Arm Update

Hi there,
I know many of you have been praying for my vein issues in my arm I mentioned last update. I wanted to let you know that my veins are not healing as they would like and the decision has been made for me to have a PICC line put in. This out-patient procedure will be done the day before my next treatment, so Tuesday, June 7. It will stay in throughout the month of June and removed sometime after my last treatment (6/29). This is a good solution that I am okay with. It’s not as invasive as a port would be (I would have to be put under for a port and would have another scar). It is a temporary yet long-term IV put in my upper arm. I will have an IV tube hanging from my arm which requires a PICC arm band (who knew sites like sleeksleeves.com existed) as well as waterproof sleeves for me to shower with. I will not have any pool time or lake time in June (but I don’t really think I would have had anyway). Overall, the inconvenience it may cause does not outweigh the relief of anxiety it will provide on treatment days. Not to mention the possibility of treatment taking 4-5 hours instead of 7-8 hours.
I have received so many sweet texts, emails, cards, phone calls, etc. checking in on me. The answer to the most popular question: How was it this time around? SO MUCH BETTER!! Really! I didn’t have to take any of my anti-nauseous prescriptions. I slept most all of Saturday and Sunday, but really felt overall good. I even was able to go on Hamilton’s end of school field trip this past Thursday. (It wore me out and I had to take it easy Friday, but I still got to go).
Thank you so much for all your prayers. They are working!!
I hope everyone has a fun-filled yet relaxing Memorial Day weekend.
Love,
Ashley
P.S. The picture is one I took of me and the boys on a walk around the block. Hamilton was at school and we were soaking in the wonderful weather.

Halfway Done!

I completed my second chemo treatment Wednesday which means I am half way done!! My sweet sister flew in from Texas to sit with me.
It did take much longer than we thought. My appointment was at 10:30. I got there at 10:15, but I didn’t start my first bag until 11:50 (I get a total of four bags: one bag of pre-meds that takes 20 minutes, one bag of anti-nauseous meds that takes 30 minutes, one bag of chemo that takes one hour, and then a second chemo that takes two hours). Unfortunately I had some IV issues again. We didn’t blow a vein this time, but it seems my veins are a little small.
I was able to use the first IV for the first 3 bags, but when they started the 4th bag it was stinging with every pump. The first chemo is a vein-irritant and so they think that may have been the cause of the stinging. They also feel because of the small size of my veins I cannot withstand a ‘quicker’ feed so instead of it take 2 hours to empty I need it to go slower and take 2.5 to 3 hours.
So they removed the IV and tried again. It was a miss and so I had to have them try a third time. That worked and they were able to finally start the last bag at 2:45 (which means we were not able to leave until about 5:15). They kept a heat compress on my arm (which is supposed to help enlarge/swell your veins). They put in my notes that I may need to keep heat on my IV location for my entire treatment infusion. Otherwise, I may just need to go into the remaining treatments with the expectation that I will get two IVs.
The hard part is that I am not allowed to use my right arm (my dominant side) at all (where my veins are a bit bigger). I lost that ‘privilege’ when they removed the 10 lymph nodes during surgery. So I can only be stuck on my left side for all blood work (which is also done before my first bag) and shots (which is done the day after). I’m blessed that I get 3 weeks for my arm to heal between treatments. Unfortunately, the blown vein is not healed yet so that also decreased the availability of ‘stick’ possibilities.
I got pretty emotional if I am honest. I’m not great with needles as-is, but by the 3rd IV poke I was just done. My sister did a great job keeping me distracted and encouraging me until it got fixed. Afterwards she kicked my butt in a few games of Skip-Bo to help keep me distracted – or maybe just to annoy me (she’s good at that).
My sweet husband recently booked a no-kids week-long trip the first week of October to the Turks & Caicos islands for a take-that-cancer-we-beat-you-and-its-over-praise-God-vacation. He had sent me a picture of the beach view and I made it the screen-saver on my phone. Katie kept holding it up for me to look at while they were poking me and it just made me relax to know sooner-than-later I would be relaxing at that exact spot. No more chemo. No more IV pokes. No more! Just time to relax and enjoy my husband and celebrate all that God accomplished and did over the past 8 months.
After we were done I treated Katie to a pedicure and then she treated me to dinner – it was a nice reprieve after the long 7 hours at the hospital.
Right now I am feeling OK. This time last treatment was when all the chest pain, coughing, & allergy symptoms really started kicking in. Now that I am on daily Rx for the reflux/indigestion all of that pain is not a part of this round. I will more than likely have my ‘worst’ days starting tomorrow through the weekend if I follow the same pattern.
Mom leaves Saturday afternoon. What an amazing help she has been – she has been caretaker or G-man for the last 25 days! We could not have done the last few weeks without her (and Dad). My in-laws will step in now for a couple days depending on how I feel after the weekend. Luke is officially done with school and Hamilton is starting his last week before summer.
My next few appointments are Physical Therapy on 5/24, Plastics check-up on 5/25, then my next chemo on 6/8.
For CBS next year (I know, I know – enough with talking about CBS) we are going to be studying some amazing books of the Bible, one being 1 Timothy. I am pre-reading all the books over the summer just to familiarize myself with them. 1 Timothy 1:12 in the NLT version says, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him.” This encouraged me so much (and I hope that it might encourage you with whatever might be going on in your personal life as well).
  1. I am to take the posture of thankfulness in my current circumstances.
  2. He has given me the strength to do it and to walk thru the circumstances.
  3. He considered me trustworthy with the circumstance – to handle it honoring him and giving him glory.
  4. Lastly, that I was appointed with the honor to be the one to do number three.
So, that it what I am choosing to meditate on currently. Whatever your circumstances may be: your marriage, your children, your work, other relationships, your finances, recent diagnosis, general anxiety, summer break, who knows what you have been or will be walking through. My encouragement is to follow Paul’s pattern from 1 Timothy 1:12.
Have a great weekend!
Love,
Ashley
P.S. Remember if you want to contact me you can reply to this email and to view the meal calendar you will need to log-in to the actual website to sign up. Thank you for your continued support and prayers – I love looking at the prayer time sheet and praying for you at the same time you pray for me!

