back to treatment.

Last night, pain became my alarm clock again. I had been freed of pain’s interruptions for a little over a week, being treatment-free for 11 days. I also was no longer waking up around 4:30a/5:00a with Josh as he prepared for the police academy. I hadn’t even thought about that when he graduated that I too would now be getting more sleep, a bonus blessing! During my 11 day break, I was sleeping better, eating more and having an appetite once again, having more energy to go and do the things I love on my own, with no one needing to drive me. I’ve felt almost normal again, and then the pain comes again, a signal throughout my body that it needs more treatment again, and its cue is right on time.

It amazes me how much my body does communicate to me, be it through pain or feelings. Over the past year, I’ve tried to look at my cancer care even more holistically. Diet has always interested me, but for the most part when I read “what to eat for when you have cancer or to prevent cancer” books and pamphlets, I find that I’m already eating the things they recommend. (So what does that say about me? haha) This past year, I added acupuncture and meditation to quiet the pain and my mind. As needles have been placed on me, I’ve felt currents between the needles, mapping out constellations and images of good health for me. I listen to a meditation before I sleep, hoping I will focus on my breath instead of the pain I’m feeling or shift my focus from the anxiety of what I feel like I must do tomorrow. Through adding  both acupuncture and meditation, I sense I can “read” my body more and therefore know what it needs. I’ve always had a sense or feeling come over me when I’m about to hear of bad news from scans. I can tell the difference between fatigue from treatment working from the fatigue that growing cancer cells cast on to me. And there are times when I can’t read the Morse code of pain-strikes within my chest. Is this pain from cancer birth and growth or from cancer cells dying within me? (Isn’t it interesting how both birth and death bring their own types of pain?)

So, tomorrow I go back for chemotherapy.  Today, I’ve been preparing my body with my pre-medications. And, when I think about it, I’ve been preparing my mind/soul also. I’ve been doing things around the house now so that later in the week I won’t look around and be overwhelmed. I already made some soup ahead of time so I have a go-to meal to eat, because cooking on treatment is just overwhelming. I’ve been talking to God more and reading more and listening to Bible teachings while my mind is clear like a summer night sky, able to think, reflect and meditate on the Word with much more ease. I constantly need to guard my heart with gratitude fences that surround and keep me at peace within my heart and mind.

I don’t want to admit it, but taking chemotherapy and steroids and medications that all come with it just transform me into a different person. I try really hard not to let that Jenna-version exist and to jump-start the return of me with little joys that I know I love: walking and petting my dog Wylie, going to coffee shops, rummaging books, prayer-journaling. But sometimes it is really hard to bring me back. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever come back or am I cursed under chemo’s spell. The spell’s curses include feelings of defeat, physical tiredness, insomnia, lack of appetite, lack of joy. It’s hard to be the damsel in distress and also feel like I have to be my own knight in shining armor to defeat the disease and the negatives of the chemo-not-yet-cure.

So please pray for me. Pray for strength, patience, and joy. Pray for gratitude and promptings to express that to my parents, husband and friends who always are quick to help me.

poetry experiment.

I’ve been thinking of writing poetry again.
Oh, how I have missed it!
And I forgot how much
I missed it.
How do you forget your first writing love?
I think going back to age 13,
before cancer,
will jump-start my creativity.
Not like it’s not there—
I feel the words,
see them like snowflakes
in the snowglobe of my mind
and I am trying to catch them.
Chemo snowglobe mind—
I must shake myself everyday
just to make sure I am still alive and functioning.

I am a dog mom,
mother to a white fur baby toddler,
and a police officer wife.
The Officer longs to fight the crimes
that go on inside of me more than anything.
And maybe that is why
he became a cop—
to try to protect me from the outside world
since he can’t protect me from within
against my very self/cells.
Cancer has crime scenes
marked all over my body—
from bones to lungs to hips—
the evidence is everywhere
and the verdict is guilty.
And although it tries to murder me
with every new relapse, scene, and place
I am escaping by grace.

And maybe this poetry thing
is just what I needed.
A reminder that I’m not just an essayist
but a poet.
My heart sings psalms
as the chemo drugs calm
the overactive cells within me
saying: breathe
and live
and give life to words and others.
Your end has not come.
Do not daydream of funerals or tears
All of those fears are misplaced
because this writing space
creates vision for the future:
hope.

happy new year!

happy new year!

