Note: You will want to mute the music below prior to watching the videos.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

The past two days I have been trying to heal from my surgery. I have been REALLY sore - more than I expected. In fact, this surgery has been much more painful than my mastectomy. I do feel better today than I have the past two days. I came out of surgery wearing a very stylish bra that I am lucky enough to get to wear 24 hours a day for another week. Ugh. I will say that it is holding everything together very nicely.

This morning I got to see my new friends for the first time. I have to say I am very impressed. When I got home I was a little worried that I looked flat. Now that I have taken the guaze off, I can honestly say that I am pleased. My mom called me a couple of days ago advising me not to post any pics of my new friends on the blog. Don't worry mom, the thought of doing that had not even crossed my mind, although I know some of you out there are curious! I have to say the best part of it all is that my breast now feel like.......breast! No more cannon balls! I am looking forward to buying some new bras and some new clothes in the coming weeks!

I hope you all have a wonderful New Year's Eve. I had never really thought much about New Year's Eve or New Year's Day. However, this year really symbolizes a new beginning. 2009 will be a year to remember for different reasons! Happy New Year!

Monday, December 29, 2008

The FINAL Chapter......Goodbye 2008, Hello 2009!!

Well, I finally made it. December 29Th.......a day that I have been anxiously waiting for. This morning I will have surgery to replace my tissue expanders with implants. For those of you who have been keeping up with my blog, you know that I have not been a fan of the tissue expanders. First of all, they are rock hard.....and I am not kidding! Second, they have made my newly formed breasts very uneven. The purpose of the tissue expanders is to stretch the skin and that is about it. So, for more than five months I have walked around with what feels like cannon balls on my chest, absolutely no cleavage, and two "breasts" that are somewhat disfigured. However, today is a new day! I'm not exactly sure how long the procedure will take, but my plastic surgeon will remove the expanders, clean out all the scar tissue, hopefully create some cleavage (can you believe they can do that?) and then slip in some nice silicone implants. In addition, he is also going to remove my port. This is almost as exciting as getting new boobs. My port represents the beginning of this journey. It was the first thing I had put in just a few weeks after my diagnosis. It was used at every chemo treatment. Today, I get to kiss it goodbye.

I am so happy to be able to close out 2008 by having this surgery before the New Year. 2008 was not a very good year for our family or for many of our friends. Yesterday morning at church, Pastor Curt gave a sermon on being thankful. He explained how we are to be thankful in all of our circumstances, not just those that go our way. I have not been perfect by any stretch of the imagination, however, I have tried my best to be thankful for what God has done for me. I often think of all the prayers he has answered and am amazed by His graciousness and mercy. Yesterday Ryan and I were talking how in the midst of all the grief, pain, uncertainty, and doubt, that God continued to pull us through and ultimately made things easy for us. Please don't think for a second that the past 6 months were a walk in the park. However, because of our relationship with God and all the people praying for us, we were able to make it through this journey with our heads held high and with an end in sight. Praise God!

December 29Th has always been a significant day in our house. Ryan and I were married 7 years ago today. We could NEVER have imagined what our 7Th year of marriage would bring. Nor, could we ever have imagined that on our 7Th wedding anniversary I would be getting implants. (Happy Anniversary Ryan!) In addition to our anniversary, our daughter Charley is 2 1/2 today. I was diagnosed two weeks before her second birthday. To think that she is 2 1/2 today is just another reminder of how quickly the past six months have gone by. I am looking forward to being the mother and wife I was before my diagnosis....only better!

In closing, I am going to paste an older post below. This was the post that I did the morning before I went to the hospital for my bilateral mastectomy on July 16Th. That was a hard day, but also the day I became cancer free. When I left the hospital two days later, I still had a four months of chemotherapy ahead of me. Tonight when I leave the hospital, I have life ahead of me. I hope those of you who have continued to follow this blog have found yourself inspired. I hope you have found encouragement in the midst of your own trials. Thank you for your continued prayers and support. ~ God Bless ~

Blog Entry: July 16Th 2008

Would you believe that I actually slept for about 4 hours last night? God was gracious in giving me at least that much sleep. I did wake up a little earlier than I had hoped, but now I am able to squeeze one more post in before heading to the hospital. This is it. Today God is taking this awful cancer from my body and I am faithful that I will never have to worry about cancer again. Thank you Lord.

Most of you know my husband Ryan, but for those of you who do not, let me tell you that he is the most compassionate and loving man I know. Yesterday, he sent me an email that really portrays who he is as a person. I wanted to share it with all of you so you would know the strength and encouragement that I am so very fortunate to have from Ryan. Here is the email that he sent me:

"Mel, you are more than a conqueror! You are guided by God....you cannot lose....He battles for you! Be comforted, accept the peace He offers you through this journey...its yours for the taking.

I, along with our entire family, are backing you up 100%!!

Thank you for what you are doing about this breast cancer...THANK YOU!!! I can't wait to see the look on Charley's face one of these days when she realizes how much her Mommy loves her!!! That will be a great day!

Stay strong, there are many people who are relying on you right now. As for Charley and I, no worries, no drama.....just know we love you and will be by your side for every moment of this! We look forward to NOON tomorrow....cancer free."

Lord, thank you for Ryan. Thank you for giving me such a loving husband who stands firm in his faith and sees the goodness you are bringing to our family through this unfortunate circumstance. We know that this is all a part of your perfect plan for my life. Lord, be with me this morning. Take every ounce of this cancer from my body. I pray that the cancer would still be contained to the breast. Be with Dr. Cavagnol and Dr. Geter as you use them to heal me and make me whole. Be their hands and comfort them as they work on me. Bring me strength and healing Lord. Let this be a day of celebration as you heal me from cancer. Allow peace to overcome fear and perseverance to overcome doubts. God you are so good. I love you. Continue to use me to further you kingdom. Amen.

Time to be CANCER FREE!!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I cannot believe that Christmas is only two days away. I have to admit that Christmas caught me totally off guard this year. The past six months have been crazy, to say the least, and I just wasn't prepared like I should have been. I spent last weekend Christmas shopping, frantically shopping at Walmart yesterday for my baking ingredients, and I will spend all day today making a load of cookies. As crazy as shopping was this past weekend, it was a wonderful feeling to look around at all the hustle and bustle and to be a part of it. In years past, I would have NEVER gone out the weekend before Christmas to do my shopping. However, it didn't bother me this year. I loved knowing that I was alive and healthy and so happy that I could be a part of all the holiday frenzy. I am looking forward to the coming days and spending Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my family. We all have so much to be thankful for this year!

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Waiting Patiently

Two weeks from today I will have surgery to replace my extremely uncomfortable expanders with nice, soft, silicone implants. Tomorrow will mark 5 months since my bilateral mastectomy. That is so hard to believe. That same day I had my expanders put in and have been uncomfortable since. I can't tell you how much I am looking foward to getting them removed. December 29th will be the final chapter of this journey. I will continue to see Dr. Ellis throughout 2009. Although some days are harder than others, I am believing that I have forever been healed from cancer. I continue to pray everyday that God would show me how to use what I have been through to touch the lives of others. I will continue to listen and wait patiently. I know God will open that door when He is ready.

Now that I am feeling better and moving on with my life, I am trying to make the necessary choices to ensure a future without cancer. However, eating right and exercising (or just finding the time to do so) does not always come easy for me. I would appreciate your prayers in regards to this matter. I want nothing more than to take the life and body that God has so graciously blessed me with a second time, and honor and glorify Him. Doing this requires me to be less selfish with my time and more obedient in what He wants for my life. I want to do EVERYTHING I know how to live the rest of my life cancer FREE! Happy Holidays and God Bless!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Living a "Normal" Life

Hello Everyone! Last night as I was scrolling through different blogs, I realized that I had not updated mine since my last chemo treatment! This made me realize two things: 1) My life the past two weeks has resumed to almost the way it was before I was diagnosed with cancer. Since my last treatment, I have felt better and better each day. 2)Not updating the blog means that I have been spending less time on the computer and more time with Charley and Ryan, out and about. What a wonderful thing! I would normally be gearing up for another treatment this week and not having to plan a trip to St. Louis is a little odd, but I'm not complaining.

