Photo & video storyline

Photo & video storyline

5/30/14 - The day of my Breast Cancer diagnosis. Funny enough, I was in my hair stylist's chair when I found out I was going to LOSE my hair! The first thing I did that day was blast worship music and WORSHIP!

5/30/14 - The day of my Breast Cancer diagnosis. Funny enough, I was in my hair stylist's chair when I found out I was going to LOSE my hair! The first thing I did that day was blast worship music and WORSHIP!

Dr. Jonathan Cohen (my surgeon) was responsible for helping to save my life. He also made me laugh all the way through my journey. No words for how much I love him!

Dr. Jonathan Cohen (my surgeon) was responsible for helping to save my life. He also made me laugh all the way through my journey. No words for how much I love him!

The day of my port surgery. This plastic device they inserted a needle into to administer my chemo drugs would save me from having IV's inserted in my arm for every treatment. It was a lifesaver! I had this implanted in my chest for a year.

The day of my port surgery. This plastic device they inserted a needle into to administer my chemo drugs would save me from having IV's inserted in my arm for every treatment. It was a lifesaver! I had this implanted in my chest for a year.

My bestie Lona, my daughter Karissa and her bestie (my 2nd daughter) Catherine all came to spend the night with me that first night. It was exactly what I needed.

My bestie Lona, my daughter Karissa and her bestie (my 2nd daughter) Catherine all came to spend the night with me that first night. It was exactly what I needed.

My friends Melodie, Tammy, Jamiee, Shelley & Shelly. Everyone on this session laid hands on me and prayed for me before I began my treatments. I will never forget it and how much they blessed me!

My friends Melodie, Tammy, Jamiee, Shelley & Shelly. Everyone on this session laid hands on me and prayed for me before I began my treatments. I will never forget it and how much they blessed me!

My amazing friends Vanessa, Lona & Aimee Joy came all the way downtown the day of my port surgery to pray with me!

My amazing friends Vanessa, Lona & Aimee Joy came all the way downtown the day of my port surgery to pray with me!

First day of chemo treatments that lasted 7 hours! My BFF Lona, right by my side through it all!

First day of chemo treatments that lasted 7 hours! My BFF Lona, right by my side through it all!

This is my favorite pic from my whole journey. God surrounded me on every side with amazing friends. This was a week after my first chemo treatment when I had my head shaving party with some of my closest friends/family (see "Crazy Hair Party" blog below). What a fun night!!

This is my favorite pic from my whole journey. God surrounded me on every side with amazing friends. This was a week after my first chemo treatment when I had my head shaving party with some of my closest friends/family (see "Crazy Hair Party" blog below). What a fun night!!

And my other favorite pic from my journey - when my pastor Steve Berger led our whole church (Grace Chapel in Leiper's Fork) in praying for my healing. I go to the best church on earth!!

And my other favorite pic from my journey - when my pastor Steve Berger led our whole church (Grace Chapel in Leiper's Fork) in praying for my healing. I go to the best church on earth!!

I don't remember what he was saying here, but it was obviously funny! :)

I don't remember what he was saying here, but it was obviously funny! :)

Lona & Karissa - my company during one of my chemo days.

Lona & Karissa - my company during one of my chemo days.

The $8,000 Neulasta shot I would get the day after each chemo treatment to boost my immune system. I always said I was too rich for your blood after I got this! ;-)

The $8,000 Neulasta shot I would get the day after each chemo treatment to boost my immune system. I always said I was too rich for your blood after I got this! ;-)

My pastor Steve Berger declaring healing! 

My pastor Steve Berger declaring healing! 

Karissa and Mom during a treatment day. Mom loved the chemo chairs and would usually nap with me.

Karissa and Mom during a treatment day. Mom loved the chemo chairs and would usually nap with me.

With Lona & Mom, snacks were the highlight of every chemo day.

With Lona & Mom, snacks were the highlight of every chemo day.

I was blessed to go on vacation to the beach after my 2nd chemo treatment - with Lona, Catherine, Mom & Karissa. It was so therapeutic!

I was blessed to go on vacation to the beach after my 2nd chemo treatment - with Lona, Catherine, Mom & Karissa. It was so therapeutic!

With my bro, Randy. This was the only time in our lives that we looked like twins. LOL!

With my bro, Randy. This was the only time in our lives that we looked like twins. LOL!

I had a BLAST with wigs. I was like a kid in a candy store in here!

