Thursday, December 4, 2014

buffalo gals won't you come out tonight, come out tonight, come out tonight? buffalo gals won't you come out tonight, aaaaand dance by the light of the moooon.

Alright, y'all. It's official. I had my post surgery follow up appointment with Dr. O this morning, and the news is as good as we had hoped. There were zero cancer cells left in my tissue, and she has deemed it a Pathological Complete Response (PCR). Hallelujah! The cancer is GONE.

Dr. Dao (surgeon) called me with this news right before Thanksgiving, but I was a little nervous to share it with all of you until I could have Dr. O (oncologist) explain it to me completely. So, now I get to explain it to you. I asked Dr. O what this meant for my chances of recurrence, and she said, "Oh, low single digits. Definitely less than 5%." Right about then was when I started crying. Also there was hugging. And lots and lots of smiling. Actually, that's still happening.

We are still going to do radiation, because we want to make sure that all those cells stay in line, but y'all... this nightmare is almost OVER. My hair is starting to grow back.... my energy is (mostly) back... Granted, I'm still getting used to these tissue expanders, and I still have one surgery drain that won't quit draining, but WHO FREAKING CARES!!! These things just seem so insignificant.

So, this afternoon I got into an email conversation with some friends about which is the greatest Christmas movie of all time. There were many opinions, and they were all correct, but none were quite as correct as mine. The answer to the question is, of course,  "It's a Wonderful Life".  My family watches this movie every year on Christmas Eve, so it's special to me. Plus, if you haven't ever heard my brother do the "Mary, do you want the moon?" speech in his Jimmy Stewart voice, then you haven't lived.

When Connor and I got married and moved into our first home, my mom even did the Martini house blessing for us (which also made me cry): "Bread, that this house may never know hunger. Salt, that life may always have flavor. And wine, that joy and prosperity may reign forever."

Today, I feel like George Bailey running through the streets of Bedford Falls after realizing how precious life is and how very close he came to losing it. "Merry Christmas, movie house! Merry Christmas, Emporium! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan!"

I wasn't nearly as desperate as George Bailey was before cancer, but I know that I was in a rut. In many ways, I was just going through the motions, and I am so thankful for this second chance to really appreciate the life that I have been given. To quote another "greatest Christmas movie of all time", "I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!" Ok, so that was actually straight from Dickens, and not the Muppet version (sorry, Sarah. This was more poetic.)

I can't even begin to express how thankful I am for my doctors, my nurses, my family, my friends, and the friends of friends who have been cheering me on for the past 7 months. I love you all so very much. Merry Christmas to you, and may you always live life with the wonder of this season.

God bless us, every one.

Love y'all,

Sunday, November 2, 2014

looks like we made it, look how far we've come, my baby. we mighta took the long way, we knew we'd get there someday...

Well, friends, we have made it through chemo. 143 days of CHEMO. The last infusion was on Halloween. I had joked for a long time about showing up in costume as Walter White since I am bald, and could have easily borrowed my dad's old glasses to complete the look. Then ebola happened, and I decided it was a bad idea to go to a hospital wearing a hazmat suit.  Instead I went for plan B. WONDER WOMAN. No, I didn't wear tights. I just wore a tshirt and my usual sweat pants with a gold scarf. And boy howdy, did I feel like Wonder Woman when it was over.

I did my last 30 minutes on the treadmill in the cancer center gym. I did my 17th blood draw (for pre-chemo labs) and met with Freda the nurse practitioner. (Dr. O was out of town). I was approved for my LAST chemo, and I proudly marched into the infusion waiting room.

When they called my name, I was greeted by two nurses instead of one. Thom and Marsha. I've had Thom before, but Marsha was shadowing Thom. Turns out she is a breast cancer survivor, and decided to switch careers afterwards and become a chemo nurse. So cool to be able to talk to her on my last round about everything from being a survivor, to hair growth. Once the machine beeped indicating that the last of the Taxol had dripped through, I just could not stop smiling. It was joyous to be able to walk out of there knowing I was DONE with my 16 rounds. SIXTEEN ROUNDS. Also, I finally got to hang up my "NO MO' CHEMO" banner that my sweet friend, Jency, made me ages ago. I've been waiting so patiently for that banner, and I'm pretty sure I'm never taking it down.

The next part of this dance with cancer is a double mastectomy. I'm apprehensive about it, but everyone tells me that chemo is the hard part. We're going to biopsy some lymph nodes, and look more closely at the breast tissue that is being removed with a microscope for any errant cancer cells hiding out in there. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit scared about what they might find, but at the same time I am really, truly optimistic about it. I believe that the chemo has done it's job, and that they won't find any trace of cancer left. I believe that my body has had a pathological complete response to the 16 rounds of chemo I have gone through. I believe that I will not have a recurrence of cancer, and that my ovaries will come out of their "chemopause" and work just like they used to. I believe that Dr. O will tell me in 3 years that it's ok to try to have children. I believe that I will be a mother one day. And a grandmother. Please pray for me that all these things are true. Not only that, BELIEVE them to be true.

One last thing. I want to take a minute to thank all of my chemo nurses for taking care of me these past 5 months. Your calm demeanor, and cheerful attitude was so reassuring and appreciated, so THANK YOU to Carrie, Ellen, Sandy, Thom, Michelle, Kasey, Courtney, Colette, Ecrum, Lindsey, and Marsha. Y'all are my angels.

