Not the answer you’re hoping for…

It’s been a bit. I’d give some grand excuse, but the truth is…I’ve been tired. Bone-weary exhausted, to be closer to the truth. And I have a little better reason as to why, which I’ll share in a minute.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share my thoughts and ideas on a few things, but here’s my one and only request: listen. Take a moment to truly hear what I’m trying to say, and then let me know what you think.

This community has been built up over time, and I’m grateful for each and every one of you that checks in on George, the farm, the boys, me…all of us. George is now stronger than ever. His care is on-point and he’s blossoming. EJ is bound and determined to be the best young farmer he can be – and he takes his responsibilities seriously. He reminds his Dad of all the things that need to get done…hoping to be assigned a chore or two (preferably one that involves him sitting in a tractor). Scooter has sprouted up taller than either of his parents and all of his grandparents. He has one uncle left to surpass in height. And I don’t think that will be long in coming. And Big Bro and his gentle soul will be a freshman this fall – how did that ever happen?

Life – it moves so quickly. And sometimes we forget to take a second and take it all in. We forget to enjoy the moment.

As I said earlier, I haven’t been feeling the best for a while. I joke around a lot that my thyroid isn’t a “team player.” And it’s true. It’s not. It’s been a problem for quite a few years. And now it’s causing a bit of a bigger problem – and it seems to be getting bigger rather quickly.

On July 5, I found out from a specialist that my biopsy had come back positive for thyroid cancer. Not the answer I was hoping for – but an answer, nonetheless.

After the initial shock, I met with the doctor the next day and we developed a plan – one that I’m more than excited to implement. You see, I realize that as far as cancers go, I’m pretty darn lucky. Thyroid cancer is an “easy” one. We’ll remove my thyroid, and as long as my surrounding lymph nodes come back clear and the pathology doesn’t show anything alarming, I’m pretty much home free. A few years of scans and appointments, but no further treatment needed at this point.

research

I’ll be part of a thyroid-cancer research study. I’m excited for doctor’s to learn more about cases like mine…and maybe, just maybe, there’ll be more answers that we hope for in the future.

It could have been so much worse.

But it’s still the c-word. Cancer. Me. What???

I don’t have time for an illness, no matter how small. I’m busy. We had the county fair. I have things I need to do. I have games I want to watch. I have pool-dates to make up.

I have a chance to realize just how quickly it all can change.

And it’s all because it wasn’t the answer I was hoping for…but it was an answer that I could live with…and that’s the most important answer of all.

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The crazy never ends

Someone once told me that our farm could easily have enough fodder for a show. I’ve tried to deny that allegation a time or two, but this week did nothing but encourage sitcom-like situations.

For example? Well, imagine a situation unfolding like this:

Skunk in barn. Farmer shoots skunk. Farmer has sick calf. Doesn’t think about skunk. Farmer does whatever he can to save calf, including putting hand in his mouth. Calf dies. Dawns on farmer that calf may have been exposed to rabies through skunk. Heads of both animals are sent for testing. Farmer waits to see if he gets a few weeks of shots.

Yeah, just a typical week around here.

On top of that, the stomach bug went through our house this week, landing at my feet this morning at 2 a.m. – but don’t worry, Boss Man helped me out by taking the big boys to church, and leaving me to fend with the 3-year-old. That was helpful. Kinda. 😉

The little dude in green and I were left at home today. It's a good thing he's NEVER any trouble. Ever. Right? I mean, if I say it enough, it'll be true.

The little dude in green and I were left at home today. It’s a good thing he’s NEVER any trouble. Ever. Right? I mean, if I say it enough, it’ll be true. Oh, and I want this type of weather back. Soon, please.

Just kidding. His heart was in the right place, and as a bonus, he did remember to bring the Sprite that I requested. Well, not really, they all remembered partway home. BUT they were smart enough to go back and get it, so that’s all that counts!

And now, to tackle the tough part of the week. I’ll be gone for a few days. Going to meet my mother at her macular degeneration appointment and then taking her back down to stay with my Dad.You see, Dad had to have the upper lobe of his right lung removed, due to a very aggressive cancer. I guess that’s what smoking for 60 years will get you.

I could talk about that for weeks, but I won’t.

I need to stay positive. Need to look forward, and help him recover…then kick his butt for putting us in this situation! (Just kidding, again. Apparently lack of sleep and sub-par nutrition makes me snarky. Or it’s just my personality. Whatevs.)