I had a BLAST with wigs. I was like a kid in a candy store in here!

All of my wig "personalities". They all had names. My favorite was "Phyllis" (the brown one I wore a lot) and "Foxy Brown" my afro wig.

All of my wig "personalities". They all had names. My favorite was "Phyllis" (the brown one I wore a lot) and "Foxy Brown" my afro wig.

In my niece's Merida wig. Haha!

In my niece's Merida wig. Haha!

My friend Shane and I exchanged each other's head toppers. ;-)

My friend Shane and I exchanged each other's head toppers. ;-)

With my nephew CJ, wearing my favorite wig, Phyllis (thank you Scott Williamson for the name suggestion). ;-)

With my nephew CJ, wearing my favorite wig, Phyllis (thank you Scott Williamson for the name suggestion). ;-)

I got hot and threw off my wig one session day...

I got hot and threw off my wig one session day...

I felt fabulous whenever I wore "Juanita."

I felt fabulous whenever I wore "Juanita."

Surgery Selfie! With Dr. Cohen (cancer surgeon) and Dr. Tierney (plastic surgeon). This was "GAME DAY" as Dr. Cohen said. What a Godsend to be in the hands of these amazing doctors!

Surgery Selfie! With Dr. Cohen (cancer surgeon) and Dr. Tierney (plastic surgeon). This was "GAME DAY" as Dr. Cohen said. What a Godsend to be in the hands of these amazing doctors!

This was my diagnosis after completing chemo treatments. God is a mighty healer!!

This is a good view of the treatment room. Lots of cancer patients in there that I got to talk with each week.

This is a good view of the treatment room. Lots of cancer patients in there that I got to talk with each week.

My favorite nurse, Lindsey. She made every treatment day something to actually look forward to! Love her.

My favorite nurse, Lindsey. She made every treatment day something to actually look forward to! Love her.

October 2014. My last day of chemo!!! (with my oncologist Dr. Nancy Peacock)

October 2014. My last day of chemo!!! (with my oncologist Dr. Nancy Peacock)

Next up was radiation. I absolutely love these people - my radiation techs: Susan, Larkin & Tom!

Next up was radiation. I absolutely love these people - my radiation techs: Susan, Larkin & Tom!

They were amazing and totally game for all my shenanigans! Here they are sporting a few of my wigs. 

They were amazing and totally game for all my shenanigans! Here they are sporting a few of my wigs. 

I had a total of 35 radiation treatments. Here's when I just had 4 left. Sportin' the lovely gown.

I had a total of 35 radiation treatments. Here's when I just had 4 left. Sportin' the lovely gown.

Radiation graduation day. it was bittersweet.

Radiation graduation day. it was bittersweet.

June 24, 2014. Last treatment day in my oncology office! (with my amazing oncologist, Dr. Nancy Peacock) 

June 24, 2014. Last treatment day in my oncology office! (with my amazing oncologist, Dr. Nancy Peacock) 

The tradition of ringing the bell (or gong, in this case). My crazy, fun nurses danced around the treatment room with me!

The tradition of ringing the bell (or gong, in this case). My crazy, fun nurses danced around the treatment room with me!

Lona, Mom & Karissa...my crew on my last day of treatment.

Lona, Mom & Karissa...my crew on my last day of treatment.

With my nurse Lindsey.

With my nurse Lindsey.

My buddy Rachel Fisher made this adorable pull-apart cupcake cake to mark the completion of my cancer treatments! ( rachelmakemycake.com )

My buddy Rachel Fisher made this adorable pull-apart cupcake cake to mark the completion of my cancer treatments! (rachelmakemycake.com)

This beautiful lady greeted me with a smile every time I came in for treatment. Love my Janece!

This beautiful lady greeted me with a smile every time I came in for treatment. Love my Janece!

Last time in the lovely gown as a cancer patient!

Last time in the lovely gown as a cancer patient!

Celebratory lunch at The Smiling Elephant with my girls!

Celebratory lunch at The Smiling Elephant with my girls!

Cheers!!

Cheers!!

(2016/On the set of Nicole C. Mullen's video " Hey Girl " video shoot. Look for me at 3:55!) Cancer free and so grateful to a God who has proven He is a mighty healer and that His mercy endures forever!! Count it all joy! (James 1:2-3)

(2016/On the set of Nicole C. Mullen's video "Hey Girl" video shoot. Look for me at 3:55!) Cancer free and so grateful to a God who has proven He is a mighty healer and that His mercy endures forever!! Count it all joy! (James 1:2-3)

DO. NOT. FEAR.

