Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Yesterday morning I woke up at 5:15 a.m. and headed to UCLA at 6:30 a.m. arriving a half hour early at 9 a.m. (You might not care about that detail, but I do for the next time I take the journey and need to remember what time I should leave!)
UCLA Medical Center is state-of-the-art...gorgeous buildings on the outside and I'm sure the operating rooms and maybe even the hospital rooms are awesome. I would think if you have the best doctors and latest technology in care that it would trickle down to excellence in the office too, but I guess not. From dirty restrooms and glorified hospital food at the on-site restaurant to a DMV style-office and janitorial closet-sized exam rooms, one might be wondering when the state-of-the-art stuff is going to show up.
Well, he did and his name is Dr. Gary Schiller. I also was able to meet Dr. Mickey Liao, a Fellow that you would NEVER guess was a "Mickey!" Both were very nice and Dr. Schiller is an international expert in leukemia which is a bonus. He explained that we'll be doing a cord blood donation in my case. Well that is what he hopes for anyway. We'll be looking for a match in both banks, the cord blood and the bone marrow registry and see what happens first. Usually cord blood is easier because it's "off the shelf" meaning when you find a match the bone marrow transplant can go right away, but if it's a human donor you have to wait many weeks while they get verified, tested, work with their schedule, etc. etc.
The risk for graft-vs.-host disease is lower with cord blood, but the risk for infection is higher because it takes longer for the body to replenish cells with the cord blood donations. You will be praying for me on that!
The other news was that I'll be staying at UCLA for a good 6 weeks, going home earlier if I am doing well. The first 4 weeks is in the hospital, while the last 2 weeks is nearby at the guest house (which is a subsidized hotel room the hospital contracts at nearby hotels). I might not be 100% clear on this because they don't tell us everything until we need to know. It's unclear right now whether my whole family can come and stay at the guest house which I think is available for them while I'm in the hospital. We'll see.
So we'll know in 10 days to 2 weeks whether there is a cord blood match for me. And if so, I'm on my way to UCLA flying through the doors yelling like Linguini in the movie Ratatouille when he says, "Let's DO this thing!" Unfortunately, I might miss Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, but 2009 looks awesome.
What made this trip most special was visiting with friends in Torrance afterwards. We used to live there and it's always like time has passed when we get together with the Newharts and the Dahls. Those of you who couldn't get together this time, we hope to see you another time!
While we were visiting the hospital called and they had drawn the wrong tube for the matching process to begin. So it's a good thing I hadn't gone home yet! I spent the night at the Dahl's and went back in the morning to redraw. My blood count was normal again with platelets a whopping 310,000! So that was good news to me. Three years ago, I remember once I went home, I'd be home 1 week, then have to go into the hospital for 1 week for transfusions.
So I'm very thankful for all of this good news. The road ahead will be very difficult, but friends and family like you make it so much easier! Thank you for your meals, visits, notes and cards, presents, pictures for my board, cleaning help, childcare help, hospitality, and especially prayers. We couldn't do this without you!
P.S. Happy Birthday to Trevor, my youngest who turned 7 today!
Thursday, October 23, 2008
The encouragement I received really seemed to do the trick and got me back on track with living in the knowledge of the Truth that God is with me every step of the way. I knew that, but I wasn't living in the that...I was living as if the opposite it were true. And that's no good for anyone.
It is friends' notes like this one that do my soul a lot of GOOD: Even Jesus cried out from the cross, "My God , my God , why have you forsaken me?" It is OK to have intense feelings and to voice them...even feelings of desperation and anger...but you don't make your home there. You are on a pilgrimage with the Lord and despite the feelings and ups and downs you are going from strength to strength.
I love Psalm 84:5-7
"Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage. As they pass through the valley of Baca , they make it a place of springs. The autumn rains also cover it with with pools. They go from strength to strength until each appears before God in Zion."
I love it because Baca means tears and those tears also become a place of refreshing. Even now in your weakest physical state the Lord says you are going from strength to strength. It's OK to be weak because HE is our strength...we are going from His strength to His strength
Thank you my dear friend Michelle for that incredible reminder that feeling badly is ok, that He is our strength when we are weak. I will continue to seek Him and call out to Him in my despair.
But that was early in the week, and now Friday is upon us. I mentioned each day has been better than the day before. It's amazing to be doing so well at this point. I have no idea what next week holds, but I'm thankful for the progress I've seen. And my blood work came back very stable on Wednesday. My white blood count is 5.1, hemoglobin was 10.4, and platelets were an amazing 210k. I also had a bone marrow biopsy on Wednesday and got the news back that it looks excellent...my bone marrow had no leukemic cells and we're on track for UCLA. I go there Tuesday for my first consultation. I'm thrilled that my specialist at UCLA, Dr. Gary Schiller, is an international expert on leukemia...that's all he does and he's the best! So, I'm in great hands at UCLA! We'll visit with friends while we're down there too. My mom and her husband Glen arrived Thursday and will be able to stay with the kids when we go. They brought their large RV and have made home in our front yard!
On the kid front, Trevor and Adam are the best of friends and have been getting along SO well! I have really been enjoying their conversations and all the laughter we've shared in the last few days! The other night we spent at least a half hour trying out British accents, which I'm infamous for (how hilariously bad my accent is - a cross between Bangladesh and Texan!) Adam who is really against this whole business of British accents has the best one of all and should really be doing plays. Trevor is definitely an aficionado of the British accent, but sounds either Scottish or Australian sometimes, taking after his mother, but still much better than she!
