Go Chiefs!

Brad is not a jersey wearing sports fan but decided to order one online for the Playoffs. So far the notification says delivery will be some time in February. So his daily joke after he checks the mail is that his jersey still hasn’t come…too bad but hopefully it will be enjoyed when we celebrate an amazing season!

We enjoyed a lovely breakfast the morning of the AFC Championship game and before Carter’s send off back to KU. I think he had a good break, his tank got filled up, he seemed much healthier and excited to get back to his friends. We have high hopes for good grades and good news from at least one internship application.

This week will be chemo #8. I expect a worn out dance dad but hope he will get to see Whitney dance at least once this weekend at her competition. Our schedule is going to ramp up fast so I just hope we can keep all the balls in the air. I’m feeling hopeful but also a little anxious. The cure for any worry is cheering for our kids and we have lots of that coming up! Can’t wait!

Brad and I enjoyed his company’s holiday party this weekend. It was nice to see all the people who support him and mortgage people are always a fun time.

Can you outrun a Mountain Lion?

In case you’ve ever wondered…………….{this is borrowed}

“What’s it like to go through cancer treatment? It’s something like this:

One day, you’re minding your own business, you open the fridge to get some breakfast, and OH MY GOD THERE’S A MOUNTAIN LION IN YOUR FRIDGE.

Wait, what? How? Why is there a mountain lion in your fridge? NO TIME TO EXPLAIN. RUN! THE MOUNTAIN LION WILL KILL YOU! UNLESS YOU FIND SOMETHING EVEN MORE FEROCIOUS TO KILL IT FIRST!

So you take off running, and the mountain lion is right behind you. You know the only thing that can kill a mountain lion is a bear, and the only bear is on top of the mountain, so you better find that bear. You start running up the mountain in hopes of finding the bear. Your friends desperately want to help, but they are powerless against mountain lions, as mountain lions are godless killing machines. But they really want to help, so they’re cheering you on and bringing you paper cups of water and orange slices as you run up the mountain and yelling at the mountain lion – “GET LOST, MOUNTAIN LION, NO ONE LIKES YOU” – and you really appreciate the support, but the mountain lion is still coming.

Also, for some reason, there’s someone in the crowd who’s yelling “that’s not really a mountain lion, it’s a puma” and another person yelling “I read that mountain lions are allergic to kale, have you tried rubbing kale on it?”

As you’re running up the mountain, you see other people fleeing their own mountain lions. Some of the mountain lions seem comparatively wimpy – they’re half grown and only have three legs or whatever, and you think to yourself – why couldn’t I have gotten one of those mountain lions? But then you look over at the people who are fleeing mountain lions the size of a monster truck with huge prehistoric saber fangs, and you feel like an asshole for even thinking that – and besides, who in their right mind would want to fight a mountain lion, even a three-legged one?

Finally, the person closest to you, whose job it is to take care of you – maybe a parent or sibling or best friend or, in my case, my wife – comes barging out of the woods and jumps on the mountain lion, whaling on it and screaming “DAMMIT MOUNTAIN LION, STOP TRYING TO EAT MY HUSBAND,” and the mountain lion punches your wife right in the face. Now your wife is rolling around on the ground clutching her nose, and she’s bought you some time, but you still need to get to the top of the mountain.

Eventually you reach the top, finally, and the bear is there. Waiting. For both of you. You rush right up to the bear, and the bear rushes the mountain lion, but the bear has to go through you to get to the mountain lion, and in doing so, the bear TOTALLY KICKS YOUR ASS, but not before it also punches your wife in the face. And your wife is now staggering around with a black eye and bloody nose, and saying “can I get some help, I’ve been punched in the face by two apex predators and I think my nose is broken,” and all you can say is “I’M KIND OF BUSY IN CASE YOU HADN’T NOTICED I’M FIGHTING A MOUNTAIN LION.”

Then, IF YOU ARE LUCKY, the bear leaps on the mountain lion and they are locked in epic battle until finally the two of them roll off a cliff edge together, and the mountain lion is dead.
Maybe. You’re not sure – it fell off the cliff, but mountain lions are crafty. It could come back at any moment.
And all your friends come running up to you and say “that was amazing! You’re so brave, we’re so proud of you! You didn’t die! That must be a huge relief!”