DO. NOT. FEAR.

(ORIGINALLY POSTED IN JANUARY 2016)

When I was first being tested for breast cancer last May, I had gone in for a mammogram and did not think it would be anything serious. I sensed concern from the technician and once the on-site doctor looked over the results, he immediately sent me over for a sonogram. When they finished, the tech left the room and quickly returned to hand me the phone with my primary care doctor on the other end of the line. She said my results were suspicious and she was going to refer me to a surgeon. I was seized with fear. As I went back out to the lobby, I began to quietly panic. Did I have cancer? Had I waited too long to get checked? Was I going to die? Oh God, oh God, oh God…what’s going to happen to me?! The Lord prompted me to open up my Bible app and the verse of the day was Isaiah 53:5 “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.” The punishment that brought us peace – wow. How had I always missed that part? Right then, the Lord spoke to my spirit as clear as a bell, “DO. NOT. FEAR.”

As weeks and months went by, I saw God’s peace blossom like petals of a flower, one at a time, unfolding as each of my fears and needs came to the surface. It was just what I needed in each moment. As soon as my flesh rose up, He would calm me. When there was a spot on my liver after a CT scan, I worried that cancer had spread to other parts of my body. He assured me it was okay and centered my focus back on Him. Even before I had the results that my liver was fine, I had surrendered my spirit to His peace that passes all understanding. By the time I got the results, I was already okay and the news just confirmed what He’d said to me – DO. NOT. FEAR.

Now, as I’m rounding the last corner of my Cancer journey with a clear MRI, chemo and surgery behind me and nearly half of my radiation completed, I thought I was free and clear. I was beginning to chill out and “put my feet up” so to speak. I was finally over all the major trials! However, you know God is always about stretching us to a new area of trust and faith…a continual journey He lovingly has us on. Next to initially wondering if I would survive Cancer, my greatest fear this past year was what if I didn’t have health insurance? The thought of that terrified me. With astronomical costs associated with Cancer treatments, I thought the most scary thing in the world would be to go through this without insurance, having to deal with mountains of debt I could never pay off and having all the hospitals and doctors offices coming after me. I was so thankful I had insurance and the provision to pay for it. In December, money was tight, my health insurance lapsed and I was cancelled. When I received the letter from my insurance company, I nearly had a panic attack. I went into full fear mode. I cried my eyes out and ended up having nightmares during the little amount of sleep I managed to get that night. Since then, it has been an endless series of phone calls, letters, discussions with hospital administrators and insurance companies and a lot of lost time dealing with it all. The pressure coming from every angle as offices realized I had no insurance has been unreal. I had no idea the stress and fear that could grip you so completely like it has having no health insurance during a major health crisis. I’d like to say that after all the ways God has proven His covering over me through miracles and provision this past year that I was perfectly peaceful when this new trial came up. Ummm, yeah…not so much. I actually laid on the hardwood floor one night and sobbed until I was lying in a huge puddle of my own tears and snot. Lovely, huh? But you know, God KNEW I was going to need Him to pick me up off the floor that night. His peace was ready to take over once I surrendered to it. He has allowed me to walk through one of my greatest fears to prove to me that He will take care of me. He’s taking me to yet another level of trust and faith. I am still in the middle of it all but after first walking through my own unbelief and fear, He has once again calmed me with the peace that was bought and given to me through the punishment He endured on my behalf. It has been a battle to get to this place but once again I’m in a place of trust and rest. I know He will have the last word in everything concerning my health insurance because He’s able and He’s given me every reason to trust Him. What is it today you are most fearful of? Write it down. And then on top of that, write His words in a big ol’ Sharpie marker:

DO. NOT. FEAR.

Isaiah 41:10 “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Count it all joy! (James 1:2-3)

- Debi

Withholding Nothing

Withholding Nothing

(ORIGINALLY POSTED IN OCTOBER 2014)

I sat in my surgeon’s office the other day in a very unattractive paper gown, waiting for my exam. As I sat there in the room alone, I absentmindedly started singing the lyrics to “Withholding Nothing” – a worship song we did this weekend at church. As I sang it, I realized I was singing words that are the anthem to what I’m currently walking through.

I surrender all to You, everything I give to You

Withholding nothing, withholding nothing

I give myself away, I give myself away so You can use me

I give You all of me, I give You all of me

Withholding nothing, withholding nothing

I started to tear up because in this cancer journey, I have no choice but to surrender certain things to Him - because I want to live. I have to surrender myself to chemo, to feeling terrible, to surgery and to a loss in my own body that is a central part of being a woman. Yet in my mind and heart I can choose to hold back my trust, my faith in Him and my acceptance of the trials in my life. I can choose to become bitter and angry – or I can choose life and healing not only in my body but in my mind and heart.

Today I talked to my surgeon about surgery options, outcomes and what each type of surgery would entail. Lumpectomy, single mastectomy, bi-lateral mastectomy, clear margins, reconstruction, plastic surgery, symmetry…so many words and things to think about that it makes my head spin sometimes. When I first began this journey, those words were unthinkable to me. They were foreign and scary and I avoided thinking about them at all because I couldn’t get past the words “You have cancer.” Now, after walking this out for over 4 months, I have entered a level of acceptance and giving myself over to what God has put in my path. I can talk about and think about these new mountains to cross without being held in the grip of total fear. It’s been a process though. Even now, I still look at myself in the mirror and say out loud, “I have breast cancer” because there’s a part of my brain that still doesn’t quite compute with that reality. I’m bald as a cue ball, have lost almost all the hair on my body (which is pretty awesome, I must say!), and am experiencing a ton of crazy symptoms. I’m now losing my toenails (so gross!)…a side effect of one of the chemo drugs, so needless to say, I’m thanking God for boot season! ;-) I’m losing more and more of my eyebrows and eyelashes so I may be sportin’ some huge, Jan Crouch TBN lashes soon. Ha! I’m also tearing up all the time because the drugs dry out your eyes and make them overproduce tears. So…though I’m a crier, I’m not always as emotional as I appear to be. J All these things are part of what’s happening TO me but I am in control of what happens IN me. I can choose to say, “I hate you God! I hate you for allowing this!” and become enraged and possessive of myself. Or I can choose to say, “Yes Lord. I withholding nothing from You because I belong to You. I am not my own.”

In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20a it says: “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price...”

We are not our own. We belong to Him. So whether it’s going through cancer, a divorce, loss of a child, loss of a job, depression, addiction, fear….we were bought with a price that’s already paid in full for all we endure here on earth. Jesus withheld nothing from us. He gave everything for us. So why should I withhold anything from Him? Even when it is terrifying. The thought of my upcoming surgery is scary and sad in many ways, but I am trusting Him and stepping forward into the great unknown because He is already there. I want to learn more and more to not withhold anything from Him so that there is no part of my life He doesn’t have access to change, transform and renew. 

Romans 8:32 says: “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

Don’t hold back. Give Him ALL of who you are – mind, body and spirit. He has given us the greatest gift and promises even more. What a GREAT God we serve!!!

Count it all joy! (James 1:2-3)

- Debi

Cancer Perks!

Cancer Perks!

ORIGINALLY POSTED IN JULY 2014

Okay people, we hear all the time how bad cancer is, that chemotherapy is really hard…blah, blah, blahbeddy blahhhh. Borrrrr-innnng. How about we talk about some cancer perks? Yeah, I knew you were on board. I’ve compiled a list. These are things I will actually miss once I’m cancer free, so I’m milking them for all they’re worth.

1.  Tons of money saved on shampoo, conditioner and, if you live in the south, enough hairspray conservation to single-handedly save the ozone layer.

2.  Money saved on trips to the stylist = what else? More money for SHOES!

3.  Chemo means ALL your hair falls out so that means sending your razor on a several month long vacation to the “Baldives Islands”. (Another perk is people have to laugh at your dumb cancer jokes because…you have cancer.)

4.  “Chemo brain” is when you have difficulty concentrating or keeping track of things. Well, that is me ANY day of the week but now I finally have something to blame it on. It can also cause you to lose a thought right in the middle of a senten………. (ummmm…what the heck was I talking about?)

5.  Wigs. Your inner Jennifer Lopez, Beyonce or Farrah Fawcett can be fully realized. Oh yes….turn on the slo-mo fan and let that huge synthetic mane fly!

6.  The cool sound that comes from smacking your bald head. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s satisfying in a weird, people-think-you-need-medication kind of way.