This will warm your heart: One morning when breakfast was served and Trevor came to the counter bar to eat with Adam, he said, "I want to sit next to my best buddy." Awwwww! That even really made Adam smile when Mike was telling me about it later at lunch after our deep conversation about Trevor's loyalties. Trevor was outside drawing a lemon tree that struck his fancy this a.m., so he didn't know we were gushing about him.
Talk to you soon...I've enjoyed seeing you as you drop off meals and visit. You are the dearest friends! You might think when you see me with my full head of hair (yes!), my pale, but upbeat and seemingly normal self, that I might not really need your help. On the contrary! I suck it up for you and when I talk I feel "outside myself," thoroughly enjoying the whole time together! Then after you leave, it all comes rushing back, woooomph! Please don't let that stop you're visiting with me because I really enjoy the "outside myself" feeling! Much of the day I have to rest and cannot be "up" which is why my husband is still working from home for me. It feels as though I am only 25%, sometimes 50% and sometimes 75% of myself right now (it varies throughout the day), and Mike's been putting in long hours - with the kids and household, then 8 hour days of work, and he gets to bed at 2 a.m.! So we definitely still need the extra help, and appreciate your kindness SOOOO much!
Sunday, October 19, 2008
I knew the transition would be hard, emotionally speaking. It is just so weird going from round-the-clock care to self-sufficiency in one night. Then at home, I am noticing the neuropathy I didn't seem to have in the hospital, or maybe I did and it was taken care of by pain medications for headaches. The headaches go on and appear every morning when I wake up, sometimes waking me up in the middle of the night. Seems like laying down for more than a few hours is what triggers it. On top of all this, my eyesight is blurry and my eyes and skin are mildly painful. I got quite discouraged, as some of you who are on Facebook may have noticed when I set my status to read: "Krista took her eyes off the Lord when suffering lingered on, much like Peter when he began to walk toward Jesus on the water and then sank."
I wanted to share with you tonight how God is still here and proves himself to me all the time, which He doesn't have to do at all since He is who He is and the Bible is all I should need. However, He knows how weak I am and cares about me so much that He's willing to do that for me. I will never understand the measure of how much He loves me or the amount of grace He shows me by the hour.
As soon as Mike came home from church, he encouraged me with words from a friend who conveyed her appreciation for this blog and encouraged me not to stop. Thank you Nancy, you don't know how much I needed to hear that today of all days.
Then, as soon as I told Mike how discouraged I felt today, the phone rang and it was my dear friend Lisa from CO, who never ceases to inspire me. I LOVE this lady and her family so much and God just knew I needed to hear from her right then. I love the timing--how perfect is our God?
Then later, as I was resting, laptop nearby :), I noticed my husband in the other room, had taken a moment to respond to my status. Please note that we do have great conversations in person, but he just felt he needed to respond to my pitiful status to set the record straight - not only for me, but for all those who were paying attention. Isn't he wonderful? So for those of you who aren't on Facebook, I'd like you to see Mike's response to me (and mine to him) and how his final response to me shows me so much that God has not left me for a minute despite my feeling like "God has left the building," another pitiful utterance of how it feels when you are suffering for longer than 2 weeks.
So as you recall my status was "Krista took her eyes off the Lord when suffering lingered on, much like Peter when he began to walk toward Jesus on the water and then sank."
Then, Mike wrote, "Jesus picked him up when Peter called. :) "
To which I commented, "Oh YES, you are so right...and in my discouragement, I had forgotten the end of the story! Thanks, honey!"
And what brought me back to my knees in heartfelt prayer, was Mike's realization, "Hey I think that's what Ricky prayed for everyone today. The message was from James 5:19-20 'My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 20remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.' He (Pastor Ricky) prayed that EVERYONE there would bring someone back to the truth, and there you are. Isn't God good?"
So, as you can see, God answered Ricky's prayer in this family. Mike brought me back to the truth that God is there even in my suffering. And Nancy brought me back to the blog today, yay Nancy! And Lisa also encouraged my soul and even gave me a great tip that I'll share with you in another post about how to make online reading easier.
To top it all off, this evening, I received a wonderful message from someone I've never even met. What a blessing to read: "We've never met, but I want you to know that I believe God has given me a burden to pray for you and your family. You are always on my heart and in my prayers. I am often overwhelmed by the Love Jesus has for you. It is altogether wide, long, high and deep (Ephesians 3:18) May He continue to smile upon you and your family even in the rough patches. May His light continue to shine in darkness and may you have the peace which passes all understanding. Prayin' for you sister." That was four ways God used others to reach me today. I am feeling much more hopeful tonight.
I am also overwhelmed by the love of my brothers and sisters in Christ, as seen by this praying sister whom I've never met. Is that not incredible? And I know there are many, many, even some readers here, whom I've never met, yet who are praying for me now and who continue as I face an even greater battle ahead. THANK YOU, THANK YOU!
I hope you enjoyed today's post and please don't hesitate to contact me. God works through others as well. You all have been such a blessing, and I'd hate to lose touch just because I'm home.
Deuteronomy 31:8 "The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."
Friday, October 17, 2008
I started Procrit yesterday - no it's not a new nickname for myself. It's actually a once-a-week shot that stimulates your bone marrow to produce red blood cells. It must be working because those went from 8.3 to 8.7 in a day, where they had been falling over the last couple days. We shall see. As a going home gift, I'm receiving a transfusion of 1-unit of red blood that I requested because I just don't feel very good riding in the 8's. This should bring me to the high 9's. Still low, but my doctor doesn't want to take any risks with me.
