Monday, July 30, 2012

Pre-Op and a Family Celebration

The crazy thing about having to go through pre-op, is that you have to read through a ton of forms, sign each one of them and then you are pretty much done, unless you are required to have an EKG.

After all of your paperwork is signed with a nurse, they send you to the cardiology department in another building. The only good thing about it is that the buildings are connected by a skyway. Not every floor is connected though. There is only one floor connected between the two buildings. Unfortunately for me, my doctors are not on the same floor that has the skyway. So, I always have to walk to the other end of the building where the elevators are, go down a floor, then walk all the way across the building and the skyway to get to the other building. It is such a pain.

When we get to the cardiology department, you must check in at this small window toward the back of the building. If you didn't know where you were going, you could certainly get lost. Once you check in, you wait for at least 30-45 minutes before anyone ever calls you back. As soon as you are taken to a room, they quickly hook up the electrodes and take a 10 second reading, unhook you and you're done. All that wasted time waiting and wondering and getting anxious for a 10 second reading. Another pain to deal with.

But, when that is over, you are all done and free to go home. So, you leave the hospital campus and get on the freeway only to sit in traffic for another hour. How in the world did I live in California my whole life and not end up with a heart attack or high blood pressure?

I was very glad to get all of it over with. Why? Today was my mother's birthday. I was already feeling like the worst child in the world by getting cancer and making my entire family go through this with me. And here, on my mom's birthday I have to go through pre-op testing and a ton of forms. I was feeling like a heel.

But, mom was all too nice about it all. She say this was what we had to do as a family and she wouldn't have it any other way. I couldn't believe how well she was taking this. She had cried for days when dad and I wanted to talk about it back in July, and now she was a pillar of strength. The great thing though was that we were going to go to one of her favorite places for happy hour and dinner.

My grandparents joined my parents and I at the Claim Jumper. My mom's close friend also joined us. We had dinner together and laughed and joked the night away. We even splurged on the Chocolate Motherload Cake for my mom and sang Happy Birthday! It turned out to be a great evening. I was happy we had a wonderful celebration for my mom and forgot for just a few moments of time that we had a hard week ahead of us all.

Mom, you are a star! You shine bright for everyone that meets you and they love you. Not as much as me, but they love you.

Next up, 'Surgery.'

"Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart." Jeremiah 24:7

I am reading a book by Robin Jones Gunn called "Sisterchicks Go Brit." I was struck by the verse above which she quoted as the main characters self-toured a chapel at Exeter College in Oxford England. The Lord will give me a heart to know Him, to know that He is Lord and I am His people. He will be my God and I WILL return to Him with my whole heart. I want to know know the Lord. I want Him to be my God. This journey I have been on since 2004 (more notably since 2008) has made me draw close to the Lord and get to know Him in a greater way. The circumstances of life sometimes gently (sometimes more forcibly) push us toward Him. It is our choice at that moment to decide to draw close to Him and get to know Him or walk away and blame Him. Our choice is just that, our choice. He doesn't force us. But, He wants us.

Is the Lord drawing you toward Him now? What direction will you choose? I urge you to choose carefully and wisely.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Still Rolling Toward Cali

Mom and I did have a good night's sleep in Flagstaff. There was a train whistle off in the distance, but nothing like Gallup, NM. This was a place we will stay on our way back to Colorado. We slowly got ourselves ready to go and stopped at Coco's next door for breakfast before getting on the road again. We talked about the rest of the trip home and if there were any other stops we were going to make.

Years ago, my mom and grandma had driven out to see me in Colorado. They had stopped in a little town called Williams and found it to be quaint. So, mom and I decided we would drive through so I could see it. It was only 30 miles down road from Flagstaff and wouldn't take a lot of time to go through, so it was worth it to take a look at this little town.

Because most of the Interstate also doubles as Route 66, there is a lot of memorabilia throughout the towns which the route originally took. Williams was no different. Most of the restaurant's and shops had Route 66 incorporated in their name or the items they sold.

This little town was also the gateway to the Grand Canyon's southern rim. Mom asked me if I wanted to give it a shot and take the detour. I took a look at the map and it seemed it was only a 1 hour detour to drive there. Who knew if we would be able to take this detour on our way back? So, we made the decision to go for it.

Neither mom nor I had ever been to the Grand Canyon, so tis was going to be a treat for both of us. As we got to the entrance, we talked with the ranger for a few minutes and found out that since I had a handicapped placard, we could get an access pass to America's Parks for a lifetime free entrance to most of the parks around that nation. This was too cool, so I filled it out as quickly as I could and we were on our way!

We now tried to follow the park map to the first location and lookout. Mom and I found a spot after going around the parking lot several times. The bad thing was the weather. Clouds had rolled in and cast a very heavy shadow over the entire canyon. As we got out and began walking toward the stairwell to the overlook, it began to rain. Mom ran back to the car as I headed to the rail as best I could. I was wearing a ball cap, so I was ok with a covering for my glasses. It was just awesome to be here and seeing this natural wonder God had created. We took pictures of each other and stood in amazement at this creation of our Lord. It was truly amazing.

Mom and I took a few more turnouts and then headed for the general store. We took a tour around the store and found some memento's we could take home. I was so excited to be here, I was beside myself. But the reality was that we needed to get to California because I had appointments for pre-op tomorrow and dad would start to wonder if we were ever going to be there. So, mom and I made the decision to not make any more stops in the park and begin the rest of the trip home.

We headed out and managed to get back to sun once we were back on the Interstate. We made it to Kingman, AZ where we ruled up the car, got a coffee from Starbucks and grabbed some food from my childhood (and still today) favorite, In-N-Out. After we did those few things, we got back on the road for the border of Calif. Soon we found ourselves in a major rain storm and had to slow the car down to the 40's. This was going to take a long time to get home if we were going to drive this slow. We finally made it t the California border, and as we were passing over the Colorado River the heart of the storm was overhead. Because of the noise of the storm, I placed my hand on my mom's hand at the exact moment of a lighting strike and scared the living daylights out of her. We had a great laugh over that and kept on going.

I love storms. I think rain storms and snow storms are incredibly cool. I love to watch the lightning strikes, but hate when they are too close. I'm also not much of a fan of being out in the storms. I much prefer to watch from the comfort of my home through a secure window. I just didn't have a choose with this one. I was driving through it as best I could with the windshield wipers on high.

We soon made our way out of the storm and saw a rainbow in the distance; nightfall was coming. We made one final stop in before arriving at my parents house. Mom and I switched places after fueling up the car and getting one last Starbucks run in our blood for the drive. We got back on the road and made our phone call to dad to let him know where we were and what time to kind of expect us in town.

We made our way over the Cajon pass and to the last set of freeways before we would be home. We were both pretty tired at this point and just wanted to get there. We knew our week ahead was going to be stressful, so we pushed ourselves to make the last 60+ miles to the house. But, road construction would detour us onto surface streets and a slew of traffic to go with it. We had no idea where this detour was taking us, and all we wanted was to get back on the freeway and head home. This detour ended up costing us another 20-25 minutes not knowing where we had gotten back on the road. Once we got our barring again, we got on the correct route and were off again.

