ISAIAH 61:1-4

ISAIAH 61:1-4

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me and has anointed me to
Preach the good news to the poor. .
Bind up the brokenhearted,
Proclaim freedom for the captives,
Proclaim release from darkness for the prisoners,
Comfort all who mourn
Provide for those who grieve in Zion to bestow on them
The oil of gladness for mourning
And a garment of praise for a spirit of heaviness

Friday, March 30, 2007

Battling Cancer

I've been working at putting some of my battle with cancer into a book. I decided to post this part of today's writing.
This illness hit me particularly hard because I have always been healthy as a horse. More than that, I was raised to be self-sufficient and I took those lessons to heart. If it could be done, I believed that I could do it.
Anybody remember the 1939 Chevy? As I thought, only a few of you knew without the photo to jog old memories, or inform young minds!
When I was a senior in high school, my dad bought me an old car, a ’39 Chevy much like this one only black and more beat up. What I wouldn’t give to have that thing now. Even then it was old enough to be more than just any old rattletrap. I was secretly rather proud of her. One of her eccentricities was that the transmission wouldn’t shift quite properly. Running, that is rolling, it worked fine. But if the car came to a stop while in third gear, it was stuck there. For a competent stick shift driver, this doesn’t present major problems in most circumstances. It was fairly easy to ride the clutch and manage to get the car rolling and slip it into neutral. Under certain circumstances, however, this manuever was not possible, for example when I pulled into a parking slot facing the brick wall of the local A & W Root Beer drive-in and forgot to pop ‘er into neutral. (If this was Greek to you, ask somebody who enjoys driving a stick shift!)
With the forward maneuver blocked by a brick wall, I had two choices. I could get out the jack, jack up the rear tire and rev the motor to release the transmission, or I could get out my trusty Phillips screwdriver, open the transmission case and change the gears by hand. I usually opted for number two. I could get ‘er running with little fuss and feathers, just a few minutes under the hood.
My dad had an interesting hierarchy of “girls” work and “boys” work. As a girl, I had to demonstrate that I could change a tire—and in the case of the old Chevy, fix the transmission—before he would let me drive alone. But I couldn’t do anything that required crawling under the car, like changing the oil. That was “boys” work.
Dad wouldn’t teach me basic carpentry skills, because wielding a hammer qualifies as “boys” work and is unseemly for a girl to do, but I could fix most electrical appliances. We didn’t believe in throwing anything away; repair was the order of the day. As a result, irons, toasters, coffee pots and other small electricals usually sported one or more bandaids of black electrical tape. I could fix them all, and did multiple times.
My husband didn’t share this urge to fix things. We’d been married about a year when I came home to a missing toaster. Imagine my chagrin when he said he had thrown it in the garbage. I lost my chance at demonstrating my skill since the garbage man beat me home, but soon after our iron proudly sported a black plastic bandaid! Fixed by me!
I did farm work too, but only those tasks deemed appropriate for girls. I was not allowed to drive the tractor with a disk or plow attached, only a wagon. During haying, I drove the tractor and/or the truck with huge loads of hay, but never bucked bales (To the uninformed: bucking bales is lifting them in and out of the wagon or barn, moving them around using a hay hook--picture Captain Hook's prosthesis with a handle attached.) That was fine with me since I hated actually being in contact with hay, and bales of hay are heavy, usually 80 to 100 pounds each. On the other hand if I wanted to drive the pickup (before I had my car) to a church or school function, I’d have to empty the feed from the back – those sacks were also 50 to 100 pounds each.
My sense of self-sufficiency followed me into adulthood and middle age. Even moving around the globe and across the nation didn’t shake it more than temporarily. The idea that “whatever life dished out, I could take or even fix,” remained firmly a part of my psyche.

Until I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Pastor Phylis 

(Post continued in April 3 post)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Monday night the kids came over to spend some time with John. We had pizza and conversation. And took this picture.

I spent yesterday resting from the weekend's activities. I'm still very low energy, so I'd guess that the intravenous iron they gave me Monday isn't improving my red blood count much. But I'll find out for sure next week. Tests begin then to see what's what. And then as soon as my system will sustain it, the last of the surgeries.