And platelets, wow platelets! I went from 31k to 54k all by myself :) That's amazing to me and even to my doctor who won't say so after I asked him if he was amazed (at my blood results). His response? "I'm very, very, very, very pleased. VERY PLEASED." So then I asked him, "Then what amazes you?" He says, "The fact that you're smiling again." He's a nice guy, and I almost cried writing that, but come on! That is really not all that amazing is it? I smile most of the time...it was just a rough couple of weeks. When he left he shook my hand and said with all sincerity, "Thank you for getting better (my numbers) so quickly." I said, "Thank God!" as I pointed up. He stopped and turned back with a smile saying, "We will." But just so you know, he never knocked on wood laminate again.
Weird news...Dr. Wolliver said I caused him neurosis last night as he was realizing that my jaw pain could have been caused by something that they found in the blood cultures yesterday. It was a real slow grower and took all this time to come back, but I had an anaerobic organism in my blood stream that is found in the mouth normally...so it had gotten in through one of the lacerations in the roof of my mouth most likely. This organism actually causes jaw pain and headaches, and I've been under I.V. antibiotics for a week which probably helped, so they're sending me home with a penicillin-type antibiotic to be sure we get it all. Of course, it is one of those things that everyone has in their mouth, but doesn't usually get into the blood stream. Seems like the weird infections or strange side effects are reserved for me!
So I'm going home! Today! Late this afternoon, or early evening. Depending on Mike's schedule, food deliveries and my nap schedule. I just might be here until after dinner! (Actually, the plan is to be out of here by 5 pm so we can pick up Trevor at soccer on the way home and not miss the dinner delivery tonight!)
So you can be praying for me as I transition to home life. It won't be easy. I remember feeling the shock of going from round-the-clock care to NADA! It's a really strange feeling and I am sure it will be better this time around since we live in Santa Barbara now and are not isolated...lots of friends to fill the void should I need social support. But don't assume someone else is filling that role! Check in with me from time to time via email and ask how I'm doing and if I'd like company or help. Also, don't call...that's a funny request after just telling you I need you all! What I mean is, I would REALLY appreciate a note of encouragement in the mail (5069 Oleander Pl., Santa Barbara, CA 93111) and emails for the quick check-ins, but let me call you when I am able since I'll be recovering still and may be sleeping or homeschooling my kids.
I want you to know how VERY much we appreciate all the love and support we've received through your prayers, encouraging notes, visits, meals, shopping, childcare, etc. We couldn't have gone through this without you! We'll still be in need of these things as I regain my strength. Just because I'm returning home does not mean I'm "all better" now and can return to my normal pace of life. Things we still need help with are cleaning, occasional childcare such as we had been receiving as needed, general yard care, a cute short haircut for myself before my hair falls out. (I'm needing this and not wanting to pay my normal salon cut prices just to see it all fall out in a week or two, but the tangles I'm getting are atrocious!)
You won't hear from me every day from now on, but I'll update you when there is any news. Expect next week to be news as I go in for another bone marrow biopsy around Wednesday. One day next week (possibly Tuesday) we'll be going to UCLA for my consultation before waiting for a donor match. Oh, yes, you can pray for a donor match to come through before I ever need to come back here for another round of chemo. The doctors would want to do that to keep it in remission if I had to wait for a donor. Thanks again for sharing the burden, as well as the victory, in this journey!
Philippians 4:12-14 "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles."
Thursday, October 16, 2008
My red blood cells dropped to 8.1 and platelets are slowly climbing on their own at 31k. They don't want to do any transfusions because my marrow is doing such a good job making cells and there are risks that go along with transfusions. They'd also like to save those units for people who really need them. So today I'm going to get one more shot of Nupogen (for white blood cells) and a shot of Procrit (for stimulating the bone marrow to grow red blood cells). My bone pain was really bad late last night which made me know that my white blood cells would be good this morning! I don't look forward to it tonight though. I have been sleeping all morning catching up on what I couldn't get last night.
So, when can I go home?! My doctor said as early as tomorrow (Friday!) But they might wait until Saturday if my red blood drops again in the a.m. We shall see. They want to get me out of here now that my white blood cells are normal because I'm safer at home they told me. I said, "Have you been to my house?!" ha...
Here is the warning for you all...just because I'll be home does not mean I'll be back to my normal self and can just get up and go. I'll need lots of rest still and will be experiencing pain that can't be fixed by pushing a nurse's call button. But I'll get to eat my own raw foods and I'm grateful for that!
Here are some verses from Psalm 118 which blessed me:
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever...
5 In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free.
6 The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. Wht can man do to me?
7 The Lord is with me; he is my helper...
13 I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me.
14 The Lord is my strength and my song; has has been my salvation.
15 Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous; "The Lord's right hand has done might things!...
17 I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done...
28 You are my God, and I will give you thanks; you are my God, and I will exalt you.
29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Yes, my friends, we're still clicking! My white blood cell count was a walloping 1.8 this morning! The doctor reads it "1800" -- while it was only .8 or "800" yesterday! That's a major improvement! My red blood cells say 8.9, but they'll come back again tomorrow. The platelets increased on their own from 19k to 23k, incredible!
So, things are looking really good to be leaving in a week from now. My mouth pain is even better this a.m. and I'm managing my headaches better, but I also sleep more because of that.
Business is doing well for those of you who were wondering about that. I'm exactly halfway to my goal and we're exactly halfway through the month! I had a new customer write in this morning out-of-the-blue and wants to get started so that was a blessing. If you are a customer of mine, and have been putting off your order until October, now is the time to re-order and I'd be glad to help you with that. I'm feeling well enough to handle things like this now, so don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions. I look forward to talking with you soon. Here's the current virtual Product Guide for your convenience.