Ryan did have to give me the Neulasta shot last time and that has contributed to some bone pain, particularly in my lower back. I still have tremendous pain there occasionally. I know it is a side effect of the Taxol and that the Neulasta only magnifies that pain. The pain is getting better with each day and if this is the only lasting side effect, I am blessed!

I would ask for those of you reading this to pray for my friend, Mary, in New York. As many of you know, we were diagnosed at about the same time, and have undergone our surgeries and treatments at the same time. We met through my blog and have been great companions for each other through all of this. Mary is having her reconstruction surgery tomorrow along with a hysterectomy and her ovaries removed. Please pray that she would have a quick and speedy recovery and that the surgery would go smoothly.

I hope you are all having a blessed December!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Adios Chemos



Well I did it. I had my last chemotherapy treatment on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. I actually completed 8 treatments with the first four being Adriamycin and Cytoxin and the last four being Taxol. It's hard to believe that I stared chemo at the beginning of August, had my surgery in July, was diagnosed in June, and discovered the lump in May. Boy has it been a whirlwind of events since the beginning of all this. I am so thankful that my God held my hand through every treatment, every tear, every doubt, and every angry moment. Thank you God for never giving up on me.

Secondly, thank you Ryan for your unconditional love. If there is one thing that chemotherapy does to you, it really messes with your hormones and your mood. I wouldn't be being honest if I said that I never got angry or mad at Ryan at least once during each treatment. If you have had chemo, you understand what I am talking about, if not, don't bother asking. A good example of what chemo does is occurring at this very minute. It is currently 1:22 am and I am posting this blog. Not because I am just so excited to do a post, but because the steroid I am currently coming off of gives me more energy than I can stand. I will be lucky if I dose back to sleep tonight. Actually, if I leave about right now I bet I can get a great spot in line at Best Buy or Kohl's for Black Friday shopping! Uhhhh...no thanks! Anyway, back to what I was saying, Ryan has been a huge stepping stone for me throughout this entire process. I wasn't exactly the easiest person to live with before all of this, and then with chemo added to the mix, I know there were days where Ryan was just praying that he would make it through the day....and he always did, by the grace of God. Although I am Charley's mother and always will be, Ryan had to play the roll of Mr. Mom on several occasions. On the few nights I did feel like reading a book to Charley before she went to bed, I would always notice that she was able to point and say the different names of pictures that she had not been able to recognize before. I knew that Ryan had taught Charley these things and in those moments I realized there were some things I had missed out on.

Ryan and I definitely had our moments. I'm not going to lie. Not everything was always "peachy." In the same way I was fighting to beat breast cancer, Ryan was watching me fight breast cancer, feeling helpless, as if he should be the one with the cancer, not me. I think all to often I forgot how those closest to me were also affected by my cancer diagnosis and I have had to remind myself several times that I am not the only victim. Everyone had to deal with it in their own way. Ryan, you were an amazing husband to me throughout all of this. Your were ALWAYS there for me whenever I needed you. You took the weight of the world upon your shoulders and you rarely blinked an eye. You took care of Charley, you took care of me, and you continued to run a business and support your family the best way you knew how. I love you more than you could possibly ever know. You are such an incredible man of God and I have been blessed by you and Charley everyday. The screaming, laughing, and craziness is just what I needed.......sometimes! I love you!

Not only was I a wife and mother suffering from breast cancer at such a young age, I was also a daughter, an only child. My mom knew the battle I was up against when I was diagnosed. She had been diagnosed almost exactly 20 years earlier. She told me it wasn't going to be easy and when it was over I would wonder how I ever made it through. It certainly wasn't easy. That part she was right about. However, I know I made it because of the grace of God, and because of people like her, my dad, Ryan, my in-laws, and so many others who refused to give up on me. We were all suffering in one way or another in the beginning and honestly, I can't imagine what it must have felt like to hear that their only daughter had breast cancer. I pray those are words that my ears never have to hear. I would do it all over again, and again, if I knew it would spare my child. My mom and dad did countless things throughout this process that helped tremendously. One of those things was always giving me encouragement. When I would question the decisions I had made or just feel doubtful, my mom was always there to reassure me. That made a huge difference coming from my mom who had been through this exact thing 20 years earlier, and was still alive!! My dad called me every day that I had a treatment. He would call me from work just to wish me luck, tell me he loves me, and always to tell me how proud he was of me. The past week was extra special when he called to tell me that I had done it, I had beaten the cancer and the chemo journey was going to finally be over. I love you mom and dad and I could NEVER repay you for what you have done for Ryan and I throughout this journey.

My in-laws, Roger and Sharon, were also a huge help. They watched Charley numerous times over the past 5 months and were always there when we call at the last minute. We still do that!!! Our families have grown so much closer through all of this. Something like cancer really makes you value the importance of family and friends.

I could go on and on forever about all the people who have changed my life and made an impact. This post mentions the people closest to me. In the coming days and weeks I plan to write about more people who touched my life throughout this journey. For now, the chemo journey has ended and in the words of Dr. Ellis, "You are cured." Praise Jesus!

Final Treatment.....Number 8!

Click on the Album for more Pics!

Monday, November 24, 2008

The End is Near.....Take 2

This time last week I was gearing up for my last chemo treatment. I was so pumped. Well, that treatment never happened and really put me in a slump. I couldn't believe that I would have to wait another week for my last treatment. Now, a week later, I am "gearing up" again for what WILL BE my last treatment. Despite it being the last one, I don't feel quite as relieved and excited as I did last week. Perhaps this will change as Wednesday approaches and it becomes more of a reality. I poured so much energy and emotion into last week only to have it ripped right out of my hands. I guess that's why I am not getting my hopes up again. I will celebrate when the treatment is actually over.

Here are the pics that Ryan and I took last week before we went out for our "celebratory" dinner. I guess we'll be having another "celebratory dinner tomorrow night.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Counting Down The Days......Again.

As you have probably read already, my scheduled chemo treatment for yesterday was postponed. Talk about a total let down. Ryan and I had been out the night before for a wonderful "celebratory" dinner at P.F. Changs and then to a movie. We were both glowing at the thought that I had finally come to the end of my chemo treatments. Yesterday morning my appointments went as scheduled. First I had my labs drawn. Then is was off to see Dr. Ellis where Ryan and I both expressed our joy. We couldn't believe the day was finally here. After looking over my paperwork, of which did not include my labs, Dr. Ellis looked at me and said "See, you made it. Time flies when your having fun, right?" He then looked at me and said, "Congratulations, your considered cured." It felt amazing to hear those words. Before he left the room I had a few questions I wanted to get answered. He suggested I get dressed and then we would discuss whatever necessary. As Ryan and I sat there waiting for Dr. Ellis to return, all we could think about was getting over to chemo and getting started. Then, Dr. Ellis walked in with a piece of paper in his hand and gave me a slightly disappointing look. I immediately asked him what was wrong. He sat down and bluntly stated that my white blood cell counts were to low and that they were not going to treat me this week but rather next week. Ryan and I could not believe what we were hearing. I immediately burst into tears. I was devastated. If given time, I think Ryan would have burst into tears as well. All of this positive energy we had poured into the previous days, all the encouraging words, all the emails congratulating me on my last treatment, were gone. I kept thinking that surely he was just joking. Ryan and I tried to convince him of letting me take my treatment on Friday or even Monday, but he wasn't having it. How could my counts be so low and I feel so great?

After regaining my composure, which wasn't easy, Dr. Ellis showed me the lab work. There are about 20 different counts they check, but the one that really matters is the Absolute Neutrophil Count. A normal Neutrophil Count is usually between 1.8 and 3.6. Yesterday, mine was 0.2. Not Good. Our Neutrophils make up almost 75% of our white blood cells which is what fights off infection. Because mine are so low, I am at an extremely high risk for developing an infection and am very susceptible to germs. If I were to get sick, my body would have no way of fighting off the infection, which is extremely dangerous. Not exactly a comforting thought seeing that it is cold and flu season! Because chemotherapy lowers your white blood cells to begin with, there was no way I could get treatment yesterday. In the words of the nurse, "It could be fatal." Great. So, with all that being said, Ryan and I got in our car, slightly disappointed, and headed home. I am now quarantined in my house for the next 6 days. I won't be able to leave without a mask and that is not exactly the next best accessory. However, I guess it beats being hospitalized.