Love y'all. Please keep praying and vibing!

Friday, October 17, 2014

pink it was love at first sight, pink when I turn out the light, and pink gets me high as a kite, and I think everything is going to be all right no matter what we do tonight...

Hey y'all. Still doing pretty good, considering chemo, but I just haven't had the energy to write about it lately. I feel like I've gotten into a groove with the treatments, and there isn't really much to report right now other than the continued countdown. I suppose that is partially a blessing - chemo has become routine and mundane. Thank goodness it has been predictable rather than exciting. I am so ready for it to be over, though. Ready ready ready. Today was chemo #14 of 16. Ohmygoodness we are so close. Two more weeks. I think I can I think I can I think I can...

With fall hitting (sort of? It's currently 84 degrees in Richardson, Tx) I have been more aware of the chill in the air than I usually am when this time of year finally rolls around. I am ALWAYS cold. Please hair, grow back fast. I need that extra layer of insulation. Thank God, I live in Texas! I'm not sure I could bear an actual winter. It's not like you can wear a scarf on your head AND around your neck. That, my friends, is crazy talk.

This morning Connor and I met with the plastic surgeon the first time. Reconstruction is going to be kind of a big deal, involving many steps. Unfortunately I won't be getting my brand new perfect boobs immediately. First they are going to do the mastectomy and add "tissue expanders" to basically hang out in the place where my breast tissue used to be because radiation and implants don't play nicely together. If only I had some more fat on me (boo hoo... I know), he could take some tissue from my tummy or thighs to create boobs, and in that case I think we might be able to do it in one surgery? Not sure. Doesn't matter though because it isn't meant to be. I think the plan is to do some combination of implants and real tissue from my thighs, because real tissue helps the success rate of the reconstruction. Plus it lasts longer and looks more natural. Fun fact: the shelf life of an implant is only 10-12 years. After surgery, the next step is radiation, and we monitor how my skin holds up during that process. Then 6 months later we can talk about switching out the expanders for real implants, if the radiation didn't mess me up too much. Haha, "real" implants. Apparently this process can take up to two years. Dang.

So, the highlight of today was that I am now a model. I got to pose in a "studio" (modified exam room) with fancy lights wearing nothing but my shoes and "photo panties". At least at the plastic surgeon's office, they give you a robe to wear in the exam room, rather than a gown. It was like a spa day. Regular doctors take note: while the word "gown" may sound more fancy, the real thing is in fact, the opposite of fancy. Robes > gowns. Also, please consider offering mani/pedis.

Alright y'all. Please keep praying and good vibing. As we get closer to the end of chemo I am rejoicing on one hand, but getting nervous on the other. I like chemo because I know right now I am fighting this thing. Afterwards I am not so sure how I will feel. Pray for the cancer cells to be completely gone, and that I can walk in confidence after chemo and surgery knowing that it is true.

Love y'all,

Bonus time:

On Wednesdays we wear pink! My fabulous team at work surprised me with a dress up day. :)

These three missed the "official" photo due to having to actually work, but they made up for it by posing before they had to dash. :)

Monday, September 22, 2014

ain't nothing gonna break my stride, nobody's gonna slow me down, oh no, I got to keep on movin'

Feeling low today, friends. The chemo is starting to catch up to me, again. Ever since my week off when I got turned away, I have been feeling pretty darn good for going through chemo. Just a little tired, but really no major complaints... This past Friday (round 10 of 16 for those of you counting along at home) was a little rougher. All of a sudden I am "chemo tired" again. My white blood cells are doing really well now that I am taking the neupogen shot, but my red blood cells and platelets are starting to suffer. This feels like whack-a-mole... Once I get one thing under control, another thing pops up. Come on blood counts, work with me here! Freda, the nurse practitioner even commented this past week about the dark circles under my eyes. I reminded her that I don't wear makeup on chemo days, so she was getting to see the darkest of the dark circles, but unfortunately it's true. I am tired exhausted.

I'm also experiencing my other favorite chemo side affect. This one I refer to as "fair food syndrome." It feels like I have been eating corn dogs for a week straight, and no amount of vegetables can make it go away. Blech indeed. I am hoping this side effect is my own fault... I have gotten cocky recently and started eating tomatoes again. I can't tell if the gross feeling is from my bad decisions, or if it would be happening anyway. Just to be safe, I am benching myself from tomatoes again for the foreseeable future. Sigh...

My newest hobby is watching my head like a hawk for hair growth. I'm a little obsessive... but I am proud to report I have a tiny smidgen of peach fuzz coming in. It has no color, it's not every follicle yet, and you really can't see it unless the light is shining through the hair... but to me it is substantial. The promise of hair again!

Prayer/good vibe requests for today:

Pray for energy. I. Am. Dragging.
Pray for my platelets and red blood cells. Pray that the counts will be high enough for chemo.

As always - pray for complete healing. Complete pathological response.

Love y'all,

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

come rain or come shine

Three years of marriage, today. I truly love you more than I ever knew was possible. The way you have risen to this challenge, stood by my side, and loved me through this is part of what gets me through the hard days. I never thought I would be the first one to go bald in our relationship. I never imagined the first ultrasound image we looked at together would be showing a lump in my breast. I never dreamed how much I would come to rely on you in such a short time.

