Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bad blood, numbness, and CT scans

Today was not a typical day in chemo land. First off my blood came back with bad news. My white blood cells have plummeted. My Doctor take that very seriously and to be honest I really have no clue why. I don't do a good job of paying attention, but I do know that I have been having a very rough week and this could be why. I'm also experiencing numbness and I keep having these epic headaches, which all means an emergency CT scan.

I don't know results yet(results came back clear), but I want to talk about what I feeling while I was laying in that machine. I have been reading "Choosing to See" by Mary Beth Chapman. She is married to singer/songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman and they lost their little baby girl in a tragic car accident, their oldest son was the driver. They pretty much experienced the worst thing I could ever imagine and this book is about their struggle dealing with this tragedy.

So as I lay there with my head stuck inside that huge machine, I couldn't help but think about what I would do if I got bad news again. The Chapman family experienced the worst "bad news" I could think of and they have taken that tragedy and given God glory. They found hope in a situation that seemed hopeless. So I laid there thinking...Would I cling to Jesus again? Or would this be the time that I can't take more bad news?

Yes if the news was bad....Yes if this doesn't kill all the cancer in my body...And yes even if it's tragedy beyond what I think I can handle...

I will have my Jesus.

Here is a song Steven Curtis Chapman wrote after losing his little girl.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dear 20-year old Jen

You just moved into you very first apartment and soon you will be starting your junior year in college. This is going to be a fun year in school because you FINALLY get to do some real classroom work and you don't have to eat in the cafeteria anymore (truth is you will kind of miss it). You will spend the rest of the year eating tuna, top ramon, soup, and beans. Sounds glorious huh? BUT you will adore the classrooms you get to intern in and the time you get in-front of kiddos. You'll finally start feeling like you can actually be a teacher.

Looking back at the last 10 years you have changed quite a bit and yet are still the same in lots of ways too. Sherwood was good for you, especially once you got involved in sports; soccer and basketball. You were awkward during those middle schools years, but sports still worked for you. You were never the star but you weren't on the bench either. Your body changed a lot and let's just say that you were one of those unlucky girls who grew out before you grew up. It hurt when you looked around and saw girls who seemed so skinny and pretty. But you held your head high and hung on to the things you were good at: sports, school, and being friendly to everyone. Only your Mom knew the many tears you cried about your body and how much it really bothered you.
You (age 20) and your brother, Mark (age 18, right before he graduated)

Sports, leadership, school, and eventually youth group kept you going during those high school years. You watched other kids struggle in HS, which confused you because you had an absolute BLAST! You tried and did everything. I love this about you. You had something every second of the day. Soccer, basketball, softball, president of your class, president of FCA and Youth Alive, 3 mission trips to Mexico, youth group leader, worship leader, youth leader at the junior high youth group, a trip to Washington DC for school, Hobby youth student, track and field, wrestling scorekeeper, boys basketball stat keeper, you organized and was MC to almost every school assembly, Link Crew leader, and the list could go on. You were busy!

Somewhere in those High School years something happened. You shot up. And that awkward body began to find itself, you realized very quickly that although it wasn't your favorite sport to play softball was your thing. Coaches promised dreams of college scholarships and you were sure that this was exactly what God had planned for you. It confused you when doctors said things like "you'll never play again" and "you'll be lucky if you can walk well after this surgery". You were crushed when you realized that you were not going to be an athlete anymore.

You walked into college with an uncertainty you had not had in a long time. The Jen "Bush" you knew so well in Sherwood High was so longer there. No one in college cared about the many leadership roles you had, you couldn't play sports anymore, and everyone in college seemed prettier, more talented, and A LOT smarter than you. And so when an older boy noticed you, you did exactly what you knew you shouldn't and fell hard. Freshman year was spent with upper class-men instead of the other freshman you should have hung out with. You put all your self worth in the hands of a boy and so when he was gone you felt gone too.

It hurt having your heart broken. But what hurt more is that you had lost yourself. You didn't know who you were anymore and you faith in your Savior was hurting. For the first time you began to realize that although you loved God very much deep down you thought His love was conditional. That the times when you were good or did good things you thought that God loved you more. When you messed up or did something "wrong" God's love somehow felt less. This is a sad faith to have, because eventually you can't keep this "good" act up and what then? You did some good soul searching and realized that in all the ups and downs over the years one thing NEVER changed and that was God's love for you. That you were his precious child and that he loved you no more or less all the time. That before you were ever a thought in your parent's mind that God loved you so much that He sent Jesus to die for you.

You're 20 now and in such a good place. You have quite a year ahead of you. You will continue to love on the youth you have been working with the last year. You are lucky to get to love on these girls and their families. You learn so much during this time. God begins giving you a passion to take your gift teaching and us it to bring glory to His name. This is the first time in a long time that you realize that maybe God has some cool things planned for your life.

The friends you have right now will be life long friends and you'll make some of the best memories this year. Have fun girl!

