Sunday, December 22, 2019

2020: I like the symmetry

But I have to say that 2019 has been a good year. After a number of really hard years, and despite continuing with cancer treatment and the challenge of starting a new business, the "yoke" has just felt lighter (Matthew 11:28-30). God has been gracious and provided in ways we couldn't have even imagined. It's hard to put into words how thankful we are for His healing power in my body; when I was diagnosed with cancer last year, I was at stage 3B. To go from there to no sign of cancer in 18 months is a gift we do not take lightly! The opportunity for Ivan to work with our son is another huge blessing. It's interesting that Ivan's first entrepreneurial enterprise was Hoyt & Son Construction, started back in the 1990s with Jon. Now they're back in business together, again in the building industry, but on a whole other level! And to be only a 15 minute drive from Tina and her family has been such a gift too! We love the time we get to spend with them.

Jon and his family are just over an hour flight away, allowing us to get together way more often than was possible in the past. They came for Thanksgiving and it was such a treat to watch the grandkids play together. A favorite was the magnetic building tiles, but they also played dress-up, learned new games, did a lot of craft activities, as well as just chasing each other around and laughing. Love these kids so much!

We packed a lot into those five days! Natalie and Tina surprised me with an early birthday celebration, by decorating and getting all the supplies together so we could make candles together.

We took the three oldest grandkids to see a live production of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas", which they loved, and will remember each year when they hang their Grinch ornaments on the tree.

Each of the couples got a night out without the kids. We ate too much, laughed a lot, and just enjoyed one another's company!

 (I really love this photo of us piled on the couch with both our kids and all the grandkids!)

Jon was promoted at work again this year! He loves what he does and it shows. Natalie, using her immense creativity, will be opening an Etsy shop soon.

We couldn't believe how much Eisley had changed in the four months since we'd last seen her... from just learning to walk back in August, she's now running and, boy, is she fast! Her vocabulary is growing and she's her own little person, not "baby Eisley" as we used to call her. Even at this young age (19 months), she's showing an aptitude for taking things apart and putting them together.

Adalyn, age 5, started kindergarten and loves her Montessori school. She also enjoys dance and voice lessons, playing at the park with her friends, dates with Daddy, being a big sister, and cooking and crafting with Mom.

Kyle started a job as salesman at a new RV dealership at the beginning of the year, but it wasn't long until he was promoted to sales manager. He's kept busy whipping the department into shape! Tina loves being a stay at home mom who is also a fashion blogger and photographer. You can find her at Tina In Real Life on Facebook, where she shares what works (and doesn't) in mom life.

Simon, who turns 6 this weekend, also started kindergarten in the fall and loves his teacher (he often accidentally calls me "Miss Migg" haha!). He's made lots of friends in school and in the neighborhood. We cannot believe how much and how fast he's growing and learning!

Betsy, just under two years younger, wants to do everything her big brother does and she's learning and absorbing like a little sponge. She spends Tuesday afternoons here, while Tina helps in Simon's class, and we thoroughly enjoy our time with her. She's very much Tina's "mini me" and reminds me so much of Tina at this age.

This was a tough year on my maternal side of the family. We lost Uncle Jack and his wife, Nancy (less than a month apart), then Uncle Martin (the last of mom's siblings to pass) followed by the death of my cousin Ruth from cancer. I wasn't able to make it to any of the funerals except Ruth's. As hard as it was to lose her, the chance to see cousins I hadn't seen in decades was special. We count it a privilege to spend time with family whenever we can. So the girl's weekend with Tina to Colorado was super fun! We saw family in Denver and Colorado Springs. The Sunday afternoon we were there we enjoyed a fun time out in the country. This photo was snapped right after Tina, me and my sister Beth finally emerged from the corn maze -- can you see the relief we felt!?

Pretty excited to say I'm cancer free! I started radiation the day after Christmas last year, finishing in February, and then continued with Herceptin treatments through May. Now I'm taking a pretty strong oral chemo drug until next June. Don't enjoy the side effects, but it's nothing compared to what I went through last year, so can't complain! Getting the cancer free diagnosis meant it was time to celebrate!

Ivan has stayed quite busy this year as manager of the new real estate investment business he and Jon started. He spent the year researching, looking at various possibilities, and then they finally purchased several multi family properties and began renovations on all of them. We're learning a lot and having fun while we're at it!

We have settled into East Valley Bible Church, a church plant here in the Vegas valley. The sense of community is strong and we are grateful for the fellowship with other believers. Ivan's leading a study during the monthly men's prayer breakfast. Kim had fun attending a craft night one of the pastor's wives hosted earlier this month.

We have felt truly blessed this year, and now we look forward with anticipation to 2020 and what the year might hold.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Marking More Milestones

Today marks a milestone, and this week marks another. I think it's important to acknowledge and remember what God has done -- and is doing -- in our lives.