Mike should really write this one today, but when I read the following Psalm, I thought, "that is what I did today, in a modern-style." My lamp did not go out last night and I woke up at 3:00 a.m. ready to go for the day. Started working at 5 a.m. on business which would benefit my family, selecting only the purest ingredients from the finest company of course. Well, this is what was on my mind - that with my Shaklee business, even from a hospital bed, I could be a Proverbs 31 wife!
10 [a] A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still dark;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her servant girls.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Here's some good news for you to praise God about today! My numbers have started making the climb back up! In the case of my red blood cells, they are doing it on their very own. I went from 8.9 two days ago, to 9.1 yesterday and today it was 9.7! My bone marrow is responding to the Nupogen, which means my white blood cells are making a come back at .8 today (yesterday was .6). My platelets didn't drop much overnight which was lovely of them. Yesterday they were 21K and today they were 19K. I never share Hematocrit with you because I'm not sure what it is, but it's been climbing steadily as well.
I also have had no fevers for over 24 hours! 98.7 this a.m. on the thermometer dial which means my song no longer applies. You know the song "Fever!" which is one of my favorite old standards? Come on, you know the one, Michael Buble remade it in recent years. "Fever in the morning, fever all through the night....FeVER!
I'm about to miss my deadline which is 9 a.m. so I'm going to make this short. My headaches are relentless and I even have one right now. And my mouth is just so painful, until my white blood cells return to fighting capacity. I need your prayers continually and look forward to getting out of here! I just saw an ad for a movie "The Secret Life of Bees" - this was a great book that I've recommended before for a fun read. If you read it and want to see this movie, but don't want to spend money on theater outings, wait for it to come out on DVD and we'll rent it and have a Secret Life of Bees movie night at my house in the future. We have a big screen projector instead of a TV so it's even better than going to the movies!
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.
Monday, October 13, 2008
I can only sleep in 1 1/2 hour increments at night. Very frustrating. Partly it's due to pain, partly due to nurses having to change antibiotic bags on the IV and later in the a.m. doing blood draws, partly due to floating nurse's aides who didn't know to not take vitals because the nurses so kindly allow me to sleep by doing it when they do my blood draws. So, there I was not able to sleep until 1 or 1:30 a.m., woken up at 2 a.m. from pain, 3:30 a.m. pain, 4:30 a.m. vitals, 6 a.m. blood draws and pain, by 7 a.m. I was up for good.
So that's my night. I hope my day goes better today. My Doctor Wolliver is back from his week off and is hopefully going to help me get to the bottom of my intense mouth pain which is the root of all the head/neck/face/jaw pain I've been having.
22 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him."
This speaks to where I'm at this morning. If you missed my last post because you don't frequent the computer on the weekend, please don't miss it. Another reason I've kept this post short today.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
I just wanted to address something tonight that may be on some of your hearts. I have not always had this incredible feeling of being close with the Lord. I did when I first became a Christian because God revealed Himself to me through some powerful events. But, that's not everybody's story. Some people live their whole lives trying to experience a deeper fellowship with God, their Savior, but feel sort of left out of the whole thing despite their desire, their belief, their commitment to reading, praying, etc. I cry when I think of how many have ended up giving up on God, feeling like all their dedication is not worth the pain, and not feeling comforted by their God in their difficult circumstances or heartaches.
You need to know that after I had that feeling of being on fire for the Lord, walking and talking with Jesus, looking to Heaven, expecting Him to return any minute that I spent many years experiencing various hardships. We all go through those, but some of them caused me to be unforgiving and distrustful of people. Those hurts really got in the way of my relationship with the Lord. I kept doing all the things a Christian does when they believe the Word of God, but something was missing now with my Lord. I couldn't feel my spirit growing anymore, or my "relationship" with Jesus was somehow blocked.
I believe that during those MANY years, He was growing me in my faith among people who didn't exhibit a friendship with God, yet called themselves Christian, doing everything "right". Perhaps they felt just like me, disconnected, but wanting more or maybe they were content with where they were at. It didn't matter to me because that is where God called me to be for a time. Sometimes that kind of fellowship can be discouraging and it certainly didn't encourage me to connect to the Holy Spirit. I would encourage you to find others who have that spark of life in their spirit, who exhibit a character of having a personal relationship with Jesus, maybe someone who is on fire for God, maybe someone who makes you feel uncomfortable :) and learn from them. Attend things they attend, have them over for dinner and games, get to know them and talk about the Lord with them. You are sure to be encouraged in your own walk with the Lord.
Sometimes God allows dark times to strengthen our faith through a growth process. We can't exercise faith when you see Him acting all the time. Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."
At other times it was my own disappointment with God that blocked my relationship to Him. When I got diagnosed with lupus in 2001, it caused a whole change in my life plans. Not only did I feel miserable with no hope for it to change as it is considered a chronic illness, but no longer could I spend time in the sun, go to the beach, go hiking, or even my plans to go to the mission field. What organization would accept someone with health issues such as I had? I felt angry and depressed and couldn't feel God's presence then or His comfort. I was just mad.
Following Him in a way that has some sin in it will not get you that intimate feeling. For example, not being willing to let go of your plans vs. His plans for your life like in my own example above. It doesn't mean you can't be angry. I like how David in the Psalms often spoke honestly to God about his anger saying things like "My eyes are tired of looking for you," but he always said it in the context of getting back to faith, praising God for what He knows to be true, giving evidence from the past, often speaking of hope for the future. Some people are not comfortable expressing their anger with God, and that's not truly being yourself with Him.