The song we danced to on our wedding day was "Come Rain or Come Shine" by Ray Charles. We had a hard time picking out a song for the occasion. Nothing really seemed to fit US, until I stumbled across this song. We practiced and practiced for that dance, but it wasn't quite as easy when suddenly we were in the ballroom surrounded by our loved ones, trying to take steps backwards in a dress with a train. It wasn't perfect... but at the same time it was. Unexpected obstacles take us by surprise, but help to shape us and make us into who we are. Thanks for three beautiful years, sweetheart. Here's to many many more anniversaries... come rain or come shine.

Jennifer Yarbro Photography

I'm gonna love you
Like no one's loved you
Come rain or come shine
High as a mountain
Deep as a river
Come rain or come shine

Jennifer Yarbro Photography

I guess when you met me
It was just one of those things
But don't ever bet me
'Cause I'm gonna be true, well, if you let me

Jennifer Yarbro Photography

You're gonna love me
Like no one's loved me
Come rain or come shine
Happy together
Unhappy together
And wouldn't that be fine

Jennifer Yarbro Photography
Days may be cloudy or sunny, yeah
We're in or we're out of the money, yeah
But I'm with you always
I'm with you rain or shine

Jennifer Yarbro Photography
You're gonna love me
Like nobody's loved me
Come rain or come shine
Happy together
Unhappy together
And wouldn't that be fine

Jennifer Yarbro Photography
Days may be cloudy or sunny, yeah
We're in or we're out of the money, yeah
I'm with you always
I'm with you rain or shine, yeah

Jennifer Yarbro Photography

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

summertime and the livin' is easy, fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high...

August has come and gone, and it is now September. Yeehaw! The last weekend of summer was a great one. I got to have my chemo (yay!), I got to snuggle with a dear friend's newborn baby (double yay!), and I got to spend the weekend in Galveston with friends (triple yay!). This is the 3rd or 4th year we have made the trek to the beach house, and I was pretty convinced we wouldn't be able to go this year. It just didn't seem feasible, or even responsible. What if I felt carsick? What if I was nauseous the whole time? What if I got a massive sunburn from the chemo? So many things could go horribly wrong.

Last weekend was rough for me psychologically after having to miss chemo. I was noticeably down, and felt like I was failing at chemo even though there's nothing I can do about white blood cells other than take the neupogen shot I have been prescribed. I decided that come hell or high water, nothing was going to stop me from going on this trip. I needed it. I knew I wouldn't be spending too much time on the beach soaking up the sun, but that wasn't the point. The point was to get out of the house and forget about cancer, and that is exactly what we did. I had the best time with our friends, playing games, talking about life, laughing, and I even snuck in some time on the beach. Don't worry, it was cloudy/rainy and I wore SPF 55. My bald head is still lily white.

So my neutrophil count (this has something to do with white blood cells, but I don't quite understand it...) was back up this week, but not quite as high as Dr. O would like it to be. Apparently you need at least 1,000 to get chemo, and I was at 1,200 (last week it was only 600. Yikes!). On the one hand, I doubled my count in a week. On the other hand, doubling next to nothing still isn't very much. Dr. O has decided that I will do two days worth of at home neupogen shots to try to keep my white blood cells in line. Hopefully this will do the trick!

In other news, today I wore a shirt to work that I apparently haven't worn since BC (before chemo). I found not one, but two long brown hairs clinging to it at various points throughout the day. A rare occurrence, indeed.

get out there and enjoy it!
Love y'all,

Saturday, August 23, 2014

life's a ball, if only you know it! and it's all just waiting for you! you're alive, so go on and show it! there's such a lot of livin' to do!

Well... we knew it was going to happen eventually. I got turned away from chemo yesterday due to low white blood cells. I don't really have a whole lot to say about it, other than it's disappointing. It was also a reminder to quit looking at dates as an end to this ordeal, and start thinking in terms of treatments to go. (Still 10). They have prescribed a shot called Neupogen that we will do at home the Wednesday before chemo to help keep the white blood cells in abundant supply. The goal is no more delayed chemo!

Thinking about getting into yoga or something similar to help ease my mind because I am not good at functioning when I don't have access to all the information. When I ask Dr. O questions about prognosis (questions that I have been scared up to this point to ask) all she can tell me is that we will have to wait and see what we learn from the tissue that is removed in the mastectomy. Did I mention I'm getting new boobs? Well I am. Hopefully the new ones won't try to kill me. Also, hopefully they will be fabulous.

I am continually reminded that I have very little control over this disease, and I need to just let the treatments run their course. Healthy diet and exercise can (and will!) help, for sure, but I truly am at the mercy of chemo and my body's response to it. Having no control is hard in most ways, but freeing in others. Trying my best to see that God is the one who has control. He alone knows what the outcome of this will be. Also, the thing about life is, nobody gets out alive. Moral of the story - enjoy the time you've got, and don't waste time and energy on things that don't matter.

Today's prayer request: please pray that the chemo completely works. Pray that when they remove my tissue that there is no evidence of cancer left after chemo. Pray that the affected lymph node is completely clear. I've got a lot of livin' to do.

Love y'all,

Sunday, August 17, 2014

if we took a holiday, took some time to celebrate, just one day out of life, it would be, it would be so nice...