We went into Chicago with John Tuesday night for a church service. Interesting, to say the least. I was really tired coming home. We went in early and caught a meal at the Frontera Grill. If you ever have a chance for a meal in Chicago, the Frontera is a great place. It's on North Clark and is rated as the 3rd best casual dining restaurant in the U.S. The cuisine is Mexican, but not your typical TexMex stuff. Really great gourmet Mexican food. I had catfish, believe it or not. A little bit of my Missouri heritage with the tortillas, beans and avocado. It was most delicious! Speaking of food, I need a bit of lunch!


Pastor Phylis

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Chemotherapy Update

Thank God, Chemo itself is over. Now it's discovering the damages done, and repairing those. Right now my red blood cells are still abnormally low, so that's the first target. I had intravenous iron yesterday to see if that will bring up the count and keep it up. Then it's on to ultrasounds, cat scans, a colonoscopy (yuck) and more blood tests. Last time for the complete blood panel, the cancer markers were way down, which is a good sign. We shall see.

Bob's brother is here from California, so we've been really busy this weekend. Monday I was too tired for a bike ride, so John went riding with the girls. And. . . here are the bike riding pictures. (Especially for North Kingston!!) :) Also, note, I don't have my wig on here. (Somehow it doesn't seem to go with bike riding!). The little one had to clean her bike after the first ride. She really didn't want those white tires dirty! Wet wipes are good for many things!

Recovering Strength,

Pastor Phylis

Thursday, March 22, 2007

I'm really on the last set of chemotherapy treatments. That is very exciting. I commented to Rob the other day that I'm not feeling as bad as the first set in this series when I had expected to feel continuously worse. Rob always has interesting insight. He suggested that since I had felt so much better after the month long hiatus following the allergic reaction, that the first one hit hard. Now, there isn't so much difference each time. So, I guess going from good to fairly bad is more noticeable than from fairly bad to slightly worse!! Whatever!

Yesterday I did manage to ride my bike for four blocks. (That's circling one block!) I was much shakier than I expected when I started, but I got the hang of it. (What is it they say about never forgetting how to ride a bike?) But the four blocks was my limit. I had muscle fatigue by then. But it's been 18 months, 3 surgeries, and 8 months of chemotherapy since I've been on a bicycle, so I suppose that isn't too shabby for a first try!

Happy Spring!
Pastor Phylis

Monday, March 19, 2007

Oddities and idiosyncrasies, part II

It's oddities and idiosyncrasies, part II

ChemoFog: covered in last blog

Lost Body Parts: nothing new, covered in last blog

Digestion/Food: I'm so grateful that on this set of infusions, I'm experiencing no food aversions. On the first set, after awhile I couldn't taste anything except the most tangy or spicy foods, couldn't digest raw vegetables, found meat to be about as pleasant as shoe leather (and I am VERY carnivorous) and whole grains or anything approaching healthy caused cramps which leaves a diet of white flour, sugar, canned fruit (with yummy syrup). Eggs were my only real source of protein. Alas, I lost not one pound!! :) Small wonder.

Neuropathy: This time the major difficulty (besides ChemoBrain) is numbness in fingers and toes. Not as bad as the spell I had just before Christmas, more annoying than debilitating. The pads on my toes are as numb as can be and feel "fat". (Think going to the dentist and the "fat" feeling of your numbed lip). My toes are tingly and about half numb. My hands are swollen, but not numb. It's only noticeable in a loss of grip. Anything weight 3 or 4 pounds, I can't hold with one hand, like a canister of sugar which went kaboom the other day before I discovered that I have to use one hand on the bottom of the canister (About like you'd teach a 5 year old). Fortunately, I have nothing really important that I need to hold for any length of time (like a baby) or I'd be dropping it regularly.

Inertia: Now there's a problem. The inability to propel oneself off ones derriere doesn't promote productivity. But then I guess during this time healing and not productivity is the goal!! My red blood cell count is low enough to cause fatigue with a few hours of anything approaching normal activity. Mostly Monday and Tuesday, I'm pretty useless because I do more on the weekend. A weekday spend shopping or visiting at Ellis will also land me on the couch for the next 24 hours or so. However, thank God, it has not landed me in the hospital at all. But, I really do have to start some sort of exercise soon or I will lose all vestiges of muscles tone.

