Saturday, April 30, 2011

Medical Update

As I mentioned in my previous post, I came down with a sinus infection and an upper respiratory infection while I was in St. Louis last weekend. Since my immunities aren't what they should be these days (due to chemo), I haven't made too much progress yet in terms of getting better. Thankfully, my chemo treatments themselves have not been too bad - they definitely slow me down for a day or two, but it's usually manageable.

Despite not feeling up to par (Matt tells me the saying should technically be "down to par" in terms of golf scoring), today was such a gorgeous Saturday that I was determined to spend the afternoon at the beach with Matt and the kids. We had a great time. I especially enjoyed introducing Samuel to the ocean; it was his first time to the beach and he loved it! It was nice to have a relaxing day together as a family before another busy week. 

On Tuesday, I will be going to Charleston for a brief outpatient surgery to get my two expansion ports removed. Ports are basically small plastic discs (about the size of a nickel) that are placed just under the skin; they allow for medicine to be injected into the blood stream without having to put an IV into a vein. These ports were actually used to inject saline into the tissue expanders in my chest. They are so uncomfortable because they are constantly being pushed against my ribs. So I am really looking forward to having them removed. On Thursday, I will have my eighth of twelve chemo treatments. I would greatly appreciate prayer for both of those things.

Even though I am eager to be done with chemo, I am so thankful that my current chemo drugs have not been as hard to deal with as the ones I had to take last Winter. With these drugs, I usually have moderate fatigue and nausea a day or two, but then feel well enough to do all my normal daily tasks. Also, though it presents certain physical and logistical challenges, I have been realizing what a blessing it is to have kids during this illness. To a certain degree, my children keep my mind from fixating on my health issues because I am forced to care for and focus on them. If it weren't for them, I would probably be sitting home all day wondering why I am sick, if the cancer will spread or return, etc. Of course, it is ultimately God and His promises that have sustained me through this process and will continue to give me hope for the future. I am praying that God will continue to mold my heart and mind to His likeness and give me a heart to serve Him.

Thank you for your prayers!

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Matthew 6:25-34

Lydia and Hudson obeying Jesus' words in Matthew 6:25, "Look at the birds of the air..." :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter Weekend in St. Louis

I had the joy of going to St. Louis this past weekend to celebrate Easter with my mom and her husband Ned, my sister Katie and her husband Chris, my nieces Ella and Lilly, my nephew J-Rod, and my grandparents. I wasn’t able to go home this past Christmas because of the difficulty of my previous chemotherapy treatments, so it had been almost a year and a half since I had been home. It was such a joy to be back in St. Louis, to be with my family, and to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

I brought Samuel with me on my trip and we had a pretty eventful time travelling to and from St. Louis. We left early Friday morning and our first flight – from Savannah to Atlanta – went very smoothly. Once we were in Atlanta we had to take the train to a different terminal to connect to our second flight. Just as I arrived at the gate, they made an announcement that our flight was going to leave from a different gate in a different terminal. I told myself, “This is fine – I will just get a little more exercise.” So I returned to the train and made the long walk to the new gate. Just as I got there I saw people on my flight walking the other way. I found out they had switched gates a second time, which meant walking once more to the other side of the terminal. By that point I wasn’t thinking of this as excercise…I was exhausted. Thankfully, the rest of the flight to St. Louis went well.
I was excited to attend the Good Friday service at Trinity Church where my brother-in-law is the pastor. It was a wonderful, worshipful service. As we all walked outside in silence (in remembrance of Christ’s death) there was an eeriness in the air. The sky above looked very ominous. We got in the car to drive home and as we were driving the weather got worse and worse. We turned on the radio and heard there were tornado warnings all around us. I kept looking out my car window thinking that in a flash of lightning I would see a big twister heading my way. We spent the next thirty minutes driving and praying a tornado would not pick up our car and that we would make it home. Just as we got home the tornado siren sounded by our house. We went into the basement and waited it out. Thankfully, the big tornados hit further north of us. There was a lot of devastation in St. Louis Friday night and I am praying for all those families who lost their houses. The airport (where I arrived earlier that day) was hit directly, causing damage to planes, taking off part of the terminal roof, and shattering a lot of windows.

My grandparents were supposed to fly in the next day but the whole airport was closed. They were able to fly into an airport a few hours away later that evening. It took a total of 18 hours to make it from their house to my mom’s house, but they finally arrived safely.