It was on February 2nd of last year that I ended up in the emergency room because my doctor thought I had blood clots on my lungs. I didn't, but that's when they saw the swollen lymph nodes for the first time.

On February 7th this year I'll finish radiation therapy, the last big hurdle of this journey with cancer. I'll still have to go every three weeks for Herceptin treatments until May, but those are a breeze. The end of radiation marks the end of the Big Three, as I call them: chemo, surgery and radiation.

Radiation hasn't been a walk in the park, but it's nothing compared to chemo or surgery, so this southern girl isn't complaining. I've been using aloe vera, cutting off chunks of the leaf, slicing it open and spreading the goo all over the radiated area before applying lots of moisturizer. I was doing great until I ran out of aloe vera and it took several days to track down more leaves, and in that short amount of time, I burned. Now I'm using aloe vera twice a day, which is helping heal the existing burn and preventing it from getting any worse.

Fatigue hit a week after starting radiation, and has been unrelenting. But my doctor assures me that within 3-4 weeks of finishing treatment, my energy levels will start edging up. THE END IS IN SIGHT. 

I don't know that I'll mark these milestones every year, but right now they feel important. Along with:
April 24: first chemo
August 22: last chemo
October 17: surgery
December 26: first radiation

It's funny, but I don't remember the date I got the actual diagnosis. It was not a one-and-done kind of thing... first they biopsied the lymph nodes with the results indicating cancer, and then a week or so later we met with the first (of several) oncologists who told us it was breast cancer. Those first weeks were a fog, and I'm forever grateful for my dear friend, Jennie, who went with us to all the various appointments and asked the right questions, and helped us process through what they meant.

It feels a little weird looking back and seeing how much has happened since last February 2nd. How could so much be packed into twelve short months? It's not only the cancer, but Tina and her family moving to Las Vegas with us following close behind, a new grandchild, our son dealing with all the changes brought about when Microsoft bought out Github, the death of our first fur-grandbaby Leo (best dog EVER!), turning 60 and celebrating for a week with our whole family...

I don't think it's an understatement to say that pretty much every aspect of our family's lives has seen huge changes this past year. 

Last February 2nd planted a seed of doubt deep inside that bore fruit with the cancer diagnosis, and blossomed through much of this year as I struggled to handle all that the treatment protocol entailed. This February 2nd a seed of hope has replaced the doubt. I know that, regardless of what the future holds, I'm stronger than I thought I was because I don't have to rely on my own strength: I can trust in God's immeasurable power, and in His sovereignty. Right now the prognosis is good, the end of the hard stuff is in sight. I'm thankful for that, and don't take it for granted. I'm also keenly aware that only He knows the number of my days. It's just up to me to make the most of them.

I look forward to seeing what 2019 brings our way. There will be the glorious and wondrous and exciting surrounded by the mundane and ordinary -- and new milestones to be marked!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Milestone Birthday

I'd gotten out of the habit of celebrating my birthday. Not that I think birthdays are a bad thing, or that I regret getting older (it beats the alternative!). I actually loved birthdays growing up, even if I do have the misfortune of being a December baby -- meaning I received a lot of singular gifts to cover both birthday and Christmas. Ha! Any other December babies relate to that?! But life got busy... and then busier, with so much to do, and it just felt inconvenient to take time out to celebrate. 

This year, though, my family decided that between fighting cancer and turning 60, we needed to mark the milestone. So I just enjoyed the BEST birthday week EVER 😍 Jon, Natalie and the girls flew in from California and it was non-stop family time. I got to hug on ALL the grandkids -- when they'd stop long enough, that is. Four kids aged four and under equals perpetual motion and noise! 😂 We enjoyed so many great conversations, sharing memories and making new ones that my heart is overflowing.
The Bellagio Conservatory transformed for Christmas
Checking out the holiday light display at the Ethel M Chocolates Cactus Garden

And don't even get me started on my birthday dinner! Kyle made a shrimp scampi that was beyond delicious and Natalie created another of her masterpieces: an absolutely decadent chocolate cake with a surprise in the middle!  (Yes, everything was gluten free!)
Dove candies, edible gold glitter and chocolate chips in the middle!

One of the highlights was reading really sweet comments from friends and family that Tina collected. She printed them off, cut them up and clipped them to the window blinds, hidden behind the curtains so I didn't even notice them until she and Jon drew back the curtains. What fun!

Along with awesome gifts, homemade cards from the grandkids... seriously, everything combined made for the BEST birthday yet.     

Thankfully I was far enough past surgery, feeling good, able to fully engage and enjoy the experience. Recovering from surgery was more challenging than anticipated, especially the first month. I'm happy to say the pain has decreased significantly since then. Whew! 