The Great Shave of 2016

Well…it happened. As much as Mark kept trying to encourage me it was just thinning it in fact was coming out. My last two showers the drain looked more like Harry from Harry and the Hendersons had showered. It was just getting messy and my head was getting itchy.
My sweet Hanna (Seriously, if you are local go check out Revive Salon. All 5 of us see Hanna, but any of the gals there are fantastic!) came over to the house on Saturday. Hamilton and Luke helped run the razor a little, but ultimately I think they got a little bored. HA! Even with my hair falling out, I have thick hair and a lot of it so it took a little longer than they thought it would to actually ‘shave’ it.
My head is still a little tender, but ultimately it does feel so much better. I was able to purchase a few hats and scarves. I will not be purchasing a wig. It’s summer – and well really it’s the perfect season/time to not have hair.
I still get a little shocked when I see myself in a mirror and going out in public today has been a little interesting. But, overall, it’s just all part of this experience.
Mom, Katie, and Garrett fly in tomorrow afternoon. I can’t wait!! I think I might hold G-man all day!! Katie will be attending my chemo treatment with me on Wednesday morning. Thursday I will go back for my shot and then Katie will fly home. Mom is staying through Saturday. Mark will be with me throughout the weekend (which was the hardest time last treatment). Joan will take L & G the beginning of the week to allow me time to ease into feeling better. By mid- to late- next week life will be somewhat normal. Me staying at home being a mommy to my youngest boys.
School is coming to a close here in GA. Luke’s last day of 3s PreK is this Thursday and Hamilton finishes third grade next Friday. I’ve been scheduling the boys in different camps and VBS’ to help fill their summer days. Hamilton will also be attending Kanakuk Kamp for two weeks in July. I know the summer will fly by and we will be kicking off the new school year before we know it.
I have had many people ask me about signing up for my meal calendar. It has been amazing the help the meals has been. If you would like to sign-up you will need to actually log-in to the helpinghands website and then click on the calendar on my page. Rachael has extended the meals throughout the summer thru a few weeks after my surgery in August.
I am receiving your replies (if you want to comment, just reply to this email) and love reading them. I try to respond, but sometimes am not able to do so – but I do read them!
I’m doing well – feel great this week and am in good spirits. God continues to give me peace and grace and I know it’s because all of you are faithful to bathe me in prayer. Your love and support of me and my family is amazing – overwhelming. Thank you for being the hands and feet of Jesus and serving us so well.
Love,
AJ

