Monday, August 20, 2012

My Week!

How am I eva eva gonna get caught up??  Lordy.....Been a jammed-filled few days since I last posted.
Some pretty significant things have happened....Good and not so good.  Today? I feel pretty darned good and can see the light at the end of this tunnel.....Let's just hope it's not a TRAIN!  ha!

Let's see, in a nutshell....I have:
- Buried my grandfather...
- Started the new chemo...
- Watched my daughter as a BJH Dancer on the field for the first time...
- Watched my son play his first high school...."sort of a game"....
- Spent time with family...
- Spent time with friends...
- Registered and will send my Syd to Junior High tomorrow...
- Registered and will send my Sam to High School tomorrow...
- Witnessed my Sam pass his driver's test...
- Been pretty darn sick.....
-  And felt pretty darn incredible....

Lots of ups and downs lately, but still so incredibly blessed and today...this minute....Satan has NOT won on the many times he has tried testing my faith.  Yep, I'm not perfect....and he got a lead on me a time or two.  But My God is back off dude!  :)

"See ya Later" Papaw...
Funny how He can send blessings in the midst of any storm.  I was reminded of that last weekend.  After taking chemo, we rushed to West Helena to make it to my Papaw's visitation.  Made it in the knick of time.....Actually, a few minutes late, but they held the doors open for us. Was met with hugs and love from all of my family who share my love for this man.  Words just can't describe the hole in our hearts......

My brother had to head back that evening for work, but let his children, my neice and nephew stay with us at my Mamaw's house.  Aunt Terri got to spoil them!  :) So enjoyed these sweet kiddos!

Saturday, we were fed a family meal by the ladies of WHUMC.....Ya know, the Methodists believe that it is in the Bible somewhere...."Wherever two or more are gathered, there shall be potluck."  :)  That said, one of the most delicious meals I've ever had.  Hated the cicumstances, but so loved spending time with my loved ones. 

The funeral service was absolutely beautiful.  Standing room only.....Flowers everywhere.....My brother's sister-in-law's song......There is no doubt in my mind that my Papaw was smiling in heaven at such a loving tribute to him.  In the midst of our heartbreak, we were together as a family.....and all of his beloved the place he loved most.  We were reminded that "Christians NEVER say goodbye....only see ya later...."

The New Stuff:
Well I got the new chemo.  In many ways, it was much easier on me than predicted.  I guess silly me expected to "feel nothing"....which didn't happen of course.  The good thing is....that I made it the whole weekend without the bottom falling out like it used to.  Monday and Tuesday, I was taught what "bone pain" was.  Ouch.  This meant no sleep.  At all.  Some digestive issues.....and still working out the side effects.  Mainly fatigue. 

I was unable to work ALL week.....sigh.  :(  Seems like one medicine helps one thing but causes another.  Then IT helps that but causes something else.  Gonna meet with the Doc tomorrow.  Gonna tweak some meds for sure.  I take so much stuff......driving me crazy!

The good news?  Only 3 more treatments.  In a month, I can have my "No Mo CheMO" celebration.  Can't get here soon enough I tell ya!

I still have the best friends on THE planet.  And that's all I'm gonna say about that......Small visits, dinner and laughs here and there, texts, emails, phone calls, cards and even fresh fruit on my doorstep!  God has placed true angels here on carry me through this.  And it is.....

This weekend!
Had a pretty darn good weekend!  First of all....Look out! Sambo passed his driving test! 

He has only given me a heart attack a couple of times.  Gotta get that boy some practice!  :) 

 My Aunt Tootie and Chuck came to visit and watch my kiddos Friday night.  The ONLY time this year that they will be doing their "thang" on the same night at the same place.  Was SOOO proud of them!  Syd danced and Sam played!  Both made this momma so proud!  Gonna be a great....and BUSY.....season!  I SOOOO hope this chemo is good to me so that they can always have their biggest FAN in the stands!  :)  Here's a few pics from the night!

The weather turned out pretty kids were "stars" in momma's book......Tootie & Chuck got to see them.....and kicked off a great Panther Season!  The night was a little hard on me from feeling so rotten all week.  But SOOOO worth it!

Saturday, Syd, her friend, Chloe, Sam, Tootie and I, headed to LR to do a little last minute school shopping.  Mainly, just a "Girls' Day" plus Sam!  :)  Lots of laughs and a wonderful day! 

Today, said goodbye to Tootie and Chuck, after rooking her into a great big ole breakfast.  Ran a couple of errands, and a dinner date with my David.  Back home to snuggle in to watch "Big Brother" judgement!  I'm a complete fan! 

Not a bad weekend for sure. 

