Monday, April 30, 2007

What will tomorrow bring?

What will tomorrow bring?

Man, if I knew that, I could triple my billing rate for my clients! I would also feel a lot less suspense waiting for MRI results. (I'd just feel the suspense a day earlier).

The truth is, none of us knows for sure what tomorrow will bring. We just know what we have planned.

Assuming things go as planned, I have a neuro test followed by a long chemo infusion tomorrow. This is a good thing, because my labwork came back good enough to proceed with treatment. I still have bone marrow. (Never take your bone marrow for granted!)

And assuming things go as planned, the day after tomorrow I will be recovering from chemo, and then I will have a meeting at my son's school. Despite our efforts to protect him, my illness has been a source of stress for him, and he started having behavioral problems at school right after my surgery. They have been minor and understandable, but we have learned that going to an award-winning school can be both a blessing and a curse. I have been warned by parents and pediatricians to watch out -- these award-winning schools are the quickest to label kids. If I had an 11-year prognosis I would home school him, because he's so darn smart and he did great at "Camp Mama-atta-homa" last summer. (Before my property values plummet as a result of this blog, I should mention that the school really does provide a fantastic curriculum, and is a great one for those children who are not facing a family crisis, and who are otherwise able to avoid acting like a five-year-old while in kindergarten.) Thank goodness for my mastery of the gorilla grin, as I will be using it during the meeting. (I've posted about this before--when gorillas are about to attack, they bare their teeth and appear to be smiling.)

After the meeting I get to hug my family goodbye and board an airplane. I am traveling to Utah for my first book signing tour! My alma mater, Brigham Young University, is having a Women's Conference this week, and the BYU bookstore is having a big book signing event with lots of authors, and I was invited to participate. I have other signings scheduled during my trip. Here's my schedule, for those who are in the area:

Thursday May 3
10:00-12:00 Seagull Bookstore, 1720 S. Redwood Road, SLC.
12:30-2:30 Seagull Bookstore, 5720 S. Redwood Road, Taylorsville.
3:00-5:00 Seagull Bookstore, 1625 W. 9000 S., West Jordan.

Friday, May 4
10:30-12:00 BYU Bookstore during Women's Conference
4:00-6:00 Seagull Bookstore 677 N. State Street, Lindon.

Saturday, May 5
10:00-11:00 Seagull Bookstore, 2250 N. University Pkwy #C56, Provo
11:30-12:30 Seagull Bookstore, 331 E. University Parkway, Orem
1:00-2:00 Seagull Bookstore, 1326 S. University Ave., Provo
2:30-3:00 Seagull Bookstore, 111 S. State Street, Orem

I haven't traveled alone since my head got cracked open. My travels have all been with family. Luckily I will be seeing and staying with family and friends, but I will miss being with my husband and kiddos, even for just a few days. But if things go as planned we'll have a sweet reunion Saturday night. And naturally, that thought leads to the analogy of what another tomorrow might ultimately bring (hopefully not for a LONG time). This disease creates the possibility of leaving my family behind again for a while. I'll hopefully be in a place where I can associate with other family and friends, although I will miss being with Jared and Jacob and Emma. It will only be a temporary separation, however, and we'll have a sweet reunion again -- one that will last forever.

After all, as Tony Snow has mentioned while discussing his own cancer experience, "God doesn't promise us tomorrow, but he promises us eternity."

Enjoy today!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Playground in (what's left of) My Mind

I've been working really hard today, and I guess it must have tickled whatever is left in my mind that conjures up old memories. I kept thinking of a song that I loved back in 1973 when I was about my son's age, called "Playground In My Mind", recorded by Clint Holmes. It's one of those that will stick in my head all day. So with my apologies to whoever wrote it, I had to create my own version:

"Playground In (What’s Left of) My Mind"
When this old world gets me down
And there's too much cancer to be found
I close my eyes and soon I find
I'm in a playground in (what’s left of) my mind
Where the children laugh and the children play
And we sing a song all day:
"My name is Krista, I had some chemo,
Radiation, and surgery, too.
But I’m still singing, dancing, and writing;
That's what I'm gonna do"
Oh the wonders that I find
In the playground in (what’s left of) my mind;
Although it's soaked in chemotherapy,
Close your eyes and follow me
Where the children laugh and the children play
And we sing a song all day:
"My guy is Jared,
And we’ll get married.
And we’ll adopt a baby or two.
We're gonna let them visit their grandmas
That's what we're gonna do."
"Jacob and Emma,
I’ll be your Mama,
Daddy and I will always love you.
We're gonna let you visit your grandmas
That's what we're gonna do."
See the little children
Living in a world I don’t wanna leave behind
Happy little children
In the playround in (what’s left of) my mind.