I do want to thank all of you who prayed for me yesterday and the days before. Please don't stop praying now. I would ask that you all pray that my counts return to an acceptable level by next week and that I would remain healthy until then. I want nothing more than to get my last treatment next Wednesday.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A minor bump in the road

Hey guys...It's Hilary! I just wanted to fill you in on what has happed today while Mel & Ryan are in St. Louis for her "last" chemo treatment. Mel asked me to keep you informed so here it goes...

This morning Mel had her lab work done and then waited to see Dr. Ellis. Of course Mel & Ryan were ecstatic that today is her last 8 of 8 chemo treatments. After seeing Dr. Ellis he looked at her lab work results and said oh no. Mel's white blood cells are in a dangerously low range so she was not able to have her LAST chemo treatment today. Mel & Ryan are both devastated. She has rescheduled her "last" chemo treatment for next Wednesday (the day before Thanksgiving). They are on their way home as I type this. Please pray for Mel...she is very sad that this whole chemo journey is taking another week. On the positive side she knows that if she were allowed to have chemo today it could be fatally dangerous because she could get a blood infection or something else more severe. She needs a little boost so please say a little prayer for her. After getting off the phone with her this scripture immediately came to my mind.

Psalms 27:14
Rely on the Lord! Be strong and confident! Rely on the Lord!


There is a reason that Mel was not supposed to have treatment today. God is protecting her and her body. He will make her stronger and He will give her peace that it was supposed to happen this way.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The End Is Near

Today Ryan and I leave for my final chemo treatment in St. Louis. The eighth treatment seemed so far away 16 weeks ago. And now, 7 treatments later, here it is. So, after Wednesday, this chapter will come to a close in my journey. I will move forward knowing I did everything I could to defeat cancer. I will never look back, other than to wonder how I ever made it through treatment after treatment. This trip to St. Louis will be different than those in the past. The people and places we have come to love will no longer be an ordinary part of our lives. I have been so blessed throughout the past 16 weeks. By the grace of God, Ryan, Charley, and myself have all remained healthy. After tomorrow, my life will return to normal. However, life won't be like it was before. Normal will take on a new meaning. When I was first diagnosed, Jeremiah 29:11 was the first verse I turned to. It still hangs on my refrigerator today. There have been numerous times where I have stood in front of that verse and read it over and over. Time and time again, I have come across this verse in different books or someone has shared it with me. Just yesterday I was talking with someone who asked if they could share a bible verse with me. Guess what it was? Then, this morning as I read a devotion from the book Praying Through Cancer, Jeremiah 29:11 was the scripture. Isn't God incredible? He continues to reassure and validate His promise to me through His word. Although I don't always understand why I was diagnosed with breast cancer at such a young age, why I had to lose both of my breast, or why I had to undergo 4 months of chemotherapy, I do understand that it was all a part of God's perfect plan for my life. I can't wait to see what He has for me in the future! Thank you God for holding my hand throughout this entire process, even when I tried to run away. Thank you for instilling a great amount of patience in Ryan and thank you Lord for blessing me with a healthy little girl who will hopefully never remember the days her mommy was so sick. Thank you for all the nurses and doctors who took such good care of me. Thank you for all those who brought meals three and four times. Thank you for my parents who were always there to encourage me and talk me through the hard times. Finally thank you for always reminding me that:

You know the plans you have for my life, plans to prosper me, not harm me, plans to give me hope a future! Jeremiah 29:11

Friday, November 14, 2008

Yea for Yoga!


So this week I started taking yoga. My mother-in-law actually bought me 10 yoga classes for my birthday back in September. Having chemo every two weeks didn't exactly allow for me to get started right away. This week has been a great week, so I decided to go ahead and give yoga a shot. Wow!! I had taken Pilate's classes in the past so I was expecting something kind of long the same lines. Wrongo. Yoga is nothing like Pilate's. As I began following the instructors lead, I was amazed by how stiff I was. Sitting down and touching my toes is a thing of the past. I could barely reach my shins. Having been on the couch for the past four month doing nothing physical other than taking my daughter to preschool or running an errand has really taken a toll on my body. I had no idea it was so bad until I started doing yoga. When I saw Dr. Ellis last week he mentioned that I needed to start walking and slowly reconditioning my body. At the time I thought, no big deal, I'll just start walking 3 - 5 miles every morning like I used to. That is not going to be as easy as it sounds unfortunately. However, I am looking forward to slowly regaining my strength and flexibility in the coming months.

In the dictionary, yoga is defined as: 1: a Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind, and will in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation
2: a system of exercises for attaining bodily or mental control and well-being.

Each time I left yoga this week I felt so relaxed. I would highly recommend yoga for everyone. It is a great exercise to help reduce stress and help you relax! Go Yoga!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Blond or Brunette?

Hello Everyone!!! Well, I am officially on the countdown now. Only 8 more days until I have my final chemo treatment!! I can't believe it. When I first started chemo, my last treatment seemed so far away. Now, it only 8 days away. I know this treatment will be bittersweet. I will be so glad to be done, but in the same way, I will be sad. For the past 16 weeks I have traveled to St. Louis twice a month. I have established relationships with my doctors and nurses. I have met incredible people who are in the fight of their life. Most of them, I will never see again. I will move on from this journey while others are just beginning. At each of my treatments I have seen "first timers" being shown the ropes. To know the fear and anxiety they are facing breaks my heart. I have been there and hope to never again experience such feelings of helplessness and despair. Through my relationship with Jesus Christ I know I will be strengthened in the coming months. My prayer is to move forward knowing that I have been given a second chance at life.

On a lighter note....I purchased myself another wig yesterday. When I first lost my hair I refused to wear a wig. It was so weird. Now I have two of them and they are completely different. I'm not sure Ryan is completely sold on it. We have been married almost seven years and I have never had hair as long or as dark as my new wig. Ryan has gotten so used to seeing my bald head or my blond wig that I think I kind of threw him for a loop yesterday when I "surprised" him. Losing my hair was not fun. I loved my hair. However, why not take advantage of this time in my life and have whatever kind of hair I want! My new wig is fun and I am looking forward to wearing it out on the town. So, if you see Ryan with a hot brunette, it's just me, not another woman! God Bless!!


Me as a Blond


Me as a Brunette

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

HOME STRETCH!!!!!


14 weeks......I can't believe it has already been 14 weeks of CHEMO treatments. We are very excited to get home (we're currently in our room at Siteman Cancer Center getting treated) and see Charley, but equally excited that there is only ONE MORE TREATMENT! One last treatment. That sounds great.

Appointment with Dr. Ellis went very well this morning. Melody's bloodwork came back perfect, all normal. We will not be taking the Neulasta Shot tomorrow since we ended up in the emergency room a couple of weeks ago with Neulasta Fever. Darn it....I was getting kinda used to giving Mel a shot in the arm....kinda liked it too.

Another hour here and we'll head for the car and hit the road home. Thank you all for your prayers. Please continue to pray for healing for Melody, overall health for our family, and for our business as we look forward to getting back to a normal routine this season.

And certainly don't forget to pray for our nation, and our president.

Love you, God bless you,
Ryan

Monday, November 3, 2008

Vote Your Conscience!

You will need to pause the music on the right-hand-side of the blog before playing the video. God Bless!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pictures Speak Louder Than Words

First let me way that if you haven't read the post from earlier today, I would encourage you to do so. Just scroll down to get caught up on what is going on!

Yesterday, Ryan, myself, and Charley had our pictures taken. I guess you could say these pictures were more for me than for Ryan or Charley. Jessica Oatman, the same photographer who took our pictures in the early summer, was kind of enough to take some more photos yesterday in honor of Images of Hope, a non-profit organization that brings awareness to childhood cancers and illnesses through photography. When Jessica took our pictures back in the summer, I had just been diagnosed one week prior. Because Jessica has a son battling Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia, she new what I was up against with surgery and chemotherapy in my future. At the time, Jessica offered to take my pictures as part of her Images of Hope. So yesterday, we did just that!