Time for chemo today. This is the next to the last one. One more Monday of this and then it's just tests, repairing damage and a couple of surgeries!!

Glory Be!!

Pastor Phylis

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Oddities and Idiosyncrasies of Chemotherapy

It's oddities and idiosyncrasies

I had so much trouble getting out of the house today. It should have been very simple, really. I simply needed to go get a broken (lost, actually) nail repaired. I grabbed purse and keys and head toward the car when I become aware that it is too cold to go without a coat. I go back in the house for a coat. I'm in the car, coat on, when I realize I forgot to take something for my migraine. (Duh!) So back to the house for meds. I'm almost at the door to go to the car again and remember I forgot to take a water bottle. (Dehydration is still a real and present danger, more so when I've just taken medication). I head back to the fridge for the water bottle, car keys in hand. Halfway to the nail salon, I realized my purse isn't in the seat beside me. Nor was it in the back seat, nor anywhere else in the car. I turned around in the nearest driveway and head back for my purse. Finally, success. I'm out the door with a coat, purse, car keys, and water bottle AND I have taken a migraine pill.

Now, don't get me wrong, I know that I've always been a space cadet. But these days it's more like I'm not the brightest bulb in the batch. And today is not a case in isolation.

Earlier today, I stopped at the grocery store to pick up my checkbook that I left there nearly a week ago. They called the same day, but I kept forgetting to go get it! I was embarrassed to get it, but the manager laughed and asked for my name since she had more than one checkbook left behind. (Okay, so there are other dim bulbs!)

The day I left the checkbook was certainly a unique experience for me. I used to wonder what would happen if something went down that little slit at the end of the grocery conveyor belt, but in 40 years I've grocery shopping I'd never lost anything in belt hell. Until that day!

I purchased two water-filled animals for the girls. They were that plastic that feels like slime and squishy to the touch since substantial air space was left inside. They weren't small either. The frog is about 6 inches long and 4 inches wide and maybe an inch and a half tall. The car (okay, it was an animal-looking car, complete with huge frog eyes) was even taller, maybe 2 and a half or three inches tall. The toys were the last two things I placed on the conveyor belt. I have my checkbook in hand and am waiting patiently for a total. I look up and realize that the toys have disappeared into "conveyor hell" and all that is left visible are the huge hard plastic froggie eyes. I reached out to pull them up to no avail. The checker tried too, then called for help. Apparently there is no emergency release for the belt, nor is there an accessible entry for maintenance. We had to abandon that checkout, cashier and all, pick up all my groceries and move to another checkout. Oh yes, a bagger also went back to get two more little squishy animals. And, I left my checkbook which apparently did not fall into conveyor hell but was left behind, nevertheless.

Lost Body Parts
Besides memory, I also have lost two fingernails (hence, the trip to the nail salon today) and four toenails. (Repairable--but I'll wait for sandal season)

And hair...mine is about half an inch long now. And appears to be light brown with very little red showing so far.

Ahh...must go. I have dallied too long over these descriptions and find my dear husband is waiting for me!! TaTa for now.

Pastor Phylis

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Chemo Update and lunch out

Chemotherapy Update

I'm continuing to feel better than usual on the week of a treatment. Thank God! I'm tired tonight. I watched my granddaughter for a couple of hours today -- she was home from school sick -- and then had lunch with Rachel and the girls. Anything approaching a normal day makes me very tired, but I still feel good.

The girls tried on my sunglasses today...what is it about dressing up in adult things that is so fun??? But aren't they cute?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Chemotherapy Update

Monday's Chemo was uneventful. I did ask the nurse about the last session when I slept for the entire session. She wouldn't comment, but she grinned when I asked if I frightened them by sleeping so deeply. All she would say was, "You were really asleep." That was the session that both the head nurse and the physician's assistant checked on me during the infusion.

