Tag Archives: living with a disease

One month…

Yesterday marked one month of taking the chemo treatment, Sirolimus. Because it was the end of my first 28 day cycle of the drug, Mom and I headed down to Children’s for a doctor’s appointment. It ended up taking all afternoon.

It is strange. This time around it is as if I am indifferent as to what comes next. In discussing the issues at hand, I made my point clear about what direction I wanted to take in terms of treatment time without much else running through my mind. My doctor asked me if I wanted to continue. I simply said that I would for one more month until the MRI. If I stop now then how will I know if the treatments have been given a chance to maybe show something positive on the next MRI? He agreed that one month more is a good decision.

My indifference comes in part, however, because I also mentioned that I would not be surprised if the scans reflected negatively–based on the amount of physical changes I have had over even just this past month. More wobbly balance, weaker right ankle, extreme numbness in right hand, and hearing loss in the right ear. From the time I bought the Phonak Cros to the time it arrived, I had lost hearing in the right ear and I believe I still am. I returned the Cros last week, but I am satisfied with my choice to do so and glad I at least gave the device a trial run.

It is hard to decipher what is causing what problems. Since I started the treatment, I have had more problems with my intestines…but it is hard to point a finger only at the Sirolimus when I have also had an increase of pressure from the tumors there at the lower spine. Every physical problem seems to get tangled around an “unknown source” linked to the problem. Of course we all know that the “unknown source” is a tumor, but which one? That is the question. And I think that is why I just left all emotions yesterday. I have no control over what happens over the next month. Tumors may or may not be growing; even if they do not show change in size, they can change in density and still cause side effects. So I just let myself become void of it all.

I was quiet on the way home. I was not even thinking much about the appointment. I was thinking more about the conversation my dad and I had a few nights prior. We were discussing my walking, weak ankles, my muscles and bones, and my shoes. If you don’t remember, I have a knack for cute shoes. To me, they complete the outfit. As Dad and I were talking, what he was saying made sense: I do need sturdy shoes as now my bones are thinning and weakening and my balance is only so-so. I wear good shoes for a majority of the time, but I like to wear a cute pair of slip on shoes if I am going out to church or to a coffee shop and I like to go barefoot when I can at home. It might be time to rethink that latter part–is what Dad and I discussed.

In my distress of our shoe conversation (serious…giving up my shoes!?!), Dad told me that I should not worry about my shoes, because I am fashionable with my accessories, like scarves and bracelets. I thought that was a nice complement. I talked with my doctor about the shoes and what Dad said when we were discussing my feet. “I agree with him 100%,” (referring to the sturdy shoe notion.) So on the way home, half lamenting and half planning what to do with my shoes, I just let my mind wander. All over shoes.

We get home and Dad asks how the appointment went. “It was long.” That is all I said. Then I made tea. I finally started talking about the appointment (even though my mind was still on my shoes) and just gave a two sentence overview of the plan–get my intestines feeling better and go one more month to the MRI. Everything past that is dependent on the results. I think I was still indifferent to it all. Being an emotional person, to not feel emotion is weird. Maybe indifference is a slight emotion…or at least triggers one of self-pity. Whatever the case, I had it last night. I could tell: I ate a huge chunk of fudge and watched a movie. Then I just went to bed.

As I was turning off my light, I flipped through some flashcards of verses that my mom made me while in college. One read, “But He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold,” Job 23:10. In one day, Job lost everything: his children, livestock, servants, property, wealth…and yet he still chose to say, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord,” Job 1:21b.

I admit, there are times when it is not easy to say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord,” especially when I feel that things are being taken from me–whether they pertain to my physical body or to my possessions. But remaining indifferent to the road ahead will only make the journey more tiring. Choosing a life of praise is a better path to travel.

“If God sends us on strong paths, we are provided strong shoes.”

Corrie ten Boom

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Filed under Adjusting to NF2, Hospital Trips

The Book: “NF2: Our Journeys”

Question: Where has this year gone? Here we are in July already! Stop and think for a moment on all that you have done in the past six months. If you are like me, you may be wondering how you are going to write your Christmas card this year; thankfully, we still have another six months to figure that out. 🙂

As I reflect, there is a list of major events on my calendar: blood clot, hospital trips, Physical therapy, paintings, a few visits to see grandparents, Spring Break vacation, books read, made new friends, turned another year older, overcoming new physical limitations, visited my sister a few times in Columbus and Megan visited from Colorado…and last but certainly not least: I wrote about my life (limit 1500 words) for this book NF2: Our Journeys.