By the time we exited the freeway near home, it was after 11pm and we called dad to say we were on the surface streets home. 3 more turns and we would be in our driveway and then soon in our beds for the night. When we arrived, we unloaded the car with dad's help, got everything into the living room and got out the necessities for the evening. I talked with dad a few minutes while mom took a shower and talked about what time we needed to leave for the hospital and all the tests. When mom was done with her shower, we told her what we had talked about and asked if she thought that time frame was good. She was agreeable, we all said our goodnights, and I was off to bed for the evening.

Tomorrow was going to be a filled day, so a good night's rest was important for all of us.

Next, "Pre-Op" and a special family night.

"In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory." Ephesians 1:7-12

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Wheels Go Round and Round

"Life without God is like an unsharpened pencil - it has no point."

I couldn't agree more with that statement. Especially when dealing with cancer, the closer I am to God, the easier it is to get though the bad days. I really couldn't imagine going through this without knowing the Lord. I think it would be "pointless" to try.

Mom and I got a little bit of a late start in leaving town. We headed to California via the southern route through New Mexico and Arizona. We stopped on the road for breakfast and a stop across the street for coffee in the car. We like to have our Starbucks on the road and try to find one near our stops for vehicle fuel.

We headed for the border of Colorado and New Mexico planning to stay overnight in Santa Fe since we got a late start. We made a light detour in Las Vegas, NM just to check it out. We didn't know what to expect, but thought we would just drive through the heart of the town and see what we could find. It was a Saturday, and people were having parties in the park and it seemed like a quint little town. Some older architecture along with some classic signs, vintage street clocks and old Americana feel. We didn't stop anywhere, we just took in the sites and made our way back to the Interstate.

Sporting a faux-hawk at Pecos National Historical Park.
We headed south again and soon found ourselves in a very nice mountainous area headed toward Santa Fe. We came upon a few signs for Pecos National Historical Park and I talked mom into heading off the Interstate to take a look there too. We found a small entrance off the Santa Fe Trail into a wooded area and found a visitor center. We stopped in to see what Pecos was all about. It had been an old Indian Reserve and the ruins of this little city had been excavated to find various ways of living. It was fun seeing this little site and walking around the ruins. The wind was pretty strong through here and you can tell so by may hair. I usually don't sport a faux-hawk, this is a rare site to see me with one. Mom and I didn't spend much more than an hour taking in the site before we left. When we left, we took a left turn down the Santa Fe Trail until we found a way back to the Interstate. It wasn't much longer until we were in Santa Fe. Downtown was bustling as they had a street fair going on. We had such a hard time finding a place to park because of it and it was beginning to rain.

We took in the site of an old church in town that was undergoing renovation and headed south again toward Albuquerque. We thought we might find a place that we could have dinner, but we couldn't really decided on anything and continued west from Albuquerque. We watched the signs on the highway for any place that we really felt we wanted to stop and look, but didn't really see much. We continued to make our way to Gallup, NM which is just before the Arizona border and settled in for the night as it was really late.

The place was pretty much a dive and the train ran through town blowing its horn nearly every 30 minutes. It was the worst night of sleep either one of us had ever had. We were both cranky the next morning and could hardly wait to hit the road and get out of that place. But, we needed fuel for us and the car, so we made the necessary stops before getting on the road.

A little of the Painted Desert behind me.
Now that we had our bellies full and were on the road again, we felt much better. We saw signs for The Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park. We started at the visitor center and soon found that this was a place we wanted to check out for sure. We had some time and made our way through the pull-outs and beautiful scenery of the Painted Desert. We wound around the road and back under the Interstate to the other side which then becomes the Petrified Forest.

It was amazing to see all the trees that had crystallized over the years. We continued down every turn off to see what was there. if anything was new. We saw some petroglyphs, and more petrified trees. They really were beautiful. Some were not as formed as others, while others were huge and strewn everywhere in small chunks.

We found our way out the back entrance and by-passed a bit of the Interstate. We caught it again at a city called Holbrook and continued west toward Flagstaff. We turned off for Meteor crater and found that we were amazed at what it really looked like. We were extremely skeptical at first knowing the pseudo-science type of people that can be found in the southwest.

Finally as it began to get dark, we got back on the highway for Flagstaff, only another hour away. By the time we got to Flagstaff, we found a very nice hotel and got checked in. Neither one of us had eaten since breakfast and were now to the point that we snapped at each other with our answers. Neither of us would make a decision on dinner and both of us became irritated. Mom finally went in and took a shower while I just gave up and started to go to bed. When she got out of the bathroom, I apologized and told her I didn't know what was wrong with me. After a little discussion, we realized we hadn't eaten and we both needed protein to keep ourselves from snapping like that. We got ready and went out to grab something and take it back to the room. When we got back and got ready for the night, we called the family and let them know we would call sometime after we got back on the road again.

We were now at more than half through our trip and were beyond being tired from the lack of sleep that night before. Hopefully no trains kept us up tonight.

Next, we adventure a little more before getting to California.

"My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing." James 1:2-4

Friday, July 27, 2012

Return to Work

After taking the red-eye home to California, my grandparents picked me up from the airport and took me to my parents house. It was fairly early in the morning, so I took a nice nap before they came back later to take me out. We ended up going to a place for an early dinner called Javiars Cantina at Crystal Cove. Great food, nice atmosphere, wonderful company.

As part of our conversation at the dinner table, my grandparents asked me if I had thought about why this was happening to me. My cousins had asked me at the end of our dolphin trip what I thought the Lord was trying to teach me through this. Two different ways of basically asking the same question. One way was from the point of view as a believer, the other was the point of view of the world.

I answered the question to each of them the same way. "If God is trying to teach me something, I would hope I have my ears and heart wide open to hear it from Him. Yet, I do not think that this is a lesson for me, but for others. I don't know what that looks like or if I will ever know who it is for, but I believe that I may never know who it is for." In the past four years, my answer has not changed.

The next morning, my grandparents came back to my parents house to take me to the airport. I was on my way back to Colorado for the first time in 2 months. I would be there for 2 weeks before I headed off to California for my surgery. A friend of mine had my car at her house, so I called and had her pick me up from the airport. I was still pretty tired from the time difference (four hours), but I needed to get back on track as there were many things that need to be accomplished before I left.

I returned to work on a Monday. Pretty much everyone I saw was excited to see me and wanted to hear about what was going on and what the doctors has said. I tried to update people as quickly as I could since we were all at work and needed to be good stewards of our time since we worked for a Christian ministry. Nearly every person was shocked at the options that were presented to me and awe struck at what I chose to do. It wasn't going to be an easy road, but it was the road I was confident I was supposed to take.

Over the course of the two weeks, I kept taking little things and giving them to my co-workers to handle while I was gone. At the end of the two weeks, mom flew out to join me in finishing the preparations to leave. We even met with some legal advisors to sign medical power of attorney papers, just in case. Lots of little things needed to be done and we systematically made our way through that list.

A few "Goodbye Party" goers.
My final day at work there was a going away party for me. I was prayed over and sent off with many blessings. It was a great way to leave and head off on the incredible journey. Mom and I gave the next day to getting things ready to leave. We were driving my car out to California. It would be several days on the road since I could only ride for so long. We would soon be there and going through pre-op tests. I was excited to spend time with mom crossing a few states, but was getting a little nervous as I really didn't know what was ahead for me. We were off our another adventure...

