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Make Sure Debbie Is Not Alone This Holiday Season

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Debbie’s Story

Okay, here goes. Call me the Reluctant Blogger.

This site is being set up for our sweet friends to get information on my treatment. Thank you for your phone calls, e-mails, and visits. I hope this keeps you informed. Also, I sincerely hope you will use this to pray for us over the next few months. I'm not going to be bashful in asking for prayers!

Debbie



Oh, my gosh! I just glanced over in the margin of this site and saw "Read the caring tributes in honor of Debbie". Let me tell you. I will be hacked if none of you write a caring tribute to me! And remember, it's "in honor of" . . . not "in memory of".

Okay, here's the info:

I found the cancer myself in mid January. I actually thought it was nothing more than fibrocystic tissue. You can imagine my surprise when the doctor said she was concerned and sent me for a mammogram. It took an agonizing 2 weeks to get the final report, but it is malignant.

After talking to wonderful doctors at both Baylor Hospital and UT Southwestern, I've decided to go into a clinical study at UT Southwestern. It was a hard decision because I really liked every doctor I met. It's unbelieveable how caring the doctors and staff are who deal every day with cancer patients. I don't know how they do it. I would be in the worst mood if I were in that profession. (Instead I married Bill and had five kids so that I could always be cranky!)

Anyway, it is a neoadjuvant therapy which simply means that I will have chemo before surgery to remove the tumor. The chemo will last 6 months. Depending on which arm (or group) I'm randomly put in, I could have chemo once every three weeks for 12 weeks and then once a week for 12 weeks (Arm 1), or just the opposite (Arm 2). I'm waiting now to find out which arm I'll be in. Bill and I can't plan our social calendar until I know how often I have to go for chemo.

Here is the info on the cancer the best I can explain it: (In my life, I never dreamed I'd know this much about breast cancer!)

It is a stage II invasive ductal carcinoma. It measures 2.5 cm (may be a little larger). The breast MRI showed no invasion of the nodes. I tested Estrogen (72%) and progesterone (7%) positive. I also tested high for Her2/neu. It's because I'm "lucky" enough to have all three positives that I can go into this trial study. This study is out of MD Anderson in Houston and the previous two phases have yielded very good results. I am hoping for a lumpectomy at the end.

So that's it. Now for prayer requests.

Please pray for the final tests that I will be taking this week before starting chemo. I will have the port put in on Monday. Then, I should start chemo on Wednesday or Thursday. I'm dreading every bit of it.

I actually have an overall peace about the chemo, but when I allow myself to think ahead, I start feeling a little panic. So, please pray that there will be no more anxiety.

Please continue to keep Bill and my children in your prayers. I think this is probably harder for them than it is for me. At least I can take a good book and read while I'm receiving treatment. They have to just sit and wonder. I will say, though, it's been nice hearing from my boys so often. Kady has always been good about calling (obviously, she's a girl!), but the boys are a little more "reluctant" to check in. If I had known this would get them to put me in their speed dials, I probably would have used this sooner! (I am a big believer in parenting by guilt.)

Finally, it probably goes without saying, but please pray for complete healing. Pray that God would wipe out every last cancer cell.

God is faithful and I have no doubt that His plan is to draw us closer to Him as He walks our family through this ordeal. I'm sure His plan is actually bigger than that, but for now, I am dependent on His Spirit to get me through each day. And I am dependent on the prayers of our friends. Thank you.

I hope this brings you up to date on what feels like, for me, a complete out-of-body happening. All the best, Debbie

Latest Journal Update

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I'm sitting here in my peaceful home watching the snow fall on Christmas eve.  It's magical and serene.  And it is happening in Dallas, TX, no less.  (I find the whole discussion about global warming very confusing.)

While everyone is asleep, I'm taking time to reflect a bit on this past year.  I can't think of a better time than now to say goodbye to this blog that I was so "reluctant" to begin 10 months ago.  And to say how much I appreciate everyone who took the time to read my scattered thoughts, to pray for my family and me, and to send words of encouragement to us.

It seems like years since the doctors diagnosed my breast cancer.  Maybe it's because I've learned more in these 10 months than I've learned in as many years. A lifetime packed into one year.  
 