But Monday, I wasn't so tired. I've also been taking a nutritional supplement that has helped. I've been on the Mangosteen juice about two weeks now and I can tell the difference.\rdutro

Then yesterday I added another supplement called Kylea. They have several products. I'm using the "Total Living Drink". I suppose it's basically a protein drink, but contains vitamins and minerals, pro-biotics, amino acids and antioxidants. The ads say "nutrient dense" formula. I liked the sound of it because it is made from vegetables and fruit with the whey base. Anyway, I can tell a difference in the way I feel today... I'm thinking probably both from the cumulative effect of the Mangosteen and the addition of the Kylea. We'll see. I'm pretty realistic about such things, very little placebo effect. But like I said, we'll see.

One thing though, it is the nastiest stuff I've ever tasted. I've tried a few of the protein drinks...this one tastes truly awful. It reminds me of alfalfa from my farm days. I suppose I can develop a tolerance for it. I'm sure going to try. Yesterday I added a bit of banana and strawberries to help with taste. I'll have to experiment with that.

At least, for whatever reason, I feel better than I would expect on day 3 of a chemo week. Thank God for that.


Pastor Phylis

Saturday, March 10, 2007


It rained last night, melting the snow. Our sidewalks were generously covered with standing water from the rain and melted snow. But after dark that mix of temperature--atmospheric warm air and the colder air from the ground also created fog. It reminded me of my California fog experiences. Here in Illinois we have fog in comparison to California like Texas has snow in comparison to Chicago. So my brain went to the REAL fog. :)

It was in Bible School sometime after the civil war (LOL) and I belonged to the Crusaders Club. On weekends we would go to churches in towns within driving distance of Stockton to help with services. Usually there were 3-5 of us: someone to preach, others for prayer, music, or moral support. We would drive, but had to be back at school by a reasonable time.

One night coming home, the fog was so thick that we couldn't see at all. I don't remember for sure who was driving. I think it was either John Smelser or Tim Dugas. But the fog was so bad that he drove the last 20 miles with the driver's door open and him looking down to follow the white line on the highway. It was the only way to see. We arrived safely and within our timeline!

Another night, we decided to utilize a flashlight. One of the guys rode on the hood of the car and shined the light on the white line to keep the car on the road. I really cannot remember who those less conventional guys might have been. That night was funny. We laughed all the way home! But again, we arrived safely and within our timeline.

For those mid-westerners who don't know what fog is, the fog I'm talking about is so thick that it is as though the headlights are shining against a shimmering white curtain about sixteen inches in front of the car. The glow from the lights just creates an impenetrable glare. Interesting phenomenon.

Oh well. Just a flashback of ancient history. Fog always does that to me. Makes me remember and laugh.  Laughter is good; it makes me feel better.


Pastor Phylis

Friday, March 9, 2007

Chemo Update and a Shopping Break

It's been a good week...can't believe it's almost over and I go back for chemo on Monday. The first week isn't that bad though. I usually can still get out of the house a bit every day. It's the third week that's the pits when I don't feel like even leaving the house. Yesterday I went shopping with a five-year-old. Big sister,  doesn't like shopping, but this one loves it. It's an experience to go with her!! She picked the "accessories" for the spring clothes I bought them. (Translate accessories as sunglasses, necklace, purse, hair bows) And she liked ALL the outfits I picked for her to choose from. Fortunately Aunt Christy went with us, so she helped with those choices. We had fun!

The "Faces" were taken at breakfast a week ago. Her new phrase is that she is "perpetually hungry". And she is...she also loves butter! The one of me was taken by the five-year-old, also a week ago--week three! You can see the weariness and swelling in my face. But...oh well!

Pastor Phylis

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

No chemotherapy this week!

Such relief today. I do notice the difference already, although I won't get full effect until tonight and tomorrow. The immediate effect is that I didn't sleep so well last night, but still feel better today than last week. Restlessness in sleep is due to the shot for the red blood cells. In addition to the shot of ArenesD, I've been taking a dietary supplement, a juice product called Mangosteen all last week. I could tell some difference Sunday and Monday. Obviously it's a possibility that it's placebo effect, but I'm generally pretty good at knowing what's going on. (Okay, one glaring lapse was not catching the tumor earlier -- but the flat, diffuse shape made it very difficult to detect...and I did know something was wrong.)

