Last week was the best week I’ve had since my diagnosis in August!
The kid’s spring break fell on the third week of my chemo cycle, which is when I am at my strongest, so I decided to take a chance on feeling well and we went to Colorado. We had such a wonderful time together as a family! Most of the week, I felt completely normal. No nausea, no pain, and very little fatigue or weakness. I could hardly believe I was feeling so good and I relished every moment of it!
The only explanation for the unprecedented strength and wellness I experienced last week was that God just smiled on me. I truly believe He gave me that week as a gift. I am not supposed to feel this good. At all. I completed my third round of this horrendous chemo regimen March 9th, and I’m actually supposed to feel pretty rotten right now.
Each chemo is cumulative, so my doctor said I should expect to feel worse after each treatment. But this time, with no explanation, I felt really good. Better than good. I was a normal person! Giving God all the credit. When I tell you how I have felt over the last two months, you will understand how truly miraculous last week really was.
Since I began this new chemo on January 29th, it’s been very predictable. And awful. The ebb and flow of my days are a process of being completely depleted of all of my strength immediately following treatment, and then gradually coming alive again over the next three weeks until my next treatment wipes me out again.
On Mondays, while receiving chemo, my body feels like it is dying. My vital organs do their job; my heart beats, my lungs work, etc, but it feels like that’s about it. I have to be wheeled to the car from the infusion bay because I cannot stand, and I’m not even sure how Patrick manages to get me out of the car and into the room at the hotel. I actually have no memory of it (thanks to several medications that my doctor infuses along with the chemo).
When I wake up Tuesday morning he somehow gets me to the car and that’s where I stay and sleep for the next eight hours as we travel back home. When we get home I have just enough strength to update my parents, hug the kids, and fall back into bed. And that’s where I mostly stay the following three to four days. I try getting up occasionally to test my strength, but I usually can’t stand for longer than a minute or two at a time before the room starts spinning and I lose strength in my legs.
Those few days after chemo are filled with debilitating nausea, weakness, brain fog, and fatigue. I have zero appetite and only drink water or fresh juices. My doctor prescribed 12 medications that I am supposed to take during that first week to control all of the side effects, but sometimes I feel like the side effects of the drugs are worse than the side effects of the chemo, so I pick and choose what I think works best (and this is why my doctor knows nothing about this blog). 🙂 But really, 12 medications? It’s just too much. My kitchen counter looks like a pharmacy.
As the days progress I s-l-o-w-l-y get stronger. My strength gradually increases from being able to do almost nothing, to eventually, by Saturday or Sunday, being able to sit at the kitchen table or in my chair in the living room, hold my head up, and have a decent conversation.
I may have little spurts of activity during the week, but it usually doesn’t last longer than a few minutes. When the weekend rolls around my appetite gradually starts coming back and I typically start eating real food by Friday or Saturday (my favorite thing to eat during that time is white beans and cornbread. I have no idea why I crave that so much, but my mom or my sister Lena always fix it just right and bring it to me.)
From that point on I can usually function enough to do a load or two of laundry, make lunches for the kids, interact with them when they get home from school, and straighten up a little around the house. I am not strong enough to leave the house until the following Wednesday or Thursday (day 10 or 11). I tried it on a Tuesday once and I won’t try that again. I’ve been known to push myself a little faster than my body appreciates. I’m working on that.
By mid-week the second week, I’m usually able to run a few errands, make a quick trip to the grocery store, pick Maddie up from school, help Creed with homework, and cook dinner. I’m very tired, usually still quite weak, but it makes me feel normal, and feeling normal mentally, really does help me to feel better physically.
Going into the third week after treatment, I feel somewhat decent and I try to do everything I possibly can. I don’t reach 100%, but close enough. I still tire very easily and have bouts of nausea and discomfort, but I am usually able to do everything that I left undone the first two weeks. I clean and organize, do laundry, have lunch dates with my dad and friends, and try to prepare the house and grocery shop for the next week, when I know I will be unable to do anything after chemo.
(EXCEPT for last week when I was a rockstar and went to Colorado and enjoyed every single moment!) 🙂
So as you can see, having so much energy last week was nothing short of a miracle. I will forever look back on that trip as one of my favorites.
As we made our way home Friday I began thinking about tomorrow. It’s my LAST chemo! Yep! My very last one! It’s bittersweet. So thankful it’s the last time I will ever have to endure what I’ve just described; however, I still have to go through all of it once more.
