Archive for May, 2012

The Power Of Attitude

Written by Ash on . Posted in News

“Our lives are not determined by what happens to us, but by how we react to what happens; not by what life brings to us, but by the attitude we bring to life.  A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events, and outcomes.  It is a catalyst….a spark that creates extraordinary results.” 

This saying was on a card given to me by the students at Riverside Elementary last week.  Is there anything else that needs to be said????  I think not!  When I read the card, I cried……its become my favorite quote and after the day that I experienced today, couldn’t be more true in every aspect of life!

As today was drawing near, I couldn’t quite get a feeling of which way things were going to go for me.  Sure, I put on the smile and say it’s going to be good…but I was just telling Chad yesterday that I didn’t have the warm fuzzy feeling inside that everything was going to go good like I did the previous scan in March.  I think I had just done way too much reading online about horror stories and was preparing for the worst.

As my eyes opened this morning I laid in bed wondering what today would bring to me and my family.  I tried to shut out the uneasy feelings, but they just wouldn’t go away.  I got up and got ready and before I walked out the door I asked Chad to lead us in a family prayer.  My boys and I gathered at the foot of our bed and we all knelt in prayer.  Nobody was rolling on the floor, no one was laughing, nobody was pinching each other or playing with toys, and nobody was passing any gas.  It was silent as Chad began and my little Kash reached over to grab my hand.

I want you to know that I listen whole heartedly when Chad prays.  He is so inspired and in tune.  I think I’ve listened even more intently since this journey began.  In the beginning, I received A LOT of priesthood blessing from him and others.  I would sit silently as the priesthood holders would place their hands on my head during the most difficult times.  I hoped, in part, that they knew what I wanted them to say.  It was so strong in my heart and I guess somehow I thought the message would just go from me to them.  Most of the time, the words that I so wanted to hear in my blessings……were never said.  :(  I remember in January Chad and I praying together the night before we were to find out what the heck it was that I was dealing with.  He paused for the longest time during that prayer.  I sat there holding his hand and I just wanted to say out loud to him……Say It, say it, just please say the words!  He didn’t.  I looked at Chad in the eyes afterwards with tears in my eyes and said, “Why didn’t you just say it?”  Without even mentioning what “it” was, he knew what I was talking about and simply said, “Because they weren’t supposed to be said Ash.  As much as I want to say, “The test will be negative, you will be okay, you will live a long and happy life……the prompting wasn’t there.”  We just need to have the faith that the Lord knows the desires of our hearts and they will be fulfilled somehow.

A part of me believes now that even though those words didn’t come out in our prayers,  I know they were said by many if not hundreds of other loved ones in their own prayers.   Our Father In Heaven has heard from a lot of you (including myself) more lately than he ever has before.  I know he is enjoying listening to each of you and has heard the cries and pleas.  I believe after months of hearing from all of you he has said……”Okay, already…..I’ll leave my daughter alone awhile longer.  I can see her family and friends need her and she needs to raise her family.  She needs to organize her closets better, get all affairs in order, get those dental implants before her front teeth fallout, and I’ll bet she can take this trial and turn it into something positive and help others who are struggling with their own trials.  Yes, this is what I believe…..

Chad’s prayer was different this morning.  It was uplifting and even if I didn’t get the exact words spelled right out, he said the desires of both our hearts and that was good enough for me.  I left out the door in my bright yellow shirt and the same ole’ scarf that can accommodate such a bright color and headed to the hospital.

After checking into radiology, I had to get my port access by the gals in the infusion department (chemotherapy room).  They checked my blood pressure, which was higher than any other visit thus far.  The silly uneducated CNA says to me…..”Do you know why your blood pressure would be so high today?  Ummmm, where should I start LADY!!!  Hello….  My port was access by the nurse, but for some reason they couldn’t get any blood withdraw back from my port.  Without blood return, you can’t use the port, which radiology needed to inject the radioactive sugar for the PET scan.  They worked on it for nearly 40 minutes to no avail…..I swear I was doing more monkey activity trying to get them blood than I have done in the last four month!!  Raising my arms up and down like a chicken wanting to fly, rolling from side to side, standing up and sitting down, moving my head from side to side and coughing.   I think those elderly people thought they were watching a really bad version of Jane Fonda’s Get In Shape video!  haha  All I could think of was, I hope this is not a sign of how the rest of my day was going to go.  Just as the nurse was going to call radiology, they received blood and I was told I could go….now 45 minutes late for the scan.

