January 2016 Update

Hi friends!

 

Thank you for continuing to pray for me.  Although there is so much on my heart to share about faith and life and hope and JESUS- tonight I feel led to simply share an update.

I have not started radiation yet.

This Tuesday, January 19th at 8am I meet with my radiation oncologist for a consultation.  This will “get the ball rolling” for my radiation treatments.  I hope to get a start date at this appointment on Tuesday, but I know that there are some things to do before I can start (get markings done for where the radiation will be, etc).  Last I heard, I will have 7 weeks of radiation, which is 35 treatments (everyday M-F). From what I hear, the radiation side effects are minimal (“a walk in the park compared to chemo” is what a nurse told me). Fatigue which is cumulative, and possible burning of the skin which can be mostly prevented with some skin cream.   Each treatment will be 15-20 minutes.

I am ready to get started so I can start checking off the treatments!  I am also praying for the people that I will encounter each day at my treatments.  Since I will likely go the same time each day for seven weeks straight, I’ll likely see the same people many times.  I pray God uses me to be an encouragement, maybe even hear some of the other patients stories and share hope, or even just a smile.

Please pray that God schedules “divine appointments” at my radiation appointments.  That is a huge prayer request because in my flesh I feel like so much of my day will be WASTED during these weeks going back and forth from Lexington Medical (in my already full life)- when I lift up my eyes to Jesus, He reminds me that NOTHING is wasted, and my fullest ministry during these weeks may not be from the church or in my home, but rather in the waiting room.  Who knows what God has planned.  I just pray I’m sensitive to His still small voice.

My hair is growing back.  I’m not quite ready for the world to see it yet! It’s SHORT but I’m thankful to have hair again.  Hopefully by summer I’ll feel ready for the world to see my new ‘do!

I continue to have herceptin treatments, and will continue until April.  These are every three weeks, and target the Her2 protein.  There are minimal side effects- usually I’m just very tired on the days surrounding my herceptin infusion.

Most days seem pretty normal these days, for which I’m so thankful.  I’m ready to put this chapter behind me,although I want to squeeze every bit of what God wants to teach me through this season.  Although I’m tempted to rush to the end of this chapter, I realize that God still has me right here for a reason.  I’m thankful for a new year and new mercies!

As I’ve turned the page into a new year, I’ve done quite a bit of reflecting.

Both 2014 and 2015 were major years in my life, in very different ways.  If I could summarize these two years of my life, it would be this:  “His grace abounds in the scary steps of faith, and His grace abounds in the painful pauses of suffering”.

I look ahead to 2016 and wonder – in what ways will I see His grace abound this year?

I look forward to watching His grace abound in 2016 and beyond.

Thank you for your prayers, and thank you for walking this journey with me!

2015 ~ A Prayer of Gratitude

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Thank You Lord, for another year of life; another year on the journey.

 

Thank you for beginning the year with my love in my favorite city, spending precious time together and getting snowed in an extra day. Thank You for that pink handbag I felt so surprisingly inclined to purchase on that trip.  It was a frivolous purchase, and pink never was my favorite color. But You knew, even in those moments that there was a cancer growing within that would forever tie me to the color pink.

Thank You for the blessing of watching my three blessings grow and thrive. Thank you for loving them more than I do, and for writing their story… Even through the hard chapters.

Thank you for big scary white machines. It was that machine that helped discover I was sick… Very sick. Thank you that we discovered the cancer before it spread to any major organs. Thank You for the gift of life, even if this new normal includes frequent scans with the scary white machine.

Thank you for the precious family photos taken by a dear friend… Photos that will help me remember I had once had long hair.  And thank You Lord that that long hair no longer defines me.

Thank You, Lord for chemo. It’s side effects were horrific, but it gave provided me the chance to watch my littles grow big, and hold hands with my hubby as we grow old together.

Thank You for Your Word; Your promises; Your Hope in scripture. It was and is my lifeline- the bedrock of my life.

Thank You for my precious Justin-for his presence at every chemo, his unwavering support. Thank you for that look of affection as our eyes met when my newly shaven hair fell to the floor. I will never forget it.

Thank You for the Body of Christ, who prayed for me, babysat my children, fed our family meals, kept me company in chemo, sent me gifts and cards for encouragement. They were Your hands and feet in my time of need. Thank You, especially, for the gift of a precious set of high school girls who walked with me and loved me so well.  They teach me so much.

Thank You for family– my immediate and extended. Thank You for ties that bind, cousins to play with and memories made.  Thank You for all the ways you provided through my family.  Thank You for another Christmas to spend together.