Soon (very soon) a certain boy is going to ask you out. And guess what? He is going to be your husband! You will have a fun year dating and next year at this time you'll be planning a wedding. Exciting right?

Until I write the 30 year old letter......

Friday, August 12, 2011

Dear 10-year old Jen

I wanted to give you an update, but didn't really want to talk about chemo. I am having a hard time this week and getting pretty sick of getting sick everyday. So instead of talking about fevers, puking, and laying around on the couch I decided to do a different kind of post.

Last week I turned 29 for the second time. :D And I thought it would be fun to write a letter to myself at 10 and then 20. So enjoy.....
Dear 10-year old Jennifer, (no one calls you Jen yet)

This is a big day for you. I know how excited you are about FINALLY reaching double digits, it is a big deal huh? I also know that you are a little sad today. You are currently in an arm cast and you are disappointed because you were looking forward to a rollerskating birthday party at Oaks Park. Instead you are having a pool party at your house. No swimming for you, which stinks too. Wish I could tell you that this will be the last time you spend your birthday in a cast, but it is not. You have a couple more epic injury filled birthdays in the next 20 years. So just get used to it, girl.

This is going to be an epic year for you for lots of reasons. First, you are going to get glasses this year. At first, you think that it's pretty cool. Partly because you think you look older and smarter with glasses on. But mostly because you had no idea how bad your eyes were and it is fun seeing the world the way God intended for you to see it. That excitement wears off quickly and then they just become annoying. The cuteness wears off quickly and for the rest of your life you will curse your crappy eyes. (No worries though, your husband will think that you look adorable in your glasses.)

This is your first year in student council. You are going to learn very quickly that you LOVE it. And it will be something you do for a very long time. Listen to the high-schoolers who come and talk to you about being a leader. Jennifer, you a natural leader and I want you to continue to use that gift. People will follow you, but make sure you are doing something that other people should be doing. Stand up for what is right and lead for the right reasons. You will get the chance to do some pretty cool things if you choose to lead the "right" way.

A teacher is going to tell you that you might just be a B student. That is going to crush you and you'll make up your mind right then to prove him wrong. I'm proud of you for all the hard work you will do over the years, but I want you know that you don't need to freak out about grades as much as you will. It won't matter Jennifer. Just do your best and learn for the pure joy of it, not for the grade. (You will struggle with this for years and years)

You are going to move once again this year. It is going to be very upsetting. You haven't really found great friends at this new school and you are scared about starting over again. But I have good news for you. You will make life long friends in that little farm town called Sherwood. It will become your home until you get married one day. It is going to be hard at first. You will have difficulty making friends. But I want you to remember what it feels like. You have a gift of compassion and an ability to make people feel good so remember what it feels like to be the new girl in school. Forever I want you to try and find people who look uncomfortable and make them feel welcome. God will use this gift of compassion you have for others again and again over the years. And don't worry you will find your place in this new school. Soccer will be the place where you finally fit in. You'll go from the nerdy new girl who lots of people made fun of to one of the "cool" kids next year. But DON'T become too cool for others, don't forget what it felt like coming home everyday and crying in your room. It will be easy to forget, and you will want to, but DON'T. God has some awesome plans for you and if you are too busy trying to be "cool" you will miss them.

Lastly Jennifer, this year you will get baptized. I'm proud of you because it is all your idea. You really feel like you are ready to make this decision and you want your church family to be there for you. Your Dad gets to baptize you, and it is a special thing that you two will have forever. You don't understand everything about Jesus, God, and your faith, but that is ok. At 30 you are still learning, but you know that you believe in Jesus and that He is your Savior and I love that kind of childlike faith. Just continue to love others the way that Jesus loves you, don't get caught up in rules, but remember the mercy and grace He gives you and show that to others. And don't become one of those kids who judge others, love them Jennifer. Love them because He loves you. Don't argue and get sucked into debates, it is not your thing. God did not give you the gift of debate, so just show people Him through your actions.

Lastly, continue to smile Jennifer. You have a HUGE smile and I know that you don't like it (and will continue to not love it forever) But it makes others feel good and I really think that God gave it to you for that very reason. You are going to start very soon having trouble loving yourself, your body, and your face, but just KEEP SMILING!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Week 1 in the books

Well that was a rough week. BUT I made it. And I'm not curled up in a corner sucking my thumb crying while rocking back and forth. Chemo tried to sucker punch me a couple times, but I'm a tough cookie and I AM STILL HERE! I had rough nights, good nights, horrible nights, and so-so nights. I'm happy to put week 1 behind me and looking forward to only 3 more (and then off to the next chemo journey). PRAISE GOD!

Things I learned during Week 1 of Chemo:

* The chemo room still scares me a bit. Mostly because everyone looks SO sick. Even though I've experienced side effects quickly, physically I don't look sick yet. I know that I will eventually look sick and I hate seeing that so vividly everyday.