On Saturday morning I woke up feeling ill with a very bad chest cough and sinus infection. I didn’t think I would get sick because my blood levels looked so good at my appointment last week, but I guess germs have a way of getting in no matter what! I guess it did not help that Samuel was also sick and had been up a lot during the night. But my sister Katie was so gracious and offered to keep Samuel for the afternoon so I could rest. What a blessing! I spent the whole rainy afternoon sitting by the fire reading and sleeping. 

On Saturday night I had a lot of fun playing with Ella (9), J-rod (7) and Lily (3). They have grown up so much! I made bracelets and played checkers with Ella, played castles and swords with J-Rod, and was just entertained by Lily. 

We had a wonderful Easter Sunday. Once again we went to Trinity Church and enjoyed a wonderful and worshipful service. Then we spent the afternoon and evening together as a family. 

My flight was scheduled to leave Monday afternoon. I was kind of hoping that the airport would still be closed so that I wouldn’t have to do chemo on Tuesday, but it had reopened on Sunday. We were planning on shopping before I left. Since the suitcase I brought was full to the brim, I figured I might need to borrow an extra suitcase if I was going to get things while shopping. My mom found an extra suitcase in the basement and gave it to me to use. To my disgust and surprise I opened it up to find a dead mouse inside! Now, this might be more surprising to me if it hadn’t been for the dead bird that my sister found in her closet a few years ago!

My flight to Atlanta went well. I had to hold Samuel the whole time (which hurt my chest  and arms because of my surgery), but he was fairly good. He was very entertaining to those around me. When I got to Atlanta I found out that my flight was going to be delayed by an hour. This was not too surprising since flights can get rather backed up later in the day. But for those of you who know me…you know I HATE flying, so the next few hours were a real test for me! When we finally got on the plane at about 8pm they realized that one of the doors was broken. At this point, Samuel was screaming because he was so tired. They told us we would have to go back to the terminal, but stay on the plane while the maintenance crew fixed it. About an hour later (about 9pm) they said that it was good enough to fly. I was hoping the door wouldn’t fall off in the air! Of course, Samuel was still crying at this point. He likes to be moving all the time so he was not happy and was not giving in to sleep. Just as they cleared us for take off, the airport grounded all of the flights because of a huge lightning storm. Finally, after forty-five minutes or so they cleared us for take off. We waited in a long line of planes for another thirty minutes or so and finally took off at about 10:20pm. By this time, Samuel was asleep and staying asleep for our short flight to Savannah. 

I missed Matt, Lydia, and Hudson so much this weekend. I was so grateful to Matt for watching Lydia and Hudson and allowing me this opportunity to go and spend the weekend with my family. Even though the travel was hard and I was not feeling very well, it was a nice break from all of my treatments and appointments. Of course, I came home to two doctors appointments today – one of which was for chemotherapy (my seventh of twelve treatments).

Thank you to everyone who is continuing to pray for me and for my health. God is so good. He seems to take us on so many ups and downs, but he will NEVER leave us or forsake us. Thank you, Jesus, for all your many blessings!

 Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.
I will not leave you or forsake you.
 Joshua 1:5

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

They Will Know Us By Our Love

This past weekend several families from Park Cities Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Dallas held a garage sale in order to raise funds for Erin's medical costs. As you can see in the video below, this was a huge sale and the folks who coordinated it were so thoughtful and creative in planning all the details! The sale was a big success in every way and the funds raised will go a long way towards helping with Erin's medical costs.

We are so grateful to all those who helped with the sale - those who donated items, those who sorted and priced the items, those who worked during the sale, and to the Webster family who hosted the sale! Thank you for taking the initiative to serve our family in this way. The selflessness of your love for Erin is truly a reflection of your calling as saints in Jesus Christ!

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another:
just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
By this all people will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.”
John 13:34-35

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Race for the Cure 5K

Last night and today Matt and I participated in the events for the Third Annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5K in Savannah. It was great to be a part of such a large event which not only connected me to other women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, but that also raises awareness about breast cancer and money for breast cancer research. I was amazed that there are over 850 women in Chatham County (where we live) that are diagnosed each year and that over 5,000 people participated in the race!