Speaking from experience

There's nothing like finding a use for adversity, to give it some meaning. Just like the oyster, who endures irritating sand and uses it to make something valuable (a pearl), I have found myself with a couple of pearls of wisdom, thanks to the experiences that I have been blessed to be able to endure so far.

I was asked to speak at a recent stake women's conference at my church last weekend, on the topic of "These Things Shall Give Thee Experience". Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to fill that assignment, mostly because I'm so glad that I still CAN do it, but also because it is a chance to use my "experience" to hopefully share something of value. Afterward I got a phone call from someone who has asked me to speak at a young women camp on the topic of finding joy in any of life's circumstances. I think it's a great idea, because sometimes when we're young we think life is supposed to unfold like a perfect fairytale, and so it may be useful to let them know that sometimes things don't work out the way we plan--but we can still be optomistic and make great things happen in our lives.

My "experience" talk is based on LDS scripture found in Doctrine & Covenants 122:7-9, which is the Lord's reply to Joseph Smith, who was suffering extreme persecution:

"And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good. The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he? Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever."

When I was young and inexperienced I did not understand how horrible tragedies could give experience and be for our good. But now I realize that the Lord is so good, he can make good things out of anything that happens in our lives, if we let him. He did personally descend below all that we would ever have to face, and so he knows exactly how to help us and save us. And it's good to realize that our days are known and won't be numbered any less, and that no matter what happens in this world, God will always be with us.

I'll leave a couple of favorite thoughts for the day -- some of my favorite quotes about this subject of life's experiences:

“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude, and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God…and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire..." --Orson F. Whitney, in Faith Precedes the Miracle

“This life experience is designed for our growth and progress. Our trials will not be more than we can handle, but they cannot be less if we are to fill the measure of our creation.” --Ardeth Greene Kapp, in Rejoice! His Promises Are Sure

“If we looked at mortality as the whole of existence, then pain, sorrow, failure, and short life would be calamity. But if we look upon life as an eternal thing, stretching far into the premortal past and on into the eternal post-death future, then all happenings may be put in proper perspective...Is there not wisdom in his giving us trials that we might rise above them, responsibilities that we might achieve, work to harden our muscles, sorrows to try our souls? Are we not exposed to temptations to test our strength, sickness that we might learn patience, death that we might be immortalized and glorified?...If all the sick for whom we prayed were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic principle of the gospel, free agency, would be ended. No man would have to live by faith...Being human, we would expel from our lives physical pain and mental anguish and assure ourselves of continual ease and comfort, but if we were to close the doors upon sorrow and distress, we might be excluding our greatest friends and benefactors. Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, long-suffering, and self-mastery." --Spencer W. Kimball

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Things aren't always what they seem

I think twelve days is my record for CDWB (consecutive days without blogging), and I really don't want to beat that.

Things aren't always what they seem. I'm still around. I'm still having fun. Easter was once again a wonderful reminder that no matter where this cancer experience takes me, the Savior's work was perfectly finished in order to ensure that I can overcome anything that happens to me. Shortly after Easter weekend (which included singing Messiah and marveling that I was still able to enjoy that wonderful experience) I discovered that I had depleted all my energy, and I spent a while feeling lousy. Not too lousy, but lousy enough to lay low for a while.

With all that energy drained, and with the earlier dip in my CBC's (which rebounded just enough for another round of chemo) I was convinced that my next panel of labwork would show that I was anemic. But things aren't always what they seem, and my results came out good enough for more chemotherapy today. Maybe all that fatigue had something to do with my body's refusal to sleep as much as it should.

Speaking of things not being what they seem, I have to share a favorite story that I once received in what I like to call "faith-promoting emails":

Things Aren't Always What They Seem
--Author Unknown

Two traveling angels stopped to spend the night in the home of a wealthy family. The family was rude and refused to let the angels stay in the guestroom of the mansion. Instead, they were given a space in the cold basement.

As they made their bed on the hard floor, the older angel saw a hole in the wall and repaired it. When the younger angel asked why, the older angel replied, "Things aren't always what they seem". The next night the pair came to rest at the house of a very poor, but very hospitable farmer and his wife. After sharing what little food they had, the couple let the angels sleep in their bed where they could have a good night's rest. When the sun came up the next morning the angels found the farmer and his wife in tears. Their only cow, whose milk had been their sole income, lay dead in the field.

The younger angel was infuriated and asked the older angel "How could you have let this happen!? The first man had everything, yet you helped him. The second family had little but was willing to share everything, and you let their cow die." The older angel replied, "Things aren't always what they seem. When we stayed in the basement of the mansion, I noticed there was gold in that hole in the wall. Since the owner was so obsessed with greed and unwilling to share his good fortune, I sealed the wall so he wouldn't find it. Then last night as we slept in the farmers bed, the angel of death came for his wife. I gave her the cow instead. Things aren't always what they seem."
Darn--too bad we don't have any cows, in case some traveling angels come by. But it's nice to know that our limited view of things can be so flawed. That's why we need to trust in the Lord instead of the arm of flesh.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Handel-ing Messiah

Today was the final rehearsal before our Messiah performance tomorrow night. (That's tomorrow night, Easter Sunday, at 7 pm, 2801 El Dorado Parkway, McKinney, Texas! Be there!)

