The armor is cracking but that is ok

What can I say, we knew things would get harder and they aren’t “unmanageable” but they are harder.  The tricky part with a break like Brad had in December is we stressed about him not getting treated but got used to him feeling pretty good.  He had just started to experience the harder chemo symptoms when he got sidelined so with #8 brought more hurting for his hands and feet and more fatigue.  He even had some nausea and food was just plain gross. I’m thankful his schedule can adjust as needed to accommodate his needs and while it really sucks for him to miss out he can rest to gain strength to make the next thing.  We count on that ying and yang in this process.

I had a little bit of a hissy fit after chemo on Wednesday.  It is time for my 5 year checkup colonoscopy and I realized I’m a year late.  My doctor’s office was sold so no one had my records and deadlines on their radar.  I hastily made the appointment as soon as I could. After some phone calls to insurance and the facility they gave me numbers of anything from $3000 to $15000!  I about lost my mind!  And this is why I love my people, my network and my God who finds me the answers before I totally freak out.  I was texting with my sister and she mentioned Aflac and their cancer policy.  I had heard good things about Aflac and had meant to call and check it out.  I’m annoyed with myself for not investigating earlier when my gut was telling me to.  But that’s ok…the plan is to get some policies in place to help with potential future accidents for the kids…Whitney’s injury in December was expensive and could have been very cheap with Aflac.  I’m getting the cancer policy to help protect anything I could encounter going forward.  By doing that the estimate for the colonoscopy could be $75 (plus premiums) instead of an astronomical fee.  More on that after I get it all in place.  I’m finding that I only follow my gut lately after I have a mini panic attack, need to fix that.

We have had some other things land on our laps in the last few weeks that we are investigating but it all boils down to God providing when we need it and when we don’t know it is coming.   I have to consciously remember to trust him and ask for his guidance.  I’m at that state of “I don’t even know where to start” when I pray so I just ask him to take it all and show me.  And boy has he!  Great things out of the blue, great people reaching out to me and taking care of me.  It is very hard to accept help and generosity but even a little extra attention.  It has been so worth it though, I’m staying open and letting people love on us.

Speaking of that Brad is going to start attending the Cancer Connection breakfasts at the church!  Praise the Lord!  Four long months ago he was SO not ready for any of that and now he’s putting it on his calendar and is excited to go.  It will be perfect, mornings are his Jam and he will be able to get some good conversation, advice, worship and whatever else the group does when they get together.  They have been so incredible to us since the first phone call in September so I’m just so thankful.

A few days ago I would have posted this all freaked out with my head spinning in circles so I’m glad I was able to float back down to earth, screw on my problem solver filter and take care of stuff.  We look forward to heading into Brad’s easier days this week before #9 next Wed. After a fabulous dance competition weekend we are praying we can get through February to our St. Louis trip to the Missouri State Dance Competition! We will have a blast with our Touch of Silver Dance family and I can’t wait!  This team is an eclectic group but boy are they great dancers, beautiful ladies and so darn funny!

We’ve gotten closer with some of the parents through all of this cancer struggle and will cherish them pulling us up when we need it.  Kindness is the biggest gift we have to offer and even the little messages, hugs, encouraging words are the most treasured support.  When our armor cracks and we feel the weight of the WHOLE situation straight on our chests…it is the little gestures that pull us through and up so that we can breathe and refocus.  Finding focus is hard for all of us.  Staying on track is a big feat especially for the kids.  That is what I’m giving to God the most these days because I will make myself sick worrying about them.  I remind them of study time and encourage them to do their best.  I know it is so hard for them and I just hope for their sake they can keep a high level of effort and success.  Down the line schools admissions offices, the business and nursing programs…employers won’t give them a pass because their dad was sick.  We all have to JUST DO IT!  Cliche’ but it rings true.

Prayer Requests:

Please pray for Brad’s numbers that are off and that they find their way back to normal.

Ask God for dramatic healing as we battle through these hard next four treatments.