My journey with breast cancer is not one I would wish upon anybody. However, it is also a journey that I would never give up. The past 5 months have brought many tears and much laughter. I have grown as a person and more importantly in my relationship with Jesus Christ. I am continuously learning valuable lessons throughout this process that I desire to apply to my life.

Thank you Jessica for capturing the real me...bald and all. These pictures document a time in life where I changed as a mother, wife, and a woman of God. I will cherish them forever.

To see some of the pictures, please go to www.jessicaoatman.blogspot.com. I will post the rest of the pictures when they are available. Enjoy and God Bless!

God is so Good!

Hello Everyone! I am so happy to report that since my little trip to the ER I have been feeling great! This week Ryan and I took Charley to the Spooktakular at the Zoo and we also managed to carve a pumpkin. What fun! I love this time of year and am so grateful that I have felt well enough to enjoy it! This week I received an email from a sweet girl that only lives about 2 1/2 hours from me. Her name is Erica and she too is a young 30 year old mom of three. She was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and will begin chemo this Friday. The ironic thing is, she will be getting her treatments at the Siteman Cancer Center as well. She is an amazing woman of God and has a great attitude which will get her through this entire process so much easier. She too has a blog of which she is constantly posting updates of her journey. I encourage you to check out her blog and say a prayer for Erica. The first treatment is the scariest and probably one of the hardest...not that they ever really get easy. The "unknown" seems to be the scariest part. Erica's blog address is http://ericaexercisesneats.blogspot.com/.

This week God also answered prayers in regards to my mom. Ever since having been diagnosed with the BRCA 1 gene, my mom has been taking the necessary steps to proceed with having her ovaries removed. Last week she had an ovarian ultrasound. Thankfully her ovaries looked great, but her bladder showed a .43cm solid mass. The OBGYN actually thought it might be a polyp, but without a full examination there was no way to tell for sure. Yesterday my mom went to the urologist. After an uncomfortable exam, the urologist told my mom that there was absolutely nothing wrong with her bladder and it was in great shape! What an answer to prayers! Ryan and I had been praying faithfully everyday that whatever had been there would be gone by yesterday! Praise God! Once again He showed us His power to answer prayers and heal us.

Yesterday I also went to the Plastic Surgeon. In the past two weeks I have gotten two more fills in my expanders. Yesterday, I finally had a discussion with my PS about my "final" size. I currently have 600 cc's of saline in each breast, or mound, whatever you prefer to call them. He said for someone my size, that the current size of my breast fit my body well. However, so that the breast will lay more naturally when he puts in the implant and so that he can create some cleavage, he has to stretch the skin 20 % beyond my final size. So, if I want my breast to be 540 - 600 cc's (full B to small C) he has to put in 800 cc's. Whoa! My surgery is a little less than two months away and I guess I will just have to be a little uncomfortable for awhile and deal with the idea that my breast are going to be pretty large until then. Being large wouldn't be a problem if they looked normal, but these are anything from normal. However, the PS reassured me that our only goal right now is to stretch the skin and not to worry about what they look like now. I am confident he knows what he is doing!

I hope you all have a blessed rest of the week! Enjoy the great weather and have a Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Day At The Emergency Room

Yesterday was not a good day for me. As you know I had my 6Th chemo treatment this past Wednesday. On Thursday, Ryan gave me my Neulasta shot which helps boost my white blood cells. Neulasta is very powerful. I have had the Neulasta shot six times now and each time I have experienced achy muscles and bone pain. The Neulasta is extremely hard on my body after Taxol because Taxol also causes bone pain.

Thursday evening I started getting some body aches. When I woke up Friday morning I was so sore and in such pain, I could barely move. I had what felt like a migraine and was running a fever. When Ryan and I realized that I wasn't getting any better, we called Dr. Ellis. He suggested that I go to the Emergency Room because of the fever. Unfortunately, I have spent a lot of time in the Emergency Room over the past year and know firsthand how unpleasant it can be. However, if you are a chemo patient, that changes everything. When we arrived, Ryan immediately told them that we could not sit in the waiting room and had to be seen right away. He also mentioned that I was undergoing chemo. However, it wouldn't have taken a genius to figure that one out seeing that I had on my little hat and a face mask. Some might have thought I was dressed up for Halloween just a little to early!

We were immediately taken to a room where they began to do blood work. I also had a chest X-ray to rule-out pneumonia. Luckily, the X-ray and all the blood work came back normal......except for my white blood cells. They were at an extremely elevated level because of the Neulasta. Therefore, my body thought it was trying to fight off an infection somewhere and that is why I developed the fever. After a couple of Tylenol and some anti-nausea meds they sent me home. I was a little disappointed that I had to go all the way to the ER just for some Tylenol. On the other hand, they did do an X-ray and knowing that it was clear and everything looked good made the trip well worth it.

Today I am spending lots of time resting. Charley is spending the weekend at her grandparents which is hard on Ryan and I because we miss her so much. However, we know that she is being well taken care of. I would ask that you pray for me and that the last two treatments would be easier on my body. Also, please pray for the health of our entire family and Charley's grandparents. I have been so fortunate to have not gotten a "bug" throughout this entire process. We need everyone to stay healthy so that we can continue to move forward and eventually put it all behind us! Thank you and God Bless!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

WhattaTrooper.....my WIFE that is!!


Isn't she wonderful?! Geez....6 Chemo treatments down and only 2 to go!!
This trip up to "the LOU" was another blessed one. Melody, myself, and my parents went up for another blood test (everything was perfect), another meeting with Dr. Ellis (what a great guy, I am so thankful he is Melody's Oncologist), and another chemo treatment (can you say PRIVATE SUITE!?).

Melody did great during the treatment as she again rested most of the 4 hours while I spent that time surfing the net and watching some very, and I mean VERY, interesting election coverage in her PRIVATE SUITE at Barnes Hosp. OK, so the election coverage was the same ole junk, but entertaining nonetheless.

Yesterday, when Melody, and my parents and I arrived in St. Louis, we found out that the Historic Soulard Market was closed so we dashed over for a stroll in the "Archway Park". We soon stirred up our appetites and found ourselves puttin' back some chicken wings and spinach artichoke dip at a local favorite, Caleco's. Then we were off to the hotel to check in and we ate dinner that night at P.F. Changs. Yum in my Tum!

I used a GPS for the first time on this trip. VERY cool I might add, but somewhat stressful......however, I cannot wait to get one......Charley and I might even try to get lost and find our way back home....that would be fun!

Anyway, only TWO treatments left.....that is GRAND! My little memory can't hold the capacity of information that my wonderful wife's memory can, so I will let her fill you in on any specific details about the meeting with Dr. Ellis that I left out. I just know God is so good....and continues to show His awesome grace and always confirms He will never fail us....He's always there for us.

With love,
Ryan



Monday, October 20, 2008

5 Down.....3 To Go!

Tomorrow I leave for my 6th chemo treatment. Wednesday will mark 4 weeks until my last treatment! Holy Cow! This has been quite the journey and I am amazed by how quickly the days are going by. This is one time in my life when I don't mind if life moves quickly! With my final surgery planned for December 15Th, I am only 8 weeks away from "The End" of my journey with breast cancer. I suppose it never really ends since I will be seeing my oncologist for years to come. However, when I look back and realize that all this started 19 weeks ago, it is hard to believe. Thank you Lord for giving me 19 weeks to fight the fight and beat cancer!

This past weekend I attended a women's conference at my church. I was so touched by every speaker. Time and time again I received confirmation that God is going to use me to do something great. However, in order for that to be possible, I must allow God to take me through a process and ready my heart, mind, and spirit. In order for God to use me, I must be willing to be "uncomfortable." I don't know how or when God will use me in the future but what I do know is that everyday I have to be preparing all that he has for me by being obedient and obeying His word. This is not always something that comes easy and I often fail. However, spending time with the Lord and immersing myself daily in his Word will strengthen me spiritually and open up doors to opportunities that I cannot possibly fathom. I can't wait to see all that God has planned for my life!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Can You Say Bone Pain?