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January 2, 2o13–a representative from The Children’s Tumor Foundation contacted me through my blog in response to a letter I had sent to the foundation at the end of the previous year. Three days later, she contacted me again. The Children’s Tumor Foundation works alongside a foundation in the UK called, Children With Tumors. There was an opportunity for those with NF2 to participate in this publication (sharing their story)–all started by Jessica Cook who also lives with NF2.

January 9, 2013: Unexpected blood clot.

January 10, 2013: In hospital and I get an email from Jess. This is where it began.

I can count on both hands how many people I have known/met personally that live with either NF1 or NF2. Yes…less than ten people. It was only when I started this blog that my social group of “meeting” people who live with NF2 expanded slightly. When Jess first emailed me, it was about the book. I had no idea over the next five months I would not only get to be part of this amazing opportunity to share my journey of living with NF2, but also make a new friend in the process.

January and February were crazy months of doctor appointments, physical therapy and painting. I had until the end of February to write my story. Not that I procrastinated, but a combination of all taking place those months and just a lack of not knowing what to say, I finally forced myself to sit down a few days before the due date and write. I submitted it the day the rough drafts were due. By this time, Jess and I had been emailing back and forth and she responded to my draft with praise saying that it was what she had expected. That put my nervousness at ease.

My story was edited (spelling, grammar, punctuation) by Jess and a few of her friends and then sent back to me to read and review. I asked my cousin, who is known for her exceptional editing skills, for help on a few sentences and wordings–then satisfied–I sent it back to Jess saying it was final on my end. I picked my “author name” for the introduction and submitted a picture. (Muffy is famous! 🙂 ) By this time, I now had told my family about Jess and the book; I had mentioned it to my doctors in Cincinnati and wrote about Jess to my grandparents. Just talking about it all was exciting!

Getting to know Jess over the past six months has been both encouraging and inspiring. We never started our emails from the past (full life story)…we started right where we were at the moment. Sure, past events have come up in our conversations, such as, physical changes we have endured, emotional battles we have overcome (such as isolation and self-image struggles) and how living with NF2 has broadened our life’s story in ways unimaginable.

Jess’ work in the UK through her social advocacy website and group–Can You Hear Us?–has inspired me to be connected. I have been reading other blogs from people living with NF2 and (though good intentions) need to make a better effort to seek out the Deaf community here. It has also helped me to seek out the possibilities when life hands you disabilities; I believe God placed this book opportunity in front of me for a reason–because these past six months, I have seen my body change and weaken faster than the other nine years of living with the disease combined.

I say it often, but it is the truth: It is only by God’s strength and mercy that I can still function what I am. And He has shown me in abundance the past few months that what I currently struggle with physically is not the end–there is still more to my story waiting to be told. There is always room for hope…

My story: I seems to be a re-occurring phrase over the past few weeks. A few days ago I thought of the hymn “Blessed Assurance.” I think Fanny Crosby wrote what I feel about my story best:

Perfect submission, all is at rest
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior, all the day long.

– – –

To buy a copy of the book:

http://canyouhearus.co.uk/nf2-book/shop/

(Shipping is included in the book price and PayPal converts the total for those ordering from the United States.)

For More Information:

Cook, Jessica (producer). NF2: Our Journeys: A collection of inspirational stories written by people with NF2. Lavenham Suffolk, UK: canyouhearus.co.uk, 2013.

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Filed under Adjusting to NF2, Books and Movies, Hospital Trips, Muffy, Paintings

The Next Chapter

Rainy days have strange effects on me. Some days it makes me groggy as I feel it in my body…especially my right hand. That was my yesterday. I even smashed my index finger that morning within the umbrella as I was closing it; I never felt a thing–just a small pinch but it was only when I looked down to see why the umbrella was not closing did I see my finger jammed.

Another rainy/cloudy day today, but completely opposite. Today was my motivation day. I went supply shopping: paints, paintbrushes, canvases and various add-ons for my upcoming paintings. Yellow Spring’s “Art on the Lawn” festival is only a month away. (More to come on that topic!)