Meanwhile, you blew out both your knees, you’re having an asthma attack, you twisted your ankle, and also you have been mauled by a bear. And everyone says “boy, you must be excited to walk down the mountain!” And all you can think as you stagger to your feet is “Screw this mountain, I never wanted to climb it in the first place.”

And now I begin my second trip up this Mountain 😠😠😠
“Words of a FIGHTER” -Caitlin Feeley

This week was crazy!  We were ready for Chemo on Wednesday 1/9/19 and anxious to kick off this year of battle.  The plan was to meet with Big Nanner our NP to catch up, talk about some symptoms and then get chemo.  In that meeting we talked about his blisters on his feet that had peeled off and got her recommendation for taking care of his feet. Talked about rib pain, she was so happy with most of his test results and the weight he gained.  She raved about how he looked great.  He mentioned a sore in his mouth and ***insert record scratch here*** she looked it over and was very worried because she had a patient who had a really bad jaw infection.  From the look on her face that did not end well.  She said she would likely take away Avastin- the tumor killer- since it seened to be affecting his mouth.  The action plan was to go to the dentist next to get that checked out and then we’d proceed.  Big Nanner addressed his low ANC {which is the new White Blood Cell growth} because it was low again.  That number is why he didn’t get chemo all of December until Christmas Eve.  She said the financial lady was checking into approval for the shot called Neulasta that would force the production of new WBC and needed approval since it was $14,000!! Woah magic in a shot apparently!  With that shot his numbers would go from a low of .80 to 25000!  While it is an answered prayer the side effects will be large bone pain…I’m hoping that will be mild because he’s really had very little pain during this process!  Our meeting started out on a high and ended with two action items before he could get treatment and come to find out Blue Cross was in an all day training so there wasn’t anyone to approve the shot…yeah…no one to approve a shot for a cancer patient needing treatment {not bitter about that at all….grrrr}!   It was a confusing flurry to leave with the slow realization that we were actually sent home again…damnit!  They said something about coming back next week and we could rprot back after he saw the dentist.  We were both a little stunned and a little freaked out by the mouth thing and how much of a delay that might be.  Thankfully the scheduling lady, Leslie, overheard the situation and said we might be able to come back this week but first we needed to go see the dentist.

With the rejection comes the walk of shame out of the clinic. We stand up, I fold up my blanket, grab the 3 bags and my coat and we shamelessly walk out with our tails between our legs.  It is a collective bummer when someone gets sent away because of bad numbers, everyone feels great empathy for each other no matter what is going on because we all root for each other.  I know we both were like “WELL FXXK this is how we are starting this year?!”  Brad got on the phone and the dentist was ready for him to come right then so we raced over there straight from the clinic.  Thankfully he was cleared by the dentist for anything major and just had a little bone spur removed.  GREEN LIGHT!  I called the clinic and said the dentist said his mouth was fine and could we come back, it wasn’t even noon for God’s sake! They needed a fax from the dentist and still needed that approval for the shot. They couldn’t give him the chemo if there wasn’t shot approved and they didn’t want us to get stuck paying $14k either.  So we went home.  Brad was not happy…during the conversation with Big Nanner she also expressed concern for glucose in his urine and wanted a diabetes test.  She said he could just do that whenever, it wasn’t pressing.

The next day I went to work ready to throw myself into getting stuff accomplished so I wouldn’t have to think about the frustration of the day before.  After a few meetings I called the nurse and Leslie the scheduler called me right back to ask if we could come NOW!  While I was driving back home Brad jumped in the shower and we met at the clinic.  I walked in to a very frustrated husband.  He was mad at the situation, mad at getting kicked out because of a dumb mouth thing, mad that he rushed over only to be sitting in the lobby for 20 minutes and just flat out over it.  It was no surprise when his blood pressure was elevated but they said they would treat him.  He got all hooked up and the pharmacist came up and said, “I need another blood pressure reading.”  That is code for “make that man relax to get a good reading or I’m raining on your chemo parade today.”  The manufacturers have strict guidelines and blood pressure is one.  He’s had to fight that battle a few times and is learning how to make himself relax enough to lower it.  He did a very good job and mediated for a few minutes and got a “beautiful”
reading.  We had another start/stop to make sure the shot was approved…it was so the green light stayed lit.