I hope the new year so far as treated you kindly with fresh perspectives, warm surprises, and warm blessings. In my household, the new year has already been eventful: Josh graduated his police academy training and ceremony after ceremony has been celebrated, appreciated and endured. Josh gave me the honor of pinning on his badge, and I held its weight in gold and silver, in awe of all that Josh has persevered to get to this moment. My family and I couldn’t be more proud of him!

In the midst of all the celebrating, I was undergoing and finishing up my last few rounds of radiation. I was recommended to have 10 sessions of radiation to my C5 cervical spine (the area around the back of your neck.) I at first panicked because it was radiation to my C7 cervical spine a couple of years ago resulted in intense shoulder and neck pain for months. It has improved for sure, but still when any medical professional touches my neck, their hands immediately fly into the air as if my shoulders were a hot kettle that burned them. They are always just in shock of how hard my neck and shoulders are; you honestly don’t have to be a medical professional to tell this fact. Today, I still combat this pain with a pain management trio of massage, acupuncture, and medication.

So I write to you now with the 10th radiation treatment completed. It’s tradition to ring the bell after completion of treatment, but this was like my 4th time completing a radiation regiment. Isn’t that bell supposed to signify that I am completely done with radiation, that I will never have to return back here again? In my case, I’ve returned several times. It would almost feel like I’m lying if I rang that bell. It’s not that I’m not hopeful about my health, but when you look back and remember the other 3 bell ringings its hard not to feel conflicted about this bell for me. I don’t want to stain the bell’s brass for other hopeful cancer patients with my unfortunate multiple trips back here.

Now, I thankfully have a little over a week break from all treatment. My body definitely needs a break from radiation and chemotherapy and multiple-day trips to the hospital. Since I’ve had radiation to my neck before, I’m anxiously trying to prepare against the side effects that come afterwards. I follow a yoga YouTube instructor for neck stretches, hoping to prevent pain and the moments providing stress relief as well. I almost always put a neck/shoulder heating pad while I watch tv or read. I massage a salve onto my neck every night before sleeping, praying that I don’t wake up in the middle of the night to have to take any pain medication. I’m trying to be more hydrated in hopes that I can keep my throat and esophagus moist, to relieve any burns that might have occurred on the inside of my throat, drenching the radiation fire with water, Propel, tea, coffee, anything.

I will update again sooner rather than later my friends. Thank you always for reading my updates and faithfully praying for me and asking how I am doing. He is good!

backwards update.

Note from the author: I have been working on this blogpost draft off and on throughout November and December. I finally just said to myself, I need to publish this! As you will read, November was a whirlwind, and December and all of the holidays was a fun but busy time. If you want the short and sweet of this update in a sentence: After finding 3 new cancerous spots on my spin, my doctor wanted me to start chemotherapy immediately with radiation to shortly follow.

Thank you always for reading and praying for me!

November was a flash-flood of emotions, events, time. My writer water-words hope to hold and collect some of it in this glass mason jar of my blog so that you can see my heart, my hopes.

My parents, Josh and I went to the Cleveland Clinic late October. I now was off the clinical trial of Cabozantinib and in need of new treatment options. Nick, my oncologist, suggested we go to try to plea with Dr. A regarding a clinical trial and to get more insight and opinions of treatment options. Dr. A is a world-known Ewing’s Sarcoma expert and yet still a sweet older gentleman with a heart for patients. I arrived anxious and left hopeful. I was so impressed by the amount of care and concern the Cleveland Clinic had for me even though I wasn’t their patient. Josh and I left with a PowerPoint of scan images, medical journals, personalized notes regarding my treatment options all on a single flashdrive. A flashdrive of hope, of new found confidence, of plans and ideas. We may not have gotten onto the clinical trial like we had hoped, but I know I left feeling more optimistic and confident that there was more to do, there were more weapons and reasons to continue to fight.

Who knew we would be entering in battle again so soon? The following week, scans revealed that I needed to start treatment again, now. Three new tumorous spots appeared on my spine: one on my neck, one near my ribs, and another the tailbone. My Orion’s belt of tumors instead of stars. The Orion’s belt I look for in the winter sky, clear and bright, the hunter fighting unseen beasts in the sky. I too am fighting unseen beasts, but within me. Friday of that same week, my hunter-self is called to action. The need to fight again is now; get a new IV line in me and start a new chemotherapy all over again. So soon, so quickly, only a brief period of a few weeks rest between clinical trial and chemo.