*Even in the midst of shakes and bad chills I can crack a joke. I love that through this whole thing I have not lost my sense of humor. I love that I can still laugh at this situation and at myself. Praise God for that.

*My husband is a treasure. He writes me a letter everyday and although it makes me cry EVERYDAY, I love that he is doing it. letterstojen.com

*The gym is a pipe dream right now. I'm too weak in the mornings to even try to get to the gym. 2 days this week I have tried to go for a run and have, but I was very weak.

*So will I have to do crossword puzzles someday? Cause all the old people in chemo land LOVE THEM.

*My poor little Alexis is having a hard time saying goodbye to me everyday. That makes me sad. I'm not gone very long, but that little angel loves her Mommy very much. She notices that I am not feeling 100% and tries to make me feel better.

*Vicodin has been the secret to helping me not feel like I have been hit by a truck. Those little miracle pills help with the chills, body aches, and keep the fever under the 102 which is what it wants to climb to.

*When you call the Dr about chest pains, he will MAKE you go to the ER (even if you don't want to) But no worries it was just a weird reaction I was having to the chemo and Vicodin will help with that too.

*No one but the nurses in Chemo land can work my chemo port. I have had 3 IV's put in my arm this week because other nurses can't figure it out. (That kind of cracks me up) I love my nurses!

*I'm pretty sure the old lady sitting next to me right now is dying and no one seems to care. It is another rude reminder that this is going to be a long year.

After week 1 I'm still praising God for his goodness. I don't deserve His love, grace, and mercy. But because I am His child He gives it to me freely.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Drug cocktails, Fever Fun, & Praising God. Chemo Days 2 & 3

Night one the drugs worked quickly. At about 4:45pm I was in the fetal position on the couch. The fever came on quickly as did the nausea. I had body aches, chills, and overall just felt gross.

At about 3am my fever broke and I slept great. Tuesday morning I woke up feeling great. I even went for a run/jog. I am not a fast runner so it feels weird calling it a "run".

Chemo Day 2 was similar. I'm starting to get used to the chemo room. The moments when I lock eyes with other patients are not feeling as uncomfortable as they did day 1. I feel like I'm part of the "club" now. I can still feel the looks and hear the whispers since I am the youngest by far getting treatment. And it still seems a little surreal that I am even here. I had a good talk with my nurses and pharmacists and they "cooked" me up some anti-nausea meds in my IV. This new "cocktail" will be added to the growing number of drugs on my IV tree stand.

Night 2 was tricky. I went to church that evening. It's a special service to me because we spend time worshiping, watching baptisms, take communion, and pray together. I'm so glad that I went. Even though I had fever the whole time, it was so sweet to worship and take communion with sweet friends. It was especially wonderful to get to cheer on 9 people who were baptized. How refreshing it was hearing story after story of God's grace and mercy. Many of the testimonies were filled with stories of men and women who spent years "trying" to be good and earn their way to heaven. In the end they all realized that that is an impossible and frustrating road, and that God never asked us to do such a thing. That His grace, love, forgiveness, and mercy is a free gift from a Father to his children. What a great reminder for me.

By the time I got home, my fever was worse, body aches and chills were horrible, and I had a headache that was killing me. I took all the meds I could and curled up on the couch. I slept ok, but my fever never broke. Wednesday morning I could not and did not go for a run.

I'm back in the chemo room, getting day 3 drugs. I had a good talk with my nurse and doctor team and they have decided to put me on pain medications at night. This will help with the body aches, chills, and my fever. The anti-nausea cocktail is here to stay and hopefully tonight will be better.

On a super good note: My Mommy comes in today for a week and a half. Very excited to have her back in town.

Thanks for all the love and prayers. I feel all of them!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Chemo Day 1

I walked into a large room filled with recliners lining the outside walls. It's obvious that someone has tried to make the room NOT look hospital, but it does anyways. Each chair is filled with a very sick person(honestly some looked close to death). My first thought was "Is that going to be me?". I pushed those thoughts out of my head immediately and found my little chair and spot for the next 5 hours. The next hours were filled with lot's of paperwork, lot's of nurses, and a VERY full bag of fluids.

I was given medications to help with symptoms I don't feel yet. I'm told story after story of what I will feel like tonight and the next 28 days. It seems surreal. I'm going to get sick, very sick. But I don't feel sick right now, opposite really. My body feels strong, I'd actually rather be running or doing cycling today. But I'm here.

I'm asked if I want to speak with a counselor. Then it kind of hits me.

This is real. I have cancer and I'm starting my treatment today.

For the next hour I spend time reading the Word and praying. I still feel great spiritually, mentally, and physically BUT the reality is that that just might change very soon! It's scary thinking of suffering, especially when you know is coming.

So today I'm going to cling to the sweet promise that Jesus suffered everything that we will ever suffer. I am going to suffer and it is silly to act or pretend like I am not going to. But I can choose to cling to my Jesus, the one who suffered. And one who conquered suffering FOR ME!
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