So there are a lot of issues that can cause this disconnect in our spirit. I have been there. I know from experience that it can be a dark night or many dark years. In my case there were 7 bad years, SEVEN! It wasn't until I was diagnosed with leukemia in 2005 that my heart got right with God in such a way that I experienced true fellowship with Him in a real, tangible way. It was a gift to have the chemo back then because it did something to my memory and all that ugly unforgiveness left me. I can't remember bad feelings I had about the past. It's a tremendous freedom. Perhaps it wasn't really the chemo, but the altered perspective He gave me when facing death and coming back to life. It reminds me of the astronauts who spoke in the wonderful documentary "In the Shadow of the Moon" -- these people went to the moon and came back with a totally different perspective on the problems we face on Earth. (This is a must-see movie you can get on Netflix.) Once you face a certain level of mortality, it's the same thing. I'm a different person post-leukemia, healthier in all aspects, body, soul, spirit, mind. I wish it didn't take hardship to come to that place. If you have had severe disappointment, and feel disconnected with the Lord, give me a call and let's cry together. It won't always feel so badly and I'd like to personally encourage you in that. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 805-722-5556.
Friday, October 10, 2008
My nurse T. was wonderful today. I really enjoy getting to know all the nurses and call them all my "favorite," but there are a special handful that I call my short list favorites -- those nurses I would request to be MINE, if I know they're going to be on duty. They let you keep your nurse for 3 days in a row which is nice, especially when you just LOVE them. You short-list nurses reading this know who you are :)
Times of suffering causes us all to be closer to the Lord. Psalm 46:1-2 says, God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea." Even before I was a Christian, I prayed prayers with an honest desire to know if God was real - and He powerfully answered those prayers. He is so faithful, even when we are not!
So whether you believe a little or a lot, would you ask God for more faith as you pray for me that my white blood cells would make a miraculous jump higher this weekend?
Thank you for your prayers, and if you have never accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, all I ask is that you keep honestly, humbly seeking the truth. Ask God to show you. The one, true God always answers prayers that are in line with His will. Some day I'll share with you how I sought the Truth, asking things like "why am I here? There has to be more to this life than what I see." Those questions began for me when I was only 5 years old! I kept seeking throughout my life, wound up in the wrong places at times, but kept honestly seeking. I accepted Christ at the age of 21 through a series of events that the Lord led me through to draw me to Himself. The coolest part is that He was seeking me first! 1 John 4:19 says, "We love because he first loved us. " I'll save the juicy details of my story for a future post!
"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." - Jeremiah 29:13
Thursday, October 9, 2008
A cheerful look brings joy to the heart,
and good news gives health to the bones.
That's the news of the day - there are no cells in the bone marrow whatsoever, goal achieved! The biopsy went really well. My doctor enjoyed the strings ensemble musical accompaniment I provided through www.pandora.com, so much that he mentioned he'd now like to get some speakers and use Pandora's free service to accompany all his procedures at his office. All he needs is his laptop, but I think he'd like to make it even nicer for his patients. Dr. Kass is the greatest! I'm glad he was the one filling in for my regular Dr. Wolliver, who is also wonderful - really this whole oncology team is the best - I'm on a winning team for sure.
My pain was under better control today. However, my hovering low-grade fever has decided to get higher and I'm now being treated on 2 different I.V. antibiotics while we wait 5 days for the blood cultures to come back on what kind of bug it is that is causing this.
Meanwhile, one answer to prayer came quickly today - they found HLA-typed platelets -- 2 bags in fact. Earlier this a.m. I received a transfusion of regular NON-HLA typed platelets b/c my platelets were 16K and after the transfusion (which usually boosts them 30K), my platelets dropped to 14K. My temperature has been a bit high today (up to 100.8), so they had to wait for my temperature to drop before I could receive the HLA-platelets! While I was writing this, my temp dropped to 99.9, so they're currently giving me one of the platelet bags! My kids are still sick at home (they sound horrible) and can't come visit, so pray for them too and for Mike not to get it!
I'm actually feeling better enough to do my own posting today, typing and all, yay! It was nice catching up with a few friends today via my hotel phone! :) I call the room my hotel because, this VIP room (as the nurses refer to it), has really nice hardwood looking floors, beige striped wallpaper, a nice window covering valance and nice shade that lets indirect light in, yet doesn't block my ocean view. I also have a nice sink next to my bed...it reminds me a little of a small french suite.
My appetite for the hospital's great food has been diminished. Not because the "muffin of the day" is misnamed, and should be called "muffin of the month", nor because of the limited choices of being on a NO RAW FOOD diet, but because of the intense mouth pain I have. So, I eat 1/4 to 1/2 of the food provided and can take no more! Then I do my mouth care and swish a lidocaine numbing solution around which calms it down. Then I add Shaklee's Cinch meal replacement shake which has a great protein-to-carb ratio plus 6 grams of fiber. So I'm still getting all I need nutritionally.
Speaking of Shaklee, I was so proud of my faithful husband who believes in me and our business so much he attended a Shaklee presentation tonight that I was supposed to have done for one of my customers. This is something we'd decided in September that he would come alongside me at my various meetings and stay for at least the first half hour to an hour to show support, and let people know what having a Shaklee business is like from a male's perspective. He loves the products as much as I do, and would like the guys to know Shaklee is definitely not just for ladies! When I went to the convention in New Orleans, I saw thousands of husband and wife teams. So, this is one way Mike would like to be a part of our business. Isn't he the best husband, EVER? Thanks honey!