Today is Wednesday and I am finally coming out of my post treatment side effects. Taxol really kicked my bootie this past week. The doctors and nurses had warned me about the bone pain associated with Taxol, but I had no idea it would be so bad. Supposedly it doesn't affect all women the same and some never experience any bone pain. Unfortunately, I think I had enough pain to make up for the few who never have any. You are welcome. The doctors tried to explain it to me in a way that makes it sound similar to the the achiness you feel when you have the flu. Bologna. I would describe it as feeling as if your bones are about to break. There were a few days where my ankles hurt so bad that I could barely walk. Every thing I did created throbbing pains from my feet all the the way to my head. I would literally have to stop moving at times until the pain passed. My back actually hurt bad enough that I became nervous there might be something else going on and I called Dr. Ellis' nurse. She reassured me that the pain was undoubtedly from the Taxol. I was happy to hear that. I will say that today is the first day I haven't woken up in a great amount of pain. I am actually feeling quite normal. Praise God.

OK, time to get honest. With all that has been going on, I feel that I have not been spending an adequate amount of time with the Lord. Sometimes I wonder if He feels like I have abandoned Him. He has blessed me in so many ways and I am so amazed by His grace. However, why is it that we often get "to busy" and that God gets pushed to the end of our long list of things "to do"? Chemotherapy is an emotional roller coaster. There are days were I really feel sorry for myself and if I were in a swimming pool, I would drown in my self pity. There are days when I cry at the drop of a hat, I am angry, and just down right mean to the ones who love me the most. There are days when I wonder if November 19Th will truly be my last chemo treatment for rest of my life. Will I actually live long enough to see Charley go off to college and get married? In my heart I know the answer is yes. However, the enemy likes to try and convince me otherwise.

Since the beginning of this journey I have known that God has big plans for my life. I am convinced that He does not want this to just be a "season" in my life that comes and goes. I know He wants me to use this experience to do great things and bring glory to Him. I am just waiting for that door to open. I love the Lord with all my heart. My prayer is that God would forgive me for my laziness and in not acknowledging His blessings everyday of my life. The past 5 months have been one heck of a journey. There have been so many ups and downs.

This weekend I will be attending the Designed for Life conference at James River Assembly. God has been so gracious throughout my treatments. I know he purposefully planned that I would not have a treatment this week so that my body would be strong enough to attend. Thank you Lord. I am looking forward to all that He is going to do! Thank you God for healing me. Open my mind and heart to you in the coming days so that I may see my purpose more clearly.

I pray you all have a blessed day! God Bless!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Meals to Bless the Wassons


Hey..It's Mel's friend Hilary. First of all thank you to all who have provided a meal, two meals, or gift cards for meals. I can tell you first hand that Melody & Ryan greatly appreciate each one of you who have helped out. Personally, I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of love the Wasson's have received. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

I wanted to give an update on the Meals on Wheels for the Wassons. My goal is to get meals throughout Mel's remaining 3 chemo treatments AND for the recovery process of her reconstruction surgery on Dec. 15Th. So, if you have not had a chance to bring a meal you have until before Christmas to sign up. If you have already brought a meal or two...thank you. If you want to sign up again, you are more than welcome to do so.


I am currently booking meals for a couple dates in October and for the entire month of November. The two dates in October that I have open are Monday, October 20Th and Friday, October 24Th. As for November, the dates available are the 3rd, 7Th, 10Th, 14Th, 17Th, 21st. Those are all Mondays & Fridays. If a weekend works better for your schedule, just e-mail me and I will check with Mel to see if that works for them.

A lot of people have asked as to what Mel is eating...to be honest she really does not have any taste buds at this time due to the chemotherapy. So if you are not a good cook this is your time to make something. Mel will never know that you can't cook. HA! I appreciate your willingness to help out and so do the Wasson's. Thank so much. You can e-mail me at hilaryaustinrdh@yahoo.com

Thanks again and God Bless, Hilary

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Treatment Number 5: Just The Girls



Doreen, Melody, & Hilary



Yesterday was treatment 5 for me!!! I can hardly believe it! Only 3 more and I'll be on with my life! This was one treatment I was looking forward to in so many ways. First, it was my fifth treatment meaning that I am now over half-way done with my chemo. Second, I was fortunate enough to have two girlfriends, Hilary and Doreen, accompany me on this trip. I have written about both of these girls numerous times. Hilary and I have been best friends for 17 years and she has gone above and beyond for me through this entire journey. I am amazed by her generosity and kindness every day. Doreen is a breast cancer survivor herself and that is what brought us together. What a blessing she has been to me over the past 5 months. Our friendship is one that will last a lifetime and I am so thankful for her. Had it not been for breast cancer, we might have never met.

We left Springfield on Tuesday morning and headed up to St. Louis where we enjoyed a day of shopping at The Galleria and lunch at The Cheesecake Factory. It seemed like every second we were chattering away. It was amazing how fast the three of us bonded and it was like we had all been friends forever. That evening we freshened up and rode the Metro down to Laclede's Landing. We ate dinner at a wonderful restaurant called Asia. I have actually eaten there every time I have been to St. Louis. That would be a total of 6 times so far. If your wondering if I am sick of it, the answer is no. Asia has the best food and I have been able to try something different every time. After dinner we headed back to the hotel where we spent another couple of hours exchanging stories, laughing, and just being girls. What fun!!

The next morning we enjoyed breakfast at The Majestic Cafe. By 9:00 we were at Siteman to begin my day of appointments. I was very fortunate this visit because I actually got to see Dr. Ellis and I was so glad that Hilary and Doreen had the opportunity to meet the man I had been telling them about. I was greeted with a warm hug from Dr. Ellis. We discussed several different things including the possibility of children after chemotherapy. Dr. Ellis said there is 50% chance or greater that my menstrual cycle will return after chemo. If it does return, then having another child will be an option for me. When I asked him the length of time I should wait before trying to get pregnant, he stated that there is no set time. As long as I am menstruating regularly, then I can get pregnant at any time. I thought this was very encouraging. The one thing he did stress was that I needed to have my ovaries removed by the age of 35 because of the increased risk of ovarian cancer. I also asked Dr. Ellis what happens after treatment. He said that as of now I am considered cancer free and I have absolutely no reason to believe that I am not cured and will not stay that way. He went on to explain that ordering unnecessary scans do more harm than good. Dr. Ellis said that for many women it creates a level of anxiety leading up to the scan that is not healthy. In addition, one cat scan is equal to 40 chest X-rays. After I am done with my treatment, I will see Dr. Ellis every three months for one year, then every six months, and then once a year for who knows how long. I hope to be followed for a very long time.

After my appointment with Dr. Ellis it was on to chemo. This is where things get a little foggy for me. Since I could have only one person in the treatment area at a time, Doreen was the first to accompany me. The treatment began just like any other treatment.....until it came time to give me the Benadryl. Now, I have never been one to take Benadryl and stay awake for long. Well, this Benadryl was given through a syringe directly into my vein. Let me just say I have NEVER done a drug in my life but I have to believe that the feeling I experienced from the Benadryl was similar to getting really high. Within 30 seconds of receiving the Benadryl, my head was swimming, my speech was slurred, and I literally almost fell over getting up to go to the bathroom. I would like to apologize to Doreen now for anything I may have said that she really didn't want to know hear. What happens in chemo stays in chemo! I can remember moving from the recliner I was in to a bed and then that's pretty much it. Hilary was able to come back for a short amount of time but I was to out of it to hold a conversation. The chemo treatment that my two friends were to "keep me company" at, was a doozy. I slept the entire three hours! Thank goodness they both came because they had each other to talk to for that entire time!

This is me on my Benadryl "High". Did I actually ask you to take this picture Doreen?


I finally woke up when my IV machine started beeping to alert the nurse that the medicine was finished. When I looked around, the other 8 people who had been in the same pod with me when I stared were all gone. I was the only person left. I was able to dial Hilary's number and before long Doreen and Hilary were back there to help me gather up my things and get on the road for our three hour drive. I love those girls! We got home at around 10:00 and the Benadryl was FINALLY wearing off.