Today I am celebrating many many little things that add up to a whole lot of reasons to be happy. Please, celebrate with me, friends:

First, I am a little nervous to say it out loud because inevitably a few of my chemo's are going to get postponed due to low blood counts, but after getting psyched out three weeks ago with a new treatment plan which changed the halfway point, we have once again climbed back to halfway in terms of weeks! I've been in treatment for 10 weeks, and I have 10 more to go. Milestones y'all!

Second, my sister Kathryn and her family MOVED BACK TO TEXAS THIS WEEKEND. Ok, so they didn't move to my area of Texas, but can I get an Amen for not having to book a flight or drive 14 hours to see them anymore? I was so disappointed when they first switched me to weekly chemo because I knew that meant I wasn't going to get to see them this summer in Minnesota. Now that they are back in Texas, this brings me to happy thing #3:

Kathryn and Blake spent the weekend in Grand Prairie while Kellen, his brother, and his dad did the actual hard work of moving. At first their plan was to drive the whole way from Minnesota to Lubbock with a 13 month old in a car seat. 17 hours. Can you even imagine what that would be like? Sounds like pretty much the worst thing I can think of. So glad that Kellen let us borrow his wife and son for the weekend. It was much needed medicine for me, Kel. :) You're the best. Also, Blake gives, without a doubt, the best hugs ever.

the huge mole makes it's internet debut

Fourth, I got to have lunch on Thursday with a friend of a friend who is a nine year triple negative breast cancer survivor. It was so wonderful to be able to talk to someone who has literally "been there, done that" and gain wisdom and perspective on this whole thing. Yeah, it's scary. Yeah, it's hard. Maybe the hardest thing you've ever done...? But there is hope. This is temporary.

Fifth, and I feel I can't possibly say this with enough enthusiasm to convey how exciting this part of the news is: ACID REFLUX HASN'T BEEN A PROBLEM SINCE WE SWITCHED TO NEW CHEMO DRUGS!!!. Sorry for yelling y'all, but this needed to be shouted from the rooftops. I still have to be careful. I'm still wary of tomatoes and all things spicy, but it is the best news to be able to eat "normal" food and not feel like my throat is being ripped out every time I swallow my own spit. (sorry that's gross) Sigh.......... :)

Sixth, (and this is really a piggy back on 5) the new drugs are so much better. I am so thankful that the treatment plan called for the harder stuff first. Not to say that it isn't hard anymore... the fatigue I feel every day is cumulative. My skin is getting drier. My eyebrows and eyelashes are still falling out. But, you know what? I've had an epiphany about my self image. This is just another chapter in my life. Another type of beauty, and this beauty comes from deep within. You have to earn this kind.

Love y'all oh so much,

Monday, August 11, 2014

then they'll say to me, say to me, say to me, there goes the fighter, there goes the fighter. here comes the fighter, that's what they'll say to me, say to me, say to me, this one's a fighter

A day in the life of chemo. Please enjoy this (slightly blurry) photo essay courtesy of Connor.

Starting my day by filling out a survey about my symptoms for the previous week, and getting my blood pressure checked for an exercise study I am participating in.
treadmill time!

all done. had to scrounge up some paper towels to wipe down my head. Also, Connor says anytime he points a camera at me, I should smile. Now I know.

blood draw to determine if my counts are good enough for chemo.
waiting for infusion.

bathroom break with my pole. Lots of fluids!

So the new drugs seem to be pretty good so far. The only bad thing is that with Taxol they have to do a benadryl drip before hand to keep you from having an allergic reaction. Luckily I didn't have any reactions, but that doesn't get me out of the need for the benadryl each week. Basically this means I will be loopy for the rest of chemo days and require a 2 hour nap afterwards. Know this - the two hour nap is a glorious one. Benadryl doesn't play around.

I haven't gotten to my traditional "bad days" yet of acid reflux (that would be tomorrow-Thursday), but I am hopeful that it won't be a problem! I am still pretty tired... had a really big weekend with family members in town from both the Meehan and Warder/Wells side, so I pushed myself probably a little harder than I should have... but it was so worth it. For now I am glad to have another chemo checked off the list. Knocking 'em down!

Love y'all,

Thursday, August 7, 2014

you like potato and I like potahto, you like tomato and I like tomahto, potato potahto, tomato tomahto, let's call the whole thing off...

I never quite realized how much I liked tomatoes until now. I'll just go ahead and up the ante with the L word. I love tomatoes. Like really love them. The saddest thing is going to a pizza kitchen with friends, and having to order 4 cheese pasta. Sad trombone. Although really, they don't even tempt me anymore. I tried to have a rendezvous with some ketchup (surely just a little won't matter?) It matters. I am no longer tempted.

In other news, I am starting to notice some eyebrow thinning, dangit! Fear not though. While I may end up looking like Voldemort, I'm going to take this as a sign that the chemo is working! Also, they WILL grow back. Dr. O guaranteed it. The Dark Lord will be defeated once more. For now I have a new weapon, it's name is "the eyebrow pencil".