Next..."The Wheels Keep on Turning and Turning an Turning."

"I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing to You among the nations. For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens, And Your truth unto the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; Let Your glory be above all the earth." Psalm 57:9-11

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Little Fun in the Sun

Just as a reminder, this all took place in 2008. We are making our way through to now, but in order to understand these days I face now, setting the scene for the past few years in important. I hope you are bearing with me, and enjoying the story along with what God has taught me along the way and seeing how He has worked. It is truly awesome and a testament to Him.

So, my parents, my cousins and I have made our way to Maui. The pain I feel is something we haven't talked much about at this time. While on this vacation, I spent a good deal of time laying on the bed in the condo. Each time we would go site seeing, out to eat or out shopping, the time sitting in the car would cause my hip and lower back to ache so bad it was like a constant, unrelenting swat in the tail end with the flat side of a shovel. Beside laying in bed, the only thing that would help me feel better was to be in the ocean.

It became a running joke with all of the other people in the complex, "She's a fish!" I could stay out in the Napili Bay for 4-5 hours. I would have my cousins husband and my dad help me down into the water (because of a steep incline) and have them help me get out when I was ready.  Everyone would come out and talk with me for a few minutes in the water and then get really cold and make their way back to the sand to warm up in the sun. My cousin was the one that could last the longest coming out to talk with me. She would last about 30 minutes. Then she would get cold and head back to the sandy shore and under the umbrella and beach towel for a few minutes.

Cousins heading out to snorkel, still in the sand.
I would float out there in the bay, sing praise songs, pray, watch the people going out to snorkel in the bay try to put on their fins in the sand while stumbling all over the place, then trying to put them on in the water and rolling over face down before they finally succeed. It was so much fun snickering at them knowing they really had no clue what they were doing. Seasoned snorkelers know they put the fins on in the water and do it by using their opposite leg to keep them upright instead of laying on their back in the water. Newbies always loose their balance and roll over, getting frustrated as they come back upright. It is such a sight to see, very entertaining. Then, there are people who take nearly 30 minutes to get their fins and masks on before they ever head out to snorkel. That is also something that would make me laugh hysterically.

Sunset over Molokai.
All of this was therapeutic for me. The floating in the ocean allowed my body the ability to feel weightless, taking the pressure off my hip and allowing me a bit of relief. The shows I got to see from the people were great for my state of mind, making me forget all that was coming and allowing me to laugh a while. Each afternoon, we would all finish up at the beach and go back into our condos and take showers to wash off the salt water and sand. Then, we would come back together at the condo I was staying in downstairs for dinner as a family and watch the sun set over Molokai across the channel from us. Others would come out with their dinners and eat at the picnic tables near the built-in barbecues. This place and the people were all well acquainted with each other and had been spending they summers together for years over here. We were no exception. This was not only paradise, it was home away from home.

For 3 weeks we managed to forget the upcoming surgery and just do life together. It was a wonderful time. My cousins and I managed to take a boat with the Pacific Whale Foundation to the far side of Lanai (the other island across the channel from us), looking for schools of dolphin. Even tough we didn't see any dolphin that day, it was great to be on a boat in the ocean. I have always loved the ocean, and the tattoo's I have of a whale tail coming out of the water and a breeching orca, tell the "tale" for me. If I could get a other tat, I would finish off the whale tail coming out of the water with a lighthouse on a cliff overlooking the ocean, a breeching orca, a couple of dolphin and a sea turtle underwater. For me, that would go across my back and be the last tat I would get. I would be complete after that.

Enjoying a Maui Tacos burrito before
boarding the plane home.
Never-the-less, all the fun in the sun needed to come to an end. My cousins left the in morning the same day that I was going to leave. I left for the airport just before dinner. I always fly the red-eye home so I can sleep on the plane and still have a good day in the water. We head to the airport, check me and my luggage in and then head someplace for dinner. This time was no exception. We drove to the local mall and I had my last taste of Maui Tacos food. We sat in a little area nearest to the parking lot watching the people shop and eat shaved ice and ice cream. Soon enough I was headed back to California to spend one last day with my grandparents before heading back to Colorado. It was a bittersweet time for my parents and I because we knew that when we were all back on the mainland (that's what the lower 48 states are called in the islands) we would see each other just before I headed off to surgery. We made the most of our time before they dropped me off at the airport and watched me go through security and up the escalator to the gates. With a few tears, I was on my way back to California and prepare for a long journey ahead.

Next, we 'Return to Work' to make all the necessary preparations to leave Colorado and begin the trek to California for surgery.

"Be merciful to me, O God, for man would swallow me up; Fighting all day he oppresses me. My enemies would hound me all day, For there are many who fight against me, O Most High. Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You." Psalm 56:1-3

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Little Time Off

After making the decision to go through with the 'wide resection' surgery, I needed to contact the doctor and see where we go from here to make this surgery happen. I made preliminary contact with him by email and let him know we were set on the 'wide resection' option. He wrote back a few days later with some dates at the end of August, and he suggested we take some time out to recoup from the emotional roller coaster ride we had been on for the past few weeks.

My family and I talked about the dates that were offered and the doctors suggestion we take some time for ourselves. My parents and I decided it would be a good idea to go ahead with our original plans for a vacation at our favorite place in Maui, HI. So, I contacted my supervisor at work and explained what my doctor had said. He agreed that since I had plenty of vacation time coming, I should go ahead and take the trip as planned.

My mom called and made changes to my dads plane ticket for him to fly out with mom and I. We were set to go on vacation!

July 7, I followed up with the doctor by sending him my decision about the timing of the surgery from his suggested dates. This included taking time for my vacation in Maui for some much needed rest, relaxation and fun! That email is as follows:
Dr. Femino,

My family and I are looking to schedule surgery for the hip and pelvic resection in August. We are looking at 8/27/08. Do you still have this date available? If so, please advise of when you would need me back in California for pre-op tests, appointments, etc. Are there any special measurements that need to be done prior to this in order for you order the prosthesis in time for the surgery? Please feel free to discuss any of this with my grandparents when they meet with you tomorrow morning. My parents and I are heading to Maui for 3 weeks before I return to work to prepare to leave for surgery. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you kindly,

Stacey Frazier
I contacted our cousins to let them know I had made a decision on my surgery and that we were going to leave for Maui in a few days. Our conversation was long as they asked about the surgery and what that meant to me short-term and long-term. They asked what brought me to my decision and how I felt about it. We talked more about our upcoming trip and they prayed with me for peace with my decision. By this time, I was very comfortable with my decision and could talk to people about it with assurance I was doing the right thing. When I talked with a couple of close friends, they said that by the sound of my voice, I was comfortable and they were relieved about it. They were still worried though as this was going to be a huge surgery and they weren't sure I really had grasped that fact (I had).