At these events I was in a group referred to as a breast cancer "survivor" (supposedly you are a technically a "survivor" from the day you are diagnosed). But in many ways, I don’t totally feel like a survivor of breast cancer because I am only halfway through my initial treatment. Nevertheless, it was neat to talk with other women who have gone through or are going through the same thing I am going through right now.

Last night we attended a reception for survivors where the guest speaker was Savannah’s own Paula Deen. When I met her and mentioned my name, I was very surprised that she remembered my name because her son Jamie participated in a fundraising event for me last December.


This morning Matt and Samuel and I participated in the 5K race. Samuel and I walked and Matt ran (and then came back and walked to the finish line with me)…I am so proud of him! He even made a special shirt for the race which says, "I hate running...but I love my wife!"


Alright, I know it sounds very strange...but one of the most exciting parts of the morning was getting a free 12-pack of Quilted Northern toilet paper!!!

It is interesting how much camaraderie there is amongst the breast cancer survivors. I greatly appreciated getting to know the other survivors and learning from them and relating to them. What a blessing! For some, those supportive and encouraging relationships with other survivors is the primary thing "getting them through" their battle with breast cancer. I certainly value those relationships, but they are not ultimate; my ultimate comfort and support comes from Jesus Christ and his daily love and faithfulness to me.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Psalm 46:1

Friday, April 15, 2011

Medical Update and God's Goodness

Yesterday was a long, but encouraging day. I had my sixth chemotherapy treatment on Tuesday (which means I'm halfway done with this round of chemo), so I was dealing with some of the fatigue and nausea that follow my treatment. Also, I had a bone scan done to see if my cancer has spread. I have been having pain in the center of my chest ever since my surgery. I just assumed it was from my surgery, but when I told my doctors about it they wanted me to get a bone scan done. My oncologist told me any time a cancer patient has pain in a bone it needs to get checked out because it could be an indication that the cancer has spread to the bone. So yesterday I had the bone scan done. In morning I went to the hospital to have a radioactive dye injected into my body to help the doctors read the scan. The dye had to be in my body for three hours before they could do the scan, so we returned to the hospital later in the afternoon to have the scan.

When my doctor suggested I have this bone scan done I began thinking a lot about what it would mean if the cancer had spread. I had not thought a lot about the possibility of the cancer spreading until this point, but the thought of it spreading was a little scary. But God gave me an incredible peace and trust, knowing that whatever the test results were, He is good, He loves me, and He is using every situation in our lives to bring Him glory. Thankfully, the technician told me that the scan looked normal. A radiologist still needs to look at it, but it is nice to know that it looks like the cancer has not spread into my bones. Praise God!   

While Matt and I were very grateful for my good medical report, we spent a while last night reflecting on some acquaintances' discouraging medical reports we read yesterday. Ruthie, the mother of one of Matt's classmates from college and seminary recently began battling cancer for the third time. And a couple from Matt's parents' church in Dallas have a one year-old granddaughter named Lucy who has been battling a serious illness and is not expected to live much longer. There is so much sickness all around us! We simply can't escape its reality or its pain. But as Lucy's father (also a pastor) reminded us, Jesus' death and resurrection have everything to do with how we as Christians respond to these hard issues of sickness, pain, and death. He is an excerpt from his most recent blog entry.
It is human nature to be repulsed by sickness, weakness, and death. Just make it go away. Just make it stop. Probably, it reminds us of our own mortality. And we are afraid. (There’s fear again.) And this fear causes people to become desperate. Searching for a cure. Traveling from one place to another for this treatment or that experimental remedy. Researching and reading. Everything from medicine to therapy and remedies natural, spiritual, and metaphysical. We fear death, and so we want to do something—anything to stop it. The grim fact is no matter how much we exhaust ourselves by trying, we cannot stop death. Death is our enemy. In fact, death is our worst and ultimate enemy. But our worst enemy has already been defeated. How do I know? Jesus Christ lives.

Ironically (and Providentially), next week is Holy Week. The week when we mark the finality of Christ’s victory over death as we walk with Jesus from his triumphal entry into Jerusalem to the Last Supper, to his crucifixion, and of course, his glorious resurrection. And so, the question is not, “Can God heal Lucy?” Of course he can. Nor is the question, “Why doesn’t God heal Lucy?” That has not been given to us to know—either in this situation or in any other. Actually, one way to answer the “Why” question is “God has already healed Lucy by strengthening her one day at a time for another year of life with us after her heart attack. And God will heal Lucy completely, either in this life or in his presence.” Of that, there is no question.
Praise be to God that Christ's death and resurrection has freed us from the curse of sin and death! We can face the hardships of this life with faith and hope in the new life he gives us as we share in His resurrection! And praise God that there are faithful saints like Ruthie Gutierriez and Lucy Jarrett whose physical suffering in this life points us to Christ and the promises of the life to come!