At the recommendation of the Cleveland Clinic, I started Doxil, Vincristine and Zometa. Once again, all alien and foreign sounding bodies, or names of places in a teen dystopian novel.

I became a Zometa zombie, shuffling around the house, shivering with fevers and flu-like aches. And with a fever, comes a mandatory ER visit, an insistent plea by the doctors and nurses in order to make sure that my PICC line isn’t inflected. And that ER visit typically turns into an overnight hospital stay (which it did) and Josh having to calm me down around nurses and doctors with my medical frustrations. I am definitely not good at being a patient patient.

 

2 years.

It’s been 2 years since I found out I had cancer for the 4th time. 2 years, and I’m still going and hunting for treatments.

A lot has happened in 2 years:
I got engaged, married,
I’ve moved twice,
We adopted a puppy (who is 1 today),
I’ve been writing a book,
I’ve been to 2 funerals for my cancer survivor siblings,
I’ve been on several treatments and clinical trials,
And I’m (hopefully) about to be on another one.

Since October 2016, I’ve done 3 different treatments—maybe even 4, I honestly can’t remember. I cut my hair, it all fell out, it grew back for a bit, chemotherapy turned it bleach blonde, I temporarily dyed it purple, and it’s grown enough for me to have my hair cut twice now. I have no idea what chemical spell the next clinical trial will put on my hair, be it bald or transforming color and texture. I’m so used to having other women ask me what I do to my hair, and I’m so used to honestly telling them its the chemo shampoo and conditioner. It doesn’t even register to me that that answer could be shocking to a stranger, but what else do you say when they ask you where you got your hair done and by whom?

I know I shouldn’t be complaining, but being a cancer patient for 2 years now is a long time. I’m losing my patience. I’m tired of waiting for the chemotherapy to work, waiting to hear if I can get on the newest clinical trial or not, waiting in the doctor’s office, waiting on my body to rest and recover. I know I should be grateful, but when two years pass by of not feeling like yourself and the chemotherapy is taking over the “real” you more, you begin to wonder when and if it will ever end.

But I know in 2 years time, I’ve been more than a cancer patient.
I’ve become a wife,
a dog mom,
a daughter-in-law,
a sister-in-law,
my husband’s early morning cheerleader,
a seeking-to-be-published writer,
connecting new friends and old friends,
and I’m still God’s daughter despite how I feel when I wake up each morning.

I sometimes beg Him in the middle of the night to stop torturing me with cancer pain and chemo weariness, and I recall Ashleigh and Skylor’s faces waiting to welcome me. And other times, when I’m walking my Wylie pup and its a bright, breezy blue and green all around you and you feel like you could walk for miles and never look back, it’s during those times I ask Him to keep me here on this earth just a little bit longer to enjoy more moments like those.

I’m still here—
breathing, fighting, surviving, writing, typing, reading, walking, living, being.
And when you look at the numbers and statistics, it’s pretty perplexing that I am still here. And sometimes I want to ask of the Great Doctor why and how come but those just aren’t the questions He looks to answer while I’m here on earth. Because He answers with more questions: what are you doing with the time I’ve given you? I want to be faithful, but many days I just want to lay on the couch and snuggle with Wylie, reading and sleeping. What does it mean to be faithful with the time you’re given? Not just productive with time like my heart worries so much about but faithful even with the smallest amount of energy I have some days.

I hope I can answer that in another 2 years that I hope I’m given.

Welcome Heaven-Home, Ashleigh.

The last time I saw you was on my wedding day, and the next time I will see you will be on The Wedding Day, the reunion of Christ and his Bridegroom, Him and us joining together in eternal bliss that we all hope and long for.

revelation 21

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

For these words are trustworthy and true—

It is true that one day there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.
It is true that one day the Father will physically wipe away this daughter’s tears from her eyes.
It is true that I won’t have to fear death taking captive any more of my cancer survivor brothers and sisters, my family, my friends.
It is true that there won’t be a divide between Him and I nor I and my friends nor I and Him and we.