Napili Bay, Maui, HI
A day or two later, our cousins called and said they would be seeing us in Maui. They were leaving and would already be there when my parents and I arrived. A couple of days later we were on our way to Maui as well. I hadn't heard back from Dr. Femino before we left, so we were on hold to find out if my surgery date was going to take place on August 27th or not. A few days after arriving in Maui, he sent this email:
Dear Ms. Frazier,

I have been able to coordinate OR time and personnel set-up to do your surgery on Friday, August 29, 2008.  I would like to see you for pre-op on Tuesday, August 26th.  If you want to have family members and/or friends donate blood for you, they must donate prior to August 26th so that it can be processed.  Or, we can use blood bank blood (it is processed that same way as donor directed blood). 

Dom Femino

Vibiana- please schedule Ms. Frazier to see Helen and me on August 26th. 
There we go! We were now on our way to ridding me of this cancer. It was a good feeling to not only have made the decision and be confident with it, but to have this scheduled so we weren't waiting and making me nervous to have this procedure. Now we needed to see if we could get some blood donated from family and friends that were my same type, A+. The good news was that my mom was my blood type and she could donate a couple of times before my surgery. Mom and dad reached out to a few friends by email in hopes to get a few people to help. A friend of my dad came through in a big way. He not only donated blood himself, but he organized an entire group of people to go to the hospital and donate blood too. It was really awesome to see this happening, and how God always provides for us.

Tomorrow, we'll have "A Little Fun in the Sun!

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6

Have you had a time in your life where you didn't know what to do, and when you trusted the Lord, He came through in ways you could not have imagined? Did you give the glory and honor to Him for it? If not, it's not too late!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Time to Think...

I know the last post wasn't incredibly exciting in hearing about my journey, I imagine it was a little entertaining though. While writing it yesterday, my mom asked what I write about. I explained how we are taking this journey back to the beginning and working our way to today. Stupidly, I divulged that I had something in the post about her and I thought I was going to be in so much trouble. Thankfully, after reading her what I had already written, she "allowed" me to post yesterday's without changing anything. Thanks mom!

Getting back to the story...

After a couple of hours of much needed sleep, my grandparents arrived at our house. They had spent the better part of the afternoon talking with my cousins at lunch. Since I wasn't there, I'm really not sure of the details of their conversation, but I know from some things my grandfather said they filled them in on some of the details of the meeting with Dr. Femino and his nurse as they could remember them. I must say that my entire family was not only in a state of shock by the drastic options that had been presented to us, but we were all feeling such devastation from the news as it was presented.

I truly believe it is in this time of devastation that I needed to place myself at the throne of God, sit at His feet and let Him love on me. The devastation was so deep for each one of us that day, there seemed to be no other place I needed be. Sleeping for those few hours allowed me to escape  from all that had happened and regroup to address this thing head-on. Without it, I know that I would not have found my way into His arms as quickly as I did that day. I would have continued to stew inside about what the doctor had said. I would have continued to rehash every last word of the conversations and planned a verbal response back to the doctor for not having a better plan offered to us than to loose my leg to this disease and confront him about the way he presented it to us.

I thank my grandfather for having the state of mind to suggest we take time as a family to ponder and discuss the options before making a hasty decision. Yet, in my mind (and anger) I already had my mind made up. It didn't take long for my grandparents to greet my parents and make their way back to my room to talk. I knew at this point there was no getting away from discussing at least a portion of the day with them.

My grandfather came in first and sat down on the bed. He started by asking, "So, what do you think?" My response was one of vinegar and not honey. "I don't care what he says, he's not taking my leg! I would rather have the bone scraping than to loose my leg." In true fashion, my grandfather chuckled at my response and said he didn't think I would.

My grandfather has the ability to make any bad situation look like a bed of roses, sooner or later. He is a shrewd businessman in commercial real estate. An honest man who finds a way to make things happen for the good, even when things look like they are at their worst. He is completely devoted to his family and he loves my grandmother more than anything. He is a man who fights for justice in situations and will give you the shirt off his back if he thinks it will help you. He finds the things to be positive about even when you WANT to focus on the negative, and somehow gets you to let your guard down and relax when you are ready to fight (when it is not time to fight).

For a good 30 minutes we talked about the different options in detail looking at the pros and cons of each. Having slept for a while, I was able to look a lot more rationally and analytically than I had before at what was presented to us and make a decision as to what was going to be the ideal choice (if complete healing wasn't going to be on the table). I had a pretty good idea of what direction I felt was best, but wanted to see how the rest of the family felt and what they thought would be best.

Not long after my grandfather and I finished talking, my grandmother came in and sat down to talk. She gave a great big hug and was visibly still shaken by the news. We talked about pros and cons of each option as well as the emotional toll this had taken and was going to continue taking on our family. Neither one of us ever thought we would have this kind of decision facing us as we did. We finished our conversation by talking about sitting down with mom and dad to discuss the options so I could make my final decision.

Now that I was ready to talk with the family about these options, my mom needed her time and space to deal with the issue. So, dad and I gave her the space she needed for a few days. When she was finally ready to talk, the 3 of us sat down and discussed what we all thought about the options and how each one of them would look short-term and long-term. I still had my decision in mind and hadn't really said what I was thinking because I wanted to hear what they had to say. Ultimately though, we all pretty much came to the same conclusion. The best option for not only me, but the entire family was to go with the option of the 'wide resection' with a saddle prosthetic.

With this decision behind us, it was time to bring it to the doctor and find out how and when we go about moving forward.

Next, "A Little Time Out."

"Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust." Psalm 16:1

Monday, July 23, 2012

A Long Drive Home

City of Hope front entrance,
main (original) building.
Mom and I waited at the curbside drop-off/pick-up area in front of the main building while dad went to go get the car. Mom and talked a little as we headed out there. My grandparents and cousins had gone ahead to a lunch destination together, hopefully waiting for the 3 of us would to join them. It was lunch time now, but my stomach wasn't really up for that. I was not really interested in going out to lunch as I would have to answer questions from my family and that was NOT what I wanted to do at this time.

Dad pulled the car around and we found a place for the new walker in the back. My mom climbed in the backseat and I rode next to dad up front. We take my dad's car because it is in better shape than my mom's. But, mom does't like the way dad drives (and vice-versa), so I get the pleasure of seeing the taillights of the vehicles in front of us coming at breakneck speeds before we actually feel any brakes being applied in our vehicle. Somehow he really hasn't grasped the fact that I have nothing to put my feet on to stop from sliding forward on the carseat covers, like he does with the brake. So, after every stop sign, traffic light, speed bump or freeway traffic we stop for, I continuously have to readjust in my seat out from under the seat belt I have half slid under from the stop. Fun stuff, huh? I guess that comes from 35 years of fire department truck driving.

As we pulled away from the drop-off/pick-up area of the hospital, mom called my grandfather on his cell phone. She let him know that I was not feeling like having lunch and we were heading for home. She asked that he give our cousins our love and tell them we will talk with them later about any details they want to know. After just a minute or two, they hung up.

Not much was said between the three of us as we got on the freeway. Mom was concerned for me since I was basically shutting down and not talking, she knew I was trying to process all of what just happened. Dad just focused on traffic, the temperature of the car for mom and I and the radio station he had playing. That didn't mean he didn't care though. My dad is as much of an internalizer as I am, if not more so. He is also very analytical and thinks through things before he speaks. I pretty much get those traits from him. I get my fun loving nature from my mom. So, pretty much the car was silent for the remainder of the ride home.