I was whisked away right as I arrived into a dark quiet room, given the goods through the port and then was offered an awful version of what I pretended to be, Crystal Light, to drink.  They want you calm for the scan and so they leave you for an hour to just sit, relax or sleep if you can.  I played on the phone instead, which is a no no, but I didn’t open up Words with Friends…..I knew for sure that was going to cause way too much brain stimulation trying to find a word that would outwit my mother!  The hour flew by and before I knew it, it was time.

This sweet gal is who has done the previous two scans.  She is so nice and cheery every time I see her.  She had the same words for me today, “Look how cute you look in that color, it’s no cheery and bright!”  I said, “That’s the results we are looking for today.”

My children wanted to see the machine that does the scan, so we took these pics.  I’m put in a papoose-type thingie to keep my body completely still and then covered with warm blankets because the room is kept at a brisk 50 degrees to keep the machine cooled off.  Now, I want to know why it is that the minute you can’t scratch something, everything seems to itch?  Seriously, I thought I was going to die today.  I swear everything part of my face had something that needed to be itched.  That’s when the mind over matter tries to come into play I guess……No Ashley, you really don’t have a tiny piece of lint from the blanket going in and out of your nostril!  lol  Don’t be alarmed at the numbers at the top of machine.  They DO NOT represent my weight.

Usually the scan takes an hour to complete.  They came in and turned on the lights and pulled me out almost exactly 30 minutes after beginning.  My response was, we’re done?  And she said yup, you’re all done.  I commented on how quickly it was completely and hoped that meant there was nothing to see!  I asked can you give me a thumbs up or down and she just simply smiled and said, I think you did great!  Okay, then whatever that means.  I left, walked out the door not feeling really good, but not feeling bad either.  As I approached my car, I stopped dead in my tracks as I looked at what was parked right next to me……..

I smiled, looked up in the sky, and knew everything was going to be okay.  But not before I took some pictures of the bug and then jumped into my car!  Shear coincidence……I think not!  Too bad their license plate didn’t have some message for me to decode.

I hurried home, but not before having to make a pit stop at Harmon’s to relieve myself of the awesome pretend Crystal Light juice that caused some unwanted activity in my stomach!  I needed to hurry home quickly as we were celebrating Kashton’s birthday today with friends (really his birthday was in March, but I’ve been a little busy what can I say).  I bet I was only home 10 minutes when my phone rang.  Dr. R’s name came up and I took a deep breath.  I answered the phone by saying, Dr. R….I hope you are calling to have a telephone conversation with me and not to schedule an appointment for me and my husband to come and see you.  He laughed and said, “Ashley, I have NEVER had a PET scan come back to me so quickly (we usually have to wait several hours if not at least a day).  I am happy to report that your scan was completely NEGATIVE.  I sat there for a moment and said, “Wait….negative?  Yes, negative.  There is no tumor showing in my neck?  Nope.  My colon is clear?  Yes, Ashley…..the entire scan was completely normal.  All tumors are gone.  This is the best a scan can get for somebody!”  I thanked him for calling me so quickly and we agreed to see each other after my surgery.  I hung up the phone and tried to keep the tears in my eyes under control because my fake eyelashes would fall off in the cupcake mix!  Kaige saw me from across the room and came running over to me.  “Mom, what’s wrong….is everything okay?   I hugged him and said yes.  “Then why are you crying, he asked?”  I replied, “Because my tumors are gone bud.”  All of a sudden, this body, which was Kaeson, shoots up off the couch quicker than I’ve ever seen a 12-year-old move and comes running over to me.  “The tumors are gone, really?”  Both of my boys hugged me and then I bawled.  Chad came in the door, saw my tears, and I think immediately thought the worst as he asked what was wrong.  I said, Dr. R called and his face turned to a very concerned look……….the tumors are gone babe, they’re gone!  We had one of those moments in our kitchen that I will never forget as we embraced each other and our children.  It felt a little like a scene from the Little House on the Prairie.  :)

I want all who are reading this to know that today’s news wasn’t because of me alone.  I can’t even begin to tell you how much I believe in the power of prayer.  I am living proof of what fasting and prayer and a little bit of a good attitude can do for someone.  The spirit that is in our home is felt by many who come to visit.  I don’t ever want that spirit to leave.  I know I have been being watched over by many loved ones who have gone before me.  I can feel their presence daily.  I am one lucky girl….not because I have cancer by any means, but because I have learned just how much I am loved by people.  It’s overwhelming to see the love and acts of charity that we have received and I can only hope that I can return the favor someday.  Some asked, so does this mean you are cancer-free?  Not by a long shot, but we are headed in the right direction to achieve that goal hopefully by the end of the year.  The scans only pick up the tumors that were growing and any major organs affected.  It doesn’t pick up cancer cells that are present, which we know I have a lot of.  It takes only one cancer cell being left behind to kick start this battle all over again.  With surgery coming up on the 5th of June, we will remove the dead cancer cells in my breasts and lymphnodes on the left side.  We have to leave the lymphnodes in my neck on the right, as well as those behind the chest wall cavity, as surgery is way too risky.  Hitting those areas with radiation and the doses of Herceptin, however, should seal the deal.  And when that happens, well Chadwick……you had better have a pretty darn good vacation for you and I to take to celebrate.  I may be hairless and a little lop-sided, but I know you will take me however I am, just as long as you can take me.  But I don’t want a picture and a pretend airplane with a promise note.  I have a collection of those already…..I want the actual ticket in hand.  Thank you in advance babe!  If anyone wants to offer their help, I’m sure he’ll take it!

P.S.

1.  I have had to resort to the fake eyelashes on the top of both eyes, but I still have three origional eye lashes on the bottom left eye present and six on the right.  Yahoo!! However, my friend Kim told me how ridiculous I was for trying to put mascara on those three and six lashes and suggested I just leave them alone.  Maybe I’ll give that a try this week just to satisfy her.

2.  I still continue to have visible eyebrows.

3.  Although my fingernails have all lifted halfway up my nail bed, I still have them and can lightly scratch an itch.

4.  I wore the “Sunday Wig” for three days in a row and did okay, getting used to it I guess.  I’m taking people’s word that it looks okay and honoring the requests from my children to have hair in public once in awhile.

5.  The chickens have found a new home.  So happy about this smooth transition to the chicken coop on Bramble Way.

6.  We are down to 5 frogs…….don’t know where the others are.  I’ll update you if I smell something fowl in the days ahead coming from the basement other than the four boys who reside there.

7.  Kashton finally got his birthday party he’s been waiting for since March.  Such a relief to get that crossed off my to-do list.

8.  I got a new bedspread to stare at after surgery.  I can’t tell you how old ones bedroom can get when you spend a lot of hours laying around.

9.  I got another round of Thank You’s sent out….if you haven’t gotten one yet, don’t get your panties all up in a twirl……I haven’t forgotten about you!

10.  School’s Out!

11.  We have tomatoes visible….don’t know if they will make it long enough to turn red, but we shall see.

12.  Finally, I have the best friends and the wizard is good!

 

 

 

The Lifeline I’ve Been Looking For

Written by Ash on . Posted in News

So I know I am horrible at keeping everyone up to date on my progress and I apologize.  I like to go in order of events and I figured if I keep that same thought I will never catch up.  So, I’m jumping ahead to today and will go back and fill in later.

As most are aware I hit a MAJOR milestone today on my journey.  I completed my 8th and FINAL round of chemotherapy.  I’ve been looking forward to this day Ummm, well since January 12th.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to make it mentally nor physically to this point.  But I have.  As this week approached, I found myself getting excited and couldn’t wait for today to arrive.  The quicker it came, the faster I could recover and look forward to preparing myself and my body for the next step in my recovery.  I told the nurses two weeks ago that my final treatment was going to be a celebration for me.  I let these sweet ladies know that although I thought they were pretty neat, I didn’t belong in “their” chemo room and it was time for me to get the golden ticket and move on.  After all, the other “members” are nearly twice my age and since I didn’t sport a cane nor hearing aids and I opted to shower everyday, I didn’t feel like I fit in all that well.

On Thursday after celebrating one of my friends birthdays and just letting loose before my treatment, we went to Twenty Five Main to buy some of their delightful cupcakes for my celebration in the morning.  Chad thought I was nuts to be sharing sugar to those who are fighting cancer, but I didn’t care.  I was also given these beautiful flowers from Christina and Kelly, two sisters who have both battled and won against cancer.  It made my day.  I knew Friday couldn’t happen without me wearing the brightest yellow shirt out on the market.  You all know what yellow signifies and it was a must for such a special occasion.

After a restless night of night sweats and tossing and turning, morning arrived and I couldn’t wait to get out the door.  Usually, I drag my feet on Friday mornings.  I find myself doing piddly things that could wait just to avoid the whole process.  I don’t think up until today that I have made it to chemo on time, not even once.   I usually roll in roughly around 30 to 45 minutes late.  Well, not today.  I left my house a mess, dishes in the sink, my mother in a disarray and walked right out the door.  Didn’t stop for breakfast either.  I wanted this day to begin so it could get over just as quickly!!  As they took my blood pressure this morning, it showed what I was feeling inside too.  It was the worst recording EVER to date.  I’ve usually been really good staying in the 120’s over 70’s, but not today.  I was 146/86!!  Oops

I walked back to the room with my boxes of cupcakes in tow, received my rock hard and paper thin thing they call a pillow and was excited to see that “MY” chair was empty today!  You seen, two weeks ago it was taken and I was not too happy camper.  I’m the veteran there, not the newby anymore, and somebody was in my chair.  I thought about putting my name on it when I left that day, but didn’t want to disturb the patient.  But seriously, they should have asked if that chair was especially for someone before just taking it over.  Seriously people……manners!

I sent Chad out to grab us some breakfast and within minutes I was hooked up for the last time and the poison began to flow through my body.  I am often asked what it feels like and to be honest, you can’t really feel it going through you, but at the same time you can.  You sit silently and very slowly you can feel something weird and small subtle changes occur.  Since we switched over to the Taxol regime, they added a heaping dose of Benadryl to the combination and it affects me mid-sentence sometimes.  About an hour into the process, I just can’t keep my eyes open any longer and usually check out for a few hours, which is nice to pass the time away since I’m there for nearly 5.5 hours.  However, I wasn’t going to drop off without first handing out the cupcakes.  I want you all to know that I DID NOT partake of the temptation being offered by myself.  Heck no was I going to eat that sugar filled cupcake after going through 8 stinkin’ rounds of chemotherapy.  But the other foolish folks sure did!!!!  haha  Every last one of them decided to partake and they loved every minute of it.  I was happy to make them smile, which made me smile, and that was good enough for me.  I told them it was my going away party and my wish was to never see any of them again in the same setting again.  I would love to visit with them while waiting ridiculous hours at the pharmacy in Walmart, but never again in the “chemo” setting.  There is a sense of smell there that will forever haunt me I’m afraid.

My usual nap was interrupted several times by the nurses asking me my name and date of birth for each new medication and I was getting a little peeved.  Seriously…..one time I said, you know it, why don’t you tell me!  lol  But one interruption was a welcomed one to say the least.  My oncologist, Dr. R, showed up, woke me up and said I have some important news that I need to discuss with you.  He sat down next to me and my heart sank.  I looked at Chad and just knew it was bad news because that’s all I’ve ever gotten since the beginning. 

Going off track for a sec so you understand my thoughts…..The last two weeks have been a little stressful.  I was told on my last visit that my CEA (cancer marker) was elevated for colon cancer.  Yes, you read that right.  Freaking colon cancer!!!  When he told me that, I was like…….what the crap, are you serious???  He said, don’t be alarmed yet…..we will redo the test in two weeks and then go from there.  Don’t be alarmed……..then maybe you shouldn’t have said anything until you knew for sure my friend.  Anyway, in a weird way, an additional diagnosis like this wouldn’t be all that surprising.  For years I have had problems with my intestines and have avoided going to the doctor for it.  After all, who wants anybody other than yourself, prowling around or sticking foreign items in an area that is an EXIT area only!!  Thanks, but no thanks.  Issues got worse when I began chemotherapy in January.  I was told to get lots and lots of stool softeners because constipation was one side effect that most people experienced.  I told Dr. R of my irritable bowel problems that I’ve experienced for years and he thought maybe the chemo might even things out a little for me. Wanting to be prepared, I went to Costco and bought, in bulk, stool softeners.  Lets just say, those stool softeners are still in their original packaging.  Instead, this is what I can’t keep in stock………talk about a scientific experiment that I do to myself several times a day!  Nothing has been more horrible during this whole experience.  The only positive point is here is this issue is where my weight loss comes from!

So back my point, I was prepared to actually hear to final words of…you indeed have colon cancer Mrs. Baird.  I sat up in my chair, tried to get some juice flowing in my eyes because they were so dry, and took a bigger than normal deep breath.   Dr. R was holding a letter which he said he had just received and wanted to share with me regarding my some testing.  Now they did all of these tests at the beginning of January and that is when I received my diagnosis of Triple Negative Breast Cancer.  My ER/PR were both negative (which means my body is NOT responsive to the natural hormones estrogen and progesterone) and negative on the HER2 factors as well, giving me the diagnosis of the rare Triple Negative Cancer.  My genetic test BRCA was also negative, which was a positive finding.  In a nut shell, this meant that my cancer DOES NOT respond to several of the cancer fighting drugs available because I tested negative for them all.  My only option for fighting is chemotherapy.  About half of those with TN cancer respond to chemotherapy and half do not.  This is why my last PET scan in March that showed the tumors shrinking was such a sigh of relief and cause for celebration.  We knew I was in the group where chemo works!  This pain and suffering was not all going to be in vain!!  However, the bad part is after chemotherapy is completed (8 rounds is tops) you are sort of sent on your way and we all cross our fingers and pray.  This is also why there is such a high recurrence of the cancer coming back.  Those with TN have about a 70% chance of the cancer returning because there is so little that works in fighting and then preventing.

Over the past four months, I have come to terms with this reality and the fact that I was planning on having a round two and even possibly a round three with this disease.  Last Monday, I told my general surgeon that I was completely fine without doing any reconstruction on my breasts after surgery at the end of May.  I figured why bother fixing things up if I had such a high probability of this beast coming back within the next two years.  I would rather not have anything obstructing or hiding the growth of cancer.  Heck,  I live with five boys, I had no probable being flat chested for once in my life and just “hangin’ with the boys”!  lol  Just do the bilateral mastectomy.  I have a silver platter that was given to me for our wedding that I have never used.  I’m giving it to my doc and have asked that he serve me the twins on the platter…..me and my kids are going to give them a beating for betraying me.  You know, if you breast feed you reduce your risk of breast cancer.  Bahahaha, I guess being the Meadow Gold Cow for nearly 10 years wasn’t enough, but I do intend to have the last words with Posh and Tosh.

Well, instead of bad news, I was thrown a lifeline at a time when I needed it most!!  Once the original tests and labs are completed locally so treatments can begin immediately, those tests are rechecked at a bigger facility and the results usually take 2-3 months to return.  Those results were contained in the letter Dr. R was holding.  He began with the fact that he has only ever seen twice in his medical career original test results come back different.  But then again, nothing with me during this process has been by the book.  Everything said or thought has come back opposite of what all the docs predicted.  Why should they have thought any differently now.  Well…. I now no longer have the diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer!!!!  I am still negative for the ER-/PR-, but POSITIVE for the HER2 factor.  This is seriously awesome news for me as my prognosis in winning this battle has just taken a giant leap up the ladder!  I now have another option in fighting basically.  After my surgery and radiation, I will have to continue coming back to the chemo room (yes, where I just celebrated and told all of them I never wanted to see their faces again) for another year to get a medication called Herceptin every three weeks for 17 treatments.  I know, that sounds dreadful, an entire year, but hey…….if this helps keep the cancer away.  I’ll take that year if it means more time on this side of the soil!

I could tell the excitement in Dr. R’s face and it was only then that I realized just how grim my prognosis was, more than he had let on.  I had asked him several times about my prognosis for the future and he would never actually give me a number.  After all, I was a stage IV with very little options.  His response was always, “Ashley, I am in this battle with you and I’m in it to cure it and that’s all you need to worry about.”  I often told Chad how much that bugged me, for some reason I wanted a number.  He always said to me, “If you knew a number, would you fight any differently?”  Absolutely not I told him!  I was going to fight like hell whether I had a 10% chance of survival or 90%, but I may do some things differently along the way to prepare for whatever was to come like begin that journal that I should have been keeping all along, or write letters to my family, make videos for those milestones in my kids life….you get my point.  I wanted to prepare for those things you can’t just make-up in a few weeks should things not go my way.  I didn’t ever want to be caught off guard AGAIN and be unprepared.  Five kids……..that’s a lot of preparing to do.   The “vain” factor was coming into play a little bit too.  If I was going to be an actress in my own video, I sure as heck wanted to look like my kids mom.  The person they knew me to be.  I would wear my wig and be THEIR mom, not some sick, lifeless person nearing the end.  What kind of memory would that embed in their little minds.

So you see, to me……..this day is a day that I’ve been and you all have been praying for.  As he walked away from me, I said, “Hey Dr. R…….it’s not a fluke that this changed, it’s because I have an army praying and fasting for me!  I’m supposed to be here.  He just smiled, gave a wink and then left.  Chad and I looked at each other in silence.  This was the miracle we’ve been waiting for, the lifeline I was looking for and the hope that I needed to stay positive.  Lets be honest, its tough to continue to stay positive for myself and others around me when everything being put on my plate looks like crap!  Today, I received a bright yellow flower on my plate, next to the crap, that gave me strength to continue and put a smile on my face!

Shortly after the good news, Darth Vader appeared and took Chad away into a deep sleep.  I couldn’t relax, so I left and walked out and sat on the deck where the sun was shinning, I was surrounded by pots of beautiful flowers and the sounds of birds chirping.  There were no IV’s beeping, no smell of death, no loud elderly people talking nonsense to each other, just me all alone.  I thanked my father in heaven for my blessings and just sat in silence in the corner, ironically, the only place where the sun was shinning through.  It was in that moment for the first time, I felt everything was going to be okay.  I wasn’t just saying it to say it to my family or friends, this time I was actually feeling it for real.  I could feel it in my heart and I believed it for myself.  The peacefulness was interrupted all too soon by my own IV beeping, but it wasn’t because I had a kink in the line, or air in the tubing, the last drip of poison had fallen into my body and I was officially done!  I was finally freed from the needles and tubing that were extending my life!  We took some pictures with the nurses that were so amazing to me and the day was completed with a visit from a dear friend who came to lend her support.  I told her of my good news……it was then the tears came for me, for her and for Chad.  A bittersweet moment for all of us!

After I have my lousy week, I’ve got three weeks to prepare for surgery.  You will find me pretending to be a crossfitter at the gym getting some strength back.  I figure anything will help at this point, I’ve lost so much energy and need to regain what I can for a better recovery!  Don’t laugh, remember I just stepped out of the “CHEMO” room!

     

P.S. 

1.  I still have eyebrows, very thin, but visible.

2.  I still have 4 tiny eyelashes hanging on the left lower eye.  By the next post, I may have to resort to the fakies. 

3.  There are only 13 days of school left.

4.  Chemotherapy is complete for at least a few months.

5.  I still look pretty healthy on the outside, give me some hair and I would have everybody fooled.

6.  We have two new chickens to go with the 9 frogs and 4 iguanas.  This could change real soon if I have a say.

7.  My mom is back after leaving me high and dry for an entire month!

5.  I’ve made some new friends that I would have never met before this experience.

6.  Race for the Cure coming up in a week!  See you there!

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