Today I was focused on the broad spectrum of details and errands that needed to get done, even though my right hand seems a bit swollen and my arm is tense. Like an equation, I am not always that full of energy. Yesterday I just focused my attention on one thing at a time. My favorite being a book. I was achy with sick feelings in my intestines, so I made a cup of Chamomile tea and picked up where I left off in Through Gates of Splendor, by Elisabeth Elliot. I was determined to finish the last few chapters.

Growing up, we knew the story of these five missionaries. Nate Saint, Roger Youderian, Ed McCully, Pete Fleming, and Jim Elliot who all followed God’s calling to show and communicate the love of Christ to those tribes in Ecuador that otherwise had no contact with the outside world. These men were at the time, the same age range that I am right now. I sat thinking of this…how these men gave everything for the Gospel. They were taking part of God’s plan to reach the nations, ultimately never seeing the fruit of their labor this side of heaven.

A few months after the deaths of these men, their story was recorded. The first copy of Elisabeth’s book was published in 1956. The edition I pulled off my parent’s bookshelf was the 25th anniversary edition, 1981. As I read the Epilogue II, I came across this conversation that Elisabeth had with Corrie Ten B0om:

“Sometimes,” she told me, “I have said, ‘L0rd, I must have something fresh. I cannot go on telling the old story.’ But the Lord said to me, ‘This is the story I gave you. You tell that one.'” So Corrie encouraged me to go on telling mine. (pg. 266)

And this encouraged me. I set out to write blog entries and feel like I am sharing the same story–repetitious. I want something new. But this is my story. and God wants me to tell it. So a new chapter to my story happened this week:

Tuesday evening I started my first dose of the chemo treatment, Sirolimus.  I take it every 12 hours. I have to be consistent with the time, so I chose to take it around the same time I take my other medicines.  So far I have had no side effects.

The chemo itself is very different from the other chemo treatments I have taken in the past. It does not feel like a chemo. Of course this is the first time I have had to keep medicine in the refrigerator…that could be part of it. The recommendation for taking the solution is to put it in a small 2 oz or so of orange juice stirring it a lot, drinking it and then drinking water or something afterwards. If it tastes the way Marcia says it smells, then I am double blessed as I can’t smell it nor does it change taste of my orange juice. Tonight I thought I would try the other recommendation for taking the medicine: in chocolate syrup. It was disgusting. I think I will just plan on drinking lots of orange juice for a while.

However, this chemo can cause mouth sores and so I have been given mouth care instructions to help prevent or treat these sores. First, a reward: I get an excuse to eat pudding, ice cream, applesauce, yogurt, ice cubes or pop sickles before and/or after as the cold and smooth will help prevent mouth sores. I have always been one for flossing and brushing my teeth after meals so that has not been a problem. They did give me a “recipe” for making my own mouthwash as I am no longer allowed to use store-bought ones due to the alcohol content used…even if it says “Alcohol free,” I am not chancing it.

My diet is much the same as it was before, except now I am a bit more cautious on going and getting that white mocha, as I am to watch my sugar intake. God must still want me to learn self-control. There are a few others on the list that I need to watch–eating red meats (which I don’t do often anyway), watch the different fats in dairy products and limit egg yolks to 3 a week; egg whites are fine. They warn against eating spicy foods as they can cause sores. I need to drink lots of cold fluids, eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and get enough fiber. Even if I wasn’t taking this chemo, it is good eating habits to follow.

I am thankful right now that my body has been tolerating the treatments and will just have to take it one day at a time. I will have labs done every week and my first clinic visit to Children’s is at the end of the month. Do I think chemo is working? I don’t even think I can honestly answer that. My body changes from day-to-day. I note more aches or strains, more numbness or bad balance. There are always things at the back of my mind or new physical challenges to overcome.

My story is not yet complete. I know this. Some chapters seem to fly and others seem to drag on endlessly. Some pages make me laugh, some leave me in suspense and others make me cry. Like reading any book, you have to turn the page at some point to continue reading. If I focus on only one page full of th0se physical sufferings, I will never get to the ending or get to share the new things learned with you. I might just find out that the best part is only a few pages over.

*Elliot, Elizabeth. Through Gates of Splendor. Wheaton, Illinois: Living Books (Tyndale House Publishers), 1981.

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Filed under Adjusting to NF2, Books and Movies, Family Times