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls."
1 Peter 1:3-9

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

On Running

I just read my cousin in-law's blog today and she was talking about once being a runner and now, a few months after having a baby, being a jogger aspiring to be a runner once more. She is learning her body's new-found limitations and is working hard to overcome them. I can totally relate to that.

I am pretty sure I have never been as good a runner as my cousin in-law, but I have always loved running. Before I had Samuel I was training for a half marathon and looked forward to running every chance I got! Then I was forced to stop because of a hip injury. After a few months' rest I thought I could start again, but could not because of my pregnancy with Samuel. I planned on getting back at it after Samuel was born (in order to shed that baby weight), but then those plans were altered when I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

About a month ago we found out about the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure 5K run in Savannah and Matt and I decided to participate in it. Matt is not and has never really been a runner (or a jogger). He is active, but has always disliked running and has never trained for any races. But he told me that he was determined to train for this race. To be honest, I doubted that he would follow through with his commitment at first. But he has been going out several nights a week to train for the race. I have been so proud of him!

Of course, after seeing him run (and checking out the Nike GPS App he has been using) I got the bug to run. I finally decided that there was no reason that I couldn’t start running and try to train for the race with him. I thought, "I can handle it. It's just 3.1 miles, right?!" Well, I apparently underestimated how hard my surgery and chemotherapy have been on my body. When I went out for my first jog I was in utter pain - especially in my chest - and realized it was just not going to happen that day. But being a bit hard-headed, I decided that the pain of that first jog was a fluke and I tried jogging again the next day. But after my second failed attempt at jogging it became very clear to me that I was not going to be able to do the 5K. I might do the mile walk, or I might simply just watch everyone else do the race.

I know I will be able to jog and maybe even run again someday. But for now I am having to learn to be content to live "in this skin in this time," as my cousin in-law put it. I have to remind myself that this is only a phase and God will strengthen my body in His perfect timing.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God 
is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
Psalm 73:26

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Medical Update

Today I had my fifth of twelve treatments in my current round of chemo, so I’m almost halfway through! This round of chemo that I have been getting has not been nearly as bad as the round I had last Winter. I am so thankful for that. I have been able to keep up with the kids (for the most part) and have been able to remain active in our church activities, including the young adults Bible Study. It has been very encouraging to be able to continue with those things.

But at the same time, it has been hard thinking about how if February’s surgery had gone according to plan (that is, if my lymph node biopsy came back negative and they did the reconstruction) I would be just a few weeks away from being done with everything. But that is not what happened - the cancer did spread to my lymph nodes and so I could not have my reconstruction during that surgery. Yet this extended treatment process is what God has planned for me and I trust he is using it to grow my endurance, character, and hope (Romans 5:3-5).

In my first round of chemo, I was so nauseated and fatigued that I was not able to care for the kids at all for at least three days after each treatment. With this round, I have been able to care for the kids myself - but just barely. I still have a fair amount of fatigue and nausea, so it makes for a few quite hard and challenging days in dealing with my three little munchkins. Don’t get me wrong, they are a joy and most days they even make me forget that I am sick at all J But I still need prayer that I will have the physical, emotional, and spiritual strength as I go through these last 7 weeks of chemo then look on towards 35 days of radiation and surgery. 

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that
suffering produces endurance,
and endurance produces character,
and character produces hope,
and hope does not put us to shame, 
because God's love has been poured into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Romans 5:3-5

Friday, April 1, 2011

Fundraiser: Avon Walk for Breast Cancer

 My friends Drew and Amanda Holbrook will be participating in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Washington, D.C., on April 30th and May 1st. In my honor and for the sake of all those with breast cancer, they will be walking thirty-six miles over two days to raise money and awareness for breast cancer. They are currently raising funds in order to participate in the walk and beginning today (April 1st), a portion of every purchase made at this 31 Gifts website will go towards that need. I encourage you to support them!