Our family lives about 50-60 miles from the hospital, so with major traffic, using the carpool lane, it takes about 45-55 minutes to get to the hospital or back home. After our silent ride home, I still had  nothing much to say at all. Mom and I piled out of the car while dad got my walker from the back. After unfolding it and handing it to me, I went into the house and mom followed. Dad pulled the car into the garage and followed behind us shortly. Mom asked me if I was hungry and if I wanted something for lunch. I declined and headed straight for my room.

My room in California doubles as my mom's dressing room. She has taken what used to be my closet and has built in a complete shelving unit from Container Store by Elfa. There is a shelf for EVERYTHING! There's a shelf for purses, several below for shoes that are all in their own plastic sliding boxes labeled with what they are, hooks for belts, a long bar area for hanging pants and dresses, a shorter bar area for hanging blouses and even a shelf for a small flat screen with HD cable. Mom has to be able to watch the weather forecast in the morning as she is picking out her clothing for the day. Ok, the real reason the television is there is for me. I can't live without the background noise of the television and frankly, I don't always like what dad is watching in the den (like almost never).

I got to my room and closed the door behind me as a sign that I really needed some privacy and didn't need anyone peering in. But, as mom's dressing room, that didn't really work out well for me. I got in bed and rolled over to my stomach, as I always do to give my backside a break from the pain that has been plaguing me for well over a year. I hugged the pillow turned on the television and tried to escape for a while. Mom came in and changed her clothes. She asked if there was anything I needed and after getting a resounding 'NO', left the room closing the door behind her. The stress and emotions of the day had completely overwhelmed my body and I ended up falling asleep for a couple of hours.

We're talking with my grandfather tomorrow about what happened after I woke up from my little nap.

"For my life is spent with grief, And my years with sighing; My strength fails because of my iniquity, And my bones waste away." Psalm 31:10

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Getting a New Swagger

We left this journey last time as my family and I were headed toward the physical therapy office at City of Hope, with a little diversion to add a vital missing fact.

We made it to the office. I opened the door to the office thinking it might be a larger room for this size hospital. Unfortunately, the waiting room to speak with someone about getting the walker I was told I needed, was not much bigger than the patient room mom, dad and I met Dr. Paz in a little earlier that day. There were still the 7 of us to pile in this small office and someone was already in one of the chairs waiting to be seen.

My cousins made the decision to stay outside and wait for us to finish. My dad decided to stay with them and so did my grandfather. My mom and grandmother stayed with me. My grandmother had been having a hard time hearing when people spoke in low voices, so when I would say something, she kept asking, "What? What did she say?" It wasn't that I cared about what I was saying, but I really didn't want everyone around to hear. Being that I was already very frustrated and on the verge of tears, I asked my mom to take everyone to the front waiting room in the main building. Mom was very hesitant, but after a couple of pleas, I finally convinced her it was best if I stayed here and waited to be seen and the 6 of them waited up front.

I made a good decision by sending them all away. A few more people came through the office and some staff members were back and forth between the therapy room and this office. I think I waited a little more than 20 minutes form someone to finally help with the script I brought down from the doctor.  What I didn't know at the time was that they were going to train me on how to walk with a walker. It wasn't like just getting up and walking like we have learned our entire life.

Ron Vanderbrink, R.P.T., C.P.I.
I was taken across the corridor to the therapy room where I was going to get my lessons on using this new tool. I really thought to myself it couldn't be that hard to walk with this thing. None-the-less I indulged them by going through the motions of learning how to use it. First we started by the therapist, Ron, sizing me up. He had me stand up straight with my arms at my sides. What he were doing was finding out the height of my hands so he could adjust the walker height properly. This took a few minutes and it was relatively painless to just stand there.

After setting the walker height, I was shown how to take my steps and move the walker at the right time. Basically, I was to set the walker in front of me slightly, take my left foot and move forward 'pivoting' off my right foot by raising the heal, then follow through with moving my right foot forward and stopping all my action. Then I was to do it all over again. Move the walker, put my left foot forward and place it while pivoting off the ball of my right foot and then following it up by moving my right foot forward and stopping all movement. The therapist showed me several times around the perimeter of the therapy room before handing me the walker to try myself. I said to myself, "I got this, it's easy."

I took the handles of the walker and set off on my new journey, or should I say I stumbled off on my new journey. Okay, this was not as easy as I thought it was going to be. I really looked liked a bumbling idiot; for real, this room was surrounded by mirrors and I saw what I looked like as I took my first steps. So, not so good. I tried again, this time thinking about what the therapist said and saying it out loud. But, I simplified it a bit, "Place. Step. Step. Place, Step. Step." Still not so easy, but I was trying. It was very weird to take steps without using your arms in a swinging pattern as we learned our whole life. This was not going to be fun. I was pretty much a catastrophe waiting to happen.

So, the therapist had me take several walking circles around the raised wooden floor in the center of the room until I had a better cadence going. As soon as he was convinced that I was well on my way with walking, he said we were going to go down the hall and learn how to use this walker on the stairs. "The stairs? I have to learn how to do this on the stairs too?" Oh boy was this going to be fun. If the flat floor wasn't had enough, now I had to tackle the stairs. Forget about my hip fracturing, I was going to break my neck with this walker on the stairs.

I followed the therapist about 20 feet down the corridor to a stairwell, I used the walker the entire way down there stumbling along. The stairwell was chained off, but he assured me it was fine for us to use it. I stood there watching the therapist as he showed me how to fold/collapse the walker and place it in the hand of the leg we were trying to protect. The walker would be by my right side and I would place body weight on it toward the front of me. I would hold the railing of the stairwell with the other hand and take the steps one at a time. I watched the therapist demonstrate up the half-flight of stairs and back down. Now, it was my turn to try it. This time it was much easier and I didn't stumble all over the place.  He was pleased, I was pleased, it was all good.

Just as we were finishing up at the bottom of the stairs, my mom came around the corner. I stopped her from passing us by as we were in the little inset of the stairwell. The therapist said his goodbye and walked off to the therapy room. Mom and I started off toward the front of the building. I was using the walker as I was shown, and was still stumbling all over the place. I finally gave up for the moment, folded up the walker and started carrying it with me. I told my mom I was ready to go home. We rounded a few corners and found ourselves back at the main entrance of the hospital at the waiting room. My grandparents and cousins were already gone and it was just my dad waiting for us. It was time for me to go home now.

Next comes "The Long Ride Home."

"You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Psalms 16:11

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Oops...I Forgot an Extremely Important Fact

You know...I was so incredibly caught up in trying to remember some of the details of the meeting with the doctor that I forgot to tell you all the most important reason why I was angry with him. I was getting worried about how long the last post was, that I was trying to cut it short somehow. Well, I guess I cut it just a little too short because this was an important factor which has spurred me on through the past several years. Here it goes.

As mom asked questions of the doctor, they talked about the risks of each and every option. They discussed the benefits of one over the other and what would be the best suggested option over the others. Ultimately, the decision would be mine, and hearing the benefits and risks was helpful for me to make a decision. I just didn't make that decision too quickly or while I was still so upset.