Today’s Doctor Appointment

This morning I had an appointment with my plastic surgeon, Dr. Mackay. I got a lot of updates in the quick 30 minutes I was there.
  • I got a “fill” (I’ll skip those details to spare my male readers)
  • I got CLEARED TO PICK UP GARRETT!!!!!!
  • I got scheduled for my final reconstruction surgery to be the first week of August AND it is an out-patience procedure AND it only has a weight restriction (not picking up G-man again) for 4 weeks (instead of 8 like this time)
So, I’d say overall it was a great appointment. He said everything is looking good and he is pleased with how everything is healing.
I do think my hair is starting to fall out. Not in clumps, but when I pull it it comes out in bits. We will see – my sweet boys still pray every night that my hair doesn’t fall out. Tonight when I told them (and showed them) I let them know that my sweet Hanna (who cuts all of our hair) said she would come over to the house to shave my head. We told the boys that they could watch and even help her. So who knows – maybe it all falling out will end up being a fun family memory. I mean what boy wouldn’t like to shave their mommy’s head. They may even decide to do theirs too. Ha!
We are all missing Garrett, but he is having a blast in Texas and being very well taken care of. I’ve heard he has had many play dates as well. I so appreciate all my Texas friends and family loving on him!
All is well here. It has been a great week. I have felt really good and have resumed some normalcy around the house. I was able to get a prescription for the coughing and chest pain (which I found out was intense/extreme indigestion and reflux). It has gotten a little better. It still flares up at night so sleep has not been great. Praying it gets better as the medicine starts to work.
I’ll leave you with a verse my sweet friend Bill gave us, “…We went through fire and flood, but you brought us to a place of great abundance.” Psalm 66:12. We are confident, because we serve a God that has never changed, that at the end of this he will have led us to a place of great abundance. A place of great refreshment. And although, come Fall, it may be all but a memory, it’s effect will be etched on our family and my soul forever.
Love,
AJ

NO RADIATION!

The sweetest words I have heard: “You do not need radiation.”
This is HUGE!! This brings me joy!!
I give God all the praise and glory today for this excellent news.
If you you want more details keep reading…
Why do I not?
  • I have very clean margins (like centimeters not millimeters)
  • 8 out of 10 lymph nodes taken were clean
  • The 2 bad lymph nodes the cancer was not infiltrating
  • The tissue in the lymphatic system affected was small
What would radiation have meant (why am I so happy?)
  • Treatment everyday M-F for 5 weeks starting one month after last chemo
  • Prolonged reconstructive surgery to 6 months after last radiation
  • Would have moved surgery into next year which means new insurance deductible year.
What does this mean your time table is now?
  • Finish chemo 6/29
  • Reconstructive surgery about a month after last chemo
  • 6-8 weeks of recovery (including not lifting G-man again)
  • By Fall & the holidays this whole thing is but a memory!!!!
Please keep praying. My immune system is low and pollen is high here in GA. My eyes are bloodshot, my nose is running, my voice is gone, I’m coughing like crazy – BUT I don’t need radiation. (You can start your happy dance now)

Today…

Today, if I’m honest, I’m feeling pretty junky. I’m sitting in my chair in my room resting because I don’t have energy to do anything else. I’m achy. I doze in and out. It’s like the flu – but a lot worse.
BUT! You know what I just did? I watched church. It was so nice to just watch from my phone, in my chair, from the comfort of my own home no matter how uncomfortable I physically feel.
So why dont you watch too? If you aren’t attending somewhere already and you don’t know where to go look at the pic I posted. It has the web address and broadcast times (all times eastern) for the rest of the day. If you watch it reply to this email and let me know your thoughts.
But know this first…I love you!
Thanks for the continued prayers.
AJ