Holding Space

With Shelly Vaughn


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“It’s all gone”

“It’s all gone.” Those exact words came out of the surgeon’s mouth today when I asked him if he can definitely say if there’s any cancer left. I know he hinted at it during the last appointment, and I knew that the pathology report was suggesting that, but he never actually said the words. And I was scared to even ask because every other person I know with cancer doesn’t/hasn’t gotten a direct response like that. But I asked, and he said “It’s all gone”, and for the first time I actually let the joy and relief that comes with those words enter my being and feel it from the inside. I don’t know how to explain it. Like I knew it intellectually at the last appointment, but today I FEEL it… I FEEL free of cancer and he confirmed that it is gone!!! I cried, the nurses cried, and they sent me home with cupcakes.   It’s also easier to react to such good news now that I’m further in my recovery from surgery.

Along those lines, I’m continuing to recover well. My incisions are healing incredibly well. The surgeon was impressed and said, “I’ll do surgery on you any day.” The infected drain site is finally starting to look better, though is still the most uncomfortable part of this.

I started physical therapy this week and was totally impressed. The PT talked about things we’ll do to prevent lymphedema (swelling in the arm that happens when lymph nodes are removed and worsens with radiation.) She’ll also help me work on increasing range of motion with my right arm. And will help with reducing scar tissue and increasing skin movement around the incision sites. She was extremely knowledgeable about post-mastectomy needs and I’m looking forward to working through this with her. It feels good to know I can now be a little more active in my recovery instead of passively enduring stuff that is done to me.

(I still have radiation that will start in a few weeks… and I’ll keep you all posted on that as it gets closer. The dr said that radiation helps reduce the long term chance of localized recurrence. As much as I wish this was totally done, I’m willing to do another step if it means preventing this in the future.)

It’s been a good week and an especially good Friday! Also, I’m writing this as I watch the girls play “Just Dance”… that’ll put anyone in an amazing mood!   Love, Love!


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Looking Forward

I forgot to post from last week’s treatment… so I’ll do it tonight before tomorrow’s treatment. My friend, Christina Dawson, came with me. She was so helpful at the beginning of this diagnosis- helping me navigate this foreign world and connecting me with resources I have used over the last few months. It was nice to spend time with her as we’re nearing the end of chemo. I have 3 more treatments left now. I can do this… I can do 3 more!

The most notable improvement has been with my mouth sores. They are getting better and I am able to enjoy eating some foods. Mostly bland foods, but at least I can eat. My stomach is still getting used to knowing what to do with solids, but this will all improve over time.

My body is still very weak because of my weight loss and fatigue. I look forward to feeling well enough to start working out again and building some muscle. I’m not used to feeling so weak and tired for so long. The other side effects- neuropathy and bone pain continue to be tolerable.

One other difference- if you look very closely in just the right light you can see hair growing back on my head. It’s so light blonde that you can barely tell it’s there. I will continue to wash with shampoo and conditioner… can’t let a few hairs get greasy. Go Cavs and Go Pens! This is an exciting time of year… for a lot of things.

Addendum: not 10 minutes after I wrote that, I was complaining to Rob about how sore my fingernails are and whining that I don’t want to go to treatment tomorrow. I fluctuate from positive to negative just like that. Or maybe I’m always feeling some of both. Hard to describe, but it is what it is.


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Perspective

I had a funny conversation with the girls yesterday. Someone mentioned that they make American Girl dolls with no hair. Olivia said with excitement, “Mommy, you could get a look-a-like doll!” Then they proceeded to discuss the things that would make it a perfect match- including erasing half the eyebrows, pulling out most of the eyelashes, and having short brown fingernails. 😆  I added my own suggestion of dark circles under the eyes and tissues in the pocket.

At the beginning of this experience, the idea of those physical changes would’ve bothered me. But at this point, I can find the humor in it. I’m much more concerned with the non-cosmetic issues lately… enough to laugh at my kids discussing the cosmetic ones. Kids always do seem to humble us, right? No different when cancer is added to the equation in life.


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Another One Down & Thank You

Amber Pierce Norman hung out with me for today’s treatment. I wish it was at a different place and for a different reason, but at least we had some quiet time to chat. Still pushing through these treatments. (I’m so tired of them!!)
Thanks to everyone who has helped us recently with dinners, cleaning, carpooling, having the girls over, etc. This is a busy time of year, and I can’t just pause everyone’s life until I feel better. Boy, wouldn’t that be nice? So I appreciate the amazing support from local people. And of course, the cards and messages from everyone. 5 more left!!

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Lucky Girl

 

Today I feel like a lucky girl… and that’s not easily said in the middle of a cancer fight. I spent the morning at Olivia’s dance competition (she did great, by the way.) I came home to beautiful flowers planted by even more beautiful friends. Had a visit from my Aunt Pat and cousins. Then had a quiet evening with just Liana at home as Olivia stayed at her friend’s house. And you know what happened in the middle of it all- I ate a sandwich! A gourmet grilled cheese with artichokes from Lockview. For out-of-towners, Lockview is known for their amazing grilled cheese sandwiches. This is the best Saturday I’ve had in a while. I’ve had good moments on Saturdays, but this whole day felt good. I’m exhausted. But tonight, when I lay down for bed, I will close my eyes with a smile on my face.
“Inhale courage, exhale fear.” (Julie Nawrocky Reis)


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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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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.”