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
This really was a low week for me. I forgot how bad you can feel post-chemo. I've been having low-grade fevers, but thankfully no spikes. Continue praying that I don't get an infection. Right now, I have a need for HLA-typed platelets. It might take a couple of days to get and my platelets are at 24,000.
I'm supposed to get a bone marrow biopsy tomorrow.
My kids are sick right now with the cold that's going around, so I can't see them for a while. Mike's mom came up yesterday to help out until Saturday, and we both really appreciate that.
I'm so thankful for so many friends who love me... I have 210 facebook "friends" -- can you believe that y'all? (My 10-year-old requires me to put quotes around "friends" when talking about facebook, and will do finger quotes if I don't!) But you know that I really do love all my buds on facebook. I wish more of our friends would join, don't you?
Which leads me to my next announcement: I just quadrupled my cell phone bill in two weeks with 646 minutes over my allotment. YIKES! Ok, so here's what we do. Please call me on my hotel phone (805) 569-7262 room #25. I promise to answer if I feel good enough, but you can leave a message with the nurse if I don't answer. This will hopefully save me $600 a month!
I still get email, too. Even when I don't feel good, Mike tells me what is in my inbox.
Here's an appropriate verse for today:
This poor man called,
and the LORD heard him;
He saved him out of all his troubles.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Krista has had terrible pain today and is unable to make her normal post -- or even dictate it. So I (Mike) am going to write it for her.
Praise God for small mercies... the eye patch did the trick, and the moisturizers have helped ease the pain. In the eyes, at least. No more eye patch needed!
But, today brought on a new set of symptoms: mouth inflammation with blistering gums, and a migraine headache. Once again, there doesn't seem to be any relief for either of these. The inflammation has made it difficult for her to eat. The headache was so bad that when I saw her earlier, she could hardly hold her head up even though her eyes were able to open about half-way. They eventually gave her a CAT scan to check for bleeding in the brain -- the scan came out negative.
As the new painful trial began, Krista discovered that the power-supply to her laptop went out. Frustrated with this onslaught of problems with all her facilities for communication (eyes, mouth, computer) -- "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I (Jesus) have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10) -- she managed to get one last email out to the homeschooling list: does anyone have an extra power-supply? Within minutes of posting the request, Cheryl G. (without checking her email) felt like she should call Krista to find out how she was doing. Krista told her about her frustrations and Cheryl "happened" to have the right power-supply!
We don't believe in coincidences. This is just a small example of God demonstrating His love for Krista, even in the smallest of things. He cares about the big and small things in your life, too! He's just a prayer away. What will you trust Him for today?
I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
for you saw my affliction
and knew the anguish of my soul.
You have not handed me over to the enemy
but have set my feet in a spacious place.
Be merciful to me, O LORD, for I am in distress;
my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
my soul and my body with grief.
Monday, October 6, 2008
The doctor put numbing drops in my eyes which immediately helped them feel better, telling the doctor that it was a surface problem and not a problem behind the eye. Then he looked all over them with this and that and said, "If you picked your cornea with a pin, it would hurt, but your cornea looks like hundreds of pin pricks." Oh, so that is why it felt like razor blades in my eyes! What a relief that it is due to the chemo and is fixable and not due to an infection or chemical meningitis.
The solution is lots and lots of good eye drops and ointment, and covering one eye with a patch after putting the ointment in my eye. That seems to be helping so far, at least with the pain. Tomorrow I'll switch eyes, and keep doing this until it's healed. The uncovered eye will receive drops or ointment every half hour.
The other discomfort that has started is in my mouth - a mucositis from the chemo. Swollen cheeks and gums, pain and stinging, but no sores, thankfully. It is beginning to interfere with eating though so please pray that this doesn't get worse and just clears up miraculously.
I received this note from a friend of a friend who's young loved one is fighting a brain tumor. I wanted to share what she said with you because it's just how I feel about my own current battle. Here's what she said, "This trial has strengthened my conviction that a foundation of faith in anything other than Christ will not stand up to tribulations. It reminds me of a sermon my college pastor preached a few weeks ago on Matthew 7:24-27:
The Wise and Foolish Builders
"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash."
The stark contrast between the consequences of the wise man who built his house on the rock and the fool who built his house on the sand is evident. The trials will come regardless of the foundation, but quality of the foundation will determine the outcome. Notice that the difference is between one who hears and does Christ's words, and one who merely hears and does nothing. Had I not constantly reminded myself of God's Word and changed my attitude and perspective accordingly, I would probably be an emotional and spiritual wreck now, questioning the faithfulness and sovereignty of God. So I want to ask, how do you face trials? What is your foundation built upon?"
That ends my friend's letter, but I pose to you a similar question... are you saved? Do you want to have that firm foundation that the Bible speaks about? I would love to talk with you about this if you're not sure. You never know when your foundation will be tested, but eventually it will.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
It's right next to the family room too which is convenient for my kids who are over there playing Pictionary right now. I can even hear them talking about it with my door open. If you're looking for me you'll just pass the nurses' station and head straight back.
My eyes have been closed all day and even now I type blindly - Mike will tell me how many errors I made on this blog before he corrects it for me and sends it out. I think I'm doing well, but who knows? The consensus seems to be that my eyes had been so severely dried out by the chemo that I got scratches on my corneas... these feel like razor blades int he eyes and I sent out prayer requests like crazy this morning. It improved in that as long as I keep my eyes closed it's not too bad, and when I open them it stings. I'm just going to have to wait patiently on the Lord for this one -- and He'll hear my cry.