 

A week ago we celebrated the Resurrection.
Today, I’m going to my friend Ashleigh’s visitation and tomorrow to her funeral.

I hate visitations. And yet, in God’s mercy, He is showing me why.

Yes, seeing the open casket and the body there is surreal and weird and odd. My friend is laying there but its not my friend laying there either. Her laughter is not there. Her love for Justin Timberlake and reading young adult novels and Panera’s chicken and wild rice soup is not there. Her desire for travel is now resting. She won’t attending chemotherapy the same time as me anymore, no longer transforming a boring hospital stay to a sweet and laughter-filled reunion.

My friend is gone when I go today and look at that body.
She’s gone.

And as much as I’m dreading seeing that empty body of hers today, the Lord’s reminding me that maybe it isn’t as morbid as my heart deep within me feels. Because this isn’t the last time I will be seeing that body of hers. Yes, it may be going deep, deep into the ground tomorrow but there is the promise, the Resurrection promise of Christ, that Ashleigh and her body will join again, that together one day we will see and experience each other without cancer as our main connection but as Him and our joy as our tether.

1 corinthians 15

35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else.

42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.

51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

Today I am seeing your body-seed being planted, and in the future I will see your new body transformed to be imperishable—never ending, never dying, eternal and perfect. Just as I hold an apple seed and know that it is only it’s beginning, I know your body is not just ending but its beginning. Just as I know that seed will transform into an awe-inspiring tree, I can be confident that your body will one day rise up again when called and will be transformed in glory and in power.

So today, when I see you, Jesus help me to remember these promises. That this will not be the last time I see your physical body either. I can be confident of a physical and spiritual reunion with my friend Ashleigh. And in the meantime, I can be confident that she is home with You where all of us belong.

“Hold your friends lovingly but be ready to yield them to Jesus. Don’t hold them back from the One to whom they belong. When they are sick, fast and pray. But when they depart, do much as David did, who washed his face and ate and drank. You will go to them; they cannot return to you. Comfort yourselves with the double thought of their joy in Christ and Christ’s joy in them. And triple the thought of the Father’s joy in Christ and in them…Dying is but going home.”

Charles Spurgeon from We Shall See God

Welcome home, Ashleigh.

 

Sercey Wedding-429

This is how I see her in Heaven now.

 

29695116_10211015802097382_1207410646589636608_n

updates, chemo crazy time & Kickstarter!

Oh, it’s been a while.

Here’s a short update from me if you don’t want to read a long blog-post that I’ve crafted, stopped, crafted again and just now am finishing:

  1. At the end of July, I was originally scheduled to have cancerous lung nodules removed; however, some last minute scans had shown that the tumors had grown, and surgery was no longer an option.
  2. Came back to the “chemotherapy drawing board,” if you will, and I knew intuitively that I wanted to return back to a chemotherapy regiment that I had done when I was 18/19 years old, a freshman in college.
  3. I have now had 2 cycles or rounds of this chemotherapy regiment, and a CT scan of my chest proved that after 1 cycle alone that the chemotherapy is working and shrinking the lung nodules! Praise God!
  4. About a week ago, I decided to finally and purposefully pursue my idea of transforming my blog into a book. Since self-publishing and fighting cancer are both separately expensive in themselves, I started a Kickstarter to campaign for funding. Currently, I have 71% pledged funds for my self-publishing project!!! Please check out my project and progress if you get the chance. I appreciate any support—financial or word of mouth—that you may choose to do to promote my journey towards self-publishing. You all are so amazing of my family and I, diligently praying, supporting and thinking of us!

 

long update/blog-post. 


On the last day of July, I anticipated waking up with new scars underneath my left arm, a sideways crescent moon alongside my left rib cage, shortness of breath and pain.

On the last day of July, I anticipated going to the hospital for lung surgery to remove the small nodules that we knew of.

The last day of July was a Monday, the beginning of a new week, a beginning of recovery.

Those plans changed and disappeared before my eyes, like a magic trick, just days before my surgery date. (oh, medial mysteries!)

You see, it’s really true: cancer grows and changes and spreads quickly, in an instant.
My life changes and transforms in an instant.

I am the dog at the end of cancer’s leash. I am following its lead it feels often.