7.  After breaking out like a pre-pubescent teen on meth – voila! Super-dee-duper-dee clear skin!

8.  Chemo fatigue = the best way to blame falling asleep mid-conversation with someone boring you to tears.

9.  Chemo fatigue must be mentioned twice because it is good for so many things. It’s the perfect excuse to not go to the gym, to use the elevator instead of taking the stairs, to take a 3 hour nap, or just to lay on the couch all day and watch the “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” marathon.

10.  You can now cry whenever you want to for whatever reason and blame it on the chemo. I mean come on, PMS deserves a break once in a while.

11.  Since you have no hair to wash or style, getting ready to leave the house is easy. However, you will now be late to everything because you’ll hit your snooze button at least 3 extra times. But hey, you have cancer.

12.  On treatment days can I just say one word? BENADRYL. The best sleep you’ll ever get and the loopiest you’ll ever feel, all contained in one beautiful IV bag. I’m thinking of asking for a couple bags to take home next time.

13.  And the very best part? THE CANCER CARD. You can pull this out for literally ANYTHING. Suggestions: 

a.  I can’t possibly come to your child’s Renaissance recorder concert because…I have cancer.

b.  Man, I would really LOVE to help you move but darnit…I have cancer.

c.  You want me to come watch home videos of your family reunion? I’d totally be into it if only I didn’t have cancer.

d.  Pretty much anything can be shut down with those three magical little words. If I use it on you, you can’t say anything back to me because, well, after all…………………..….I have cancer. 

 

Count it all joy! (James 1:2-3)

- Debi

 

Chemo Journal (Treatments 1 - 4 of 6)

Chemo Journal (Treatments 1 - 4 of 6)

CHEMO #1

DAY 1, 6/25/14  CHEMO DAY. 7 hours of treatments. I had to wait between each treatment to see if I was going to have a reaction. I didn't but Benadryl knocked me out for the whole day. That was kinda nice. :)

DAY 2, 6/26/14  NEULASTA SHOT at 11:15am. Felt totally normal when I woke up and through most of the day. Went out to lunch and shopped. Started feeling a little queasy late at night and some achiness from shot. Had been taking Claritin for aches, nausea meds and B6. Had to take other nausea meds in the middle of the night last night.

DAY 3, 6/27/14  More queasy today. Felt like I had a touch of the flu – queasy & achy. Slept a lot of the day. My scalp feels numb-ish. I can tell the chemo is killing my hair!

DAY 4, 6/28/14  Felt better. Not a ton of nausea. Felt good enough to shower and go out to see Williamson’s baby at the hospital and then to 1 store. I came home and crashed after that. Still, felt fairly good most of the day. Still took nausea meds just to be safe. Really bad digestive stuff going on. Not fun. At all.

DAY 5, 6/29/14  Felt good again today and went to church. Had a little queasiness because I didn’t eat before I left (dumb) so I got a muffin in the church kitchen and some water. Had major digestion issues this morning. Just took nausea meds this morning and haven’t needed them the rest of the day. My appetite was up. Feeling good right now (PM).

DAY 6 & 7, 6/30 & 7/1  Major stomach and digestion issues going on. Nausea associated with a general feeling like a touch of the flu. The bathroom is where I've been living the past 2 days. Bleh! Today (1st) was probably my worst day out of the entire past week. The digestive issues and stomach upset was almost enough to keep me home from a worship leader meeting at church. I have almost no appetite. CANCER PERK! ;-)  My insides feel raw. My mouth and tongue are sore and feel dry. I have little bumps inside my cheeks. I’m swishing with salt & baking soda water 2X day. This is rough stuff! The outer rim of my nose is sore. Chemo definitely destroys all of the natural linings throughout the body. So crazy!

Day 8, 9, 10, 11, 7/2-5:  Digestive issues and nausea/stomach cramps. Tapered off today (day 11) after taking meds prescribed by nurse. Skin is REALLY broken out on my face, neck, head.

Day 12, 7/6:  Digestive meds are working great! Felt GREAT leading worship today!! Face is sooooo broken out though. Here’s what I look like today with my makeup off. Boo! They keep cropping up. Hope this stops. Horrible! I layered moisturizer, primer, concealer, foundation and powder all over my face to cover it up.

Day 13, 7/8/14: My acne totally cleared up. It started around day 8 and lasted til now. Almost a week of bad acne. Thank God it went away! My hair started totally coming out today! I was pulling chunks out every time I ran my hands through it.

Day 14, 7/9/14: Head shaving party! I also feel totally normal now. No side effects from the chemo. This is definitely the “best” week as everyone talks about. 2 weeks out from my last treatment and I feel really normal.