Mostly, Lord, I thank You for your faithfulness in ALL things. I thank You that Your plans are perfect, and You do all things well. Even a life turned topsy turvy by cancer … Nothing is wasted. Thank You for drawing me deeper into Your loving arms in 2015, and for opening my hands wider in surrender. Thank you for teaching me more about being fearless and abandoned for you, on the highest mountain, and darkest valley.

You answered my prayer – You taught me, and are teaching me, what it looks like to be an extravagant worshipper.  Worship is best learned in the wilderness, and I thank You for the dark wilderness chapters of my story, where Your light shines brightest.

Your grateful daughter,
Brooke

 

Chemo #2~ Help me to Sing “Hallelujah”

Today was a great day, other than one major hiccup.  I praised God to learn that my hemoglobin was back up to 11 which meant no blood transfusion!  Hallelujah!

The hiccup we had today was with the first chemo drug they administered called taxotere.   Sometimes it can cause an anaphylactic reaction.   During the first round, I was watched carefully as this drug started to drip, because the reaction occurs during infusion within the first 10 minutes usually.  I felt for a split second last time like it was coming on, but then the feeling went away and I convinced myself it was all in my head because Myra (my nurse) had been talking about what the reaction was like.

This round – round 2- within 6 minutes of starting the taxotere drip, I had that same exact feeling, only it did not go away.  It started with a cough and almost immediately I felt my airway closing up.  I croaked out to Myra, calling her over  and said “Something’s happening!!!” It happened really quickly.  I felt like I could not breathe as my airway closed up.   My entire body felt like it was going into shock. My face felt strange and like it was about to burst open (the only way I know how to describe it).

All of a sudden, there was a whole team of nurses surrounding me~ stopping the infusion, administering benadryl, putting a cold washcloth on my face, taking my vitals.  Dr. Stillwell even magically appeared right away. (she works on all the way on the other side of the office).  My blood pressure was sky high; my heart rate was 140.  My face was beet red (I am told).  They put me on oxygen.

It was seriously the scariest thing I’ve ever been through with my physical health.

After everything stabilized, I had terrible uterine pain.  It literally felt like a nonstop labor contraction.  I jokingly told Myra (my amazing nurse) that I needed an epidural 😉 haha   But seriously it was really painful for about 20 minutes.  Finally that let up, and they let me rest and stabilize for about 30 minutes.  Dr. Stillwell decided to give taxotere one more try but at a slower drip rate to see if my body could handle it.  So they reduced the drip rate from 250 to 40.  Way slower…  I was so scared when they started that drip again because I was terrifyed that my body would go into that reaction again!  But Myra stayed right there beside me, with all of the syringes of medicine drawn in case I needed them quickly again.  I just prayed and prayed, and THANKFULLY by God’s grace I didn’t have a second reaction.  Praise God!!

Because of this hiccup, I was at the infusion clinic from about 8 – 5pm today.

That may be WAY too much detail, but I want to write these things down, not to scare anyone who may go through this in the future, but to get someone prepared for what could happen, and also if it does happen IT’S OK.  I believe God wanted me to walk me through something that scary to show me He would carry me through it. He was right with me. It happened at a time I had a friend visiting who brought me lunch and I emphatically said (hopefully not too harshly!) “PRAY FOR ME!!!” She grabbed my hand and prayed and calmed my heart. That was a gift.

So now, with hair loss…..

I knew eventually the dreaded day would come when it would be best for me to go ahead and shave my hair.  I prayed grace over this day, because I knew how hard it would be.

My hair had been falling out increasingly.  It was becoming a big pain and I knew that very soon the “big day” of head shaving would need to take place.  I did not want to PLAN this day, I just knew that I’d know when it needed to happen, and I’d just do it when I knew.   I wanted it to happen organically and in God’s time.  I wanted God to plan the day and then just reveal it to me.  I trusted He would.  And He did.

First thing this morning, my friend Becky met me briefly at the infusion clinic on her way home from work (she is a nurse at Lexington Medical and works nights and had gotten off at 7:30am).   One of the first things Myra said to me this morning as she was cleaning my port was “darlin, you know you’re hair is about to be gone…probably by the weekend”.  Of course this got me emotional, anticipating that BIG dreaded day that I knew needed to happen soon.  The day of head shaving.

Becky said “why don’t you just come over after your chemo is over and I’ll shave it off”. . Right away I knew this was God’s plan. It felt right. She even bought me the cutest Vera Bradley scarf to celebrate this big day.  Becky is a dear friend, and we have shared many dark and light seasons arm in arm.   I knew I also wanted Justin to be there with me too.  It felt like a very vulnerable time.

