Holding Space

With Shelly Vaughn


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Round 4 Is Done! (No More AC Chemo)

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Round #4 is done. My sweet friend Carly drove into town from PA to be with me for it. The doctor continued with the changes from last time to slow the administration rate of the Cytoxan drug (which prevented headaches last time.) I have scheduled IV hydration again on Monday since it’s so hard to eat/drink on the weekend right after. The oncologist cannot feel anything! No lump, no change in tissue, and swollen lymph node!! Praise God! It’s so helpful to know that these horrible drugs are at least doing something. Carly and I had a beautiful discussion starting with her saying, “how are we even here right now?” I’ve been in the day-to-day mode for so long that I haven’t taken a step back much to think about where I am in all of this. And I don’t know how I got here, when 2 months ago this was nowhere near being on my radar. It’s hard to believe, but I’m sure glad I have such loving support from her and all of you to hold my hand through it all. Friends make the best therapists.


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My Sunshine

As I drove into work this morning, I noticed a beautiful sunrise in the rearview mirror. It was serene and golden… just like my grandma. It made me think of her and her amazing spirit. So fitting that it was behind me; as it made me imagine her encouraging me and lovingly pushing me toward a place I didn’t want to (but have to) go… to round #4. She would deal with all of this gracefully and with patience… two things I strive for.


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Better Day

Since yesterday was such a downer, just wanted to update you all and let you know that today was a much better day. I knew it would be when I woke up and my fingers could bend (partway). I had a regular work day today and got home to the beautiful weather. So we took a gorgeous walk around the neighborhood and soaked in the vitamin D. My mouth still hurts, but I was able to eat some mashed potatoes. And tonight I actually enjoyed applesauce- It’s the first food I’ve enjoyed in so long. Thanks for the uplifting words and prayers yesterday and today- much appreciated. I got through another day… another step forward… I’m still moving forward and cancer is getting behind me.


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“Don’t wake me up!”

This is real. This is hard. I guess this is my “woe is me” day. And instead of waiting until it passes and posting something super postive after-the-fact, I’m sharing this today. I was reading another survivor’s blog about her cancer experience and it was totally depressing for me. (not any of you on in this group, don’t worry.) I won’t go into details, but it made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough to take control of some things in my situation. And that I “should” be doing better. And I’ve already been so bummed out with this never-ending cycle of side effects. I realized the other day that I’ve had all but one of the potential side effects from chemo (I do still have my fingernails). And there’s a snowball effect from one to the next and soon you’re lost in a cloud of “ick” and you don’t know where to start to feel better. And sometimes you can do everything under the sun for symptom relief but you just need this chemo out of your system.

So I thought I’d take a relaxing bath and maybe it would help to do some meditating. Well, I guess it prompted a cathartic cry with some deep pondering of faith issues and frustrations. And as my cousin, Toya Groves encouraged me- “keep writing”. So I’m writing it for you all and for myself, because I don’t want to sugarcoat this experience.
I’m ok. I’ll probably be fine again as soon as my silly girls come running in the house after school. But I miss my old self. I miss feeling well. I miss eating and an appetite. I miss hands and feet without neuropathy that can bend without pain. I miss energy. I miss laughing that used to come so frequently and easily. I miss life before January. And as I laid in the bath listening to Jets to Brazil, the song “Cat Heaven” came on. It was on point for the moment.
“So captain please consider me
Let the boats deliver me
When I close my eyes…drive, captain, drive!
It’s time.
For everything to be perfect
For everything to stop hurting
Tonight.
Don’t wake me up!”

And I thought to myself that if I laid still enough- not trying to bend my fingers, my tongue super still to not feel the sores in my mouth, deep breaths and eyes closed, I could create my own daydream. I could go back to last summer in Michigan on a perfect day at the beach where I swam with my kids and relaxed and smiled and laughed for hours. How I’d give anything for one hour of that right now. But it was just a few moments- The song ended. I opened my eyes and saw my bald reflection in the shower spout. I licked my dry lips and felt the ulcers in my mouth again. And as I sat up I felt my swollen fingers desperate to bend again. And, just as everything has perfect timing, a friend texted the perfect response in that moment: “You are stronger than this storm… even at your weakest, you got this.” Thank you, Hannah Springer for the encouragement at that moment.
So I’m here writing about it. Knowing I’ll be ok- because there will be a time when this is over and I can look back on it while I’m laughing with my kids at a beach somewhere. Ahh- now THAT gives me hope.


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After Round 3

Round 3 is done and I’m starting to feel more like myself again. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world (trying to stay positive here). The additional pain meds for bone pain helped a little, and the IV hydration on Monday definitely made a difference this time around. I did the three things I really wanted to do over the weekend- Rob’s birthday celebration Friday, Liana’s cheer game on Saturday, and Olivia’s dance competition on Sunday. Each thing took a while to get ready for (I walk around here like a sloth) and required sleeping before and after. But that’s apparently my routine on chemo weekends. I also slept most of the day Monday, which my body needed. I was so anxious going into round #3… and now it’s over. Just like every step of this that is so hard to take- it’s nice to look back on it from the other side with a sense of accomplishment.
Psalm 61:2 “when my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I.”


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February 11 Update

I’m doing ok today- mostly fatigued- I keep falling asleep. I’ve taken nausea meds and they’re working fine. I just ate breakfast and it’s 1:00! The girls are at a friend’s for the afternoon so I have big plans for taking a walk and getting a shower. This slow pace will take some getting used to! Thanks for everyone checking on me.


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Round #3 of Chemo

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“Isn’t there supposed to be a tumor in there!?”…. those are the exact words my oncologist said when she felt for the tumor to do this week’s measurement! She was serious. I had to point out to her exactly where it was and she couldn’t even measure anything!! She was all smiles and happy with my response to the chemo so far. 🙂
The chemo is in so now we wait for the side effects. They slowed the administration of the one that gave me a headache last time, and I’ve already noticed difference. I should feel ok until tonight, so we’ll be able to celebrate Rob’s birthday. I have some different medicine to help with the bone pain this round, and already scheduled for IV hydration on Monday to help with dehydration that will likely happen tomorrow and Sunday. Feeling hopeful that these changes will make a difference and help me through this week.
Thanks for all the messages yesterday! Love, love. 🙂

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘I will try again tomorrow.’ ”