Like yesterday, when I went for the blood test and possible shots I told the nurse that I'd need the red blood cell med (ArenesD) and not the white one (Neupogen). I could tell the red was extremely low (it was!) by the degree of fatigue, and I was pretty sure the whites were within range by the condition of my sinuses. (I get REALLY inflamed sinuses whenever my immune system drops below acceptable levels.) She came back with the report and commented that it must be the teacher in me. (I don't think she knows that I'm also a psychologist!)

So... the effect of the Mangosteen is slowly building, by my reckoning. (Later I'll add the website where you can check out the Managosteen that I'm taking...just in case anyone is interested.) Here it is:\rdutro

Praying for a productive week!


Pastor Phylis

Monday, March 5, 2007

Chemotherapy Update

Today I get only shots for boosting blood counts and no chemo. This is the week of rest. That's exciting. Sometime Tuesday afternoon, the effect of the shots will kick in and I'll have a bit more energy again. Whew! Although...I explained my typical "tired" schedule to a friend yesterday: eat breakfast and read the paper, usually do the crossword and the Sudoku, work on my computer for awhile then rest a bit before lunch. Work a bit more after lunch, then rest again. Bob comes home and we have dinner. Then I rest some more. My friend was laughing saying it sounded like a pretty good schedule to him. He'd probably love it -- for about a week or so. :)

Anyway, I'm excited about the prospect of feeling better and being able to do more...maybe dispense with most of the "rest" times. I guess I'm a bit like a 3 year old who is certain she doesn't need naps anymore. Naps are boring things. (Unless you need them). Don't get me wrong, I'm absolutely grateful that I don't have to fight the battle of trying to put in a full day's work while I'm this fatigued. It would probably land me in the hospital. God has been good and I'm thankful.

I'm still looking forward to this week, however!!

Pastor Phylis

Saturday, March 3, 2007

On Chemotherapy

On Chemotherapy

I know why the frequency of writing drops on weeks I don't feel as's not that I can't write, it's that it's more difficult to be cheerful and write positively. Yet as I look back on this process, I have so much to be thankful for. I have not been hospitalized even once except for the initial surgery. Only one time was chemotherapy even delayed because of low blood counts. Certainly I had obscene nausea until Christmastime. This second round, the nausea is not a problem. I've had the one episode of neuropathy, which went away after a month with no permanent damage.

But when talking about chemotherapy those little difficulties are very small. Listening to the stories of others who have truly had a hard time in chemo, I've skated through. The best thing? It's almost over.

This week I received an email from a friend of a friend whose four year old grandson was just diagnosed with kidney cancer. The little one is having surgery to remove the kidney, then will have to undergo from four months to a year of chemotherapy. Now that is difficult. But I know that God will grant grace and mercy. Pray for little Joshua.


Pastor Phylis

Friday, March 2, 2007

Chemotherapy and more Chemo

Chemotherapy Update

A friend told me the other day that she can tell what week of chemo I'm on by how many blogs I write. She says that the week I have no chemo I write the most...daily or even more. Then over the next three weeks the number drops until on the third week, I write only once or twice or even not at all.
I'm sure she's right. I'm writing today (week three) just to be writing. This is the week I'm most fatigued...I do the least....think the the least. So there's less to talk about. Just "I'm tired, but doing pretty good." :) Let's see: some headaches (but nothing like when I was getting triple the quantity of chemicals), interrupted sleep, nightmares (not funny ones -- the kind you know are bad, but can't remember anything in the morning except that it was bad), low energy and a feeling of perpetual tired. For comparison sake, those moms out there remember how it felt those first few weeks with a new baby? It felt like you would never get enough rest. Multiply that by... oh... say, 50 and that's chemo fatigue.
So suffice it to say today, I'm doing okay. I'm just tired. :) The bright spot is that on Monday, I go for the blood booster shots and NO CHEMO! Then in a couple of days I'll feel like I can join the human race again! :)
Pastor Phylis