So after the extra-long chemo day, Justin took me to Becky’s house.  She put on Pandora worship music, we prayed together – asking the Lord to come and intersect our time together doing this dreaded and hard thing.

We first used the scissors to cut my hair very short.  Justin looked on, and with love in his eyes encouraged me, and provided comic relief.  I have tears in my eyes as I type this because I will NEVER forget that image of my beloved sitting at that table, watching as his wife’s head gets shaved.  He reminded me of the old Randy Travis song “I’m gonna love you forever” and that lyric that says “I aint in love with your hair, if it all falls out, I’d love you anyway”.  This is true love, y’all.  He’s amazing.

Just as the shaving started, God gave me a sweet gift.  On the pandora station (which we had no idea what song would come up next), a VERY special song started playing for me.  It was straight from God’s heart to mine.  As I heard the distinct sound of the electric razor, I also heard the song “Hallelujah” by Bethany Dillon.  This song was one of my infertility anthems, and I played it on repeat as we were going through fertility treatments, and the Lord used it to push out fear that they wouldn’t work.  One of the lyrics of the song says “Whatever’s in front of me, HELP me to sing hallelujah”.  That is SO much my heart…it was then, and it is now.  “Lord, we DON’T know the future. It is unclear. But whatEVER is in front of me, HELP me to sing Hallelujah.  Lord help me to praise You through whatever is ahead.”

There was no guarantee that I would get pregnant back then. Scripture doesn’t promise us that.  Just as there are unknowns ahead in my journey.  But I choose to praise Him through the unknowns.

As that song started playing over the sound of the electric razor, I put my head in my hands and just started crying.  I felt so loved, so cared for by our Great and Mighty GOD!  I knew He had orchestrated every detail of this dreaded night, and wanted to remind me in every way that He was with me.  He saw me.  He cares for me.  It’s simply amazing.  Out of ALL the songs that could have played in that very moment it was one so close to my heart.

The dreaded hard day was really not.that.hard.   It’s all His grace.  It abounds day by day. New mercies I see every morning.  I want to encourage you – if you are facing a hard thing, get real about it, and face it head on.  Beg the Lord to intersect that hard thing, and then have eyes to see the glimpses of His grace and presence in the midst of the hard thing.  Often God calls us not to walk around the difficult parts of the journey, but trust that He will walk with us THROUGH them…sufficiently lavishing us with His grace along the way.  I saw this tonight.

I could continue writing because my heart is so full, but this post is getting too long.

My new looks:

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true love. in sickness and in health.

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And my wig!

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this is not my real hair. although it could probably pass for it!

I’ll post prayers another day.  For now I’ll leave you with this verse.  Its because of Jesus I have HOPE.   Jesus is a sure and steadfast anchor of my soul.  And the anchor holds.

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credit: Brightside Studio

 

Click hear to hear “Hallelujah” by Bethany Dillon

Lyrics to “Hallelujah” by Bethany Dillon

Who can hold the stars and my weary heart?
Who can see everything?
I’ve fallen so hard, sometimes I feel so far
But not beyond your reach

I could climb a mountain
Swim the ocean or do anything
But it’s when you hold me that I start unfolding
And all that I can say is

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Whatever’s in front of me
Help me to sing Hallelujah

Oh, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Whatever’s in front of me
I’ll choose to sing Hallelujah

The same sun, rises over castles
And welcomes the day
Spills over buildings into the streets
Where orphans play

And only you can see the good
In broken things
You took my heart of stone and you made it home
And set this prisoner free

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Whatever’s in front of me
Help me to sing Hallelujah

Oh, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Whatever’s in front of me
I’ll choose to sing Hallelujah

(Hallelujah)
Help me to sing Hallelujah
(Hallelujah)

Ho, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Whatever’s in front of me
Help me to sing Hallelujah

Oh, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Whatever’s in front of me
I’ll choose to sing Hallelujah

Oh, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Whatever’s in front of me
I’ll choose to sing Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Read more: Bethany Dillon – Hallelujah Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Your goodness chases after me

The tragic news about the Eddings Family  weighed heavy over the weekend.  But health-wise, I’m so thankful to share that I’m feeling much, much better.

The first time I met with Dr. Stillwell, my oncologist, she shared the 3 week chemotherapy treatment plan that I would be on.  I remember her preparing me that I would have 1.5 weeks of feeling “terrible”, and 1.5 weeks of feeling “ok”.

At some point in the conversation I also remember her saying that day 3 after chemo was typically the worst day.  (This part – ‘day three is the worst day”- was the part of the conversation I chose to focus on, because I could not imagine feeling terrible for a week and a half and I just chose to forget that part!)