Stream of consciousness side-note: I am realizing that I reference Harry Potter quite a bit on this blog. OWNING IT. Truth be told, since chemo apparently makes you unable to remember anything, I decided that it would be fun to go back and read books from my childhood while I'm going through chemo. Books that are like familiar old friends that you only get to see once in a blue moon, but it doesn't matter because you pick right back up where you left off. I started with the Harry Potter series (although that wasn't really from childhood.... oh well), and sneaked in, "The Giver" between books, since there's a movie coming out, and that was one of my absolute favorites in middle school. Narnia will probably be next. Lots and lots of old friends.

Back to the eyebrows: Katherine (sister in law) and I went to get pedicures on Sunday, and the lady seriously tried to peddle some eyebrow waxing on me. I'm like, really? Do you see me in this scarf with no hair? There's no way you're yanking any more of my precious hairs out. BACK OFF, LADY!

So, how am I doing this week? Actually pretty great. I still tire pretty (ok really) easily, but all the other symptoms have taken a back burner (as long as I don't eat tomatoes...) I have decided that I am a glutton for punishment. Once I'm back to the "good days" I get all antsy for the next chemo. I feel like I should be back in that chair killing cancer cells.

Tomorrow, we are starting the new regimen of weekly Taxol plus Carboplatin every third week. Not going to lie... I'm really nervous about getting hit every week, and completely bummed about losing my chemo free weekends, but at the same time I am ready to KNOCK THEM OUT. Let's get this show on the road, y'all.

Everybody think happy thoughts that the new drugs don't have as many side effects! Or at least if there are lots of side effects, let them be fun ones like spontaneously bursting into song. I may do that one anyway...

Love y'all, Jess

Thursday, July 31, 2014

and she wishes she was a dancer, and that she'd never heard of cancer...

Today is one of those days when I can't help but think about how incredibly scary this thing is. As I mentioned in the last post, one thing about Triple Negative Breast Cancer is that there are no drugs that can help you prevent recurrence like other types of breast cancers. Once you finish chemo, you just have to hope and pray that the chemo did it's thing.

I'm trying to do everything I can to limit toxins in my life. Better diet, organic foods, little to no sugar and alcohol. I am already getting overwhelmed. Right now I'm just trying to find foods that don't want to make me vom, or make my throat catch on fire. Trying to also get your nutrients in is a whole other challenge. Oh, also I'm too tired to go to the grocery store. Is there a handbook for this? Oh yeah, there are about a million, but really what I need is a personal chef/shopper and life coach.

Anyway, I'm sitting here listening to my playlist, and the song that Connor and I danced to after the wedding and before our grand exit just came on. I immediately started thinking about the promise of that time. Of the life we were starting together. Of the relief of finally getting to just be together without driving back and forth between Dallas and Fort Worth. Of being done with wedding planning. Of figuring out how to be married to each other. Ugly cry.

Seems like I always hear how hard the first year of marriage is... but it really wasn't for us. At least for me, it wasn't. Was it hard for you, Connor? This is the hard part. I hate this feeling of unshakeable guilt. That I somehow messed everything up. All of our plans. I know it's not "my fault" but I can't help but think how I wish things were normal...

Here are my prayer requests for today and always:
  1. Pray for my mind to relax and not be constantly thinking about what I'm up against.
  2. Pray that the chemo COMPLETELY knocks this thing out.
  3. Pray that this cancer will not recur somewhere else in my body.

Ok tangent... I wrote all of the above separately, and now I just need to take a minute to say something about the incredible power of kind words from kind people. As I was wrapping up this blog post, I got an alert on my phone saying I had a new facebook message. It was from my middle school librarian, Mrs. Sessler. She found my blog through my mom, who also works in the Grand Prairie libraries.

The note Mrs. Sessler wrote was exactly what I needed to hear today. She told me how she survived ovarian cancer after being diagnosed the year after she got married. She reminded me how important attitude is, and to think about surviving, not being scared. Gosh, I feel like a million percent better right now. Here's to the future! And to taking what life gives you and making the absolute best of it!!

Love y'all,

Sunday, July 27, 2014

I get knocked down, but I get up again, you're never gonna keep me down...

So we are no longer halfway done with chemo. :(

When we first met Dr. O and she was explaining the treatment regimen she told us that there was a possibility that she would want to make the 2nd regimen of chemo drugs a combination of drugs (taxol and carboplatin) rather than just taxol. She told me on Friday before chemo that she had decided it was in my best interest to go ahead and add the carboplatin since we know there is a lymph node that is involved (which means the cancer is Stage 3). We didn't have the information about the lymph node when we first met.

The biggest blow is this means rather than 4 more "dose dense" rounds every two weeks, my chemo regimen will now be 12 less intense weekly sessions of taxol with a round of the carboplatin thrown in there every third week. All of that adds up to an extra month of chemo. Blech indeed.

Here's the the thing though... What this also means is that we are fighting this with literally EVERYTHING we can, and that makes me feel good. For those of you that don't know, there are several types of breast cancer. Some are fueled by the hormones estrogen, progesterone, Her2, or a combination of the above. Mine is what they call "triple negative" which means the extra hormone therapies (pills taken for a number of years after chemo to prevent reoccurrence) won't work for me. Chemo is all I have to fight this, so we have to go at this very aggressively.

So, I am taking this extra experimental drug as a blessing. This gives me one more thing I can use to fight, and I will gladly take one extra month of treatment if that means I have the upper hand over this unwelcome invasion.

So thankful to live in a time when there is so much research available and there are new treatments we are learning about all the time.

In other good news, we are still done with the Adriamycin. Hallelujah!

Love y'all,

Thursday, July 24, 2014

what a feeling, being's believing, I can have it all, now I'm dancing for my life... take your passion, and make it happen, pictures come alive, you can dance right through your life...

Tomorrow is my FINAL round of Adriamycin and Cytoxan, and marks the halfway point of chemo. Can you hear the excitement in my voice? Imagine it! For the uninitiated, adriamycin is just about the worst. They call it "the red devil". It's responsible for the hair loss, and a lot of the harder symptoms associated with chemo. The next four rounds after tomorrow will be Taxol, which I am told is much easier to take. Still no walk in the park, and really the symptoms vary from person to person, but I am excited just thinking about the milestone of being halfway! Let's say it again, HALFWAY!

Last time I was equal parts dreading/anticipating chemo, but this time, I am ready! I've been eating spinach like Popeye, and even found a magical chalky liquid that helps with the acid reflux, which really for me, has been the worst thing. Heinous acid reflux.

Ok, it isn't that tasty, but the sweet relief that comes over your throat as it goes down is more than worth the price of admission. I didn't learn about this sorcery until after my "bad" days last time, so it hasn't been war tested yet. I am weirdly excited to see how it goes this time. Bring it on!!! (British fireman, I'm counting on you.)

So, my last post, I was feeling pretty down. I was expecting Friday to be my bounce back day, and when it wasn't I kind of lost it. On Saturday, I was still pretty weak and tired, but I was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel again. I never really fully recovered from the fatigue this week, but I am so encouraged by all of you who are standing behind me, praying, and sending positive energy. Y'all really know how to make a girl feel loved. Thank you for carrying me over the hump, and helping me to switch my attitude from pity party to leading the parade. I am channeling Fanny Brice! Nobody is gonna rain on my parade, y'all. The bad days don't seem so bad in retrospect, and I am excited to conquer the next ones with new tools in my arsenal.

In other news, today was my first day venturing to work with the wig on. I have been trying to build up tolerance to wearing it, and truly have been a little nervous about it. I don't want people to think that I think this is real hair... believe me I KNOW! This morning though, I just wasn't feeling any of my scarf options. I took the wig down off of the top shelf in my closet (yes, I am now the proud owner of a Styrofoam head), and pulled it over my head. I have learned it's never a good idea to do this without makeup on. Your hair is perfectly fixed, and your no makeup, chemo fatigued face is just bedraggled. BAD COMBO. I'm not even a "I have to wear makeup to go outside of the house" kinda girl... Something about the perfectly coiffed newscaster hair makes you feel the need for makeup. So anyway, I decided to go for it. I even got a compliment on the elevator on my new haircut from someone who didn't know!

wigging out!

Of course I then, immediately awkwardly ruined it, and told her it was a wig and that I had cancer. :( Why am I so hopelessly awkward? She totally made my day though. I made sure she knew that.

By about lunch time the wig was driving me crazy, but I powered through the afternoon. Once I got out of the parking lot though, all bets were off.


Alright y'all. LAST ADRIAMYCIN TOMORROW!!!!!!!!!! Get excited! Go gaviscon!

Love y'all,

Friday, July 18, 2014

with a taste of your lips i'm on a ride, you're toxic i'm slipping under...

The best things about being bald...
  1. Save money on shampoo!
  2. No more greys! Instantly!
  3. Takes zero minutes to dry your hair!
  4. Bad hair days? Not anymore!
  5. No more vacuuming the spot on the floor behind where I fix my hair!
  6. That feeling you get when there is a hair stuck in your shirt, and you can't contort your body enough to free it! Yeah I can't remember what that's like...
  7. No more shaving! Well almost... legs are still hanging in there a little bit. But no pits!
Weird things about being bald...
  1. There's always a rush of air you get over your head when you open up a doorway into another room. 
  2. Arguing with your spouse over how high of a rotation the fan should be spinning at.
  3. Forgetting to wash your head because your old routine always started with shampoo/conditioner.
  4. Always having to cover up to go outside. There's no way I'm trusting this noggin' with SPF alone!
  5. Making sure your wig or scarf is on straight.
  6. Getting "chills" from  your scarf or wig brushing your neck in just the right way.

So... this week has been rough. It's like you know chemo is tough, but you don't KNOW until you KNOW. It's just so hard. I'm trying to do everything right. I'm eating the right foods, drinking lots of water, and alcohol doesn't even sound remotely appealing. I'm trying to stay active and go on my jog/walks... but it just isn't enough to overcome the chemo. I mean, I get it. They are pumping toxic chemicals into my body every two weeks to kill bad cells. I just wish it would only kill the bad cells, and leave the rest of me alone.

It's strange to think about how before we started the chemo I just had this cancer inside me, silently dividing and wreaking havoc, however I felt perfectly fine and healthy. It wasn't until the chemo that I felt sick.

Today (Friday) is usually my "back to normal" day, but it's not here yet. I am scared that as the chemo builds up in my system that it's going to be harder and harder for me to bounce back. I'm supposed to be young and invincible, right? I am not. This is beyond humbling.

Prayers and vibes, please. I am in need.

Love y'all,

Saturday, July 12, 2014

i would like you to dance (birthday) take a cha-cha-cha-chance (birthday) i would like you to dance (birthday) oh dance! dance...