I’ll keep you posted on the progress, and if you could do me a teensy, eensy, weensy little favor and say a little prayer for the man that is responsible for half my DNA, I’d appreciate it.

And maybe just one for my sanity…or what’s left of it.

Having never met…

The hubby and I have been on a whirlwind vacation/conference schedule for the last week or so. I have so much to catch up on, but something came across my screen that stopped me dead in my tracks.

I have previously asked you, my followers, to pray for my friend, Leontien, who was battling melanoma. It is with a very heavy heart that I share with you the news that Leontien gained her angel wings on January 10.

I had never met Leontien face-to-face, but it didn’t matter. We had a quick friendship, albeit online, as I’m sure many did. I remember one time I messaged her that someone had mistakenly assumed we were sisters. She simply replied, “haha oh my gosh that is soo funny!!! i loved your sweet blog and i hope you got lot’s and lot’s of comments and some new followers but it is really funny that they think you are my sister! I would love to have you as a sister!!!”

That comment meant the world to me…and we would “talk” to each other frequently through various social media outlets.

Our last personal interaction was at the end of November. Although Leontien knew that her battle was coming to an end, she asked if she could help with my Christmas Angel project. She wanted to make a lasting impression on someone…little did she know just how much she had already accomplished.

I dedicate this in her honor:

Having Never Met

Having never met…you taught me the value of sunshine, the value of rain and to know that when one is upon you, the other is around the corner.

Having never met…you taught me that the weight of a woman has nothing to do with what she accomplishes in life, and everything to do with how she accomplishes it.

Having never met…you taught me that even when the chips are down, there is someone there to help you pick them up. And no matter what, there’s always time for one more smile.

Having never met…you taught me that even when bad things happen to good people, good people receive the greatest reward. And true goodness is found in the eyes and the soul of those that possess it.

Having never met…you taught me that love is not just a feeling or emotion. It can even be an alpaca out your window.

Having never met…you taught me the value of a friend is not having to be there physically, but to know when just a simple word or phrase is all that is needed.

Having never met…you taught me about the person I will always strive to be.

My dearest Leontien…although we never met, I would like to thank you for all of this and, oh, so much more.

My thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends that are grieving. In her spirit, I will continue to strive to make this world a better place…for she did that for me – and we never even met.

Common thread

A young boy, without a care in the world…a young woman, who followed her dreams…a man in retirement, making plans to enjoy himself. What could they possibly have in common?

Well, unfortunately, what they have in common is all too common…cancer.

This past week has been an overly tough one for me. But I’ve decided to turn the new month into a new goal…a battle against cancer, if you may.

I’m tired of this disease that takes, takes, takes. I’m tired of losing friends, family and loved ones in a battle that can be so one-sided. I’m just so tired of it all.

No, I understand that it won’t be changed today, or tomorrow, but someday…yes, someday…I’m confident that we will be able to provide better options for those that are faced with these battles. Science is there, we just need to support it.

And so, with that I’m declaring March Madness as my war on cancer month. A friend of mine has started a Relay for Life page, rounding up some social media friends and others to raise funds for cancer research. It’s a great cause and one that I fully support. And I’m choosing to support her efforts in an unusual way.

Kelly doesn’t know this yet, but I have heard somewhere that there is someone willing to match her goal of $315 raised, if she makes it to her goal by the end of the month. You can check out her progress (and give!) here.

As I’m writing this, my brother is sitting beside his friend, Jackie, in the hospital…waiting for her pain and suffering to end. A little more than a month ago, my uncle was planning his annual fishing trip to North Dakota, but we traveled to Wisconsin for a funeral instead.

Cancer is a common thread for so many, but as you learn quickly when cancer touches your family, you’re never in the battle alone.

If you would like to share a word of encouragement with Samuel and his family, you can find his CaringBridge site here…and you can follow along with Leontien’s battle here, or click on the link in the upper right-hand corner.

Wordless Wednesday – Thanksgiving

Today’s post is mostly wordless by me…following you will find another survivor’s story, this one by Heather Von St. James. We are all given so much, and sometimes we don’t realize the “village” we have, until we need it.

And please, don’t forget to click on the blue angel in the right-hand corner! We need more angels and more gift suggestions! Let’s make this a season of giving!

