Y’all. I feel like right now, I could conquer the world. Like, really conquer it. I’m not sure what the means and what all that entails…but I’m pretty sure I could do it.
To say today was a good day would be an understatement. A huge understatement. I’m sure most of you have seen this by now, but here was my Facebook post from this morning.
I’m not sure if you read that correctly. In case you aren’t fluent in English, here it is in a few other languages. (Don’t be impressed, I totally just “google translated” the heck outta that.)
La chime fonctionne!
¡La quimio está funcionando!
Die chemo arbeitet!
And in case English is your specialty and you just didn’t see my post…THE CHEMO IS WORKING! This is the news that we (hundreds, even thousands) of people have been praying for. Our prayers have been heard.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect going into the appointment today. When I finished up with the PET scan on Friday, I excitedly asked the tech (who also performed my first PET scan and seemed to clearly remember me and my “situation”), “Is it all gone?!” He kind of laughed and then said, “I didn’t say this, but it looks a lot better.” He repeated himself multiple times, in multiple ways…”You didn’t hear this from me. I’m not saying that I’m seen and compared both scans, etc.” I didn’t really share that with anyone on Friday because I didn’t want to get my hopes up. What if he had been wrong and I had pumped myself up just to be knocked down again by a bad report? Although I didn’t share that news, I was so grateful that he shared that because it provided at least a little bit of relief as I knew I would be waiting until Tuesday to hear the results. I didn’t hold my breath and hang onto his every word…but it brought me hope–something I appreciate these days.
Before my appointment I had my blood work done as usual, and then met with Dr. Stone. We started with the PET scan…he pulled up the report and shared that the PET scanned revealed that the tumor had shrunk almost 40%. You read the right. FORTY PERCENT. That’s insane!
He mentioned that the spots in between my lungs were gone…g-o-n-e. As in, not even a speck showed up in the PET scan. And there was no evidence of lymphoma anywhere else in my body. Praise-the-lord!
He then explained that the “uptake”, which is the brightness that shows the current lymphoma, had decreased significantly. We are going to do rounds 4 and 5 for sure, have another PET scan, and then meet with the bone marrow specialist. At that point, he will determine if we need to continue with the 6th round. When we meet with him then, we will also get all of our questions regarding the bone marrow transplant answered. I have a lot of questions regarding that process, but I know that we’ve got to take it one step at a time.
In the mean time, we will continue to do the intrathecal methotrexate (lumbar puncture) the Monday following treatments.
As for my blood work…that wasn’t so positive. We were 1-2 with positive news for this appointment…I’ll take it. My levels were really, really low. So low that he mentioned he doesn’t know that I will be able to start treatment on Monday. [The planner in me does not like this possibility, as I like to be on schedule…but we shall see.] Because of this, I’m going to be getting Neupogen injections over the next 3/4 days in hopes of boosting my white blood cells. He also mentioned the possibility of doing a blood transfusion on Monday when I get admitted, then starting treatment several hours later. I have an appointment on Friday to check my levels again, so I plan on getting clarification for Monday then.
After we met with Dr. Stone, we had to hang around in order for insurance to approve the Neupogen injections. We waited…and waited…and were finally called back to get the injection and then I met with the receptionist to schedule the injections for the rest of the week. She asked why I wasn’t able to have chemo done at their office and I explain that with my regimen, I had to be admitted to the hospital for give days, etc., her response was “Yuck!” But man, she doesn’t even know. She doesn’t know how blessed I have been by those nurses. If I had to choose to have chemo done every day at the office or how I have been doing it, at the hospital, I would choose the hospital in a heartbeat. I can’t quite put into words what a positive experience it has been. (Side note: Once treatment is done, I would like to do something for the nurses that I have had consistently throughout my treatment. I’m not sure what…and I’m struggling to think of anything…so I need your help. What’s something that would be meaningful and would show my appreciation for them? Oh, and it can’t be expensive. In case you forgot, I’m not getting paid while I’m out…so we’re not exactly rolling in the dough.)
Once I was scheduled Danny went to a lunch for work and I ran some last minute errands for our family pictures.
I was at Sam Moon (overwhelming, right?) looking for a necklace for Harper. She requested a “shell necklace”…well unfortunately, they just so happened to be all out of shell necklaces…but they did happen to have one that matched her outfit. These days, there’s no telling what’s she’s going to like…so my fingers were crossed.
While I was looking around, I could see this man and woman kind of looking over at me, whispering a bit, and then looking back again. Finally, the lady came up to me and straight up asked, “Are you going through chemo?” What?! What gave it away? Kidding. I told her that I was and she explained that her niece, was currently undergoing reconstructive surgery for breast cancer. I’m not sure how old this lady was, but if I’m not mistaken, her niece had to be about my age. She explained that’s why they were in town, etc. How they ended up at Sam Moon and how she talked her brother into going with her, I’ll never know…but nonetheless, the young girl was going through surgery and I’m assuming chemo is in her near future.
She said to me, “I just want you to know that I am proud of you for “rocking” (she literally said rocking) that bald head. No hat, nothing. You are so beautiful and you are going to beat this.” Wow. She was a complete stranger. I know it took some guts for her to actually ask me, but I’m so glad she did. I told her about how my biggest fear was losing my hair and how I had finally just embraced it…and then I excitedly told her about the results of the PET scan. She exclaimed, “God is so good!” And boy, is she right. He is healing me as we speak. In a world where it seems like everything is negative and people are all
crazy losing their minds, it meant so much to me that she would reach out.
And then…I went through the Arby’s drive-thru. (Don’t judge, I LOVE Arby’s and Danny will never go with me…so I went by myself for the first time in forever…and in case you were wondering, it was de-light-ful. If you’re ever up for a Roast Beef ‘N Cheddar, hit me up!) As soon as I pulled up to order, a very, very chipper young lady greeted me over the intercom. I ordered…well, I began ordering. And before I could finish, she had already asked me 72 questions about my order. Her energy made me tired and I only talked to her for a whole 90 seconds. But props to her, she was good at her job…and very…thorough. Yah, we’ll go with that. She was thorough.
So I pull up to the drive-thru window and she says in a very spunky voice, “Oh! I loved the shaved head!” It kind of took me by surprise, but I said thank you…and then she kept going. “But, doesn’t your head get cold?”…”No, not really. I wear hats a lot of the time and it hasn’t been super cold recently.”…”Oh. Can I ask why you would do that?” (She was referring to shaving my head.) I responded with, “Um…well, I’m currently undergoing chemo.”…”Oh!” [Insert awkward silence…until I drove off.] I’m not totally sure what went through her head once I answered her. Maybe she was just naive…or clueless…or just interesting. Had I asked someone that, I would have been straight up humiliated and embarrassed because…well…duh. Most of the time, when I see a woman with no hair, I assume that there’s a good chance the reason she’s bald rhymes with Nemo.
Either way, I found it comical. I laughed to myself for a while and then called my mom and Danny. The conversation was funnier in person, or at least over the phone. I’m not sure that you can get the whole picture reading it on a computer screen. Do yourself a favor and with your best acting voices, read the conversation and see if it’s funnier that way.
I don’t know if it made me laugh because I was uncomfortable for her, or what…but either way…props to her for being bold enough to just come out and say what she was thinking. And well, props to me for going to Arby’s by myself….bald.
Later that night we had family pictures and let me just tell you…Harper redeemed herself from our last session. She was a gigantic turd last time. This time, she was delightful…and beautiful. Well she was beautiful last time, but this time, she was agreeable. And Hud…well, he was precious. He was just fat and smiled a lot…especially if you slipped him some Yogurt Melts in between pictures. I can’t wait to see how these turned out. The last pictures turned out better than we ever could have imagined, especially considering the 4 year old monster we had with us.
The ESL teacher at my school emailed me several weeks before Christmas and said that since her mom passed away, she chooses a family to bless for Christmas…and this year, she chose us. Once again, we are blessed beyond belief. She explained that one of her good friends is a photographer and that Sara (said ESL teacher) was going to pay for a session for our family. Since we had just taken family pictures at the time, I asked if we could wait and do pictures once I lost my hair. This made me a little nervous (because remember, at the time, I hadn’t embraced the fact that I was going to be bald)…but I figured that this is my life right now and I need to accept it.
So once Christmas was over, I contacted Sara’s friend Rachel (photographer) and we set up a time. Rachel was amazing. So sweet…and so talented. She was SO good with Harper. Harper opened up to her immediately, which says a lot. I had a bit of anxiety leading up to our session, but I couldn’t be more pleased with how the kiddos cooperated.
Now, I’ll be able to look back one day and see memories of this crazy time in our life…and I’m thankful for that. I’m so glad she was able to capture this time for us. I can’t wait to see her work. Sara, thank you for being such a blessing to our family…and Rachel, thank you for using your talents to document this time in our lives that hasn’t always been easy…but it has been real.
As I sit here and reflect on our appointment with Dr. Stone, I am overflowing with gratitude. I don’t know why God has chosen to begin healing me so fast and seemingly easy, but I am so thankful He has. I know that compared to a lot of other cancer patients, I am truly blessed that the cancer has responded in such a positive way. I am brought to tears (shocking, I know) when I think about how this whole experience has changed me and impacted me for the best. We still aren’t out of the wood yet, but man, we’re making our way…and I’ve got the most incredible tribe of people wandering through the woods with me. We couldn’t have hoped for better news…and for that, I am thankful.
Here are some random pictures from the past week or so…
*Update: It’s Thursday night and I’m on day 3 of the Neupogen injections to help boost my white blood cells. Dr Stone mentioned that the shots would potentially make my bones hurt, similar to the way chemo does. After day 1, I was like, “Nah, I got this! I’m going to feel good…these shots aren’t going to slow me down…this is my week to feel good!” Oh boy was I wrong. About half way through the day on Wednesday, I felt like I was hit by a freight train.
I have also had a cough the past several days…mainly at night. When I go to lay down, I would start coughing and continue until I was gagging and in tears…and I just couldn’t seem to stop. I tried over the counter cough medicine to no avail. After two nights of misery (poor Danny couldn’t sleep either because I was coughing so darn loud), I finally decided to call Dr. Stone’s nurse and ask for some better medicine.
Fortunately, she called something in and I started it immediately. The pharmacist was adamant that if I was on the cough medicine, I could NOT take any pain meds. Well at the time, I was feeling good, so this was no big deal…until my bones started hurting and there was nothing I could do.
I went in for my shot today and the nurse asked if I was having any bone pain…I said yes, but explained that the pharmacist said I couldn’t take anything while I was on cough medicine. She asked a few questions and then said that she was certain that I could take a pain pill if I really needed one. She said there wasn’t enough codine in the cough medicine to have a negative effect with the pain pill. Bless you, sweet nurse. I took a pain pill as soon as I got home. I don’t know that it actually worked…I woke up feeling pretty awful still…but I’ll make it. This will hopefully be the worst of it for now.
Praying that tomorrow when I go in, my counts have gone up.
And on a side note…I have another huge prayer request. Danny’s precious grandma, Mary Jo (Mimi), was just diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She is absolutely one of the most genuine, God-fearing women I have ever met. She has the biggest heart and loves her family fiercely. I have only had the privilege of knowing her for the past 9 years…but I feel like I’ve known her forever. She makes me feel like I have known her forever. She blesses everyone she comes in contact with…I feel so fortunate to have married into her family. Please, please pray for this incredible woman. Pray for peace…healing…comfort…and direction. She will meet with an oncologist next week and figure out where they will go from there. In the meantime, she will continue to smile…and fight. This woman is a fighter. And she is so loved.
I’m angry. I’m sad. And I’m just down right furious. Cancer has messed with the wrong family. I just don’t understand. I don’t understand why certain people have to experience life with cancer. I don’t understand why it is so present in our world today. Why isn’t there a cure yet? Don’t get me wrong, I know huge advancements have been made to treat it, but I’m ready for the day when it’s gone…completely. I’m ready for the day where no one ever has to hear the words, “You have cancer.” No one should ever have to hear those words.
Here are a few more #TeamAshley pictures I’ve gotten the past several days. Keep them coming.
Thank you for all of your prayers, well-wishes, everything. We’re not out of the woods yet, but we’re making our way. This would not have been possible without the incredible support we have received. I cannot thank you enough for the love you have shown our family.