As I sat on the table seething inside by this doctor leading our conversations by saying he would amputate my leg, mom was asking Dr. Femino questions about the option to take the hip and place in a prosthesis. I remember keeping my gaze fixed down at the floor and every few minutes or so looking up at my mom. During this exchange, I remember hearing him speak these words, "If we take the leg or perform the 'wide resection,' she will probably never walk again. Or at best she could walk with a walker."

Now that was enough to send me over the edge in anger. Not only did this guy want to take my leg completely, but now he was convinced that I was never going to walk again? Oh no he doesn't! He does not know me that well. He does not know how stubborn I am. He will not tell me what is going to happen to me or my leg. I won't have it. I'll show him. I will walk again! And, I'm keeping my leg too.

Even through my anger, I knew that God was with me and that He was watching over me. I knew He would guide me to the right decision and see I was healed. I just didn't know if t would be on this side of heaven.

How could I have forgotten to tell you this part? This is what has made me fight so hard all this time.


"Lord, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me. Many are they who say of me, 'There is no help for him in God.' Selah But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head. I cried to the Lord with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill." Psalm 3:1-4

Friday, July 20, 2012

Let's Talk About Options - Part 2

I can imagine that this seems to be dragging out. You can imagine how I felt at the time. I was working remotely through this entire month of testings and appointments, getting questions from my two friends at work who were acting as liaisons for the rest of the people in our department, and our family was getting calls and emails from others who were wondering what was going on too. It was a very frustrating time not having any answers to all these questions.

Yet, the time had finally come. We were in the patient room with the doctor and his nurse assistant to find out what he recommended we do to get rid of this beast inside me. Unlike most of the room in the clinics, this corner room (being as large as it was) not only had windows, but it has two walls of them. There was a lot of light in there along with the fluorescent ones above head in the ceiling. You could see several other parts of the campus from there as well, so there were distractions from the conversation qqqthat ensued.

After the typical pleasantries were over. The doctor sat in a chair near the computer and desk in one corner of the room. Near the door, the nurse was looking for a chair to sit on, but my dad had taken the only other one there. She left the room for a moment to find another chair from another room while the doctor pulled up my test images on the computer and the paper files in the folder on the desk. I really think that the doctor didn't want to start talking with us until the nurse returned in order to have a witness to what he said.

Dr. Dominic Femino, M.D.
The nurse returned with a chair for herself and sat nearest the door. The doctor began talking with us and rehashing some of the conversations we had previously with the slew of doctors in the smaller room (which was two doors down from where we were right now). His name is Dr. Dominic Femino, M.D., and he speaks slowly and methodically the entire time. There were moments where he was gathering his thoughts before he started another sentence, which lead me to believe that he didn't really know what he was doing with my case. I was getting more frustrated with each passing moment.

Finally, he decided to take the plunge and provide us with his option for my treatment. He said, "The easiest and quickest way for us to remove the cancer to is take the leg." Boy did he ever take the plunge with that one.

Excuse me?, I thought. My grandmother, ever the dramatic leading lady, jumped backward in her seat, gasped for air and widened her eyes three times their normal size. Mom asked very pointedly, "What exactly does that mean, 'take the leg'? Do you mean amputate it?" Dr. Femino shook his head and said, "Yes. It would be the quickest and easiest surgery for me to perform."

We were all stunned into near paralysis by this blunt, seemingly frigid and brash suggestion of just amputating my limb. I didn't know if I should cry, get really angry, freak out or what. Within myself I was in great turmoil. I clenched my jaw, started breathing very heavily (near a huff), was looking around the room at my mom, then my grandmother, then my grandfather, then the nurse, back to my mom, then to the floor, finally to my dad and back to my mom. With a clinched jaw and glaring eyes, I look at my mom and slightly shook my head back and forth as though I were telling her "no!" And I was. With everything inside me screaming, "You're not taking my leg," I began to shut down externally. I fixed my gaze on the floor and began to swing my leg slowly back and forth while sitting on the patient table. This meeting was over as far as I was concerned.

Every so often I would look up at my mom, but I was done with this. She was fighting back tears as the shock was still fresh for us all. She began to ask questions of the doctor, looking for a way out of this drastic and horrific measure presented to us so callously. In his methodical manner, he began to think about some other options for us. He began by saying that we could leave it alone and do nothing about it all. Eventually, the cancer would spread enough to over take my body leading to death. There was not clear idea of how long that would take. Mom and my grandfather agreed out-loud that this was not an option they would entertain. I on the other hand was ready to let it take it's course over loosing my leg by this guy.

Next, he presented and option of doing a bone scrape. Going into detail, he said what they would do is open up the bone of my entire right hip, basically scrape out all of the cancer they could and piece the bone back together again using bone cement. Doesn't that sound like a lot of fun and not painful at all? He added, "While this would take care of the cancer there right now, it would certainly come back. Maybe to that area, maybe to another area. There is no telling at how long that would take to happen either. But, you will have a recurrence."

Still speaking methodically, Dr. Femino add a final option. It took a while for him to get through this option. It seemed as though he had a lot of hesitation. I was listening to everything he had to say and heard all of these options, but I was still intent on not loosing my leg. I really didn't care, I was keeping my leg. He continued while I was still looking at the floor and sometimes up to my mom and grandparents. This final option would be a lot more work and be a pain experience. "Painful experience? Isn't that what this whole thing is right now, a painful experience?"

The acetabulum
The doctor said there was an option to "spare the limb" by doing a difficult procedure called a 'wide resection.' This would still be considered an amputation, but it would only take the ball and socket along with the affected part of the pelvis called the acetabulum. According to Wikipedia, "The acetabulum is a concave surface of the pelvis. The head of the femur meets with the pelvis at the acetabulum, forming the hip joint." Then a saddle prosthesis would be attached to the ilium (the uppermost and largest bone of the pelvis) with a rod down through the femur bone. Can you say 'ouch?'

At the time, I considered this option because I could still have my leg, but I was still as angry as I had ever been and didn't really want to continue this conversation any longer. But, I wasn't running this meeting.  Mom had a lot of questions to ask the doctor about this procedure, and I was getting more angry by the minute. The more questions she asked, the longer we were sitting here and I had to listen to all of them talk about what they all wanted to do to save my leg yet rid me of the cancer at the same time. I just wanted to do the bone scraping thing and be done with this.

 I missed a few things that were said because I keep saying to myself, "Stop talking. Don't ask any more questions. Let's get out of here. I'm done!" In the long run, it was good that mom was asking all these questions because I wasn't. And, if I was going to make an informed decision about what option to choose, I needed to have someone looking out for me. That was the great thing about having 5 of us in the room with the doctor. What I do remember is that I had to go get a walker to use until we made a decision so that weight was taken off the right hip so it wouldn't fracture from the stress on the cancer affected bone.

Mom didn't have any more questions. Dad had nothing to add. My grandmother was now in a state of shock and couldn't think of anything to ask. My grandfather asked if we could have some time to make a decision and contact the doctor once we had discussed it as a family, and somehow, we were finally going to leave. All I could think about was getting up and walking out the door. Frankly, I don't remember saying goodbyes to the doctor or his nurse and I couldn't get my family to walk fast enough out of the clinic. When we did finally exit the door, someone had to go tell my cousins we were out and ready to go. We stood in the corridor waiting for everyone in the family to be together so we could head to the physical therapy office, which was where I heard I was to go for the walker and lessons on how to use it.