Day 18, 7/13/14: Led worship today and felt fantastic. It was fun leading with my cute head wrap on. Ron had the church pray for me. So amazing! Less than 3 days til chemo #2. :-/

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CHEMO #2

Day 1, 7/16/14: Treatment only took 4 hours and was a breeze. I literally didn’t feel the needle accessing my port AT ALL. Used Lidocain again. Laid all the way back in the chair too. So easy! Had a reaction to the Benadryl with restless body syndrome. 

Day 2, 7/17/14: Felt achy today from the afternoon on (little sooner than after my first treatment) – before my Neuasta shot at 2pm. Ran a zillion errands. Super tired tonight. Nausea is minimal but taking pills anyway. Here’s what my hair looks like now. Lots of real bald patches all over my head.

Day 3, 7/18/14: Felt like crap later in the evening. Got a fever overnight of 100.9. Called doctor’s office and they prescribed an antibiotic and gave me green light to go on vacation.

Day 4, 7/19/14: Felt bad this morning. Fever had gone down but I was feeling like I had a touch of the flu. Traveled all day, rested in the car. Felt better later in the day. After dinner, I was cold outside and didn’t realize I had a fever again of 101.4. Fever broke and has stayed down.

Day 5, 7/20/14: Fever still down. I feel good today. No real issues today. Fever was only at 99.4 in afternoon – totally down at night. Took nausea meds just as preventative and digestive meds. Went to beach and out to dinner with no issues.

Day 6, 7/21/14: No more fever. Felt pretty good today. No stomach cramps. Mouth tastes weird again like last time. 

Day 7, 7/22/14: Felt pretty good today. Mild nausea from hunger. Did get some weird splotchy sunburn spots on my legs where my skin was dry. Loaded up on high spf lotion and I was ok even after being in sun/ocean for a long time. Mouth is a little sore.

Day 8-9, 7/23-24/14: Digestive issues again but no awful stomach cramps so it is bearable. Meds definitely help after I take them. Have some mouth sores. Been swishing with baking soda & salt 2x’s a day.

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CHEMO #3

The day I got my Neulasta shot, I started to feel bad that night. This was the worst I’ve felt so far. I was down for the count for over 4 days. I didn’t go to church that Sunday and had to stay home. I was on the couch from Thurs night through Monday morning when I finally felt okay enough to go out. I was super achy and felt very flu-like. Took a ton of meds to combat the achiness and yucky feelings. Definitely the worst post-treatment time so far.

Digestive issues began as usual about 2-3 days after treatment. My mouth had the same burned feeling, roughness on the roof of my mouth and some canker sores. Same thing with the nasty taste in my mouth. This was definitely the hardest treatment cycle so far.

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CHEMO #4

9/14/14

I am just a couple days away from my 5th chemo treatment so I’m feeling pretty good, of course. This has been an interesting round. I didn’t start to feel bad after the Neulasta shot until Friday afternoon. Even then, it was probably the least affected I’ve felt post-treatment and shot. I was so surprised. I kept expecting to feel horrible like usual (and especially after the last round) but I didn’t. I did stayed home from church on Sunday just because I wasn’t feeling 100%. Still, it was not bad and I was very pleasantly surprised at how it didn’t take me totally down like it did in round #3.

I have experienced a variety of new symptoms this round though. My mouth was rough and yucky feeling as usual. I was really surprised when I shone a light on the roof of my mouth to see how horrible it looked. I looked completely sick. My throat also hurt too like I was developing a cold. That was a first.

I also developed a ton of dry patches all over my body that were red and splotchy. Really yucky! I used a ton of moisturizer that did help. They eventually went away on their own these past couple weeks. Here’s one that I had on my leg that was in the shape of a heart. Lona said that was God’s way of telling me he was with me and loved me even through this hard journey:

 

I recently developed some neuropathy in my fingertips that has me concerned. My feet are also a little worse. In the past week I’ve started to experience sore/weak/stiff muscles. It feels almost like I haven’t stretched or used my muscles at all. Which is kinda true! However they also burn a little too when I move. Very weird, but I’ve been reading up and I guess this is a common chemo symptom.

My face broke out pretty bad again last week to where I had to use full foundation but again, it cleared up and my face is totally clear now. Thank God it only lasts about a week! I didn’t have any acne issues in round #3. My eyes started watering really bad this cycle. Very annoying! My nose has a clear run too.