In summary, I've noted all the highlights of the week.....rather, the high POINTS of my week.  Truth is, I've had some equally low times.  Yes, that ole Satan.....that ole Cancer.....even just my crappy ole attitude has gotten the best of me at times this week.  I've been forced to apologize for words I did not mean.  For not giving the proper effort in most every area of my life.  I have fallen short.  I have fallen on my knees before Jesus, and asked Him to carry me.  I have asked my friends to pray for me.  I've once again been reminded that this is a "marathon" not a "sprint."  I've never felt so "not myself".....and so just down-right ugly.

Outside of something happening to one of my children, I am living out my worst fear ever.  Breast Cancer.  People continue to tell me how "strong" I am.  How they admire me.  Truth is....I'm not strong alone.  I'm weak...physically, emotionally, financially.....I feel like a failure as a mother, daughter, sister, employee, and friend.  My body just won't allow me to be all I WANT to be.  And folks, that's tough. 

In a recent visit with a friend that I've not seen in a while....she asked me..."Is this just the most horrible thing you've ever been through?"  My answer?  By far.  It's horrible.  But at the same time, I've never felt more blessed.  God continues to show me Hope.  Renewal.  Faith.  Love.  and even Joy.

But as for me, I will always have hope;   Psalm 71:14
I see hope everywhere.  In the eyes and faces of my children, in David, in my medical team, in my family, and in my friends.  Sometimes....I even catch a glimpse of "hope" when I look in the mirror.

Don't forget!
Race for the Cure....Team Terri! Walk with me for my momma!  OR for your hero!


Friday, August 10, 2012

Making Coffee in Heaven.....

In loving memory,     J.W. "Pete"  Smart    February 29, 1924 -- August 9, 2012

To say I have a heavy heart tonight is an understatement.  One of the most beloved men in my life.....and to many....went to be with Jesus.  My "Papaw."

There have been very few men in my life who have never let me down. Ever.  In fact....I don't even need one hand to count them. He is one of them. He was the perfect grandfather in every sense of the word.

Growing up....I lived just two doors down from my Mamaw and Papaw until my Daddy's job forced us to move to Newport.  I lived there until the summer before 6th grade.  For a long time....6 years to be exact....I was an only child AND an only grandchild.  They spoiled me rotten!!  :) 

My dad wasn't much of a "hands on" dad to me growing up.  He worked alot.  Shift work mostly, so when we were awake he was either sleeping or working.  My Papaw played a big part of the "Daddy's Little Girl" to me when we lived on Baldwin Street.  Here are a few things I remember:

- Hopping on the riding lawn mower and riding with him.  Even on days when the lawn really didn't need mowing.  He just knew I liked to ride!  :)

- His woodshop.  He was a talented carpenter.  Has a shop completely full of tools.....two of them really.  My Mamaw joked that he built one to keep from cleaning out the other.  Now they are BOTH full.  I remember various litte things he built for us over the years....Christmas yard Decor, the little wooden trash cans, built-in shelves, desk and vanity area for my bedroom.  Many things over the years.  Wish I still had some things.  As he got older, his knees, his arthritis, etc. prevented him from doing much.  I know this broke his heart.

- Pecans.  He has HUGE pecan trees in his yard.  I remember SO many times, "pickin up pecans," and us kids would kinda fight over who got to use the nifty little "pecan picker-upper"!  :)  I also remember shelling those on the front porch.

- The front porch.  That is where you would find Papaw Pete perched most of the time.  Just sitting and watching the world.
- His garden.  Lordy, I honestly think he could "live off the land."  I remember shellin peas, picking tomatoes, and up until a year or so ago, I'd always get a bundle of fresh corn!  If I'm not mistaken, he still "supervised" the garden in his back yard that the neighbor planted.  :)

- Sunday afternoon drives.  West Helena is located on the banks of the Mississippi.  Every single  We took a drive - by way of Baskin Robbins  :)-- to "look at the river."  In fact, earlier this year, we made a visit....and this picture was taken in the car at a stop sign....from our last drive to see the river together....

- West Helena United Methodist Church.  This was the church that first laid my seeds of faith.  I wish I knew the exact number of years my grandparents were members.  But, what I do know, is that "Mr. Pete" was a fixture there.  At his post right beside the door.....he was always the first one you would see when you came in on Sunday morning.  Handing out bulletins and hugs.  I found him there on my last visit to his church back in May on my suprise visit for my mother's birthday.  Most of my life, he took care of the lawn.....and I remember riding on the mower up there too!  :)  The church was located only a couple of blocks from their home.  So we always "came and went" by the church so Papaw could keep an eye on things.  He opened the church every Sunday and got the coffee started.  I remember a time when they cut a visit short to us in Newport because I guess his "backup" man was out of pocket and Papaw was worried about WHO was gonna open the church, turn on the heat, and "make the coffee"!  :)  I still love this church.  I was baptized in that church.  My parents were married there.  Most of my cousins and other family members.  And my grandparents renewed their vows on their 50th wedding Anniversary there. 