It's unfortunate that our girls trip to St. Louis had to involve a chemo treatment, but it will be a treatment that I will never forget! Thank you so much Hilary and Doreen for being such great friends and taking such good care of me!

Eating Lunch at The Cheesecake Factory



Ready for our Girls Night Out



Me and Hilary at Asia



Me and Doreen.....2 breast cancer SURVIVORS!!



Hilary and Doreen



Breakfast at The Majestic Cafe

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Ready or Not Taxol......Here I Come!

Today I leave for my fifth chemo treatment? Did I actually just type that? There are days that I still can't believe I am being treated for breast cancer. What's even more difficult to believe is that this will be my fifth treatment!! That means only 3 more after this one. You know, chemo is a funny thing. When I was diagnosed, I think the word "chemo" might have actually scared me more than the word "cancer". The crazy thing is, a lot of women with my diagnosis would have opted to not have chemotherapy and perhaps it would not have even been offered. However, because of my age, I was offered this choice. As much as I dreaded taking chemo, I never thought twice about it. There were times when I would hear about another women with a similar diagnosis who was not taking chemo and I would wonder how I was chosen as the "lucky" one. I have to sometimes remind myself that taking chemotherapy means I have done everything possible to beat this cancer. There are people everyday who wish they could take chemotherapy, but that is no longer an option for them. I am blessed to have had this choice and to know that it IS going to save my life. My first treatment was 8 weeks ago tomorrow. My last treatment is in just 6 short weeks! Wow! I am going to make it through and God is going to be right there when I ring that victory bell at my last treatment!

I am blessed to have two great girlfriends taking me up for my treatment this week, my best friend Hilary, and a great friend from church, Doreen. As many of you know, Doreen is a breast cancer survivor herself. She is such an inspiration to me! It's unfortunate that our trip has to involve a chemo treatment, but at least it will allow me to feel halfway normal for part of the trip! Ryan returned home from Las Vegas yesterday so he is going to get some much needed one-on-one time with Charley!

On one final note.....BRACE YOURSELF.....I have been wearing my wig the past week! I know, call me crazy! I was so SICK of wearing hats. Plus, I was constantly running into people because I could not see out the sides due to my glasses. It also affected my ability to drive safely, but that's another story. So, last week before I headed out I decided to put my wig on just for kicks. It didn't look half bad and if felt GREAT to have hair on my head! So, I ventured out into the world, just me and my wig. Now, I am pretty aware of people's reactions to others so I was constantly watching to see if someone was looking at me any length of time that would be considered unreasonable. I have to say, I don't think anyone, besides those that know me, knew I was wearing a wig. Yesterday someone even told me I had "the cutest hair." Thank goodness she didn't ask me where I get it cut! Wearing my wig gave me a new outlook. I feel more like a real person when I wear it. I feel healthy. I feel that I don't have "She has cancer" screaming at everyone. What I wish everyone knew is that I HAD cancer. Unfortunately when you are being treated with chemotherapy everyone just assumes you have cancer. Oh Well. I was guilty of making those same assumptions. Thankfully, now I look at all people going through chemotherapy differently and you should do the same.

I will be posting pictures from our girls trip in St. Louis so keep checking back. Oh, and by the way, just in case you get confused, I'm the Hot Blond! God Bless!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Day By Day

Hello Everyone!!! I hope you are all doing well and that your lives are richly blessed! I am doing fairly well and have been busy the past couple of days. Ryan left for Vegas on Monday and won't be back until next Monday. Don't worry, he is there for a bike show, not because he needed to escape the insanity around our house! I have to admitt it was VERY HARD to say goodbye for an entire week. I was so depressed at the beginning of the week. The steroids I have to take after each treatment do not help. I just kept thinking how desperatly I need some time away and how much I wish I could have been going with him. I can't remember the last time Ryan and I had some time away alone, with the exception of going to St. Louis for a chemo treatment and I'm NOT counting that! I feel this past summer and our circumstances robbed us of so much. Every ounce of our energy has been invested in Charley, Cancer, and Chemo......The 3 Big C's! I have said goodbye to cancer (thank you God) and am looking forward to saying goodbye to chemo in just 7 weeks. I will then be able to invest ALL my energy into the most important "C"! What a gift that will be!

This time next week I will have one more treatment under my belt and only 3 left! From what I have read the next set of chemo treatments are not as hard on the body. Someone actually said that it is a "walk in the park" compared to Adriamycin and Cytoxan. I pray that is the case! I am also praying that God would bless me with some hair soon! Ryan swears it is starting to grow but I'm not sure I am convinced. Who knows, maybe by Thanksgiving I'll have at least what looks like a buzz cut.

I hope you all enjoy the beautiful weather this week and don't forget to thank God for all the blessings in your life!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Think Pink Survivors!

As many of you know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I have always loved the month of October, but now it holds an extra special place in my heart, especially since I have been affected by breast cancer personally. Not only have I been affected by breast cancer at a young age, my mom has also been down this road. By the grace of God we are blessed to be able to call ourselves survivors.

Throughout my journey with breast cancer I have felt my soul purpose was to empower other women to remain positive and not allow breast cancer to take their spirit. More importantly, I wanted all those reading this blog to be inspired by the grace and mercy of God and to see how He truly performs miracles and answers prayers. All we have to do is call out to Him.

As a way to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness Month, my husband, Ryan, and myself have created a new website, Think Pink Survivors, with a variety of custom-made products. These products are hand-made with compassion and love and each product is made using genuine leather. The possibilities are endless when it comes to colors, stitching, lacing, names, size, tooling, etc. Each product is made to reflect your personal journey with breast cancer. This is a wonderful way to help promote awareness and celebrate your life.

Let's Think Pink Survivors and be an inspiration to all women fighting against breast cancer!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Surprise from Ryan and Charley

This is no secret......I LOVE FALL!!! It is my absolute favorite time of year. I especially love decorating for fall. Each year I buy tons of mums, hay bails, cornstalks, and pumpkins and use them to decorate the flower garden in our front yard. There is nothing that says fall like some mums and pumpkins. I also enjoy decorating the inside of my house which is my project next week when Ryan is in Las Vegas. Yesterday on my way home I received a text message from Ryan telling me there a surprise for me in the front yard. I honestly was expecting a John McCain sign or one of those Huge Halloween Inflatables. I would not have been happy about the inflatable. Thankfully, Ryan knows me better than that. He actually went and purchased all my outside fall decor for me and arranged it outside in my flower garden. I was so happy to see that when I drove by. I had been worried about having the energy and the time to do that this year. However, I won't have to worry about it now because my wonderful husband took care of it for me. I have posted some pics for you and hopefully it will help you get into the fall spirit! Of course, Charley wanted to be a part of the pictures and show me how much she helped her daddy with mommy's "prise."

Then, as I walked into the kitchen the most delicious sugar cookies were awaiting for me and they were decorated with pink ribbons. I know, I have the best husband and your all jealous! Thank you Ryan for all you have done and all you continue to do. I appreciate you so much and love you more and more every day! Your the greatest!


My Beautiful Fall Display...Don't worry, we bring Charley in at night!


Ryan and Charley did a great job!!


They even got decor for my mailbox!


The Yummy Sugar cookies with pink ribbons!

Half-Way Done! Praise The Lord

Let me just start out by saying that yesterday was my mom's 55Th birthday! For this treatment, my mom and dad took me up to St. Louis and we had a GREAT time. My birthday had been last week so we decided to wait and celebrate as a family while we were in St. Louis. We enjoyed eating a great lunch at Fitz's on the The Loop Tuesday afternoon and that evening we took The Metro down to Laclede's landing for some sight-seeing of the arch and a wonderful dinner at a restaurant called Asia. I think since my trips to St. Louis have begun I have eaten there at least 5 times....maybe more! They really do have great food! After we got back to our hotel, we walked down to The Majestic Cafe and enjoyed Apple Pie and French Silk Pie. I have never been so full in all my life! My excuse for all the eating is that I won't eat much for the next week! Yesterday morning we headed back to The Majestic Cafe for blueberry pancakes and biscuits and gravy. Then, after chemo, we ate at the Wild Flower Cafe where we enjoyed BLT's and soup and salad. Yes my friend, we ate like Kings on this trip! It would have been a bit more enjoyable had we not been there for a chemo treatment, but needless to say, it was a great trip!