I still have hair on my head that continues to grow – especially on the very top of my head. I shave it off now. It feels AMAZING to have it all off. Smooth as a baby’s butt! I can pull out the dark hairs on my arm with my fingers and it doesn’t even hurt (the very few that are left). My arms are pretty smooth now! I still have the baby fine blonde hairs left though but those aren’t visible. 

I am now experiencing more fatigue than I ever have. Last treatment I went to lunch with a friend and then grocery shopping and that did me in. I could barely get the groceries in the house before collapsing on the couch and sleeping for 4 solid hours. I’m noticing that I’m not able to do a whole lot before I need to really rest. I’m just giving in to it and letting my body do what it needs to do. It’s a great excuse to take naps!

It’s funny, I read Darlene Zschech’s cancer journal online and she and her friend who was also going through treatment said, “Chemo is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re gonna get.” I remember thinking at the time – how could it be so different? I mean, isn’t it the same drugs so you get the same effects every time? Now I know that this was SUCH a true statement! It really is different every time. Different symptoms crop up every treatment cycle and then some that I have every time come at different times in the cycle or are a little different than the last time, etc. You just have to roll with the punches! It is definitely cumulative so things build up and get a little more intense with each treatment. Still – God is so faithful and I am able to rest and heal because He is taking care of me!

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Unfortunately I did not journal after my 5th & 6th chemo treatments. I don't think I did because I was having much of the same symptoms. The main thing I had to contend with through my entire series of chemo treatments was major digestive issues. Chemo destroys all rapidly dividing cells (which is cancer, of course) but it also destroys the mucus lining that protects all of your insides. When you have none of that in your digestive system, it causes diarrhea and nausea. You are given a bunch of strong meds to counteract all of this by your oncologist.  Your nose, mouth and throat are also stripped of any mucus. I had a bad sore throat after several of my chemo treatments and always had a bad taste in my mouth so I constantly chewed gum or drank flavored drinks. 

Of course chemo destroys your hair but it also affects your nails as well. I ended up losing over half of my toenails. It sounds incredibly gross (it was) and painful (it wasn't). I developed blisters underneath my toenails that lifted them off. They have all grown back now but it was pretty disturbing at the time. My fingernails were also affected and turned yellow and dark in different spots. They lifted a tiny bit but I never lost any of them.

Everyone has different symptoms and there are many types of Breast Cancer and chemo treatments (something I had no idea about until I went through it). No matter what - God NEVER LEAVES US OR FORSAKES US! I would not trade this journey for anything in the world because it showed me how great and mighty our God is!

Crazy Hair Party!!

Crazy Hair Party!!

(ORIGINALLY POSTED ON 7/11/14)

My hair officially started falling out this past Tuesday the 8th and let me tell you, when it decided it was done, it was DONE! I was pulling chunks out every time I ran my hands through it. It was soon getting everywhere and I knew I had to shave my head fast so I pulled together a last minute “Crazy Hair Party” with some of my closest friends and family.

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My BFF Lona Fraser immediately went into action and planned the whole thing in less than 24 hours. God totally had every single detail in His hands and I could not have asked for a more fun night. After I returned home from running errands, this was what I came home to. Lona, her daughter Kayla and my daughter Karissa’s decorating magic.

Soon, my friends and family started to arrive along with my amazing stylist/friend Jessica Katina who would be doing the honors of giving me as many funny and cool haircuts while gradually shaving my head. Before we got started, we decided to take some pre-haircut selfies with everyone. Lona asked everyone to come altered in some way since I would be altering myself! The theme was also PINK so everyone went all out. It was a rowdy, crazy bunch – just like I like it!

Once everyone arrived, it was time to let the head shaving commence! The first style was Karissa’s request. Just one side shaved.

The next style was my request…a mullet to Billy Ray Cyrus it up. Business in the front…party in the back!

But my own personal touch was the trucker ‘stache. Sooooo hot.

Next up…I decided to keep the Cyrus theme going and do the Miley do. However, my stylist Jessica had it WAY before Miley did and rocked it way better than she ever could. Here was my attempt…with the Miley tongue out, of course.

Next up was a mohawk. I actually think I may rock this when my hair starts coming back!

After this, I wanted to honor the movie Dumb & Dumber. With the added trucker mustache, if Jim Carey and Freddie Mercury had a baby, this is probably what he would look like.

And then……DRUM ROLL…the final style…G.I. Jane! I had them play Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out” when we did this. Lots of cheers at this point!