I was fighting back tears as my cousins joined us and we finally started toward the elevator, I was still clinching my jaw and seething inside. My mom tried putting her arm around me to comfort me but I told her "No, not now." I had to deal with this on my own terms. I really wasn't in a talkative mood at this point. All I wanted to do was get this walker and go home. We made it too the main floor and exited the elevator. We were headed toward the physical therapy office for my new look.

Next time we'll talk about getting a new swagger.

“Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil." Ephesians 4:26-27

"And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you." 
Ephesians 4:30-32

Have you let anger take hold of your life in certain situations? Following scripture, we are to let anger go from us. Yet, how do we do that when things of the world appear to be baiting us toward it?

Thursday, July 19, 2012


Separating a rib is NOT fun. The pain associated with rib separation can be debilitating and can take your breath away. This is what I have been dealing with for 2-1/2 weeks now. I have had 3 different chiropractors put the rib back in place during this time using various methods. One of the methods requires the doctor to use their full body weight against yours in a quick jerking motion with their fist placed behind the rib to put it back in while your arms are crossed in front of you.

Add caption
The funny (really not that funny) thing is that the Web gives this description for treatment:
The main treatment for a rib separation is rest. It can take up to two to three months to heal and during this time it is important to avoid pressure on the chest, or excessive movement of the rib cage.

Taping can sometimes be used to help support the rib while the injury heals, but it is important that breathing isn’t restricted. A doctor will often prescribe painkillers to help reduce pain so that the patient can breathe normally.
So, basically we really made a huge mistake in going this direction last week during one of the treatments. The risk for me is not typical. Since I have a tumor on my sternum, the chance for it to crack or break is higher which can cause more pain and worse problems.

This is why my chest has hurt so much worse this past week. My acupuncturist worked on it today with hopes that it will reduce the pain. Also, the results from the X-ray came in this morning and everything was still okay. There were no cracks or breaks found at all.

So, I thank you for the prayers and support over the past couple of days.

"I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;" Philippians 1:3-6

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Let's Talk About Options - Part 1

Thank you for allowing me to digress yesterday. I got in to see my doctor today and she ordered X-ray's. I had those taken but have yet to receive the results. So, for now I have to continue to be careful, take the pain meds every 4 hours and rest. Thank you all for your prayers. Now....

The day has finally come. You all have been waiting for this, I know. Well, if 5 family members in the room wasn't enough last time, we added 2 more for this go 'round. How do like that?

We started by meeting my grandparents at the front building as we came in. No one was quite sure where we were going for the appointments we had today. After meeting up with them and checking in at the front desk, we were told to meet first with the head oncologist on the second floor clinic (2C). We ventured through the main building corridor to the elevators in the clinic building and headed to the second floor. After a while, my name was finally called and the 5 of us all got up. The nurse said that the room was really small and that we wouldn't all fit in there. After a bit of humming and ha'ing, my grandparents graciously said they would stay in the waiting room and let my parents come in with me.

I. Benjamin Paz, M.D.
So, we followed the nurse through the locked door from the waiting room. When we were finished taking all of the vital signs they make you do, we were taken to a room to meet with the oncologist. His name is Dr. I. Benjamin Paz (from Brazil). We walked in and I sat on the patient table, because when they said the room was small, they meant it. Mom and dad had a chair for each of them, which they squeezed into in the corner by the patient table. Then, there was a rolling stool for the doctor by the computer table, which was next to the sink, with no other room for anyone else at all. When the door would open, the patient table was wedged behind it. If you sat in the wrong way on that table, you could get whacked by the door if someone came in. If the doctor stood on that side of the table, he got whacked by the door if someone came in. Can you say, "Bad Set-up?" It was like putting the patient in the broom closet.

We waited a few minutes for the doctor to arrive. As we did, I began to get anxious. I started getting a little jittery too, shaking my leg and fidgeting on the table. I couldn't tell if I was anxious in a good way or a bad way. Of course, this drove my parents nuts. Dad shook his side-to-side with a deep sigh out, as he usually does to show his displeasure. Mom asked why I was shaking everything and to stop it. I had to say I was nervous and this was my way of dealing with it.

No sooner did that verbal exchange happen than the doctor walked through the door and greeted us with a smile and a big hello in his Brazilian accent. Our family always talks with the doctors to see how their day is going and how they are before we get into business, today was no different. After these pleasantries were over, Dr. Paz got right to business. He went over what we already knew about the mass on the hip and stated that the orthopedic surgeon would go into greater detail about what he suggested as treatment. He then told us there were a few other things that had been written in the report that he wanted to discuss. There were gall stones present in my gall bladder that needed to be addressed. There was a portion of my liver that was called a "fatty liver" and that was very important to address. Then the other thing was my weight. Now, we talked several posts ago that I had issues with my weight most of my life. This was a very sensitive subject. I listened carefully to the doctor and understood all of his points and his concerns. I was on board with making changes, but I really needed support to get past where my life was at this point. And that wasn't going to be easy. And I made that known.

Dr. Paz didn't belabor the points with me, he could see by my facial expressions that I was pretty much over feeling lectured to about my weight. He moved on to the cancer again. He said that while the other doctor would be angling things from here, he highly suggested I go with the option of surgery. Okay. Surgery is okay. I can do it. Mom, dad and I all agreed to hear everything and take this into consideration. Dr. Paz was very kind and he really was sympathetic in his words and facial expressions. I felt his compassion, although it could have felt differently if I had only held to the words he said. I left the patent room feeling okay at this point. My parents and I thanked Dr. Paz for his time and we exited through the door we had entered through looking for my grandparents.

We found my grandparents right where we left them, but there were two other people we could hear as we approached the entrance to the waiting area. My cousin and her husband had driven from San Diego (2-1/2 hours) to join us and be there to pray with us and for us the entire time. We all hugged and greeted one another as we usually do. Due to the time we had waited for the doctor, we were really late for our appointment with the orthopedic surgeon. We were all still talking and catching up a little while we scurried to the elevators to head to the third floor for the next meeting.

Again, we found ourselves waiting in the pediatric area to meet with the orthopedic surgeon and his nurse. We are finally going to find out what he suggests we do for the tumor.  All 7 of us, jammed into one corner of the waiting area as we waited to be called back. My name was called for vitals, and as we ALL (mind you 7 of us) got up, the nurse overwhelmed by the group that looked like they were going to mob her, said "I'm just going to take vital signs right now." So I told my family I would go and be right back.

Now, I really don't understand why every appointment you have at the hospital, you have to have your vitals taken. I would have thought that if they were taken once at the first appointment that day, that would have been it. But, for some reason no matter how many doctors or nurses you are seeing, you have to take vitals. So, I put up with it and do what they want. And, the nurses are just doing what they are told to do too. I came back out and sat with my family again. It really wasn't but a minute before they called me back to see the doctor, or so it seemed.

My cousins decided that they were going to stay in the waiting room while we were back with the doctor. My grandparents made it clear they WERE going with us whether we liked it or not. I found that that really funny. My cousins told us after several days that they had decided to stay in the waiting room because they felt the Lord wanted them to stay focused on our family in prayer. When I learned that, I was grateful they had as this was the hardest thing I was going to experience in my life to this point.