Well, Yesterday was my 4Th Chemo Treatment which means that I am officially half-way done with my treatments and all done with the first set of drugs. It really was a huge milestone. I have climbed the hill, hit the peak, and am now racing my way towards the finish line!!! Yea! I did meet with the doctor yesterday and there was a little bit of confusion. Throughout my entire treatment I have thought after the first four rounds my next four rounds would be with the drug Taxotere. When I was talking to the nurse yesterday she said that with Taxotere I would be put on an every three week schedule because the body cannot tolerate every two weeks. Of course when she said this I was devastated because I was counting on my last treatment to be November 19Th. In addition, Dr. Ellis had made no mention of this when I first met him back in August. He had clearly stated that I would be on Dose Dense Chemo which means that my treatments would be over the course of 16 weeks in two week intervals with a total of 8 treatments. The nurse was a little confused as to why Dr. Ellis would be giving me Taxotere rather than Taxol. Taxol is in the same family as Taxotere but works differently and can be given every two weeks. Since we were all confused, Dr. Ellis came in and cleared things up. He greeted me a great big hug and kiss on the cheek and proceeded to tell me I look beautiful. Everyone seems to be surprised by how well I am doing through all of this and I credit God 100%. Anyway, I will be taking Taxol every two weeks rather than Taxotere every three. Thanks Goodness....I'm back on schedule! So, if all goes well with the Taxol, my last treatment will be November 19Th. Yea!!!!

The negative about the Taxol is that it is administered over a period of three hours. The first treatment will actually take 5 hours. They administer it so slowly the first time to make sure you don't have an allergic reaction, which is rare, but could happen. The side effects seem to be less than with the first drugs I had. There is little to no nausea but your hands and feet can go numb for long periods of time. Weird. I guess there is no way to know how it will affect me until I have my first treatment. I hope you will all join me in praying for minimal side effects and no allergic reactions. My good friends Hilary and Doreen will be taking me to my next treatment so as least I will have some good entertainment during the 5 hours! Doreen is a nurse so that is an extra plus! I couldn't ask for better!

Before I left for treatment on Tuesday morning, this is what I saw when I walked into the bathroom. I thought I would share this with you! I think Charley could pass at Rambo's daughter. By the way, she put all those hair bands on herself!






Check back later for another update of my special surprise from Ryan and Charley when I returned home!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

A Great Few Days

For those of you wondering, I had an incredible 29th Birthday. I was showered with lots of cards, presents, and warm wishes. The best part of my day was my date with Ryan that evening. He took me to Ocean Zen and then we went to a movie. First let me just say that I am pretty sure the food I ate at Ocean Zen was by far the best food I have ever eaten in my life. It was so amazing! I want to thank everyone who called, sent a card, and wished me well on my birthday. It really made turning 29 such a special day in my life!

For the past week I have been battling a nasty cold. I kept thinking it was allergies until my snot turned green. Sorry.....but that's how I knew it was an infection. I woke up this morning with an incredible amount of pain on the right side of my face. That's when I knew that I was starting to get a sinus infection. Yuck. I called the Dr. on call up in St. Louis and within 30 minutes I had an antibiotic in my hand. Now that is what I call good medical care. Since I only take the antibiotic for five days, I am hoping to be over this nasty cold and feel great by my next treatment which is this coming Wednesday. Where has the time gone!? Next Wednesday will mark huge progress in my treatment schedule. First, it will be my 4th treatment which means that I will be 1/2 way done. Yay! Next, it will be my final treatment of Adriamycin and Cytoxin! Yay Again! Ryan will be staying home with Charley for the next treatment so please pray for the both of them as they enjoy the time together. My parents will be taking me up to St. Louis and my mom's birthday is actually that Wednesday. It will be nice to celebrate both of our birthday's. Please add safe travels to your prayer lists and that I would kick this nasty cold before then. Thanks and God Bless you all!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Brand New Year


Today I am 29. I don't think I have ever looked forward to a birthday as much as this one. I know that 30 is the "BIG" one for most people, but for me, it's 29. I have accomplished a lot in my 20's. For example, I graduated from college, I got married, I moved away for 2 1/2 years, I began my teaching career, I moved back to Springfield, I got pregnant, I had a miscarriage, I got pregnant again and gave birth to Charley Ryan, I ended my teaching career, Ryan and I started our own business, and.....I got breast cancer. Whew! I have been busy the past several years! Out of all the years in my 20's however, 28 was the hardest. I started 28 sick in the hospital with an unknown bacterial infection. Two months prior, my dad had been in the hospital for a week because of pneumonia. In March, Charley spent several days in the hospital due to dehydration from a nasty bug. Charley felt bad for being the only one who was sick so she was kind enough to pass it on to Ryan and I for several days. In May, I discovered a lump in my right breast. No big deal right? Wrong. Two weeks before Charley's 2ND Birthday I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Two weeks after Charley's birthday I had bilateral mastectomy's. In August I began chemo therapy and am almost half-way done.

Don't get me wrong, 28 wasn't ALL bad. Our family has some wonderful memories from the past year. However, age 29 has never sounded so "fresh" and "new" to me. Although I am starting age 29 in the same way I ended age 28, I feel an abundance of life ahead of me. I feel that God is going to do some amazing things in my life this year. I am so thankful for another birthday. Goodbye 28......Hello 29!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Calling on All Prayer Warriors

Hello Everyone! The past couple of days I have felt OK. I have been waking up really early in the mornings, which isn't so bad because it is very peaceful and quiet. However, I don't think I feel quite as good after this past treatment as I did with treatment number 2. Before I started chemo therapy, several people told me that after the third and fourth treatment, you sometimes start to feel worse because it starts to catch up with you. The good thing is, I only have one more treatment of Adriamyacin and Cytoxan and the I am half way done with my treatments. The next four will be a drug called Taxotere. I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to my last treatment in November. That last treatment means that my body finally begins to heal from all of this, I get new, softer boobies, my hair begins to grow back, I get the opportunity to be a better mom and wife, and I can continue to glorify and honor God by reaching out to others. I don't think that sounds so bad! As I do every so often, I would like to request a few specific prayer request for this week:

1. Please pray for strength in the coming days. My body is achy, my bowels are out of whack, and the fatigue is almost unbearable. I have had a dry cough for several days and the drainage in my throat is making it scratchy.

2. Please pray for patience. Chemo therapy does strange things to your mind and body. Please pray that I would be quick to listen and slow to speak. Pray that I would be reminded that Charley doesn't understand what I am going through and as much as Ryan is trying, it is nearly impossible.

3. Finally, next Thursday is my 29Th birthday! I never thought I would be going through chemo therapy at the age of 29. However, God is so good and my birthday just happens to fall during a week that I don't have treatment. Ryan and I have dinner plans Thursday and then we are taking Charley to see High School Musical at Little Theatre with our best friends Hilary, Kevin, and Zach! Thanks Rachel for the tickets! This birthday is so special to me in so many ways. I have beaten cancer at a young age and my life has forever been touched by the hand of God. Please pray that God would bring an abundance of strength and energy on September 18Th.

Thank you all for your prayers! Everyone of you reading this are incredible. I love you all and pray that your lives are blessed everyday by the grace of God!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Our Trip Home

Ryan and I enjoying lunch after chemo.



Yesterday after chemo, Ryan and I decided to stay and grab a bite to eat before heading home. I never eat anything during chemo therapy for fear of getting sick myself or someone else getting sick because of the smell. The nurses do provide little snacks if you need something to hold you over which is nice. However, the last thing I want to do is get in the car for a 3 hour drive on an empty stomach. Our hotel is in the heart of Central West End in St. Louis. There are so many quaint little shops and places to eat. For breakfast I enjoyed blueberry pancakes from The Majestic Cafe and Ryan had a Greek Omelet. It was so good! Then after treatment, we headed over to the Wild Flower Cafe where we sat outside and dined like true St. Louis residents. I enjoyed a BLT with a spinach salad and lobster bisque soup and Ryan had the fried calamari. We are working on getting away from fried foods and have been praying that God would give us more wisdom when it comes to our eating habits. If having cancer doesn't change that, I don't know what will. Here are some pics of our travels home.