Pray for some clear, honest and good news from Dr. Pendergrass next Wed.

Send loving, lifting and peaceful prayers to all of us but especially Carter, Whitney and Russell.  My heart breaks for them and the burden they carry but know in some way God will make them better in all of this.

oxox, Peace

Kim

 

All We Want for Christmas is Chemo

I thought about updating everyday for three weeks but wanted to see how the cliff hanger ended first.  After the peak of good news from Brad’s scan on 11/28 we followed that up with “flunking” the blood test on 12/12 due to low White Blood Cell counts.  Brad had a rough ride during #5 and ended up with a sinus infection.  Apparently it is true that antibiotics kill the good stuff and the bad stuff.  I had always heard that but we saw it in action.  We tried on the 12th and the 19th and his count was even lower the second week.  We didn’t let the news put a bummer on our holiday celebrations and Brad won’t miss an event so we just kept going.  They told us to come back on Christmas Eve and we’d try again.  There are definite pluses to missing a chemo treatment since he didn’t have to deal with the side effects and had a decent amount of energy.  BUT that was a catch 22 since he felt good enough to be my Christmas Elf running errands all over town he was also with lots of germs.  After getting kicked out of our second try I started making him Vitamin C drinks with pineapple coconut EmergenC packets, pineapple and orange juice.  I’m not sure if that had anything to do with his rebound but I told him I’d take credit.

The morning of Christmas Eve with lots still to do we went to the clinic with not an ounce of hope that he would get the treatment.  It was quiet, only a few people were there and from neighboring conversations it sounded like many of those patients were the ones who had gotten booted out in the previous days and weeks. Brad commented that all the “derilics” were in it together.  I stayed busy until it was time for them to tell us whether he was staying for treatment and my mood was declining by the minute.  Our very nice nurse came walking towards me with the report in her hand and gave me a thumbs up so I was instantly relieved and got to watch him get the good news.  We were totally shocked and immediately started texting friends and family to let them know he made the cut.  His levels had tripled in five days! Everyone celebrated with us and I think Christmas Eve and Day were spent much happier for all who are rooting for Brad.  His fatigue reminds us of his reality but we are thankful for it at the same time.  Cancer is so weird.  It makes you thankful for the craziest things.

We had a wonderful Christmas week spent with family out and about a little bit, celebrating our friend’s 50th birthday, enjoying time with our teams and truly feeling the holiday spirit.  I used to hate Christmas…it was hard on me as a kid so it took a long time to peel that damper off and remember to make my own new way.  This year truly felt like the holidays were intentional and the presents were second to the time spent with each other.  For anyone who contributed to group gifts given to us I can’t fully express my appreciation but please know you all are life savers!  Our church brought loads of presents for the kids and seeing their faces as they opened each one was pure magic.  We’ve been given so many gift cards for restaurants, grocery stores, QuikTrip and Visa cards.  All of this has been amazing and definitely eased the pressure on me to find ways to make this all work.  Friends handed us cards or venmo’d money to help out and while I feel weird accepting the gifts I know it helps them feel like they are helping.  I know that feeling of helplessness when a friend is having a hard time so I’ve learned to accept help with a grateful heart.

So now that the inlaws have gone back home I hope to be productive, get organized and be ready to roll in 2019.  I have so much hope for a great year no matter what is in store for us.  The gift cancer gives you is the blessing of being present and appreciating very normal days.  We say sorry quicker, try to be happy as we can and I’ve been really trying to stay tuned in to how the kids are doing.  That is the hardest part. Please pray for Brad to stay healthy enough for chemo and for his hope, faith and sunny attitude to remain intact. This is a long road and we feel weary many days but are reminded we have to keep going! I plan to be more organized and focused so I can keep my stress level in check. Cheers to a wonderful New Year!