The Strength of My Village

When a mother announces her pregnancy, a village surrounds her. Family, friends, co-workers and even strangers offer support and advice. This happened to me in 2005. On August 5, my husband and I welcomed our daughter Lilly into our family. Our village surrounded us in the hospital with well wishes as they met our daughter. In the months and years to come, I would realize how much I needed their support.

As the partial owner of three successful salons, I supervised 20 employees at one location and worked behind the chair until the day Lily was born. After a few weeks at home with my baby, I regretfully returned to work. Unenthusiastically, I accepted a location switch and a lighter workload. I really only wanted to be home with my child!

Motherhood brings health changes such as weight fluctuation, lack of energy and tiredness, but I soon began to experience severe symptoms. After losing an average of six pounds a week, I consulted my doctor. Blood work and a chest x-ray revealed fluid build-up around my left lung. The doctor prescribed more tests. On November 21, 2005, my medical team discovered the source of my unusual symptoms. In the lining of my lung, I had cancer called malignant pleural mesothelioma. Caused by asbestos exposure I had experienced as a child, the diagnosis came just three and a half months after precious Lily was born.

The doctors gave me 15 months to live, and my thoughts flew to my husband and child. I wanted to do whatever it took to save my life. My husband and I decided to pursue drastic treatment. On February 2, I underwent extrapleural pneumonectomy in Boston. Specialists removed cancer-laden organs and tissue and administered heated chemo to remove all the cancer. I spent 18 days in the hospital recovering from surgery. Two months of additional recovery prepared my body for chemotherapy then radiation. I survived the horrid medical treatments with help of my village.

My parents took Lily to live with them in South Dakota where my childhood friends and people from my church surrounded my parents who both worked full-time. They babysat Lily and made meals. Halfway across the country, my baby learned to roll over and eat solid food. So we could watch her grow, my mom emailed pictures of Lily that my husband printed out. In black and white, I watched my little girl grow and change. I fought for my life because of my daughter.

Five years later, I rejoice that I can stay home to care for my child. As we embrace life, Lily has learned to give to others in need. She befriends everyone she meets and really thrives because of the family, friends, and strangers who surround us. Because of the cancer diagnosis, I remain thankful for my many blessings. With the bad comes good, and my family appreciates every moment thanks to our village who so generously supported us then and continues to support us now.

 

Mesothelioma: www.mesothelioma.com
Diagnosis: http://www.mesothelioma.com/mesothelioma/diagnosis/
Heather Von St. James: http://www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/heather/

One Final Story…and a Winner!

I would like to share one last story with you all…
Next month, it will be 3 years since I was diagnosed.  I was having problems with the vision in my left eye…seeing spots, flashing lights …and I noticed one morning that I couldn’t see out of the top half of my eye. The Dr’s office got me right in when I called. After a dilating my eye, an ultrasound and a few photos, the Dr called me back in to his office and explained it all to me. I just sat there looking at the pictures.

Then he said the words “Tina. Do you understand what I’m saying? You have cancer.”

My cancer is called Choroidal Melanoma. It’s a form of skin cancer and has attached itself to the back of my left eye. Normally the cancer is caught about the size of a match stick head…mine was bigger than a penny but smaller than a nickel. My eye doctor did not dilate my eyes two years in a row. He just checked my vision for new contacts.  If he had of, the tumor could have been caught much smaller that it was. So, when you see your eye Dr., please be sure he dilates your eyes so he can look behind them.

The treatment for my cancer was radiation. If… not when…but IF it spreads, I will take chemo.

He then scheduled an appointment for me to see an Opthalmic Oncologist in Memphis. .

I had to stay at the Cancer Center in Memphis for nine days…I came home the day before Christmas Eve. A radiation implant was surgically attached to the back of my eye and then surgically removed  8 days later. You’d think it would be uncomfortable wearing that thing, but it wasn’t. If I lowered my bottom lid, I could see part of the implant. Other than that, I just had to wear a shield over my eye to keep others from being subjected to the radiation. The radiation kills the tumor over time.
I’m going to spare you the photos…no sense in showing you how awful I looked at the time.  But I will tell you this…..I got a lot of stares and I scared small children…the stares I could deal with…scaring the children made me sad. So, I made a point to wear a patch if I went out. My eye was inflamed and very blood shot.

I see two different Oncologists, (one for my eye, and one to run CT and bone scans to see if the cancer has spread) a Retina Specialist (who gives steroid injections in my eye to help the retina heal….and YES…OUCH!) and a Dermatologist ( to check my skin, since it is Melonoma)…They will be my doctors for the rest of my life…They are all very caring, loving, awesome doctors!