Ryan enjoying the ambiance!


Me, enjoying the beautiful weather!


This is my first time out in public without my hat. Luckily we were just at some scary truck stop. I think I actually scared the truckers. Whatever works, right?


Another truck stop. At least this one had a pretty sunset in the background.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

3 Down......5 to Go!

Cheese! It's Treatment 3!



I am officially receiving my third chemo treatment as we speak. I was actually supposed to start treatement at 1:00 but ended up having to wait over an hour to see the Dr. so that put me behind schedule. Oh Well. I did ask the doctor today about my chances of reoccurance. She (the doctor's nurse) told me there is actually a program where they can enter in information about the size of my tumor, the type of cancer, my age, and lymph node involvement and then the program will give a percentage for reoccurance based on those factors. I chose NOT to have this done. I don't want my life to have a percentage tagged to it. The nurse did make the point that even if I had an actual "number" it wouldn't change my plan of action. I am doing everything I can to ensure that my cancer won't come back. Also, I'm not the type of person to believe that a statistic is the "end all, say all." God is using me to do great things, and this is just the beginning. I believe He is preparing me mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically for something big. As to when that door will open, that is up to HIM. My statistics show that God has healed me forever. I have seen Him answer my prayers and the prayers of others and I will serve Him and honor Him for the rest of my life. God is bigger than any percentage!

Just another day in my life!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Thanks Doreen!


One of the most amazing people I have met throughout my journey is Doreen. Doreen and I attend church together and I met her within days of my diagnosis. She, like me, was diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age. Early on in my diagnosis, I felt like a deer caught in the headlights. There were so many decisions to be made and not a lot of time to make them. However, my conversations with Doreen always led to reassurance, confidence, and hope for my future. I now have a picture of Doreen and her family on my refrigerator. It is a reminder to me everyday that I will overcome this obstacle in my life and that I will be whole again. My hair will grow back, my breast will be reshaped and resized, and I will live my life strong and healthy. She has become such a great friend and I thank God for her.

Last Wednesday, Doreen gave Charley a book titled The Hope Tree. It is a book filled with short stories written by children whose mother's have been diagnosed with breast cancer. The stories reflect how breast cancer affects a child and a family. The very first story is written by an 8 year old boy named Anthony. He talks about the day his mom received the news. He didn't understand why his mom had been crying all day. However, he knew something wasn't right because his house was utter chaos and it had never been that way before. Because of the chaos, he ended up eating cookies for dinner, his dad put the milk in the pantry, and his sister fell asleep that night wearing her tutu. This story was such a great reflection of how I felt in the days following my diagnosis. My entire world froze in time as watched the world around me continue to move on day after day. I couldn't even think about what I should fix Charley for dinner. Who knows, she may have eaten cookies herself a couple of nights!

Thank you Doreen for this book. It will hold a special place in my heart for the rest of my life. You have been such an inspiration to me and I thank God for our friendship!

Charley reading her new book.


Thank you Doreen! I love it!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

One Amazing Night

Last night I went with my best friend Hilary to a Women's Rally at my church. First just let me say that I LOVE MY CHURCH! I thank God for bringing me and my family to James River. Ryan and I began attending James River a little over three years ago. We have continued to find ourselves blessed time and time again. It feels so wonderful to walk into our church and feel an incredible amount of warmth and love. We have met a lot of wonderful people, including several who have had a huge influence and impact on my life throughout this journey. I truly love these people and thank God for bringing them into my life.

Last night at the rally, I was overwhelmed by the presence of God. There was a calling for women to be prayed over who were having trouble conceiving, women who currently had cancer, and for women who had survived cancer. I was touched by the number of women laying their hands on me and praying for strength and continued healing. As I have seen throughout this journey, the power of prayer is incredible. Time and time again I hear stories of miraculous healing and this continues to encourage me and remind me of how big God is.

I continue to get daily emails from people I don't know and from people that I do know telling me what an inspiration I am to them. I love knowing that God is doing a great work in my life and therefore will do a great work in the life of someone else.

This blog was created to document a part of my life that will soon be over with. When you hear you have cancer, the world stops. You quit doing things that you once enjoyed. Everything moves in slow motion. Making decisions don't come easy. Before I was diagnosed, I took a lot of things for granted. The things that were important to me, where things that did not matter. Things such as keeping my house in tip-top shape. Making sure there was not one dirty piece of laundry in my laundry basket....ever. Complaining about the things that I didn't have. God really taught me a lesson in that area. I love knowing that I am inspiring others. However, I am a work in progress. God continues to work in my life. I am learning everyday how to submit myself to Him and allow Him to take on all my worries, all my doubts, and all my fears. This doesn't always come easy for someone who loves to be in control. I am not any different from those of you reading this blog. When I was diagnosed I just made the choice to live my life differently. I knew I couldn't battle cancer alone and I knew the only person that could battle it and win was God Himself. It was at that point that I quit trying to control every aspect of my life and those around me. I do relapse every so often, but then somehow I am reminded that I don't want to live my life as I did before my diagnosis. If you will allow Him, God will make a profound mark in your life just as He did mine. You don't have to wait for a life-threatening diagnosis to change the way you live. I pray that each of you reading this continues to be inspired by just a regular girl who is not perfect, but who has chosen to allow God to do great works in her life. You too can be that person. God is so great and He wants to use you to further His kingdom. All you have to do is allow Him.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A Scooter Babe



This blog is for my friend Mary in New York. Most of you reading this know that Mary and I became friends because she came across my blog and decided to email me. Our breast cancer journeys parallel one another. We were both diagnosed at around the same time, both had bilateral mastectomies, and are now both undergoing the same chemo regimen on the same day of each month. We are also both scheduled for reconstruction in December. Mary has been such a blessing to my life. I always look forward to her emails and she is always offering me words of encouragement. A couple of weeks ago Mary was kind enough to send me two bandannas from Orange County Choppers in NY. In case your not familiar, Orange County is where the American Choppers show on TLC takes place. Since Ryan builds custom motorcycle seats, this was an extra special treat for us because that is one of our favorite shows. If only those guys needed a motorcycle seat from Anvil Customs! I wanted to show Mary my appreciation by sporting the bandanna on my blog. Since Ryan doesn't own a motorcycle, I had to model on the next best thing......his scooter. Thanks Mary!


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Meaningful Pictures

Hello Everyone! I hope those of you who saw the hair buzzing pictures haven't lost any sleep! I know there were probably several of you who were frightened, especially by the pictures of Ryan. I apologize. Things have been going fairly well. I definitely did better with this round of chemo. It didn't seem to be quite as hard on my body. I wouldn't say the fatigue was better, but the overall side effects did seem to be less. It's hard to believe that this time next week I will be getting yet another treatment. The weeks are flying by which is a good thing. However, Fall is my favorite time of year and I hate that it will be over with before I know it.

I imagine that everyone reading this blog knows someone who has been affected by cancer. Perhaps you have lived through cancer yourself. If so, then you know how cancer can get the best of you. I have chosen to remain positive and optimistic through this journey. However, that doesn't mean that I don't ever experience doubt, fear, or anger. Just last night I was looking at a picture of our family from Easter, 2007. Charley was nine months old at the time and our life seemed perfect. The picture shows a happy family with little to no concern. Less than two years later, our lives were flipped upside down. Pictures taken before June 12Th, 2008 appear differently to me. I am reminded in those pictures that I could never have prepared or known what was coming. I would never have thought that at age 28 I would be fighting cancer. Luckily, I beat it, even though chemo makes me feel like it is winning at times. When I look at pictures taken after that historic date in June, I see a family that has grown closer together. I see a husband that never thought he would watch his wife go through cancer. I see a daughter who will never know the sacrifices her mommy made so that she could see her grow up. And I see me. A mom, a wife, and a daughter who has more appreciation for life. I see a strong woman who is a fighter.

Pictures really do speak a million words.

Easter 2007



August 2008