Being the eternal optimist, I figured that I’d have chemo on a Wednesday, feel awful over the weekend, and be mostly back to normal life by the next Tuesday.  I know, optimism can verge on delusion!   That was one reason last week was so difficult for me – both physically AND emotionally.  The side effects (mostly fatigue and stomach problems and lack of appetite, which contributed to the fatigue) lasted till Friday…not Tuesday like I was hoping.

The week and a half of “terrible” and week and a half “ok” is pretty much how it’s playing out.  Only the “ok” days have actually been  “pretty good” days.  And I’m so thankful to be feeling pretty good.  I never knew how much I took my health for granted until I was mostly in bed for a week and  a half!

Saturday for a change of scenery we went to my parent’s lake house and I took it VERY easy in the shade as the children splashed and played and went tubing.   I felt ok.  My stomach was very uncomfortable but my appetite was beginning to come back at least.

But Sunday– oh Sunday was AMAZING!!  I remember waking up for the first time in a week and a half feeling like I could actually fix my children breakfast.  I felt almost back to my usual self!  I took a shower without sitting down!  I fixed myself something to eat and drink, and I was actually hungry!

Our family went to worship together and I felt like the sermon was just for me.  During worship we sang some of my favorite songs, including a song called “Joyfully”.  One of the lyrics of this song says “Your goodness chases after me”.  These words always go straight to my heart because they speak of the relentless pursuit of our Lord, and His goodness over our lives.  This is a good description of my weekend, but overall my life.  His goodness, YES, it chases after me.

After church we even went to Red Robin to eat lunch with our friends thanks to our friends the Berrys who had given us a gift card! It was so amazing, I almost forgot that I was a cancer patient.

Later on Sunday I even went for a nice long walk with my sweet friend Lori, complete with great conversation of course.  Since I was exercising before, Dr. Stillwell says to continue to exercise as much as I feel up to it.

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sweet friend Lori who loves running and Jesus as much as I do. She’s slowing down to walk with me these days!

And to top it all off, I took Selah grocery shopping! Under usual circumstances, this would NOT excite me! But something I’ve come to realize is that cancer gives you “new eyes”.  Just feeling well enough to go to the store was a BLESSING.  I was drinking it in, and enjoying every minute of it….from rolling the windows down in the van and belting out Kari Jobe’s “Forever” on the way there and back with Selah singing in the back seat.  All of these seemingly small things are a straight up GIFT from God.  Oh how I pray I never take them for granted again!

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cherished time with Selah..even at the grocery store!

Monday was another great day where I had energy! We went to Chickfila with the kids for lunch and spent the entire afternoon with the Pittman family at the pool. It was a lazy, easy, fun day.

During these days where I feel good, I’m soaking in every moment with my precious family.  Right now I’m focusing on my Lord, my health, and my family.  Those are the important things and all else is falling away.  I want to live these days to the FULLEST…doing things we’ve been putting off, or doing things we wouldn’t normally do.  I want to live spontaneously, lightly, and joyfully.  I want to reconnect with friends we haven’t seen in a while.  These are all the treasures I’m finding in cancer, and I thank God for these weeks where I will feel well enough to live life to the fullest.

My next treatment is Wednesday June 3, and the nurses say typically this one is more difficult than the first because the chemo accumulates in your system.   (For any medical people, I apologize if I’m describing it incorrectly!).  I pray that it will be easier all in all because I’ll know better what to expect.  Shortly after the second treatment is when they expect I will lose my hair.  I can tell some of it is already “releasing” but not clumps yet.  It just feels like the amount I lose when I was nursing. (All you Mamas know what I mean!) .  My heart is in a good place with the hair loss.

I’ll never stop thanking you for the outpouring of love and support we continue to feel. Thank you for choosing to walk this journey and read along with me.  God continues to speak to me so much and I am thankful to have an “outlet” to express what He is doing in my heart in my time with Him.  I pray it blesses your heart and my deepest desire is that this blog in someway, somehow, draws you deeper into God’s presence.

His goodness chases after us, indeed.

His grace abounds,

Brooke

 

One gracious blessing after another!

“From his abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.”  John 1:16 (NLT)

To be completely raw and honest, one of the most difficult parts of this journey for me to anticipate is the hair loss.  I fear not being attractive to my husband.  I fear losing my femininity (especially considering a likely mastectomy in the future also).  I fear the looks and stares as hair loss just screams “CANCER” anywhere I go.  It will be a constant reminder of my sickness each time I get a glimpse of myself in the mirror.  When I think of this part of the journey to come, my eyes fill with tears  (as they are now even as I’m typing this).   I KNOW in my head that hair is no big deal. It’s just hair for goodness sakes!  But in my heart it still feels like a big deal.  I want to be honest and share the hard parts of this journey with you all as well.