For the third time since having my right brain assaulted by knives, radiation, chemicals, and tumor cells, I will be singing with the choir. I will be singing a duet with my husband. And I will be singing one of my favorite solos. As the orchestra began with the overture, tears of gratitude filled my eyes. Messiah is back in my life. And more importantly, the Messiah of whom we sing is in my life, blessing me to be able to enjoy this moment.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, I'm not dead. I'm not tone deaf. I haven't lost my memory. I sang most of it off-book today, because I was a little tired from Thursday's chemotherapy and I felt too lazy to stand and hold my music for three hours. All the assailants that would have taken my life, my musical ability, and my memory were no match for the power of prayer and the tender mercies of the Lord and a feisty spirit.


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

What a difference a day makes

Yesterday morning I woke up with a nasty dull ache in my stomach and a lingering, unsettling feeling--despite the "good" MRI--as though it somehow wasn't being processed as good news.

Fortunately, however, the day quickly improved. I was showered with encouraging phone calls from family members. And then I got an assignment to speak at an upcoming women's meeting at our church, which immediately gave me something exciting to focus on. My son came home from a good day at school--his third one in a row--which qualified him for a fun lesson in making marshmallow crispy treats with me. My sister-in-law, who is in the hospital gestating our future niece, loves those treats, and Jacob was so cute and happy, fixing her a plate of them, along with a card that he lovingly scrawled a message on.

A few people let me know that they received the latest Deseret Book catalog, which features my book, and our book group also met last night at my house to talk about my book and get their copies signed.

Somewhere in the midst of all these fun things, I finally got the phone call I had been hoping for: the new labwork that they did on Monday came back much better than last Thursday's results. I can have my regularly planned treatment this week. The quick recovery of my bone marrow is nothing short of miraculous, so big thanks again for the many prayers that helped bring that about. What a crazy life - to be in a position where "getting" to have chemotherapy is something to be excited about.

Needless to say, I awakened this morning with no aching pit in my stomach; just the usual flood of "to-do" tasks for the day and a feeling of gratitude that I have another day of life and things to do with it.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Thank goodness it's April 2nd...

I'm so glad it wasn't April Fool's Day today, because I didn't want to be waiting for a punchline if I heard anything I didn't like. We did joke, though, about the blood pressure monitor, which kept acting up on me. Maybe the machine thought it was still April 1st.

The good news was that today's MRI results were "good". The scan looks almost identical to previous scans, so anything still remaining may just be scar tissue or something like that. Of course, next time (in 8 weeks) I get to do a spectroscopy scan to know for certain. I was assured that the spectroscopy was not ordered because of anything worrisome, but as a routine practice every six months. Neuro tests were minimal, which was a good sign. (Didn't seem necessary to evaluate clinical effects if there was no evidence of disease progression.)

The bad news is that although my treatment seems to be working well, it is becoming less tolerable, at least as far as my bone marrow is concerned. I'll know the results of my labwork tomorrow, and that will dictate what we do next for treatment. Ideally they wanted me to be on my current treatment for a year and then put me on a maintenance program, but I learned that many patients can only handle six months of this regimen. I might get to squeeze out a couple more months if my blood cell counts can bounce back up. Meanwhile, I may have to postpone or pare back some of my treatment. We're not sure how this will play out, and in our discussion I also learned some things that I'd rather not think about. So I left with an uneasy feeling for the rest of the day, although I was somewhat relieved that at least for now things were better than they could have been. But I think I'm just haunted by previous bad news, and I'm creeped out by more exposure to the gruesome realities of what seems inevitable, although hopefully not until sometime in the far distant future.

What helped a lot was a small voice that kept whispering to me, "Trust not in the arm of flesh." I have a great oncologist, but despite her expertise in this matter she is not all-knowing. She has no cure for me (yet) but she has some good tricks up her sleeve and she may only be one of many tools that the Lord is providing. None of us knows all that will be accomplished in my life, and how long I have in which to get it done. None of us knows what is around the corner -- good or bad -- and while sometimes we are hit by tragedy we can also be surprised by marvelous miracles. (&& --Fingers crossed for the latter.)

Speaking of miracles, we had our family home evening lesson this evening on the Easter story, and the ultimate miracle of the Resurrection. As we spent our time immersed in this topic with our son, it was a sweet reminder of the hope that remains constant, regardless of whatever happens with this nasty cancer. That's what I can rely on, even more so than what good clinical experts might conclude.

And meanwhile, even though there's a residual icky feeling that wants to linger, I'm happy to know that at least for today I'm still in the game.