Scans before my surgery revealed that the cancer nodules in my lungs had grown. Finding out that they had grown over such a short period of time—less than a month—was, to put it honestly, devastating.

I was mentally prepared for the new scars to come, the new aches and pains that I had never experienced before, for recovery, for being tired.

I was prepared for removal, destruction. Not for growth.

I knew I didn’t want to be in agony for long over deciding a new treatment route. I also new that I didn’t want to return back to clinical trial land. I wasn’t in the mental space to start new doctor relationships, new medicines, new hospital. I wanted some sort of stability in the midst of my cells constant changing.

Josh and my dad were there in the room with the consult with Dr. Nick and Stacey, while my mother was on speaker phone, at home with the dogs. In the past, Josh has been around for the waiting game of scans, getting bloodwork done, and many other appointments of mine. But this appointment was the first time he was there for the conversations, the conversations that are branded black into your memory, the black-and-white truth are snapshots in your mind’s album. These the conversations where you completely remember of the words said, and not just the words you remember but also where you were sitting, what you were wearing, the expression on people’s faces…

I was prepared for this kind of conversation. The black-and-white truths of where I am at in my cancer journey are indeed scary. Dr. Nick hands me a list of numerous possible drugs and treatment options, and in the cancer world that is not the best thing. Having a list of many drugs to choose from does not mean that they are all great options; it means there are no options left. Scanning the names, trying to pronounce the names… which drugs do you choose and how do you choose which ones to dig deeply into your bone and blood to plant into your body and pray they work?

I will tell you a secret:
For some time, since the beginning of this year, around the time I was about to be kicked off my clinical trial, I knew in my heart and mind that I would return back to old chemo drugs I’ve had in the past, when I was a freshman in college. For some reason the Spirit seemed to just let me know ahead of time that those drugs will come back into my life at some point, and I swear I felt different nerve-endings and cells rejoice and sing with the thoughts of returning to these drugs. They were almost pleading with me, asking me, telling me that these are the medicines and drugs they needed, and my body knew it. (It’s amazing sometimes what your body tells you, if you simply listen.)

Your body will tell you what it needs most of the time, if you only just listen, I am realizing more and more.

So I listened. And doing so shortened the agony of deciding what drug to choose this time, making pros and cons of each, looking up more information on the internet about the risk factors or the statistics.

On the last day of July, instead of rolling into surgery, I returned back to the day infusion clinic and smiled with joy at the nurses eager to see me, missing them after a month+ of being chemotherapy free. And as I returned every day that week, receiving chemotherapy as my 9-5 job, I felt immense peace. 

Peace. Peace. Peace. Peace.

Once that needle was inserted into my port, the chemo key unlocked my chest. I swear, I felt it do so. And as the chemo key opened up my chest and flowed through my chest walls and lungs, all I felt that week was peace, that I knew I was doing the right thing for my body for once, it felt. That maybe, just maybe, these drugs were what my body has needed all along.

So, I finished my first chemo round during the first week of August, and since then I have been on a 2 week chemo free break. I’ll tell you, it sounds crazy and strange, but I much prefer going in for chemo every day for 5 days straight and then having 2 weeks off instead of my old schedule: 1 day of chemo per week for 3 weeks in a row. Having 2 weeks of no chemo compacting onto itself in my body is so much more doable for me personally.

This past week though has been, admittedly, a lot! Every day feeling pain in my chest, sometimes coughing after laughing, makes me look down and wonder what is going on in there? I questioned and wondered and then angst and became terrified of all the action I felt within my chest walls, that I asked for a chest CT scan sooner than when my doctor had planned and anticipated.

That battle I was feeling within my chest WAS VICTORY! The chemotherapy is working! The lung nodules are shrinking smaller and smaller in millimeter sizes.

So now I am continuing on this treatment path, taking in chemotherapy for 5 days at a time, with much more confidence and assurance that this is what my body needs. And it is indeed still hard to remember that at times when I am exhausted from being exhausted, waking up at 4am because I’ve had crazy insomnia. The chemotherapy side effects wax and wane with each week. With each push of the drug, I know that something within me is happening, and that the Lord still wants to keep me here for His purposes.

Help me to see those purposes and reasons Lord as I go back to another chemo week tomorrow.
Help me to continue to find that peace that You promise and long to give me.
Help my family and I rest and recover in You.