We were escorted to a patient room in the far corner of this clinic area. After all of the patient clinic rooms and lab rooms I had been in so far, I could not believe how much SPACE we had in this room. I sat on the patient table while my mom and grandparents sat on the backless bench in the room, dad sat on the only chair that had a back on it near the door. We waited, and waited, and waited, and waited so long that my back began to hurt, my right hip was beginning to get really painful and I really couldn't take it anymore. I got off the table and kind of draped my body across it in hopes to stretch my back muscles and feel a little better. Then, we waited some more.

Finally, the doctor and his nurse came in and greeted each of us. Frankly, I had waited so long that I was not in a good mood at this point and was a little less than friendly. The day was close to being half over and I had spent most of it waiting to this point.

And, wait is what you'll have to do for part 2 of "The Options."

"Give heed to the voice of my cry, My King and my God, For to You I will pray. My voice You shall hear in the morning, O LordIn the morning I will direct it to You, And I will look up." Psalm 5:2-3

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I Digress Today

Hi all! We'll get back to "the options" later. Today, I really need to make this short. I've separated a rib just beneath my right shoulder blade. It was 2-1/2 weeks ago and it is not getting better. Tonight it is worse than it has been. If in the morning it is still as bad as tonight, I'm probably going to the ER.

So, please pray for me tonight. Pray the pain meds kick in and reduce the pain. Pray the rib goes goes in with the ligaments and stays in.

I appreciate the prayers and the support I've received from you all with this new blog. I have much to share with you all which the Lord has done.

Peace and grave to you all.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The CT Results Are In

My parents and grandparents have been very involved since we have been seeing doctors at City of Hope. When we meet with a doctor, there are either 3 or 5 family members in the room. So, you can imagine that a room is pretty packed with the 5 of us before the doctor even gets there.

Picnic with my cousin overlooking the
Pacific ocean in Corona del Mar, CA.
The 4th of July was coming within a week or two and I spent my time working remotely from my parents house in California. I was able to get together with my cousin and her husband to celebrate a little, enjoy some sun and overlook the ocean at one of my favorite spots in Corona del Mar by having a picnic lunch.

It was getting close to the end of June and it was time to meet back up with the doctor and find out the results of the biopsy. I was told that the doctor was going to present my case to the "Sarcoma Board," which was comprised of numerous doctors and nurses from different areas of the hospital. This included the orthopedic surgeons, medical oncology (chemo) and radiation oncology areas. I didn't know it at the time, but my case was a BIG deal at this hospital.

City of Hope has many buildings on its campus. As a research hospital, you can imagine that there are various buildings for various studies, just like a college or university campus. Three of the buildings are connected by basements and skyways; these are the main patient clinics, testing facilities and in-patient rooms. The building in the middle is called "Brawerman," and is the main facility for out-patient clinics. Almost all appointments with doctors are in this 3-story building with basement access. The third floor is where we are to find out the results of the biopsy.

We checked in at a sliding glass window where the receptionist sits. This small area backs up to the nursing station which also includes all of the patient files of those being seen that week. Once checked in we are told to sit in the patient waiting area 2 doors down. We walk through the door flanked by 3 floor to ceiling connected glass walls only to find a kids play area equip with a 6' high kids playhouse, video game table from the 1980's, bean bag chairs and 2-1/2' high bead maze. After finding adult sized chairs, I asked my family why I had been taken to the pediatric clinic. Was it because I came with my whole family? Did they think I was a kid and not an adult? Or, was it my childish looks? What? This felt really weird.

After 20 minutes or so, my name was called for the nurse to take my vital signs. Once that was completed I was asked to go back to the waiting room. We sat there as a family for about another 15 minutes when I was called again to the back. This time they were taking me to a patient room so I made sure my family came with me. As we walked through the hall past the long nursing station we saw from the check-in window, we noticed that all of the walls along the way were all decorated with bunnies, sail boats, clowns, etc. I was really in the children clinic. The room they took us too was decorated with children borders and had a book rack with children's books and magazines. Boy was this weird for an adult to be seen in the ped's area.

After waiting for at least another 15 minutes, the doctor walked in. And another. And another. And another. They kept coming. It was a white coat parade packing into this appointment room. Officially, there were more doctors and nurses in the room than there was of my family of 5. With all of these medical professionals in this room, which was now standing room only, I started getting really scared and didn't know what I had gotten into nor did I know what to expect. My doctor started by introducing all of the doctors. There were so many, I couldn't remember any of their names. I did, however, recognize the radiologist who had performed the biopsy several weeks before. (I think he was still a little embarrassed over our first meeting explaining my "procedure" to me.) All of this was way too overwhelming.

A micrograph of Adenoid Cystic
Carcinoma (ACC) tumor.
The doctor turned his attention to me and my family. He brought up my past history with breast cancer, the symptoms I was having now and the imaging that showed the tumor. He explained that certain cases that came through the hospital were brought before this board of doctors and nurses to act as a "think-tank" for treatment options. Routine cases were treated with conventional methods and treatments. Rare diseases or patient types gave way to this group to be innovative and explore alternative treatments that may mean drug-trials and other types of options. My case was unusual and rare enough that treatment options were not known and must be discussed to find the best treatment for the location of the tumor and the complexity of my case. 

He referred to the biopsy and recent report returned from pathology with the results. He told us that the pathology of this tumor confirmed that it was indeed a metastatic tumor of the breast cancer from 4 years prior. What does that mean? According to, "Metastatic cancer is a cancer that has spread from the part of the body where it started (the primary site) to other parts of the body. When cancer cells break away from a tumor, they can travel to other areas of the body through either the bloodstream or the lymph system (a collection of vessels that carry fluid and immune system cells)." Well, I had a feeling at the beginning with the MRI this was the case. I was clearly not shocked by the news. And, the doctors knew it. I think they all expected me to break down and cry or something. But, this was something I was prepared to hear and it didn't phase me.

As is known in my family, my mom and my grandmother are the "queens of questions" among other things. They have a question for everything you say. Right on point, they both started asking questions of the doctors as to the next steps. Where do we go from here? My doctor advised that this group of doctors in the room had discussed in GREAT detail my case. The reason we waited so long for my appointment that day was that they had been having a very "heated" discussion as how to best deal with this particular tumor in this particular place of my body. They were also discussing whether they should take my case or not. To this day, I do not know the details of all this discussion.

Overall, the orthopedic surgeon would be the doctor taking my case from this point. He and his nurse assistant would set up another appointment to go over the case with their recommendation of treatment. The other doctors were there to offer any assistance once he made his official recommendation, if needed. Until then, he would review the case in detail and weigh all of the options available, including innovative options. So again, we are in a holding pattern. This time I am running out of fuel and need to land this plane soon. "Mayday. Mayday. Stacey to God. Come in God. I need You. Over."

Once again, you have to wait for the next part of the story.

"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." 
Isaiah 40:28-31

Is there something you have been waiting on the Lord for? Are you weary? Feel free to share with us here. I will pray for you as will others who read these posts.

Blessings All!