Month in and a Marathon to Go

While October seemed like the longest month ever it was a good learning month and for the most part successful.  We ended the month with Chemo #3 on Halloween and the clinic was kind of quiet which was nice but were amused by a fun loving “Rod Stewart” patient who was super nice and happy to be there because he was too sick to get treated last week.  This experience makes us appreciate the spectrum of sickness and varying challenges.  Much older people are usually hanging out at the clinic which gives us perspective on the fact that they’ve enjoyed 20-30 more years than Brad and I have.  What will we change in those 20-30 years?  Our new goal is to be “them” when we grow up and have 30 more years of memories to make so that we are facing health problems later in life when they are more expected.  I wonder if they think about how fortunate they are to have had extra years and not be the “young” people in the clinic.  These are the reasons we end the day from Chemo Day so mentally exhausted.  We are thankful for our own good fortune and for those around us while hoping we all come out winners at the end of these days we spend together.

Being silly sending a SnapChat pic to the kids and some friends. Woah give me a filter…this is all us, wrinkles and all.

“What do you need?”  “How are you doing”  These are common questions and the hardest to answer.  Some days feel 100% normal, others feel like we are on the edge of a cliff.  While I’m always open to answering because I know the people asking really want to know and am always happy to give an update.  We are very optimistic people so our answers are usually shiny and bright, they are truthful but I’m not going to focus on the things that weigh me down.  We are SO incredibly lucky to have good doctors and miracle drugs to help Brad in this fight.  It is pretty amazing what medicine can do and I’m just in awe of the brilliant minds behind the strategy and execution these drugs deliver.  I’m also EXTREMELY proud of every single caregiver who has ever been given this load of responsibility because the mental stamina it takes is unreal.  I fall into some nasty moods and honestly just try to hide it from everyone and find ways to go be by myself to sort it out.  Then a shift happens and everything is different and I feel amazing and optimistic again.  It is a wild ride people!!!

While we ride weeks of highs and lows I’m also really trying to focus on long term.  We will be fighting this battle forever.  The middle ground goal is for Brad to be labeled “NED” No Evidence of Disease.  He will always be cared for by doctors looking for cancer or treating cancer.  This situation is 100% polar opposite from how his healthcare habits were before but I think he is seeing the benefits and will take full advantage of a healthy life…won’t we all?  We saw Dr. Pendergrass before chemo on 10/31 and he has planned for 2nd PET scan for November 27th.  Of course I planned a business trip for that day…but thankfully it is at our KU Med clinic 3 minutes down the road so I’m cutting the cord and not stressing about not being there.  He will be in and out and we’ll get the results the following day before Chemo #5.  I also put the weight of being a good employee squarely on my back so making sure I’m keeping up with my responsibilities at work is very important.  I feel good about doing the best job I can since they’ve been so incredibly supportive and flexible.  Plus a work trip with mom away for a day will be good for my people.  I’m going to Detroit and am kind of excited, I’ve never been and love watching Rehab Addict on HGTV.

Below is a link to a calendar app people can subscribe to for bringing food over, coming to visit or whatever they can think of.  Brad blew out the sprinklers the other day so that Fall HoneyDo is checked off!  He’s been doing more of those things lately so that is nice going into the Winter so I don’t have to stress about thinking like the “man of the house” regarding what needs to be winterized.  We are cooking up some house new projects and I have a major urge to repaint most rooms in my house.  I’m trying to redirect those crazy ideas into more attainable projects like organizing storage areas which gives me equal satisfaction.

https://my.lotsahelpinghands.com/community/teamwoods

On this calendar I hope to add prayer requests.  You should be able to click on the days to see if I have any notes in there.  I feel like people want to focus on certain aspects and it helps me stay focused on the big and little picture when I break thoughts and the schedule into pieces.  We closed out October with a very fun Halloween night hanging out with the neighbors like every other year before.  Brad had fun talking to everyone since we are all so busy with every day life it is nice to spend an evening talking and watching the kids have fun.

Enjoy some pictures from a few good day adventures: including a spontaneous day trip to Springfield, MO to watch our high school softball team win STATE!  Our friends, the Seib family, enjoyed seeing their daughter pitch her team into a State Championship!  Incredible family, incredible athlete and wonderful young lady!  Go Easton!  You are amazing!  We also stopped by to watch some HS Volleyball and support those ladies.  You could call us Super Fans!  We are a sports loving family that is for sure!

Apparently since Halloween was on a Wednesday the students at KU celebrated by dressing up for about a week and a half!  I got some Snapchats of Carter as a tree and as a secret service agent “guarding” the President.  They looked cute and I was jealous of their good time…college life is awesome!  Last night he texted me while I was handing out candy in the dark saying he needed a sheep onesie from Amazon STAT for a party this coming weekend! Of course I dropped everything and ordered it for him and made him promise to send me pics.  I’m just so proud of that kid for balancing everything and pray for him every day to be able to keep up his focus and succeed.  “You need a sheep costume?  Sure you can have a sheep costume because you got an awesome grade on your Psyc paper.”  This is how my mind works when it comes to my Carter. oxox

Short Fuses and Winning–Ying and Yang

With caution I’m super excited about our progress after Chemo #2 on 10/15.  We set goals and made sure to take advantage of energetic times and get Brad the rest he needed when his energy needed to be refueled.  Going into the weekend without any experience after Chemo 1 and knowing what to expect and avoid after Chemo 2 is night and day difference.  For now we are just focused on nutrition and rest and enjoying a week with no appointments.

I’ve been reflecting on everyone’s needs and how they collide at times.  I think everyone sees when I’m at my breaking point.  My typical solutions is to pretty much run for the door to go run an errand or anything outside of my house to get some non-cancer related fuel in my body and mind.  I hope soon I’ll incorporate weight training and stretching because I feel like my muscles have shortened from the stress pulling on them from head to toe.  Ugh I need to release that stuff asap and get rid of these aches and pains!

So with the kids…I’ve been trying to watch for trouble signs and they pop up in different forms and different times.  I remember seeing moods and behavior in other families dealing with cancer and now see similar behavior around our house.  I remind myself that they are suffering from the weight of all this along with normal trying to grow up kinds of things.  I just pray they aren’t impeded by this stress or thrown off their trajectory because they were all on a really good path prior to 9/15/18.  My main objective is to keep them as close to that same path as possible.  I try to remind myself, Brad and each of the kids that it is ok to feel “off” or have to have some mental health breaks however they need to get it but then also get back to that place of focus.  I remember being a teenager and how hard and stressful it was.  The thought of putting all of this on top seems suffocating.  I had my own suffocating circumstances and came out strong than I ever would have so I know they can too.  Bad moods aren’t such a bad thing and we need to give each other time and safe places to release that negativity so it doesn’t stay bottled up.

Going into this week I’m hoping for less short fuse situations, more Zen time and using this seemingly light week to get some rest.  We also have to do list items to get checked off before the whirlwind of family visits starting with Whitney’s Alice In Wonderland ballet and then the holidays.  Brad spent a lot of Friday picking out a new vacuum so that should help out with the to do list especially since everyone has actually been excited about using it!  GENIUS!!  New Vacuum = People Using it Besides Me!  Write that one down in your book of tricks!

We had a beautiful Fall weekend and took advantage by taking a few pictures when we went to visit Carter for his 19th birthday which is coming up on Thursday!  I wanted to take a bunch of photos all over Lawrence among the beautiful trees….but energy, moods and lack of showering for some made it not the ideal time for a photoshoot.  Whitney and I literally jumped out of the van on the way to the grocery store on Sunday and took some on a side road that I’m pretty sure isn’t really supposed to be driven on but we made it work.  So, check that off the list…fall pics with pretty trees CHECK!

 

 

A truly fresh start for 2016

Last year was insane and I found myself overloaded. I tend to take it too far then hit the wall and feel like I’m not doing anything right. I had a successful year with all of my ventures but was left stressed out. So I decided to streamline.

