Dear friends and family,
Gabrielle here. My friend Clint from work, who is a fantastic writer/editor and has published many novels, thinks I use too many explanation points and smiley faces in my e-mails. But even Clint would agree, since his own wife has had cancer, that many explanations points and smiley faces are needed to adequately describe how it feels to finish one's final double chemo!!! :-) :-)
The segs in my white blood cells were in the 400s last week, so I couldn't get chemo and needed to get to 1000, MINIMUM, this week. They came in at 1040 (only a good number when thinking segs, not taxes)! That's cutting it close though. Daniel and I were majorly relieved to get chemo today and amazingly, it only took five hours exactly. We watched one low-rated movie (What to Expect When You are Expecting), read a little, and I napped after the benadryl pumped into me. I was way too sleepy to play Scrabble and risk losing to Daniel by 100 points! We baked and brought chocolate chip walnut brownies for our cancer care team and saved out two for ourselves to enjoy with lunch. Yummo!
Because my segs after double chemo will drop into the hundreds again, the same rules apply for this week: no crowds, no sick people, no kids, lots of hand washing and desanitizing things I touch often. Tomorrow I start the stomach shots of neupogen again for five days straight this week with a repeat next week. The shots should ensure that I will be DONE with chemo two weeks from today! I am excited to begin tearing the pink paper chain links off our banister again tonight to countdown the final two weeks! :-) If anyone you love gets cancer and needs chemo or radiation, make them a paper chain to count down. You can put encouraging words on the inside of each link like "You can beat the _ _ _ _ out of cancer!" or a favorite Scripture verse or quote. I can't tell you how much tearing off those rings each night has encouraged me. Thanks, Renee and Daniel! What awesome kids (excuse me--young adults) you are!
In my last blog, I think I mentioned something about wanting to "give back" some of the comfort I myself have received from God--and from all of you--during my cancer journey. God has answered that prayer already! Aside from the woman I support via e-mail in New York who has my same cancer (Linda), I was saddened to learn of two more women newly diagnosed with cancer. One is the mother of one of Renee's SPU friends and one is a young mother that our former pastor's wife brought to my attention. If you feel so led, please pray for these women and that perhaps I will have something in the way of comfort, tips, and HOPE to offer to them, reaped from God's faithfulness to me these past five months.
After a rather dull week staying away from everyone, yesterday I walked with my friend and neighbor, Laura, when she got home from work. And during the day, Daniel and I challenged our good friends, Frank and Heather, to a FIERCE game of putt putt golf at our favorite course in Redmond. Frank is turning 80 in November (though he looks 60) and had petitioned us for a 10 point handicap due to his age. Ha! Daniel and I categorically denied his petition, stating that if anyone deserved a handicap, it would be Daniel, who has only had 23 years to work on his mini-golf putting prowess. Besides, I have never met anyone more competitive--and who loves to win more--than Frank (though my colleagues and family might say that I hold that title). I tried my best, but "weakened by weeks of grueling surgery, chemotherapy, and nausea" (ha again!), I came in second to Frank, who beat me by SIX strokes, the stinker! Heather came in third and Daniel, a little off his game, in fourth. He was a bit distracted by a pond full of huge frogs that he kept trying to catch for a closer look when he was between holes. He's such a biologist and just loves all creatures, great, small, and slimy. Out of respect for his painful loss, he and I are both sporting brand new frog tattoos on our necks (of the temporary variety, of course). These remind us of the acronym F R O G--Fully Relying On God, as well as the frogs we frequently find while mini golfing! And Frank--watch your back, as we are gunning for you next time!! This evening Daniel went out with Renee and some friends and Steve and I enjoyed a sunny walk and talk before dinner (my friend Dean calls this a "walkie talkie), and played a rousing game of Scrabble (now that I was wide awake from the steroids given during chemo and the Benadryl had worn off). I lucked out getting the high point letters and using all my letters once so I beat him. But Steve put up a good fight, despite his lower point letters. He's a formidable foe with word games, being someone who can finish a Sunday crossword puzzle with relative ease. Then we watched some t.v. A walk, a rousing game of Scrabble, and t.v. is what you call a pretty hot date night for two middle aged people after one of them has had a double dose of chemo, her sixteenth straight week of chemo, no less!
Thanks to all of you who prayed for us and sent cards this week. You know who you are and the cards continue to cheer us no end. Thanks to Renee who visited this week and brought me a new flavor of Burts Bees lip balm--grapefruit! Thanks to Gordie and Mary for a good laugh. When they read in the blog that I couldn't get my last chemo they said "NUTS!" Hence, they drove up here and presented us with a can of the most delicious roasted almonds I have ever had! I munched on them at chemo today. Thanks to my friend Judy who brought us really delicious and healthy homemade organic chicken and rice soup and a pretty pink hydrangea yesterday! Thanks to Mike for making and dropping off more of his wonderful homemade yogurt! And thanks to anyone else I'm forgetting who has shown us kindnesses that have touched our hearts and ministered to our bodies and spirits this past week.
On my mind before I go to bed tonight is news we received today that our neighbor two houses down just died of a sudden heart attack less than one week after we chatted with him at a backyard bbq for another neighbor's birthday. Steve spent a long time talking to him at that bbq. He seemed totally healthy and fine, so it is shocking that five days later he has died. If there is a lesson from this sad news, and a lesson from my cancer, it's the age old one that we seem to keep forgetting--to cherish the gift of life God has given us every single day. What joy there is each day you wake up and you and your loved ones are all "o.k." And joy in loving and serving the people God has put in your life, and receiving that love and those acts of kindness back from them. Despite double chemo, there has been a lot of joy for me today--hanging out with Daniel at chemo, being told how much the Cancer Care Center staff loved our brownies, reading a sweet card that arrived in the mail, and beating Steve at Scrabble (Who is competitive? Not ME)! Let's look for that daily joy and count our blessings. It makes the hard stuff so much easier to cope with when we do that and hopefully, whenever our lives end, we will die content and without regrets.
Let me close with a Scripture Daniel and I read in our One Year Bible reading today. At the start of John chapter 9, there was a man born blind and the disiples asked Jesus if he was blind because he or his parents had sinned. Well, if you read the book of Job, you will see that there is no one to one correlation between sin and suffering (thankfully, for all our sakes)! And Jesus confirmed that in John 9:3: "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life."
I hope that people can see how God's work has been displayed in my life and Steve, Renee, and Daniel's lives during "our" five months of battling cancer. I know the four of us have seen Him working pretty much daily. But as I near the end of the treament phase, you might catch me sneaking in a prayer now and then that goes something like this: "Lord, would it be ok if your work is displayed in someone else's life for awhile after I finish chemo on May 31? ;-)" Not that I'm wishing for anyone else to get cancer--no how, no way, let there be no more cancer!
P.S. Current prayer requests are for no trouble with getting my last two chemos and for calming of my peripheral neuropathy symptoms--nerve pain in hands and feet--caused by cumulative effects of the chemo drugs. I was told today that it takes six months or so for the symptoms to go away after finishing chemo. Nausea is actually easier to deal with than pain, so I'd gladly take the next five days of nausea if the hand/foot pain would go away! Thanks for praying!! :-) :-) (That's for you, Clint!)