- Sunday evening phone calls.  For many years, before the widespread use of cell phones, it was cheaper to call long distance on Sunday nights.  So papaw made all his calls each Sunday night.  I can still hill his familiar "Heeeeyyy!!" on the other end.....from deep in his belly.  You knew he was smiling just by the sound of his voice.  He continued that trend....mostly out of habit....and sat down and called all the kids and grandkids each Sunday night. With he on one phone, and mamaw on the other.  No reason....just a chat!  :)

-  His recliner.  You could climb up in it WITH him.  But it's HIS seat.  Everyone knows that.  :)

- At his house, each Christmas....the Razorbacks and not reindeer, pulled Santa in.  His wooden display every single year.....that he made.  Always made me smile.

- His rolls.  Mamaw Smart is known for her homemade yeast rolls.  Kinda like the saying for the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders....."often imitated, never equaled."  They are single-handedly the best thing you ever put in your mouth.  My Papaw retired a little before my mamaw and HE began baking rolls.  Soon his were just as good!  :)

- Jay's.  My mamaw has a rule that from Saturday at noon....until Sunday night....her kitchen was closed.  Every Sat night they (and us too!) would drive to the little diner down the street to eat a burger.  Papaw never met a stranger.  And without fail, they usually had an unofficial reservation somewhere after church.  As resteraunts in Helena opened and closed, they changed throughout the years.  I remember Golden Corral, Ryan's, and most recently Kelly's.  Again, the staff knew them.  And loved them. 

- Leap Year baby!  My papaw's birthday was Feb 29th.  He only got a REAL birthday every 4 years.  He played on this throughout my life.  I'll never forget the day that I was "older" than my Papaw!  ha

I could go on and on, but my tears are overwhelming me with sadness as I miss him so much.  I wish "life" hadn't made me so busy that I didn't call more.  Visit more.....throughout the past few years. 
I remember very few times he ever scolded me or disciplined me for anything. I'm sure he did.....but the fact that I have no recollection of it tells me that he did it in such a loving and gentle way that it was very successful. I've never once doubted his love for me. Or for anyone in his family. He was present for every single major event in my life and many "minor" ones that are too numerous to list.

I never doubted his love for the Lord.  The man served his country both in WWII and Korea. I feel that he must have been bothered over the years from some of the things he either saw or endured.....because never in his "stories" were any from the war.  He has lost his parents, countless friends, siblings, and the inconceivable.  He outlived two of his three precious children and a great grandchild. His oldest son Robert was unexpectedly killed in a car accident when he was in his early 20's.  And of course, breast cancer took my mother at age 49.  Never once, have I ever seen his faith shaken.  He never turned away from God. 

He was married to the love of his life for 66 years.  Where you saw saw the other.  My heart is simply broken for my grandmother who is left in this world without her best friend.  They were everything I wish I had.  They loved, laughed, bickered (hehe), but could definately finish each other's sentences.  Pete and Lucille will be remembered for many, many, many things.....individually, of course.   But mostly, as a team.

I am simply without words.  There is not another man like him.  Simply precious.  Throughout every mistake.  Throughout every victory.  Throughout every single step in my life.  They have been there for me and "loved me anyway."  I've seen tears in my Papaw's eyes few times in my life.  And one of our last conversations, he was sobbing uncontrollably in worry for me over my diagnosis, my decisions, my well-being in general.  This man loved me. I know this. 

Everyone called him "Papaw Pete" --  He was a loving, kind, and even somewhat grumpy at times man to anyone he met.  He was REAL!!  I hope he knows how much I loved him.  Wish I could have told him one more time.  He is now walking with our Father.  Surrounded by all of the loved ones that have made a place for him there.  He no longer needs his cane.  He no longer has pain or discomfort. me peace.  A peace that he is making a way for all of us here in this earthly place....striving to see him again.

Please pray for my entire family.  Especially my Mamaw.  The world.....OUR world....will never again be the same.  I can just see him now....with that big ...deep in the belly...."Heeeeeyyyy!" ....greeting those in heaven.....and probably "making the coffee"  :)

I love you my sweet Papaw Pete. I will never forget our last visit.....your last words of advice for me.....your last hug.  Nor will I forget all the years you spoiled me, you loved me, you guided me, you prayed for me.  May you finally rest in peace......

In Him,

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

No mo Devil!

It's been a while since the white screen has been staring back at me with really nowhere to start.  I've not updated in a bit....just haven't really felt like it.  And quite honestly, putting things in writing makes it real....and gosh, do I REALLY need to keep complaining for the world to see?  Same song....15th verse.