From all that we’ve gathered the same plan they gave us at the end of November after the 2nd scan is that they will go for three months then re-scan.  He needs to make it through the next 2 and 1/2 months then we get to see where we are.  For now my prayer requests are for him to keep feeling “fine” with minimal pain and side effects.  I’m glad we have a new weapon on board with the Neulasta shot but with that means more brutal chemo effects.  I have faith God is 100% in control and guiding us down this path hand in hand.  We have a lot of good distractions with the kids doing all of their fun stuff.  Whitney has dance competitions including State on Feb 22 & 23 and Russell will have soccer tournaments in town and out of town in St. Louis and near Chicago.

Have a good weekend, we are getting snow and look forward to hunkering down to watch the Chiefs in the NFL playoffs!  Carter and Russell are in charge of Brad’s pump removal at KU Med tomorrow while Whitney and I work.  That should yield some funny stories with those 3 musketeers taking on that mission!!

 

Humor is the Best Medicine

Getting through the Christmas Clean Up and back in the saddle at work and school felt like swimming through quick sand in some ways.  While we look forward to 2019 and have so much hope for miracles, success and lots of fun we felt a little weighed down by the enormity of what the new year could bring.  We have a lot going on over here and fighting cancer on top of it takes a few deep breaths to take the next step into a new year.

We made time for lots of friends and family during the holidays and still didn’t get to see everyone.  Brad dazzled everyone with his positive attitude, funny “but I have cancer” jokes and for a guy with cancer he is looking pretty darn good.  With only one treatment in about 6 weeks he definitely felt the cancer creeping back in which equates to him feeling like crap.  He is bright eyed and bushy tailed in the morning always but about 1pm he starts to wear down and if we have a busy day he’s headed for the chair or bed by 7-8pm at night.  If you ask him he says he feels totally fine, isn’t tired and all is good. We know better but you’d never hear him say it unless it is a particularly yucky day.

Video 1: Brad loves making up silly songs about his symptoms and other cancer stuff.

Video 2: We all love spontaneous dance parties!

We have an appointment scheduled with the Nurse Practitioner on Wed 1/9 and treatment following.  We don’t expect anything major and hope it is the smooth start to routine treatments as prescribed on 11/28 after his good scan.  I saw someone mention a book about “being in limbo” and that is exactly what this is.  You just take every day, new symptoms and tackle them.  We continue to count every single blessing and are thankful for all of the prayers, meals, watch parties, holiday invitations, gift cards and food deliveries!  I know when I make a good meal for him or even my newly famous Vitamin C smoothies I feel empowered to be helping heal him in some way.

We have started to fill up the calendar with kid activities and have several trips to St. Louis on the calendar.  We pray he will be strong enough to do all of it and well enough to enjoy it.  My biggest prayer always is for the kids…they have such a burden on their little hearts and minds it makes me worry endlessly.  I pray hard and often about it and God tells me all will be ok.  They are resilient and they are fighters and will succeed no matter what this life throws at them.  People ask how I am doing and I feel like things are going pretty well, all the balls are in the air and I’m working as hard and fast as I can at work to keep the ship afloat.  I can’t express how thankful I am for my awesome company, EccoSelect for supporting me without question–kwoods@eccoselect.com (for IT job hunters).  Brad’s company, BNC Mortgage has been so incredible to let him work from home when he can.  I hope when Spring comes and people are buying or refinancing he will have a busy season of his own.  He’s kept busy talking with customers and keeping his workload up to date.  Here is the link to apply with him if you know anyone needing help with a mortgage loan:  Apply with Brad Woods for a Home Loan Having the usual slow mortgage lending over the holiday season hasn’t been such a bad thing so he could rest, spend time with family and he especially enjoyed being the Christmas Elf getting everything put together.

I’m all over the place today, just feeling thankful, determined and hopeful.  I see God’s hand and where he has maneuvered us through his plan over the last 12-24 months and while I always had faith it is pretty cool to see the wonderful re-directing he gave us.  Even on the hard days I know he will guide us in places we couldn’t imagine with better blessings than our minds could dream.  I’ll keep this blog updated as we move through the next few months and while we hope for a boring ride (no downturns) we certainly hope for some excitement too.