Although I’ll always love crafty projects I found that the sport and dance schedules were too demanding to do it for a commitment of selling product. It was hard to let go of my booth at Bella Patina in the West Bottoms but it was such a liberating exercise to purge items I had been holding on to hoping they’d find their way into someone’s home. I had a “Fire Sale” the last month and went out with a bang earning money to Christmas shop!  I’ll miss treasure hunting but will be able to do it for fun and not guess if anyone else will like the finds.

Bella table

I’m still full steam ahead with photography and hoping to book some Spring shoots and Seniors in the coming weeks. I had the honor of working with some great families this last Fall and some amazing Seniors as well.  I was also honored to take team pictures for Russell’s baseball team and Saint Teresa’s STARS dance team!  Lord knows I have lots of practice when it comes to sports and dance so that has been fun to mix it into the family and kid photo assignments.

January 2016 was blah… not to be negative out of the gate but just being real. I think I was figuring out how to transition from an exhausting Nutcracker and Christmas into a productive schedule. I was tired and felt like doing absolutely nothing on the weekends. At the end of the month I was ready to dust off the funk and start fresh.

The Hubs and I decided to start a very difficult diet/cleanse. I’m already feeling a huge difference. We are breaking bad habits and I hope will have a new addiction to feeling awesome. I can already tell this will help me be more committed to working out and staying motivated. I’ve been wanting to make big changes for awhile and just didn’t have the spark, I guess it took a month of “meditation” to get me in the mindset to go for it. Sometimes it is easy to talk about making healthy changes…then you grab a cocktail and make nachos…and that all goes out the window. Thankfully my husband is on board and not making nachos and other yummy food while I’m trying hard to keep my will power.

Cheers to a healthy and awesome 2016!

Woods Fam Xmas 2015

 

 

Super Spring, Let’s Go Summer!

I’m in awe of how Mother Nature has cooperated this year with all of our outdoor activities.  On the days we could use a break it rains and on the days we really need to play the skies clear.  It has been a nice Spring with the rain we need just when we need it.  My backyard is an example of this rain as we haven’t been home to trim bushes and clean up.  We’ll get to that soon.

We added a Family Reunion to our Spring schedule over Memorial weekend.  It was a lot of fun and boy does the Woods/Wright/Stears families make cute kids!  There were piles of them.  The boys played baseball THE ENTIRE TIME and a few brotherly scuffles had to be broken up.  They are competitive!  The sweet Brown girl cousins fell in love with Whitney and Caroline cried so hard when they were leaving she talked GG and Mimi into bringing them to recital at the end of June.  It will be great to have them at our house as they’ve never been.

Blake and Jack ate 1000 popsicles together, you’d think it was a race!

Black and Jack
Black and Jack

Whitney was the pied piper of the little ones and had fun playing with them.  The little girls were dressed up like southern belles with big bows and cute outfits.  I told her I wished she would have let me dress her like that and she said, “Why didn’t you?”  I told her she was as stubborn about her appearance then as she is now and wouldn’t let me do a thing about it!  I find myself telling her that often when she asks why I let her run around with ratty hair and no shirt when she was 5.

Photobooth fun!
Photobooth fun!

Russell was the big hitter and broke the pinata!  He was so proud and put his baseball skills to work!  We found out recently that he made the A Team U9 for his competitive soccer team!  I’m so proud of him!

His pinata trophy!
His pinata trophy!

So June is all about Baseball and our team is doing well.  They had a slump but seem to be coming out of it.  Carter had an awesome hit, I was so relieved.  Slumps of any kind stress kids and parents out because we all just want a hit and a win!

My BIG #45 Pitching
My BIG #45 Pitching

We play the State Tournament this weekend and kick it off on my birthday, Friday the 13th which is always a lucky day!  Hoping for big things!  I’m not going to focus on the fact that this could be our last weekend for this team to play together, I’m hoping to play some next Summer if we can!  LOVE LOVE LOVE these boys and families!  They are priceless and if I write about it anymore I’m going to be in a puddle of tears.  GO SSCowboys!!!  BIG STU Baseball!