Everyone had to feel the fuzz! Mannnn was my head cool. So freeing!!

My daughter Karissa wanted to get in on the head shaving action to support me so I allowed her to shave the side of her head like she’s been wanting to do forever. So fun!

Then it was time for a POST head shaving selfie! I love these girls sooooo much!! And what an honor to have two of my friends there, Vanessa and Sarah, who are breast cancer survivors themselves! Chicks kick cancer in the BUTT!

MY HOMIES THERE THAT NIGHT: Sarah, Rebecca, Ali, Aimee Joy, Michele, Jessica, Mom, Me, Lona, Karissa, Kandi, Vanessa, Kara, Amy & Faith.

When we finished, I had a little surprise up my sleeve (LITERALLY) for my guests. If any of you have seen the character Dooneese from Saturday Night Live, this was my tribute to her, her large forehead and tiny doll hands.

Here’s my Dooneese video. If you’ve not seen the video from SNL, you won’t understand this…but those of you who know will thoroughly enjoy it. Doo-doo-doo-doo-dooooo……

 

So…at the end of the night, my daughter placed a flower crown on my head that she made and I can honestly say, I felt beautiful, loved and full of joy. There are no words to say how fun this night was with this supportive, crazy group of godly women that I love. The Enemy likes to think he can take us down but the joy of the Lord is our strength! (Neh. 8:10) When we say Yes Lord and begin to praise Him for what He allows in our life, the Enemy is rendered powerless and the Lord is made famous. That’s the kind of life I want to live. If it means I have to shave my head to do that, then so be it. We can say there is glory in a mullet, a mohawk, a bowl cut and a G.I. Jane if we do it all with thanksgiving and a joyful heart to the God who totally laughs right along with us. I think I even heard Him snort at one point.  Haha! That’s the God we serve!

COUNT IT ALL JOY! (James 1:2-3)

– Debi

First Reaction vs. First Response

First Reaction vs. First Response

(ORIGINALLY POSTED ON 6/11/14)

“I think it’s cancer.” Those were the words spoken by my surgeon right after my exam; words no one expects or wants to hear. The following week, while I was sitting in my hair stylist’s chair, I received the call with the results of my biopsy to confirm yes…I had breast cancer. I began to shake as fear seized me. Had it spread? Was I going to die? A million things crossed my mind all at once. I left my hair appointment and immediately had to pull the car over. I called my friend Lona and she prayed with me over the phone. I felt a supernatural comfort wash over me that was tangible and real and by the time she said “Amen” I had a peace that was beyond my understanding in a moment when I should have felt nothing but panic. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:6-7) That verse was never as real to me as it was right then.

As I drove on, I popped in a worship CD a friend had given me and decided my first response to this diagnosis was going to be to worship God. The night before, however, I was in quite the opposite frame of mind. I had fallen apart in my bathroom, holding a folded up towel over my face so I could scream and not wake up my daughter while I begged God over and over “Please! Please don’t let this be cancer! I can’t do this! Please don’t do this God! I’m begging you! Please!!!” I sobbed and sobbed until I had no tears left. I was mad at God. This wasn’t fair. Not now! I was alone and I was terrified. I wanted out. That was my first REACTION and I know God totally got it. He wasn’t surprised or offended. In fact, I know He probably wept right along with me as He sat beside me that night. That is my freedom in relationship with Him. But right then, with my cancer diagnosis confirmed, in spite of the crippling fear and grief, I wanted my first RESPONSE to be to worship Him in the middle of it. Deep breath…

I was shouting out praise to the Lord as I drove down the road – so much so that I knew I had to get out of my car and worship for real. So I pulled into the parking lot of a small country church, turned my car stereo all the way up, got out and stood outside, hands raised, crying and praising Him. I’m sure I looked crazy to people driving by, but I didn’t care. I had to let God know my response. I said YES. Yes, Lord…no matter how hard this is. Yes. It might seem a little silly, but I took a picture of my hand raised against the sky because I wanted to remember that moment.  —  I noticed a heart shaped cloud to my right – like God letting me know He loved me so much that He’d write it in the sky and that everything was going to be okay. I can’t say all my first reactions to what God brings my way are perfect (far from it), but that Friday, May 30th at 2:30 PM, I felt Him respond to me as I offered my first response to Him in worship.

What is God calling you to do in response to something you’re facing today?

Count it all joy! (James 1:2-4)

– Debi