For those who have asked to help here is a link to our food calendar, I set aside Mon/Wed as designated sign up days but we are flexible.  A text works too. https://my.lotsahelpinghands.com/community/teamwoods

Prayer Requests:

*For the kids to stay strong, prosper, focused on school and enjoy each day right where they are in their lives.

*For all of us to stay healthy mind, body and spirit.  Please no more injuries, they need to be rockstars.

*For Brad to stay strong, positive and funny as he fuels our strength.

*For God’s hand to continue to guide us through this treatment and bless us with the miracles of medicine and healing.

*For 2019 to be an inspiring year of growth and happiness for all we care about.

God Bless You all and Cheers to an incredible year ahead!

Don’t wish away the hard days

 

Be Strong and Be Happy

strong

When we received our good news about the scans I sensed something in the air.  I had asked our doctor about future treatments as I had heard they get harder at #5 through #10 since the effects accumulate.  I wonder if the cancer clinics know what is coming for each patient and if it is perfectly timed with an UP before a DOWN. It is as if they knew the scans would show something to celebrate right before a MACK truck of chemo hits.  It would be interesting to be behind the curtain and know what they REALLY know.  I think Brad is getting more brave and interested in knowing more rather than just floating along and hoping for the best while blindly trusting the medical team.  Blind denial is ok too, no one can predict what will happen so we just have to keep doing the good things to get through each day.

During chemo #5 I received a wonderful and big surprise of a gift to help make the kids’ Christmas brighter.  A long time friend gave us a super generous gift which is allowing us to say yes to three things the kids otherwise wouldn’t be able to receive.  I think these three gifts are the ones I look forward to seeing them open the most on Christmas morning.  I want them to know the value of friendship, staying true through many years of ups and down.  Also the value of giving when you can to lift up your friends when they really need it.  She has also given many other offers of generosity that will hopefully give us the opportunity for adventure in the coming months.  I can’t divulge too much but as we sat there during chemo #5, unnerved by all of the beeping machines going off at once, sympathetic for a patient next to us who had to move chairs because of an “accident” and the sweet old men talking about being proud dads across from us…we received this gift.  God’s perfect timing at work.

Brad and Russell enjoyed a Sporting KC playoff match with our neighbors on the Thursday after chemo which was a great night and memory despite the loss.  It was well timed as this chemo cycle has been rough and is requiring a lot of rest.  Brad’s nephropathy in his hands got bad one day but he was able to just rest his way through it.  The fatigue has been a battle but he has been able to eat and get some things done each morning.  Saturday and Sunday were rough so I took the opportunity to get my own to do list done while Brad rested and the kids did their thing.  Whitney and Russell are super troopers but it is a heavy burden for them to see their dad wiped out and barely able to stay awake.  He has kept us laughing when he feels good doing all kinds of crazy things.  He has a cold and grossed them out with talk of giant boogers that could barely go down the drain (TMI) and bragged about how he got a senior citizen discount without being asked for ID.  Brad is 48 and passing for 55…perks of being bald I suppose.  He is going to the doctor today for his high blood pressure and cold so I hope they sort him out so he can be better for chemo next week.

Quick shout out to our church and the organization Cancer Connection for literally showering us with Christmas Blessings and making Russell see and experience the magic of Christmas and Christ’s love and perfect timing.  He said he’s going to go crazy looking at all of the presents under the tree wondering what they are.  Such a pure example of the spirit of Christmas– a little boy, who acts so big, getting excited about a bunch of presents that drive his curious mind crazy!  God sent this distraction for sure!  Brad and I will be reminded of how good people are all month seeing them under the tree and honestly relieved that the kids have a little extra to be surprised by since they usually give us one or two ideas.  Well, Russell has rewritten his list on 3 1/2 x 5 cards at least 20 times since the end of October.  He also looks at www.ikea.com  every single day and asked me to sign him up for the customer loyalty club to get discounts.  People are good and Woods Chapel Methodist is an amazing church home!  Those people work tirelessly to surround people battling cancer with love and remind us constantly that they are praying and lifting us up.  It works, Brad is so appreciative of the cards from strangers.  It touches his heart like I’ve never seen.