I’ve talked with the Lord a lot about this heart struggle with my hair.  And, as He does, He gently meets me where I am and reminds me that He’s in this part of the journey, too.  So often when I encounter something hard, I just want Him to take it away; remove it from me.  But more times than not, instead of navigating me AROUND the Hard, God lavishes His grace, and carries me THROUGH the hard.  It’s not the easier way, but it’s the sweeter way.  As I go through the hard I can experience His grace and provision.  He draws me nearer to Himself and there is more depth to my heart-understanding of who God is.

That brings me to how I’ve seen His grace abound this week.

I wanted to get one last family photo session with my long hair, since it will be a very long while before my hair is this long again.  My very special friend Sarah Cain came over to do my hair and makeup.  She said she just wanted me to feel beautiful.  And my friend Becky Williamson came down from Fort Mill to photograph our family.  We took pictures in and around our home and neighborhood, and we had lots of laughs  (and maybe a tantrum or two from a certain tired three year old!) :)  I am so excited to see the pictures!

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Another fun part of the week was on Wednesday when my friends hosted a “hair party” for me!  When facing hair loss, it is best to cut your hair short prior to starting chemo.  I knew this would be a hard day for me, not necessarily because of the hair cut, but because of what the hair cut represented: the first step on the way to losing all of my hair.  My sweet friends wanted to turn it into a celebration of friendship, and my friends Amanda, Stefini and Brooke even decided to get their hair cut too to support me.  Seriously, I’m blown away by their love.

Sarah was an absolute blessing because she stayed late and cut all of our hair! AND she’s very pregnant, and I’m sure was extrememly tired after working all day, but so graciously stayed till 9:30 cutting our hair. We got Zoe’s to eat (my favorite) and we shared lots of laughter.  It was a night I will always remember.

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the ‘before’ shot – with our long hair

I’m just in awe of how God weaves our stories with one another.  I met Sarah about eight months ago through a “Divine Appointment”.  I shared a testimony at Focus about my “divine appointment at a hair appointment”.  I could do a whole entire post on this girl and how our lives have been intertwined in just 8 short months!

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the “after” with dear friend Sarah (due end of June!)

I have to give a huge THANK YOU to this dear friend, Amanda.  We met 11 years ago through Maria Owens who set up a “friend date”.   I walked with her through a dark valley of suffering in 2014.  It was a joy for me to encourage her and be a first hand witness to God’s grace through trial.  In God’s perfect plan, much healing in her life has taken place, and now she is strong and ready to help ME fight with joy!  Amanda loves fierce and loyal, and I could write for days on all that she means to me.  She’s taking the lead on my care team, so if you offer to help our family (which is so appreciated!) I will be sending you to her! I love you Amanda!

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last shot of “Sweet & Spicy” before our hair cuts (that’s what we call ourselves)

And last but CERTAINLY not least, another glimmer of grace in this journey is that I have gotten to talk with my sister more! The Lord took her family to Houston at the end of last year, so it’s been difficult to be away from her during this time.  But, God’s love and a sister’s love spans beyond miles.  God laid it on my heart this week to begin praying and journalling through the Psalms as I go through treatments.  There are 150 Psalms, so with doing one a day that will get me right around the time my treatments will be over.  I asked my sister and we are doing this together, which is so exciting to me because we’ve never been able to be in a bible study together.  But now through texting and phone calls we can share time together in God’s word!  What a blessing!

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sisters with babies….2010

Can’t you SEE all the glimmers of grace! His grace abounds!  I could write so many more, from the gifts, to the meals, to the CUPCAKES (yum) to the times of prayer to the sweet family times.  His grace abounds.

 

Update:

All went well with the echocardiogram, the results won’t be available for 3 days but I have no reason to believe that there is anything of concern.  This was just to get a baseline on my heart function before starting chemo.

My port surgery was this morning (Thursday 5/7).  Dr. Tucker inserted a port on the left side of my chest.  Everything went well and there have been no complications!  The pain has been a little more than I expected but I’m staying on top of it with pain meds.  My parents graciously offered to watch the children overnight tonight so I can recover.  I miss them!

My first chemo treatment will be next WEDNESDAY, 5/12 at 8am.  It will likely last until 4pm.  They wanted me to come in on Tuesday, but Samuel & Selah’s preschool graduation is that day, and no way I’m missing that!