I hope you don't mind if I share some of the lessons I've learned about myself, cancer, family, friends, and more.  I'll try not to bore you.  (Then again, you can always hit the off button on your computer.)

1.  The first thing that comes to mind was my first thought . . . . I really, really don't want to die.  I know it's unavoidable; death and taxes, you know.  But there are quite a few things I'd still like to do.  So, coming face to face with mortality was quite a shock.  I know my kids think I'm old, but I believe I'm still pretty youthful.  (In my mind, anyway.)

2.  I may not be ready to die, but I'm certainly more prepared than I was before February 13, 2009.  For one thing, I have my funeral planned.  Yes, it's true.  It can't be helped.  I've talked to other cancer survivors who say the same thing.  Morbid, huh?  But, I'll tell you one thing.  I'm going to be hacked if my family can't play Donna Summer's "Last Dance" at my funeral.  
 
3.  Surprisingly, I discovered that I can easily give up vanity for comfort.  I never, ever thought I'd wrap a scarf around my head and go out of the house.  It's never been my best look, you know?  I was sure that I'd never allow myself to be seen without a wig covering my cold, bald head.  Let me tell you that 100º weather can change a person's mind quickly.  Wearing a wig in a Dallas summer is like pulling a muskrat cap over your head in a steam bath.  It's about as pretty a look, too, because the minute you walk out the door the back of your neck is covered in (ahem) perspiration which tends to run down your back.   

 The weather is cooler, but there's no going back.  I'm content now to wear my hair shorter than my boys have their haircuts.  The best news is that it's growing.  

4.  I never knew there were so many different forms of breast cancer and so many ways to treat breast cancer.  Now, I'm a walking encyclopedia for breast cancer.  I can even pronounce, with relative ease, the drugs that I was given.  I can certainly rattle off the meds I'm taking right now and the dosages for each.  It's a language I never expected to have to study.

 5.  I want to be a friend just like my friends.  I want to take time to write notes that encourage my friends.  I want to show up on a friend's doorstep with an unexpected meal that's sorely needed.  I hope I have learned to laugh with friends when they need a laugh and cry with them when they need to cry.  I want to be a good listener. I want to remember to pray for my friends, even as God brings them to mind.  In short, I want to remember all the things that were done for me that were uplifting and return all those blessings.

 6.  I always knew the following, but knowing and experiencing are two very different things.  My family can pick at and argue with one another any and all the time, but when it comes to the chips being down, we are there for one another.  I had more love and support than I have ever experienced from my siblings and my children.  It goes without saying that my father was concerned, but he was right there with support.  (Of course, he called quite a few times about the newest treatments for breast cancer.  He did a lot of research during these last months!)  It's nice to know that one can depend on one's family in times of crisis.  

7.  I married the right man.  Not that I was ever concerned about that (my mother maybe, but not me).  My husband went above and beyond anything I would have ever expected.  We were sharing with friends the other night that while this has been one of the hardest things for us to go through together, emotionally we are closer than ever.   The physical and emotional strain can be intense.  But, Bill truly ministered to me.  He took over many of the daily chores.  He prayed for me.  He ran errands for me.  (Gosh. . . . I think I'm going to miss those days now that I'm well!  I've got to figure out how to play this cancer card a little longer.)

8.  God is as close or as far as a person wants Him to be.        Don't misunderstand me.  I know that God is always waiting, always there.  But, my response so many times has been to push Him away.  Back into the far corners of my mind so that I wouldn't have to spend time with Him.  But, the thought of being deathly ill made me sit up and take notice of my spiritual lethargy.  It wouldn't be exaggerating to say that this has been the sweetest time of growth for me that I've ever experienced.  I know as the days become normal again, I'll drift.  But, I really pray that I'll never forget. 

So, I want to wish everyone a wonderful Christmas and a happy Hanukkah.  This year our celebration of the birth of the Savior is especially meaningful.    More than ever, we feel God's gracious gift to us through His son.

Bill and I are looking forward to a healthy 2010, and we wish the same for all of you.  No matter what the next year brings, though, we know we can face it.  We are never out of God's grip.  As I sit here and think more about it, this year started as a nightmare.  A terror that I thought would never end.  Looking back, I realize that it was actually one of the best years of my life.  A really great year, after all!  Thanks be to God!

Debbie