Monthly Archives: September 2012

Little Man

I just have to brag on my boy.  This morning while he was getting dressed (he’s about 75% of the way to dressing himself completely), he told me that he was wearing “khaki pants”.  This is huge for him because we have been talking about khaki pants and how that’s what we wear to church.  But I haven’t mentioned it in several days, so the fact that he made the connection on his own and said the words was so exciting to me!

Little Man turned three on the 17th and we had a big party for him.  Well, maybe not big, but it was a lot of fun.  He’s into “Cars” – the movie, so we did lots of Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater stuff.  His friends and family came and he was so excited to have those that he loves around him.  It rained when the party first started, so we opened presents inside, but the rain soon passed so we were able to move outside.  They played hard and the party ended with Little Man in all his clothes – including his shoes – in the pool.

He started at the local elementary school for half-days on his birthday, and I have already seen a difference.  His speech is becoming clearer; even in the little things.  This morning he spilled his milk and rather than bursting into a huge dramatic set of tears, he calmly told me, “Mama, I made a mess.” You have no idea what a big deal this is.  My boy is nothing if not dramatic.  (We plan to put him in theatre camp as soon as he’s old enough!)  But everything is not a tragedy.

Last night we had a new baby-sitter since our old one moved.  Little Man sat down to eat his dinner with her, and said, “Bye, Mama!  Bye, Daddy!” like we did this all the time.  I was so impressed.  Apparently they played, watched Veggie Tales, and he went through his bedtime routine, including walking himself back to bed at 7:05.   She was thinking it could not be this easy, but evidently it was!

My boy is growing and I love it.

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Fundraisers and Finances

I really hate doing finance posts, because I feel like I have my hand out; but a good friend is doing a fundraiser for us in about three weeks, and I feel like I should explain where the money is going.  The fundraiser itself should be great.  She’s a photographer and she’s rented out a local park to do family portraits.  First come, first serve, fifteen minute increments, and you get the rights to access and print as many pictures as you want when it’s over.  (I think she’s setting up a website.)  It’s really a great idea and I hope people take advantage.

That said, I’m sure people want to know where the money is going.  We have been immensely blessed to have family and friends looking out for us financially.  I honestly don’t know how we would have made it this far if they hadn’t.  Those checks that come here and there have been way more helpful than you can possibly know.  That said, we have been running at a $400ish deficit since February.  This means that our savings is completely depleted and our credit cards are much higher than I want them to be.  This month, when we finally got my first disability payment, we were finally able to pay all of our bills and have money left over for groceries.  My hope for this fundraiser is to raise enough money to pay at least one credit card off.  Then we can focus on the other one and start building our savings back up.  We go in tomorrow to see about refinancing our mortgage in the hopes that it will lower our monthly payment.

We are as conscientious as we can be about money.  We do not have cable and I coupon for all of our groceries, paper products, personal products, etc.  We sit down every month and look at our finances to see where we can cut.  But medicine and day care are expensive.  I wish I was at a place where I could keep Little Man home, but for now my heart can only handle having him in a place where I know he is loved, cared for, and learning about Jesus.  This is a priority for us.  And now we have travel expenses, which adds to the credit card balance and makes it harder to pay down.  $400-$600 every six weeks is not something to sneeze at.  My parents have made it a priority to help us with that expense, which is huge.  Another family friend sends us a check every month for $100, no questions asked.  These things, the “unexpected” checks, and this fundraiser all blow me away.  They really do.  I don’t get why people want to help me.  I feel so undeserving yet so thankful and blessed at the same time.

Anyway, if you are local and would like more information about the fundraiser, just leave a comment and I’ll get you the info.  It’s mainly just a Facebook event right now, but I can copy and paste the info into an e-mail if you prefer.

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Side Effects

Since people have asked, I thought I would do a post to talk about the side effects while on chemo.  Bear in mind that every chemo regiment is different and every patient responds differently, so these are simply my experiences.  First and foremost, it feels like the flu.  I ache all over, especially in my knees, shoulders, chest, and hips.  Often my legs hurt as well.  The only thing that really helps this is to go to sleep.  So I often find myself napping during the day, whether I intended to or not.  Though not quite as fluid as when I was in the hospital, sleep has become a very fluid thing.  I sleep a lot during the day and I sleep off and on at night.  Usually I wake up several times a night, but am able to get back to sleep fairly quickly.  On top of the flu-like symptoms, there is the nausea.  And boy is there nausea.  I’ve done fairly well in the throwing up department (usually only once a week) but I am nauseous all the time.  I get about two days a week where I am not nauseous and I am so thankful for them.  The nausea pills I have to take make my head all woozy so that throws everything off.  In fact, if I get to a point where I have to take a pain pill as well, I just throw in the towel and go to bed, because the wooziness is horrendous.  Different drugs cause different effects, so I have to take other drugs to combat them.  Yesterday my pill count was 22, and that’s not even on one of my big drug days.

The latest side effect I am dealing with is water weight.  We knew that both Gemzar and Taxotere would cause me to retain water, but I have put on 20 pounds in water weight in the past eight weeks.  None of my rings fit and I dread the day that I have to give up my flip-flops.  So Dr. F. added a water pill to my pill count.  Along with it, I have to take potassium.  I started with just one pill, but it did nothing so I’m on to two now.  She told me I may need to take three per day to see a difference.  I’m also up to three stool softeners per day (sorry if that’s too much information, but I’m giving it straight), because almost everything I take backs me up.  I’ve never been more thankful for my pharmacist at CVS who keeps track of everything I’m taking and warns me of the possible side effects.  For instance, we recently added an antibiotic when my fever spiked, and she was able to warn me not to take it until 6 hours after I take my multivitamin because of some nasty effects.  I’m very happy to avoid those effects.  At this rate, I can’t really say if one week is better than another, because I keep getting sick on top of the chemo effects.  My “good” week (my off week) has managed to stay pretty good, but the other two are fighting for the most miserable.  Thursdays tend to be good days – so far.  I’m hoping they continue to stay that way.

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Prayers

I could really use some prayers for a good day today.  It’s been a really crappy week.  This is not supposed to be my “good” week, but I did not expect it to be this bad either.  I’m thankful I had the weekend.  I was able to go to the ball game with my friend and have Little Man’s party, which I hope was a great success.  But this week has been killing me.  Today was the first day I have been able to get out of bed before my boys leave for school and work.  And I’m sore all over, which is ridiculous.  Yes, I walked all over creation last week throughout the airport, hospital, and Rice Village (to eat), but that was a week ago!  I shouldn’t still be sore.  I dealt with the fever and chills and am now on the second really strong antibiotic in two weeks.  I’m not even going to tell you what my daily pill count is up to.  Suffice it to say it takes more than half the Sprite to take them all.

My husband has had to deal with dinner, handle everything with our son (including taking off work to take him to his well appointment yesterday), and – oh yeah – work a full-time job.  He even had to throw a load of laundry in the washer yesterday because we are out of everything and I’ve been too sick to do it.  Please pray that I have enough strength to do the laundry today.  And to play with my son.  And possibly not be sore.  That’s really all I want.

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A Day in the Life

A day in the life of a chemo patient is never dull!  I’m sooooo thankful for everyone who has helped us out or we wouldn’t be making it right now.  Yesterday I spent the entire day either freezing, sweating, or really, really fuzzy.  I slept most of the day, but my fever hit 103 yesterday afternoon and stayed that way for a couple of hours.  It was rough. The pills I took made my head all fuzzy, so I wound up sleeping the whole day.  My doctor (well, technically another doctor on call) called in yet another antibiotic for me to take.  I’m beginning to hate antibiotics, mainly because they cause other issues.

People from our church brought over tons of frozen meals, which have come in so handy because there is no way I could have cooked on either of the last two days.  Today I’m picking up Little Man early and taking him in for his 3-year-old doctor’s appointment.  His doctor’s office has two locations, one much bigger than the other.  I’m taking him to the smaller location and hoping to get back soon.  It’s really not a good idea for  me to be hanging out in the waiting room with sick kids.  (Although I guess the antibiotics will help.)

Traveling to MD Anderson was quite a haul.  The airport is huge and I was worn out by the time I landed in Houston.  A man named Bond from the Houston Ground Angels picked me up and brought me to the hotel.  It’s a really great ministry where someone will pick up a cancer patient and take them to their hotel, and later pick them up from their hotel and take them back to the airport.  It’s free!  (In case you’re wondering, taking a cab from the airport to the hotel is $65 one way and taking a town car is $60 one way.)  So that saved me $120, which is so needed.  Flights, hotel, and meals wound up costing around $430.

Speaking of money, I spent the day before yesterday on the phone with insurance and two hospitals about bills I have received recently.  I received one bill a few weeks ago for $8737, and I freaked out.  That one, though, I thought we had already taken care of.  (It turns out that the doctor who did my surgery billed my insurance company twice, then refunded them, and somehow I got a bill that wasn’t intended for me.)  Anyway, I also received a bill from my most recent surgery for $200 from the anesthesiologist.  On the phone with the insurance company, they told me that my “major medical” hadn’t been met for the year.  Are you kidding me?  It’s September.  I have had three surgeries and all kinds of doctors appointments.  How is it possible that my major medical could not have been met (especially since every single doctor I have seen has told me it had been met for the year)?  So after some searching, we went back to that $8737 bill.  It turns out that insurance paid it 100% and that I was not supposed to pay the $200 I paid (which had till now been applied to my major medical).  So I had to spend some time on the phone with that hospital to see if they were going to refund me that money.  I didn’t get a clear answer, just if it happens, it will happen in the next month.  Um, okay.  Then I called the local hospital to figure out what the $124 outpatient bill was for.  My insurance company paid my chemo in full, but this was a separate charge for “supplies”.  No one there knew what it was about either, so they kicked it back to the insurance person on staff and are supposed to call me back.  We’ll see.  I just love dealing with all these people and getting nothing accomplished.

Today I am being as lazy as possible until I need to pick up Little Man, because I’m fairly certain he will wear me out.  I have hope that tomorrow will be a good day because I need to do laundry at some point.  My mom should be coming over to work on her duplex, which she’s turned into a gameday rental. I would like to help her.  After Little Man’s party this weekend, I just sat on the couch while everyone else cleaned up.  I hate feeling useless.  But I was so wiped.  Usually my weekends are okay, but between the airport and the hospital, I hadn’t had a minute to catch up and my body let me know it.  I think the next trip to Houston I’ll ask if we can do Tuesday/Wednesday instead of Wednesday/ Thursday.  That way I can have a day to sleep before starting chemo again.  We shall see!

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Good News!

I’m back from Houston and I have good news to share.  I asked for prayers for a couple of specific things – that the tumors would either shrink or maintain and that the weather would be clear for take-off so that I could get home tonight.  When I took off, the skies were clear blue 🙂  And when I met with my doctor, he told me that a few of my tumors are maintaining and some are shrinking!  This is great news!   I will continue the chemo regiment I’m on and go back again in another six weeks to see where I stand.  Thank you, thank you, thank you for the prayers!  

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Off I Go!

Traveling and scans today, seeing the doctor and traveling back tomorrow.  Prayers appreciated!  (If you want to know what specifically to pray for, we are hoping for shrinkage or maintaining.  In other words, we want the tumor to be the same size or smaller.)

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