Dear Blake,

This time last year I was overjoyed with the news that you had just been born, on your due date, no less. I was kind of hoping you would make an early appearance and be a 4th of July baby. Can you imagine, fireworks on your birthday, every year! Mostly I was just anxious to meet you.

At your family baby shower hosted by "the Great Aunts" (I'm the Aunt now!)

I was so proud of your mama for doing such a great job and delivering you without drugs. I was so thankful for your daddy, who took such wonderful care of your mama, (and you!). They were so ecstatic and overcome with love to have you become part of their family that day. They made a wonderful team.


I didn't get to meet you til you were already 4 weeks old, but I can tell you that I fell in love instantly. Unless you count me falling in love with the photo above. I think it counts.

At 4 weeks, things had settled down a little. The grandparents had left, and your parents were starting to find their groove. Uncle Connor and I drove up from Texas to make sure you weren't just a figment of our imagination. You weren't. You were perfect. Except for the receding hairline, which was precious. And really... who am I to talk about good hair right now? You totally have me beat in the hair department. :)

Hard to believe how something so tiny can fill your heart so completely.
So Blake, it has now been a year. You are One. You are cruising, and clapping, and touching your nose, and roaring like a lion, and waving goodbye. You always light up when we get to face time, which makes me feel oh so loved. Here's the thing, Blake. It doesn't have to be this way. You can move back home to Texas. Try to convince your parents. (It will be our little secret.)

I am hoping to be able to road trip to see you in August after they switch out my chemo drugs. I can't wait to see what you're up to by then. Surely you will be running around your Aunt Jess in circles. :) Hoping and praying that the next set of drugs will allow me to do this!!

precious little nugget!

As for an update on me. I just finished my 3rd round of chemo yesterday. That's 75% done with the "hard" drugs, and 37.5% done altogether. Whew! This is flying by. When it's getting close to time for chemo day, I equally dread it and look forward to it. I think that's probably pretty normal... Strong desire to check another treatment off the list, low desire to experience it!

Acid reflux was a little better this time, but still bad. They are suggesting more drugs which makes me wary, so they said for me to tell them quickly if it's not helping. We will see. For now I have learned, no tomatoes. At all. Doesn't matter if you're feeling good, don't even try it. They will knock you down. Life lessons!

The other thing that I am dealing with is pre-anemia. They are shutting down my ovaries, plus I am going through chemo, so all of that adds up to me needing more iron in my diet. She suggested leafy greens (especially spinach) every day, so right now I am drinking down a spinach smoothie. She also suggested more beef! and more liver (WHAT?) I don't typically eat a lot of beef, so that will be tricky to figure out how to incorporate that. I don't know that I'm even going to go there with liver, unless one of you comes out of the woodwork with some amazingly good and not weird recipe for liver.... any takers!?

I asked her to set me up with a nutritionist to help me figure all of this out. I need all the help I can get!

Truly though... let me know if you have any good recipes for iron rich foods. I want to dazzle them with my blood counts in two weeks!

Love y'all,

bonus: Blake says "every little thing is gonna be alright"

Friday, July 4, 2014

birds flying high, you know how i feel. sun in the sky, you know how i feel. breeze driftin' on by, you know how I feel. it's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life for me...

The first morning of waking up and feeling good again after chemo is just THE BEST. I've had Michael Buble - Feeling Good in my head ALL DAY, and surprisingly, I'm not completely annoyed by it! Happy birthday, America!

I've been pretty cooped up all week due to losing my hair. (Today is the first day I've been in a car since Sunday...) I was originally planning to take Monday and Tuesday and work from home while I got used to my buzz cut, but turns out that once your hair starts going, it keeps going. I have been an itchy mess all week, and it was better for all parties concerned if I stayed put and shed the buzz cut at home.

Finally on Wednesday afternoon, I was getting really sick of it. At the end of the day, I went outside and sat on our deck, and just rubbed and rubbed my head until almost all the hair was gone. It was a little shocking when I went inside and saw myself in a mirror. I don't know what I was expecting... but it was shocking just the same. Good news is, I have a completely symmetrical head. Bad news is, I am a Warder AND a Wells, which means I have a giant mole from one of those sides on the side of my skull. FAIL. Also my ears don't match, and this is becoming more and more apparent without hair! Le sigh. Love me anyway, people.

I'm starting to feel more comfortable with the whole situation though... Turns out, people mostly treat you the same when you are out and about whether you've got hair or not. Strangely comforting to be ignored... feels ordinary. And good.

So today, to celebrate feeling good, we went out to lunch. In public. Sporting my Team USA Olympics shirt, and a blue and white chevron headband tube thing that doubles as a head wrap that I found in my closet. Looking forward to fireworks and friends tonight!

Love y'all,

Monday, June 30, 2014

i am not my hair i am not this skin i am not your expectations no no i am not my hair i am not this skin i am a soul that lives within...

Ok y'all. My hair finally had enough and wasn't planning to hang around much longer. I tried to wash it Friday afternoon after chemo, and got immediate handfuls of hair. Eeek! I let it go one more day, but by Sunday afternoon it was beyond time. My parents came by to document, and Connor lovingly shaved my head.