The pain levels started going down the week of Thanksgiving, so I was also able to enjoy time with my sister and her family who drove out from Colorado. We only celebrated Thanksgiving once while living overseas, so I relished every bite of the very traditional feast we shared at Kyle and Tina's. And to make the holiday even more special, we received the good news that chemo had done what it was supposed to do, and between that and surgery I'd gone from stage 3B to stage 0! Woot, woot!

This week the surgeon cleared me to begin radiation. It had been delayed a bit because of fluid building up, which necessitated weekly needle drains. This coming Wednesday they'll do a CT scan and use that to map out the plan for therapy. No exact date yet, but we anticipate radiation will start the week after.

2018 certainly hasn't gone the way we expected, but it's been a gift in so many ways. We are grateful for God's direction and provision, and have been reminded in very tangible ways what an extraordinary blessing it is to be a part of His family. Certainly worth celebrating!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Surgery Tomorrow

I'm more than ready to get surgery over with, but I'm also dreading it with my whole being. I have virtually no tolerance for pain and am the biggest, whiniest baby you've ever seen. So the next few weeks are going to be, shall we say, challenging for me...and for Ivan. Appreciate prayers that the surgery will go well, and recovery will be without any complications or infections.

On top of surgery, I get to start taking anastrozole the day after. This is an estrogen suppressant medication, and protocol for women who are post-menopausal and ER positive. I'm actually triple positive: estrogen, progesterone and HER2 (human epidermal growth receptor 2) positive. Go me! Anyway, anastrozole will basically put me back into menopause and, having been there, done that, I'm not real excited about going through it again. It wasn't fun the first time around, and I'm not expecting it to be fun this time either. My oncologist would have started me on it earlier but held off because I've been so miserable with the bronchitis and lung issues.

Hair growth is proceeding at a snail's pace, and I'm beginning to doubt I'll have more than an inch by the end of the year. The other discouraging thing is that I have a receding hairline! Yikes. My mom always said I had a high forehead and needed bangs -- as evidenced by the this 4th grade school photo -- and, if there were any doubts before, there aren't now. I'm going to need a minimum of 2" (3" would be better) of hair to somewhat cover the glaring, ginormous area of hairless skin a.k.a. my forehead.

Have any of y'all watched Home Town on HGTV? I started following Erin's blog years ago (and liked it so much I went back and read all her posts going back to the beginning). She called it "Make Something Good Today" and she purposefully recorded at least one good thing each day. Anyway, a few years ago she and her husband were contacted by HGTV about doing a pilot, and that led to the creation of their show, now entering it's third season in January. I've been a big fan from the beginning, and snatched up their book when it was released a couple weeks ago. It's a compilation of her journal entries expanded to include other things that were going on in their lives, and both Erin and husband, Ben, share from their unique perspectives. It was such a fun read, probably made more enjoyable because I've followed the blog and their unfolding HGTV adventure from the beginning.

Looking forward to the premier of another new HGTV show,  Best House on the Block, featuring an interior design blogger I've followed for years, Lauren Liess and her husband Dave. I've loved every room and house she has designed (and have her book too), so I'm excited to see their show. Although it's an HGTV show (and will eventually air on that channel), it's debuting on the DIY Network on November 8th.

I'd love to see HGTV add a LOT of new shows, because I can't handle the channel these days with their shift to accommodate binge viewers. I'm sorry, but no way, no how, do I want to see six episodes of anything back to back (or worse yet, an entire day of something). Ugh! It seems like the majority of cable channels have gone in that direction. Even the big three networks are starting down that rabbit hole. I'm curious if other parts of the U.S. have this issue: the local CBS station starts their news programming at 4 p.m. in the afternoon! So we have a half hour of national news sandwiched between 1-1/2 hours of local news before and another hour of local news after. THAT IS THREE HOURS OF NEWS. If I wanted to watch that much news, I'd tune into a dedicated cable news channel.

Talk about going down a rabbit hole... Sorry, not sorry, about that rant.

Let's talk about something more pleasant. Like the weather. Not even kidding! Our weather went from sizzling hot (108 average temp this summer) to gorgeous, amazing, beautiful 70s and 80s and lows at night down into the 50s. Yes, please, and thank you!!! Open windows, fresh breezes... loving it. So glad (and grateful) for the change in weather before surgery. Had I kept to my original surgery date, I would have been sweltering under all my bandaging on the way home from the hospital; now I don't have to worry about that. It's a small thing, but isn't it the small things that tend to make us the happiest?

Speaking of small things, I think it's about time I share some photos of my adorable grandbabies (although they're growing so fast, I can't technically call them small any more; but it did make for a nice segue into this paragraph). Up first are Simon and Betsy in their traditional October t-shirts --  scary how cute they are!!!

And here's Adalyn photo bombing Eisley's five month photo shoot... these two are hilarious and it makes us so happy to see how much they enjoy each other (although there are times when Eisley is clearly over so much attention from her big sis 😜).

Now that you've had your cuteness quotient for the day, my work here is done. Thank you and good night.