Please pray for my mucositis - something that happens as a result of the chemo. It causes swelling and pain in my mouth, but I don't have blisters thank God. I am entering the low period and these thing are to be expected. I just forgot about it. God is good at erasing our memory of bad things so we don't feel apprehensive and can trust Him more easily, doing the hard things in life that we normally wouldn't choose.
I will be getting 2 units of blood this evening as I'm dipping lower on the hemoglobin. Oh and a crazy thing happened today where my blood pressure dropped really low... each day my doctors were giving me potassium because it was normal and they wanted to make sure it stayed normal, but then it was too high this a.m. 5.5 (vs. 5.1 which is high normal). It can affect your heart so they were very nervous even though I had no heart arrhythmia. So they wanted to inject Lasix - a diuretic that helps remove the excess potassium. I initially tried to refuse it, seeing that it would probably lower my low blood pressure and and figured if I just stopped taking potassium I could pee it out naturally and solve the problem. Well, the doctor felt it was too dangerous to be left to chance and gave it to me anyway. Guess what? My blood pressure dropped dangerously low, like 72/57 or something like that, and I felt horrible. They filled me with quick saline bags and had to do it a couple times, plus run my IV saline full strength and double speed. Seems to have improved, but boy, did I know my body in this case.
So I hope that this post is not too whiny for you, just giving you the low down on my difficult day, so you can pray specifically. We're still waiting for an ophthalmologist who come with her equipment, but we feel we know what the problem is now and just have to wait it out, maybe getting some numbing eye drops instead of pain medication.
God bless you folks and I can't wait to have visitors when I feel better again in my very own VIP room. I'll let you know when that is or you can call first. If I don't answer, it's because I'm too tired, so wait to hear back from me.
Let me know if you were able to go the Avacado Festival to register for the bone marrow registry - a great opportunity this weekend! Feel free to leave comments.
But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
-- 1 Peter 4:13
Saturday, October 4, 2008
The pain was so bad last night before an early bedtime for me that I required medication to get through it and it helped me immensely, but left a strangely alert sleep in its wake. I was up every hour to two feeling relaxed, but it was a false sense of restfulness come morning.
I actually managed to get on a Coast-to-Coast conference call which we do every other week for our business at 7:30 a.m. Unfortunately I was not all there and fell asleep due to the medication, and woke up a half hour later with my cell battery dying. Once I plugged back in and redialed, I caught the last 5 minutes. I'm glad they said they were archiving the call (little did they know I was one who would need that service today!)
So all day long I have been resting my eyes which is an improvement over yesterday because I couldn't even close my eyes without excruciating discomfort. Hopefully more improvement will come and I'll be able to open them. If there is no improvement by Monday, they might do a spinal tap to rule out leukemic cells in the CNS fluid, but that's very unlikely. I don't think my doctor will want to do that unless certain other symptoms exist, which they don't. He just happened to leave for the week out of town yesterday.
Remember when I told you that the room service is catered to your door breakfast, lunch and dinner? Sometimes, the tray even makes it past the threshold and right to my bedside - those are great times! Well, I just learned why I am finding the food SO outstanding this time around... it's like eating at a Four Season Restaurant every day (off their healthy menu of course)! Only in Santa Barbara would you have such high quality "hospital" food. Apparently, a couple of years ago, the head chef at the Four Seasons Biltmore came on as Cottage Hospital's head chef. HE kept the same menus they've had for years, but tweaked them with his own creative flair, new and better spices and flavors and even the presentation is great. There are other restaurants out there people, so stay away from this secret sweet spot unless you absolutely NEED it.
So how did everyone spend their soccer-free Saturday? My family came in to see me and the boys watched a movie in the Family Room. Later they're going down to the cafeteria for their dinner while I eat mine. Feel free to comment on how you spent your day this weekend. Did anyone go tot the Avacado Festival? They're having free bone marrow donor testing and registration at the Avacado Festival and our friend Dominic Balli was playing there last night - did anyone catch his soulful reggae? Friends who went on the field trip to Anacapa Island, how was that yesterday?
Help me, O Lord my God;
save me in accordance with your love.
Let them know that it is your hand,
that You, O Lord, have done it.
Friday, October 3, 2008
The doctors thought it could be a swelling in the brain due to the toxic effects of chemo (called chemical meningitis). So I got an MRI. The transporter wheeled me all the way downstairs, out the doors and into the street, around the ambulances at ER, side by side with a moving car, to a trailer where they put me on an elevated platform. With the bright light, and how my vision was cloudy, seeing the white coats waiting above, I felt like I was being taken for testing by aliens in an episode of X-files!
The MRI was a half hour long torture session, but I prayed and sang songs to the Lord in my heart the whole time, promising to praise His name aloud when it was all through. It was a sweet time in that place despite the agony - it was like He met me there and swept me away at times to get my mind off of where I was and how I felt. You bet I praised His name when they finally wheeled me out, telling the MRI worker that Jesus helped me through that one - He really did! I felt like He just wanted her to know.