I want to take this time to remind everyone that each of us has a battle to fight.  I have friends fighting medical battles that aren’t cancer so they don’t get the attention we are getting but certainly are having some of the same struggles.  There are people with job loss, depression, trouble in school, bullying, heartbreak from not making a team or aging out of a sport.  There are plenty of struggles families face that don’t have the attention of cancer so I hope we all take care of each other and at least make an encounter or opportunity to listen mean something.  My friend told me about her kitchen makeover troubles and it was so refreshing to hear about the ins and outs and mishaps.  She commented that it wasn’t as deep as a cancer fight but I loved hearing about something BESIDES cancer!  In fact I seek out those opportunities to learn and almost feel more opened up by all of this so that I don’t focus so inwardly and pay attention to what is happening around me.  We don’t want to get so bogged down by the details of this fight that we miss out on interesting opportunities to learn, serve and do for others.

See this beautiful baby…this is Brooklyn, my niece who was murdered 10 years ago.

75859_1726373485672_1252475_n

Three days after she died my friend and mother of 3 passed away from cancer when her daughter was just 4 months old at the age of 34.  http://www.stephanievest.com

A year later…to the day…my dad was buried on the same day as Brooklyn, December 5th, 2009.  This was the darkest hole of despair in my life.  I lost myself, I was not myself, I was pretty much helpless and useless.  Today, I know God put me through that heart wrenching, soul ripping, rock bottom despair so that I could rebuild into a stronger, more genuine and appreciative version of myself.  While I wish I could go back and have a do-over for pretty much all of my 30s… my 47 year old self is doing pretty damn good.  I’m still learning and trying to do better especially with my health as I see how fragile and important it is.  The abuse we put our bodies through is unnecessary and we don’t have to fall into bad habits as we can be strong and healthy for each other.  I know Brad is battling hard to get through this so he can feel good to enjoy some adventures this Spring and Summer.  Cancer is unpredictable and the budget isn’t vast enough to support something lavish but we can find some good family fun just being together.  During this cold part of year I dream of beaches, boats, lakes and baseball fields.

caregiving

Prayer Requests:

  • Please pray for the Big Kids as they come into finals and need to do well to feel good about this semester.  Pray for focused learning free of distraction and rock star knowledge to get them through their tests.
  • Belief and trust in the Lord that he will carry us through the bad days and remind us of the good days.
  • Ability to put together a stressfree Christmas and enjoy our days off from work and time spent together.
  • Productive work and praise for companies that care about their employees and allow flexibility. Thank you especially to my EccoSelect family as they are incredible.
  • Good health for the rest of us and ability to stay focused on priorities and accomplishing our goals.

God Bless oxox

#battle4bRad

#thankful

 

Great news today PTL

God is teaching us extreme…like EXTREME Sports level patience in this journey and along with that serious focus on each day as it comes.  Brad and I were both pretty quiet and tense as we got ready for our appointment today.  I knew it would be good news but seriously, with this thing good news doesn’t fill you all the way up.  That sounds very selfish but we just can’t get too high or too low.

Dr. Pendergrass walked in and as he was shutting the door he quickly said “Everything looks good, let’s get that out of the way.”  I had caught his eye as he passed our door earlier and he smiled and waved.  The care team is very straight forward but they are definitely cheerleaders in this. They don’t over promise and don’t predict or get too far ahead but they root for us in each stage.  It is so strange to think about the depth of sickness, progress and near misses Brad has had in two short months.  Only 4 treatments in and he’s come soooo far!

Scan Results: The liver tumor shrunk from a lime to a strawberry in size.  I asked to see pictures but they weren’t available so I hope he can get them when he gets the pump taken off on Friday.  The colon tumor shrank in half which we suspected  since there was less of a sensation of blockage the last month.  The liver has shrunk, not to completely normal size but a lot better.  The fluid that had built up is gone and the blood levels show it is functioning at 100%.  That liver was struggling and was making him SO sick when we started treatment.  Brad has gained some weight back which is giving him more strength and better footing for the medicine to do its job.  He has been very fortunate to be healthy so his body can just focus on the cancer and not be sick with other things.  His high blood pressure seems to have settled down and he even talked about trying to eat a little healthier.  Not holding my breath on that one and I’m just glad he’s gaining weight!

We are so thankful for our support network.  We have thousands of people praying all around the country and I can’t describe the kind of peace that gives us.  Carter’s favorite scripture (that is tattooed on his arm now) “If God is For Us, Who Can Be Against Us” is one that carries us through.  Brad has a very long way to go and we can’t get too high because we don’t want the fall to be too far but we will enjoy the next three months fighting hard until the next scan.  We’ve made it through two months and they seemed very long but we know how to fend off symptoms so hopefully we can make the next three months stress free with him feeling normal most days.  Brad has gone from almost being embarrassed and bummed out that he had to give people his bad news to being so humbled by the support.  We’ve had our dance people bring us gifts and messages of support, our old baseball team handed us a bag of gift cards the day after he told them…it is pretty amazing what people are willing to do for others.  We will pay this kindness forward however we possibly can.

#battle4bRad

#thankful

 

 

Chemo #5 and headed into month 3

I was in Detroit today for work which started at 3am and won’t end until I fall into bed at 11:00pm tonight. We had our second snow day so Whitney went with Brad to his CT scan. Carter made it back to school on Monday and while it was nice to have him home it felt good for him to get back to his new home and get settled to buckle down for finals. I think all three could use some prayers for some extra focus going into the end of the semester. Focus and fending off distraction is a big challenge for them. I just want them TO BE and FEEL successful. No Regrets!

We had a fabulous Thanksgiving Break and cut loose a little. We had beautiful weather followed by a blizzard so we enjoyed some time outside in our crazy warm and then cold Missouri weather. The house is decorated for Christmas and I feel like we are ready to buckle down and tackle the season and celebrate the birth of Jesus and all the blessings God has given us this year.

Tomorrow we hope to get the results of the CT Scan from today and will meet with the oncologist. We’ve been pretty consistent with getting good news each visit and think he will be happy with Brad’s weight gain and hopefully have a good report for the treatments success so far. We did find out that one of Brad’s genes is half broken. It basically raises his chance of getting CRC – Colorectal Cancer from a normal 5% to 12%. We are able to do testing for first degree relatives so Carter gets to be the first guinea pig for that since he’s 18+ and also his parents and sister if they choose. He has a few instances of pancreatic, breast and bile duct cancer and all of that came out fine in relation to broken genes. The best news is the kids can get tested as early as 38 if the insurance companies don’t make it even younger by then. I had polyps at 38 so I will be comfortable with that goal and hope for 35 to be the new age. In all of this knowledge is power but cancer is an asshole and strikes with no rhyme or reason.

Prayer Requests:

  • For Brad’s scans to show us good progress.
  • For Brad to continue to gain weight and add healthy and strength building habits back to his schedule.
  • For his hands and feet to not hurt as bad this round so that he can enjoy our usual weekend hustle.
  • For his blood pressure to come down so he can get treatment.
  • For our ability to keep working effectively through this Winter and maneuver through financial challenges.
  • Please pray for our children’s hearts and minds to be calm and filled with love this holiday season.

❤️ updates to come tomorrow

1 down, ready for more

The thing about cancer is every day is different. One symptom pops up and one disappears. Anxiety plays wicked mind games that lead the patient and caregiver off track. Brad felt like he couldn’t eat for three days and I practically begged him to eat. Complete polar opposite sides with one agenda. I think lessons were learned and I’m still not sure if I’m supposed to push or wait for requests All I know is nutrients and protein are fuel to help him fight so that is my focus.

We head into Chemo #2 with more experience and hopefully new ideas for helping him smooth out the rollercoaster. All in all this process seems to be manageable. Time will tell what highs and lows we have in store but for now it’s one day at a time and we celebrate the victories.

Here is my thankful list:

1. That cough is gone! Praise the Lord! “Big Nancy” his NP is very happy about that and seems to mean the liver is shrinking.

2. Since Day 8 post chemo there have been no drenching fevers.

3. Since Day 8 he has been able to eat again so that is Job #1 to gain strength and weight before Chemo #2. Nurse Nancy suggested the BRAT diet so we will try that during the downslide after chemo—Days 4-7.

4. Everyone is on more level ground, getting used to new things and trying to keep life as normal as possible.

We made these “Battle Bands” to give the kids and our support group a way to feel useful in a helpless situation. The kids have been sending the most awesome support pictures and Snapchats. I love how kids give a Rally 100% and will stand up to support each other when it’s really needed. As a mom I often feel like I have no idea if I’m handling this correctly but I find truth and hugs to be healing. Thank you for your prayers they are working and we feel the support whole heartedly! 💙