Each time the thought of what I face next week entered my mind, my stomach tied up in a tighter knot. Although I tried to push it out of my thoughts and focus on the miraculous and wonderful week with my family, the reality of what I face next week still crept in and tangled up my emotions.
On Friday, when I told my mom about this struggle, she said something that has given Easter a very special meaning to me this year. She told me that Jesus knows just how I feel at this moment and reminded me that this Sunday is Palm Sunday.
The Bible tells us that as Jesus entered Jerusalem that day the crowds celebrated Him by waving and covering His path with palm branches. No doubt that was a good day for Him, probably one of His best. However, immediately following that spectacular day, He began His journey to the cross.
I wonder, as He rode through Jerusalem and watched the people celebrate and wave their palm branches, if He thought about what was to come. His most glorious day before His death preceded His worst.
He had a choice, you know. He didn’t have to die that horrible death on the cross. He could have changed His mind, decided it was too much, that humanity wasn’t worth it. However, He willingly endured all that was to come to pay the price for all of our mistakes.
John 19:30 says “When He had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished,’ With that, He bowed His head and gave up His Spirit.”
This week I learned from my pastor, Rod Loy, that those three words, it is finished, is the Greek word “tetelestai”. In New Testament times tetelestai was written on business documents or receipts to indicate that a bill had been paid in full.
Jesus paid the price, in full, for our freedom. A price so high, we could never pay. He willingly chose death, so we could live. He could have changed His mind, He could have decided it wasn’t fair, it was all too much, but we were worth it to Him.
It is finished. Tetelestai. The price has been paid. We are redeemed.
As I struggled with the dread of tomorrow and the small amount of pain I will face, compared to what Jesus did for me, I pondered what went through His mind on that triumphant day as He rode through the streets of Jerusalem. I know he had to dread what was to come. He certainly didn’t look forward to it.
As I fight my dread of tomorrow, I know He has my heart. He feels my pain. He’s been there.
My mom gently reminded me of a truth I have always known, but has taken on a whole new meaning for me this Easter season. She said, “Tina, because of what He did for you after Palm Sunday, your Easter is coming.”
My Easter is coming.
I was reminded of an old song written by Lois Irwin taken from Isaiah 53:5.
He was wounded by our transgressions
He was bruised for our iniquities
surely He bore our sorrows
and by His stripes we are healed
A timely reminder as I face the hardest month of this battle so far.
Many of you ask how you can pray specifically for my family and me. Here are some very specific requests we have for the month of April.
First of all, I would so appreciate your prayers for the grueling week or two following this treatment. I cannot accurately describe the misery, but it is intense. We already know God can make me feel good when it’s not expected, so please pray that I can better tolerate my final chemo tomorrow. It is incredibly hard on my family, especially the first week. Patrick has to do everything around the house and everything for the kids as I am unable to function or do anything at all that week. We’ve also noticed it really wears on Maddie and Creed to see me so weak and frail.
Please pray for healing for me, peace for them and strength for Patrick this week.
In addition, in exactly four weeks after my last chemo tomorrow, on April 27th at 10:15 a.m. I will undergo a bilateral mastectomy and lymphadenectomy at MD Anderson. I am expected to be in Houston for five to six days.
Very big request.
PRAY FOR ZERO!
Although I have had several scans/ultrasounds during chemo, we won’t know for sure how well the chemo worked at destroying the cancer until my surgery. Please pray that the pathology of any removed tissue shows no cancer. We are believing for a complete/whole response to chemo. My doctors tell me that is very rare for anyone who has Inflammatory Breast Cancer, but if there has been one consistent thing about me during this battle thus far, it has been that I am all things rare. 🙂
PRAY FOR ZERO!
And of course, more than the pain and recovery process of the surgery, my mind has been on the kids during that time. They will be in the excellent care of Patrick’s parents, whom they adore, and I realize we will miss them much more than they will miss us while we are in Houston that week, but please pray for peace for them and strength and ease for Patrick’s parents, Jerry and Carol, during our time away. They have faithfully made the six hour roundtrip for each of my treatments to care for the kids. I would not have been able to go to MD Anderson, or heal as well as I have, without the help of both sets of our parents. We are forever grateful for all they have done for us as I fight and win this battle. I need your prayers in the month of April, more than ever. Thank you, thank you, thank you Team Tina for your continued, faithful prayers for my family and me!
In honor of Palm Sunday and this Easter season, I would love it if you would take the time to listen to these two songs, sung by Brad Russell and the worship team, in our services at First Assembly in North Little Rock this weekend. You’ll enjoy them.