So, long story short, the MRI turned out NORMAL - no swelling of the brain, praise God! The next possibility, which was likely, was that I had an infection in my upper eye lids. Well, the ophthalmologist came by for her examination and said nope, doesn't look like an infection, just SEVERELY dry eyes, absolutely no tears in them whatsoever. She also threw out a fancy phrase - Myasthenia Gravis - which I'm not sure about, but I think it means the eyelid muscles are weak for some reason and it's really hard to keep my eyes open. So the good news is no infection or brain swelling! For now, I need to put preservative-free drops in my eyes every hour. She gave me a sample box, but my nurse said the pharmacy doesn't carry these things, so I might have to get contraband eye drops from my husband. Strange pharmacy not to carry such things, when across the street is a really good pharmacy (L.M. Caldwell).
So please pray for my eyes - it still feels so badly, and I have just enough in me to get this post out.
Your hands made me and formed me;
give me understanding to learn your commands.
May those who fear you rejoice when they see me,
for I have put my hope in your word.
I know, O LORD, that your laws are righteous,
and in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
May your unfailing love be my comfort,
according to your promise to your servant.
Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
for your law is my delight.
Thursday, October 2, 2008
I took a walk to the patio with today's temperatures being so nice and I went all the way to the other side where you can sit facing the ocean and feel with breeze on your face. I sat there for awhile and just prayed as the Lord led me. It was a sweet time.
Not long after I returned to my room, two pastors from my church gave me a surprise visit (it was a surprise to me anyway - sometimes I'm too tired to remember plans!) We had a nice time catching up after their last visit and they prayed for me.
My family was not able to come for a visit today for a variety of reasons, but they are well and had a great morning doing school at the Steffen's house -- Thanks Alyssa!
Adam already sounds older on the phone as he shared with me about the fun time he had at a pizza party after soccer practice this evening. I had a conversation with Trevor that went like this:
Trevor: Remember when I told you that Captain John Smith is dead?
Trevor: Well, he's alive now.
Me: Ok, you tell me about that tomorrow when I see you.
(Trevor is 6 and is reading a chapter book on Pocahontas, so I'm very curious about this twist in the biography, LOL!) Both boys are reading it as their current "read-alone" (vs. read aloud) book for school as we're studying the Native Americans right now, and they were both fascinated with the fact that John Smith's boat blew up and he was killed. I actually didn't know that, and maybe that is what Trevor's talking about as the story unfolds - maybe it was thought to have happened but they find him later, I don't know! I just love learning with my children. Please don't let your kids learn history from Disney movies. :) (Actually, I never saw the Disney movie, but am assuming that they didn't blow up John Smith, LOL)
So I missed my family today, but will see them tomorrow (Friday) yay! And I'm all gussied up with a shower and clean hair, imagine that! Feels so good - visitors take note: come soon after showers for freshest Krista experience :)
Praise: My white blood cells had increased .2 - I'll take them any way I get 'em!
Prayer: Please pray for my eyes as it seems the Decadron drops that I had to put in my eyes 2x per day started doing something that caused them to feel scratchy, blurry and super sensitive. I could hardly open my eyes tonight and am thankful for my kind nurse Kristi for helping me by washing them out with saline so I could get this post done before bed. Pray for my mucous membranes to be miraculously restored and/or unaffected - side effects of the chemo. And for my white blood cells to begin rebuilding on their own.
21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
22 Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 I say to myself, "The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him."
25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
26 it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the LORD.
27 It is good for a man to bear the yoke
while he is young.
28 Let him sit alone in silence,
for the LORD has laid it on him.
29 Let him bury his face in the dust—
there may yet be hope.
30 Let him offer his cheek to one who would strike him,
and let him be filled with disgrace.
31 For men are not cast off
by the Lord forever.
32 Though he brings grief, he will show compassion,
so great is his unfailing love.
33 For he does not willingly bring affliction
or grief to the children of men.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
My platelets are also very stable and I've received a couple of HLA-typed platelets this week just because they had them and they were going to expire anyway. My body has not rejected them and my current count is 75K (150K is the low normal).
I think I'm beginning to lose my golden locks because it's starting to get tangled on the back of my hair. Thinking of calling my hairstylist to come in here and cut it shorter for now, but don't know if I'm ready yet. I like how long my hair finally got!
This morning I had a visitor and I proudly took her down the hall to the amazing terrace patio on the roof which has sweeping views of the Santa Barbara Mission all around to the harbor. On a clear day you can see the Channel Islands of course. I lasted about 5 minutes in what felt like 90 degree weather out there - what a surprise! Back to the room we went and I didn't last much longer before I needed a heat-sapped nap!
The boys came in today for a visit at 3 pm, and I took them to the Family Room to watch Tarzan with me, Adam and I sharing a wide chair and Trevor next to me on the other side. Mike was able to go back home and get some work done during that time. It is so nice living in Santa Barbara while going through this instead of in Buellton which is 45+ min. from the hospital and where we lived 3 years ago. That was nearly impossible. The boys seem happy to be able to see me every day, especially Adam who is older. Trevor does not like wearing his mask though! I can't wait until my white blood count is normal again so no more masks for visitors!
Ready for your homework? Feel free to mail me a photo of your family to add to my nice black foam core which I have in my room waiting to pin your photos to! It's my own board so I'll take it with me to UCLA too when I go there. When it gets filled it is SUCH a room brightener and I get to show all the nurses what wonderful friends and family I have! They like to hear the stories and I like telling them :) Don't have my address? No problem. 5069 Oleander Place, Santa Barbara, CA 93111
So a pretty uneventful day don't you think? That's a good thing. My doctor keeps saying what a breeze I'm making it and I just point to the Lord, while he knocks on all the fake wood in the room. My hope is in the Lord!
I like the way Psalm 63 sounds in the King James and it really spoke to me this morning:
O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name. My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips: When I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches. Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice...