Monthly Archives: October 2015

Losing It!

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When the cares of my heart are many,

Your consolations cheer my soul.

~ Psalm 94:19 (NRSV)                                        

When the doctors finally began to talk to me about the next course of action after surgery one of the first warnings I heard, concerning the type of chemo that I would be receiving, came from each of my two surgeons – and one isn’t even an oncologist.  They both said,

“You will lose your hair.”

Not you may or you might … you will.  Definitive and definite.

Hearing that sentence didn’t really phase me at the time.  Wasn’t that part of the deal with chemo, I thought to myself?  Doesn’t every cancer patient lose their hair?

I soon discovered that different cancers are treated with different mixes of different drugs.  So not only did not everyone lose their hair; every body is different and reacts differently to the drug mixture and follow-up shot.

I received so much information in those initial days that I was swimming in papers and websites and was busy trying to cram all of it into my pea brain.  Truly, when I started the chemotherapy, every little thing that occurred in my body – every ache, every pain, every twinge – sent me running to the volumes of information littering my bedside table to see if it was something I should be expecting.

Trying to anticipate the nausea, wondering if the neuropathy in my hands and feet would go away, attempting to determine if I was constipated or not all became of utmost importance in my day-to-day considerations.  That was until the middle of the second week after my first infusion.

That’s when I started seeing hair on the bathroom floor.

I watched it for a couple of days.  I found more and more strands gathering like dead soldiers on the cold tiles.  It wasn’t noticeable on my head.  But here was proof that the inevitable was happening.  With a sigh I got out a wet paper towel and gathered up what I could.

That night as I plumped up my pillow for bed I discovered that it was fuzzy with hair, so I got out some packing tape and whisked it away.

Still, I thought as I tossed the packing tape in the bin, the docs had said it would happen and I told myself that I was unconcerned.  This was a rite of passage in the world of cancer.  But inside I was more than a little sad it had happened so soon.

It was only a few days later, early on a Saturday morning as I was showering for BSF leadership class, that I realized I was standing in water.  I swiped the shampoo out of my eyes and stared down … the drain was clogged with my hair.

I exhaled and leaned back into the hot stream of water allowing reality to sink in.  There was no turning back.

I’d already decided that when this time came I would shave my head.  I had, probably ridiculous, ideas about clumps falling out without so much as a whisper and didn’t want to have to deal with that embarrassment.  I’d also found (free because I am a Cleveland Clinic patient) a hot mess of a wig that I kinda liked … completely opposite from my normal hair.

That morning at BSF, the first meeting with a large group of women who had already been praying for me throughout the summer, the teaching leader asked us to go around the circle and offer one bad thing and one good thing that had happened in the past week and one thing we’d like prayer for.  When it was my turn to speak I teared up as I described that morning’s shower and admitted to a level of vanity I didn’t even know I possessed.  I asked God to forgive my pride.

That afternoon I readied the troops for the following Monday.  My hair stylist, my parents, and a dear friend would accompany me to the salon for the shearing.

Shave

A bittersweet moment.

For the next week I contemplated my reaction to my hair falling out.  I realized that I really hadn’t allowed myself to mourn my own condition and the changes that were taking place in my body.  After all, how could I mourn with the incredible strength and comfort I had been receiving from God, I thought?  But God allows us to mourn.  He wants us to bring Him our cares, to run to Him for comfort. To lean on Him for strength to keep going, to mush through this trial knowing He was right here with me.  So I had a 2-minute pity party, asked God to forgive my pride (again!), and donned my hot mess to face the world …

Hot Mess PS

Hello there!

In His merciful love,

Felecia

Up next … Divine appointments.

Chemo ~ That Sweet Elixir

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Chemo Pic

You haven’t heard from me since May and I deeply apologize for that.  Let’s catch quickly up to speed.

Surgery occurred on a bright sunny day in early June.  My oncology gynecologist (a beautifully gentle, yet wildly brilliant man) removed everything he could as he opened me up and discovered my cancer-riddled inner parts.  Classified as Uterine (or Endometrial) Cancer, the invasive disease had spread to my ovaries, infected my pelvic lymph nodes, and seemed to moving toward my stomach.

At the same time, since they were opening me up anyway, my general surgeon (a softly-spoken, comforting, and beautiful man) performed a re-repair of an umbilical hernia I originally had repaired in Denver in 2000. Two-for-one shopping, if you will.

Discharged 11 days later the cancer was classified as Stage 4b and I knew my future would include chemotherapy to attack the cancer cells the oncologist couldn’t get with his knife.

During the following weeks, I trucked back and forth to the hospital (which is 70 miles from my home) for post-op visits and to remove staples from the long and angry incision traversing my belly.  By mid-July we became increasingly worried about part of the incision that seemed to refuse to heal.  In yet another post-op visit my surgeon intentionally popped a hematoma under the incision in his office and I was immediately admitted into the hospital for another 3-day stay.

We found that my wound was not healing under the upper layer of my skin and in fact had begun to ‘tunnel’ underneath.  Three tunnels to be exact.  I was released from the hospital as a proud (not) renter of a wound-vac.  The wound vacuum is an interesting device that through negative pressure closes wounds.  It needs expert care to administer and change and so I now have a home health nurse visiting me three times a week.  The good news is that it’s working.  I now have only one tunnel and look forward to the day when I no longer am attached to what I refer to as “the baby.”  It is truly the bane of my existence!

“The baby” was also responsible for pushing back the start of my chemo regimen.  Two weeks in a row I was denied a start due to a high white blood cell count (which hinted toward an infection somewhere in my body) when my doctors (now a third in the mix because I am having my infusion done in a facility much closer to home) finally concurred that the phantom infection could be ignored to begin the more vital treatment.

As I write this, I’m sitting in my infusion chair with a lovely view of the Intercoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean and rejoice that I’ve hit the halfway mark of my treatments.  Yay!  Number three of six has been put to rest.  I’m tolerating the treatments well, performing preemptive strikes on nausea, and praying for God to relieve the neuropathy in my hands and feet.

Speaking of God, He remains steadfastly by my side.  With everything He has spoken to me these past few months, there is no way I’m going to succumb to this dreadful disease.

When a person gets an illness such as this, among other thoughts, one immediately wonders why.  Well-meaning Christian friends quickly decided that the devil was behind this attack or that the Lord has allowed this to test my faith – we’ll never know for sure, but I try not to give the devil more that he is due.

It’s easily conceivable that my predicament is of my own making.  I allowed my body to spiral through years of inactivity, poor eating habits, smoking, and work-related stress which all wreaked havoc on my body.  When bad things started happening inside, I was without a job and insurance and knew I couldn’t afford what it was going to take to cure me, so I dealt with it … which doesn’t mean that I ignored it … I worked around it the best I could.  Honestly though, its futile to try to understand the why and it makes no sense to assign blame.

I must just press forward.

Some would ask, “How?”  (More on that later!)

Because when you’re a daughter of the King, the One True God, your perspective changes.  Heaven is my home and if I get there next year or 40 years from now, I’m cool with God’s timing.

In His perfect love,

Felecia

Next up … the wonders of hair loss!