To sum it up…I have lost the vision in my eye, I still see a few flashing lights (but nothing like I was), I have to use reading glasses for my good eye and I’ve had surgery to repair my eyelid so I can open my eye better now. And…the BEST NEWS!….the tumor is still getting smaller…and the cancer has not spread! Wooo Hoooo! Yay me! Yay God!!!

I told my doctors in the very beginning that I was going to be a miracle patient. I’ve got prayer warriors all over the world praying for me! So far, I have beat the odds on my cancer. I give that credit to God. My doctors are happy to see me each time I show up at my appointment.

It could take two more years for the tumor to be completely gone. But, I’m okay with that. I’m alive…and while I’m alive…I will keep living. I have a lot to live for…and God’s not finished with me yet!

Once again, I would like to just thank each and every one of you who have invited us into your lives, shared your stories, shared your fears, your pain, your triumphs and your tragedies. It’s been an amazing month for me…and I plan to give back more in the future.

Number selected...143! One of the "extra" entries earned by someone emailing a cancer story to me...and the winner was Rhonda Darbro!

 

 

The winner of the KitchenAid, and all the accessories is…Rhonda Darbro! Congratulations, Rhonda!

Tomorrow starts November, a month of Thanksgiving. Any ideas on what we should do?

Sunday Sharing

I’m home from church today, sick. Yet, even on days like these, I count my blessings.

Tomorrow at noon, I will draw a winner for my Pink KitchenAid prize pack…I would like to thank EVERYONE who has participated, entered, shared their stories, whatever it may be.

So, for today, here are three more stories…blessings to you all:

On March 7, 2008, my husband’s younger brother got married. The next day we learned his oldest brother’s wife had lost her battle with breast cancer. Although I never had the pleasure of meeting her, I think of her often. We talk about her, her husband (my husband’s brother), and their two little boys often.

Starting last year we run the Liz Hurley Ribbon Run in memory of Tanya. I’ve jokingly told my family that I’ll run it until all I can do is walk and then I’ll have someone push me in a wheelchair if I have to. One day we hope to run it with our entire family. I can’t think of a more fitting way to cherish the memory of someone who went home to God at such a young age.

And another:

My sister has some cancerous breast tissue removed a couple of years ago and now my other sister has to go back and have another mammogram because something showed up in the 1st one. I don’t know all the medical terms for what they have right now but as soon as you hear the word Cancer you get nervous. I haven’t had a mammogram in 4yrs. I didn’t even realize it was that long. I have been seeing the same doctor too and he never mentioned to me I should get one. So I have an appt. this October to have mine done. It is so important for us as women to take control and get this done. God bless all the cancer patients in this world.

And one last one for today…

I will never forget my Mom and Dad’s 28th wedding anniversary.  She came to see me at work and had an IV in her hand.  I asked her what
was going on, since she also works at the same hospital that I do, but it was her day off.  She took me into our nurses lounge with my Dad at
her side and said, “I had a colonoscopy today, and they found a mass.”  Then she started to cry.  She was only 49.

I immediately went into nurse mode and started to grill her with questions.  She had the colonoscopy done at a different facility, but came back to our hospital to get labs and other tests done, then was going home.  I was numb the rest of the day.

The next day, I went to Columbus for a Young Farmer conference, and Mom went back to work.  Dad called me that evening and said that Mom started to bleed at work, and it wasn’t stopping.  She left work(which NEVER happens!) and Dad took her straight to Fort Wayne.  They admitted her to the larger hospital, with a colorectal surgeon, and gave her blood transfusions.  (One of the biopsy spots failed to clot, which was the source of her bleeding).  She was in the hospital a few days, then was released to home.  She had a colon resection on September 6, and found out 5 days later they got it all.

She lucked out, had a great surgeon, and an even greater faith in God.  No chemo or radiation.  Just frequent checks with her surgeon.  So pay attention to your body.  It does talk to you.  All you have to do is listen, and have faith.

Yes…you are so right. All we have to do is listen, and have faith.

Tomorrow morning’s post will wrap this month up…and I’ll explain why I did all this. And then, at the stroke of 12 (or close there to), I will draw the name of a lucky winner of this sweet KitchenAid. Good luck to all who entered…and more importantly, good luck to all who shared their stories. May God bless every one of you.