It really wasn't as emotional as I was expecting. I think when I am actually bald, it will probably be a little weirder, but for now, I look like GI JESS, total badass. :)

Getting psyched up!

Can't change your mind now!

Faux hawk with chiminea hat.

Almost there.

All done! Thanks for loving me no matter what I look like! Oh and please ignore the giant bruises on my arm. Turns out not all the nurses know how to use Portia and have to go the old IV route. GRRRRRRR.

*EDIT* The lady that gave me that bruise was not a nurse. She was a CT Scan Technician. All of my nurses have been absolutely wonderful, and I am so thankful for each and every one of them! This has been a lesson in when it is ok to be pushy! Ask for someone who is trained to use a port! Always!

Alright so there you have it. No rubbing my head for good luck, yet. It's still tender!

Love y'all,

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

my people we don't know defeat we crush the strong and percolate the weak. daily we make our moves to improve our groove because we love to rule where we lay yo! work and play we started at the bottom and now we're leading the way and yea! i'm havin a fit kickin it at the top because i'm too legit to quit...sang!

Hello friends. Today, I am two weeks out from my first chemo, and feeling really good. That first week was educational to say the least. I am curious to see if the next round will be the same, or if I have learned from my mistakes and can make this round easier! Hoping for easier! Although, really it wasn't bad... The anti nausea meds they have really, truly work. Acid reflux on the other hand... Turns out the lining of your esophagus is made up of fast growing cell like your hair, so it get's all messed up from the chemo. Ugh. GIVE ME ALL YOUR REMEDIES. I will try anything!

The day of chemo almost felt like the first day of school. I had the same kind of nervous energy the night before.

Will I wake up in time? I did.

Will the other kids like me? Too many selfies.

What do I need to bring with me? Way less than you thought.

Will I like my nurse? Nurse Josie and Nurse Carrie are the best.

What do I wear? Lower cut shirts make for easier access to Portia!

It's safe to say that I overpacked for the first round. I had a giant bag full of activities, my laptop, and a lunch bag. Next time I think I can fit everything in the giant bag. I'm an old pro now. Seriously though, after this next round (Friday) we will be 1/4 of the way done, which seems HUGE.

The first weekend after chemo, my mom, Sarah, Connor, and I went wig shopping to prepare for the inevitable day when my hair falls out. They told me it would probably be 2-3 weeks, so at this point I feel like I'm on borrowed time. I don't know how to prepare for this! How does this work? Right now it is beyond itchy, and I'm afraid to touch it. I feel like if I leave it alone and don't mess with it too much then it will hang on a little longer...

OK - about to nerd out for a second. You know that scene in Prisoner of Azkaban where the seasons are changing from fall to winter and the whomping willow gives a little shiver and then drops all it's leaves? That's what I feel is about to happen with my head. Although the day it starts falling out enough to buzz it will be a happy day for me, because what that means is the chemo is doing it's job. KILL THOSE FAST GROWING CELLS!!!!! For now, I am looking up tutorials on youtube for how to tie scarves into head wraps. I'm going to look fabulous this summer, y'all. Gypsy chic.

Until next time, I leave you with wig shopping pics. See if you can guess which one is my new alter ego. :)

And yes... for some reason there is a market for wigs with roots. 

Love y'all,

Sunday, June 15, 2014

someday when i'm awfully low, when the world is cold, i will feel a glow just thinking of you, and the way you look tonight...

Up until yesterday, I had been feeling pretty good. I kind of hit a wall and am maybe figuring out that this isn't going to be as easy as I had hoped. Simple things like riding in the jeep are a little too rough. Remembering to keep a little bit of food in my tummy at all times is hard. Once it's too late, it's not pretty. Acid reflux is not nice. I am thankful for a husband who loves me and realizes that I am not going to be at my best through a lot of this. So thankful.

I am also thankful today for a man who has taught me so much about looking hard things in the face and tackling them. My daddy went through double knee replacement surgery just so we could get the picture below. Ok, maybe not just, but this is my blog. I can say what I want! What a special, special time for me. The lyrics in today's post are from the song we danced to at the wedding. It's definitely on my playlist. :)

Dad messed up his knees pretty good in high school, for FOOTBALL and GLORY and the Grand Prairie Gophers. What a man. He always says his claim to fame was falling on top of a fumbled football in the endzone. Worth it! 

Because of this, he went for years and years without cartilage in his knees, and never complained. I think it took a trip to NYC, and coming face to face with all that walking that finally convinced him he should get his knees checked out. When he finally went to the doctor, he was amazed that dad was walking without the assistance of a cane.

A few years later, Daddy was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer (have you ever heard of the ampullary duct?) and had to have a very scary surgery, plus chemo and all that goes with that in order to save his life. Mark that up as yet another thing that he just did. No complaints. He just took care of business, and is now cancer free, and the best Granddad ever.

What an example. Daddy, I am so proud to be your little girl. I love you so much, and can't wait to celebrate father's day properly with you next year.

Love you oh so much, 

Photo Credit: Jennifer Yarbro Photography

Friday, June 13, 2014

this ain't the girl i used to know, no, not anymore. TKO. i'm out for the count, yeah, girl, you knock me out. it's just a TKO...

OK y'all... these are just too good (bad?) not to share. Connor's best man, John Griffith, has photoshop skills that can't be denied!

Thanks, John. These definitely put a smile on my face. :)