do my best to get the Falcons game up tomorrow!

God bless you all and thank you for your continuous prayers. They mean so very much!  Please keep John and Tina Roberts in your prayers too.

Matthew 6:34
"Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Shermaine Lee

I met Shermaine Lee on Sunday March 2, 2014 at the Caribou on Northside Pkwy in Atlanta for our first Free to Breathe Committee meeting.  We were the only two that were actual stage 4 lung cancer patients, so quickly we became friends.  The rest of the outstanding committee had either lost someone or had someone close to them diagnosed and were fighting with us.  But, Shermaine and I had a special bond.

We both had small children, an enormous amount of faith and fight.  She was a very devout Christian and it radiated from her every time we spoke.  Although our distance kept us apart, we still communicated frequently.   I think our biggest fear was always leaving our children so soon.  Not being able to watch them grow up.  I know it is mine, and it's what she was concerned about when we talked.  We never expressed the fear of death itself, because we both knew where we were going. We both knew our prognosis, but she always remained so positive when she talked with me about it.  We both didn't take "no" for an answer, and I knew that she never would.

On September 2, 2014, Shermaine went home.  Exactly 6 months after meeting her, she had made such an impact on my life.  As I sat at her wake this past Friday, I felt overcome with guilt.  I felt like I should've done more for her.  She was always asking how I was, and with the distance barrier, I didn't know how quickly her health was deteriorating until our interview at the end of July.

Now, please don't say I shouldn't feel guilty, because I'm stubborn and I will anyways.  I have this void now.  She was my lung cancer person.  We gave each other advice and cheered each other on.  I think she lifted me up more than I did her.  At the wake, I told her I was sorry for not being a better friend.

I know she's free to breathe and dance and laugh and run and she will have no more pain or sorrow and for that, I am thankful.  Because there is no doubt in my mind where she is.

It was amazing to see so many family and friends at her services.   If she made such a long lasting impact on me, I can't imagine how much she made on others.

Please keep her two sons (6 and 12 years old) and her husband, Rico, in your prayers.  Also, please keep her line sister Wendy and the rest of her family and friends in your prayers.  Shermaine was blessed with such an amazing support system, I'm sure it was because she was so fabulous herself.  Please also keep our dear friend across the pond, John Roberts and his lovely wife Tina in your prayers.  John has taken a turn for the worst.  Finally, please keep Tammy Swain Alexander's family and friends in your prayers.  She is now free to breathe too.  This beast of a disease is relentless.

I'm home now, resting today from driving to Atlanta Friday and back Saturday.  I would do it all over again for you Dr. Shermaine Lee.  I love you girl, and I'll see you again on the other side.

John 11:25-26
"Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"