Had my 4th and final treatment of the "AC" part of the "ACT."  Halfway there folks.  And totally finished with the appropriately named "Red Devil" that has successfully kicked my hiney the last 8 weeks.  I wanted a party!  Although, I'm still waiting to FEEL like partying.  On a scale, physically, this treatment has been no worse, but certainly no better than the 3 previous rounds.  Quite honestly, it just sucks.  Emotionally, this round has knocked me further down, than I thought capable.  So today, I will document my latest journey.  Because you know my God and His placement of angels here on earth quickly brought me out of it......and that's the good stuff!  Blessings in the midst of struggle.  THAT is worth writing about.

Friday 7/27, was Treatment Day.  That morning, got a text from my sweet friend, Sonya who had secured a condo on Lake Hamilton for the weekend, inviting us all to join her.  I immediately resonded with, "Girl, I so wish we could, but I'm having a treatment today."  She came back with, "So!....Do what you feel like can 'feel bad' at the condo just like you can 'feel bad' at home! Just crawl in bed when you need to and the kids can have a ball!"  Now THAT is a friend.  So that's exactly what we did!  Went and had my treatment....and then hurridly prepared my last minute trip to the lake!

My sweet friend, Karen, was my Chemo Buddy that day.  Before this struggle, Karen was of course, a friend....but I wouldn't say we were close and ones that talked daily.  A fellow "ball mom" throughout Panther Basketball and Panther Baseball, she has always been a joy and precious.  But since my diagnosis, Karen truly stepped up and selflessly has done so much for us.  From delicious meals, to cute PJ's on a sack on my door, to fresh cut flowers from her own yard.....not to mention her continuous prayers and sweet texts to check on me.....God has truly revealed to me a precious friend in Karen since this nightmare of mine began.  I so enjoy her company and was thrilled to have her with me!  In the midst of her own struggles, she still found time for me.  What a blessing! We enjoyed a quick lunch, girl talk and then off for Round 4!  The benedryl kicked in and I mostly napped during the treatment.  She sat quietly beside me and her presence was truly a comfort.

Raced home and threw clothes in a bag, made a quick grocery list.  Sydney Clare was on a church trip this weekend, but David, Sam and Madison all climbed in and off we went.  I usually have about 24 hours of "feel good" before the chemo takes over.  I was praying to the "chemo gods" to please spare me of the effects so that I could enjoy this weekend with my friends and family.  We arrived in Hot Springs, all went to dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings....Sonya had her sweet Taylor and boyfriend Dalton.  We shared lots of laughs and fun memories!  The next day, I acutally got some pool time in!  Thank goodness....for someone who is usually tan, I think I'm starting to scare folks!  Our old and dear friend, Jack, came up for the day and we so enjoyed the day.  The kids were incredible.  Sonya and I are both lucky to have such wonderful kids that still enjoy hanging out with "mom"!  :) 

I lasted until about 3 or 4, I guess.  I then climbed in bed and stayed there for the remainder of the weekend.  They went on around me, like I wanted them to.  The sweet kids coming in to check on me.  And of course, David taking care of anything I might need.  As a mom, even thought I couldn't physically participate in everything around me.....knowing that my loved ones were having fun made me rest even better than I had been at home.  So thankful that my Sonya had the foresight to realize that.  Blessed I am.

I got home....and just sank.  Physically, of course, but emotionally.  I started allowing myself to go to places that cancer patients really don't need to go.  I am so incredibly tired of feeling bad.  This is a horrible road.  I started googling.  Not a good idea.  I was giving myself my own death sentence.  The "woe is me" day turned into "days".  Triple Negative.  Chemo.  Bald. Ugly.  All of that has an effect.  But Triple me a 20% chance of the cancer coming back.  That is a big ole number when you think in terms of life and death.  Ironically, I even let myself actually FEAR stopping chemo.  Right now, I know I'm fighting the cancer.  But what about when treatments stop?  I'm not a candidate for any kind of preventative therapy.  How do I reduce the 20%? 

Went from fearing it to actually saying the words to both my brother and my friend....asking to actually stop therapy.  I truly understand why patients elect to stop treatment even when its in their best interest not to.  Chemo is the most brutal attack on your body that you can imagine.  That is fact.  You can be strong and fight through alot of things in life.  I've worked through morning sickness during pregnancies.  Through the flu.  Through headaches. Even broken hearts.  I've "faked it" until I can make it on alot of things in my lifetime.  Chemo wins.  It is simply not possible to work through it.  Everyone tells me how "strong" I am.  Maybe.  Not really.  Chemo is stronger. 

My kids are living without a mom.  Others are getting them where they need to be.  My house was in shambles.  They are helping....but they are c'mon!  lol  My laundry was piled dirty, and I found myself just sinking into this emotional mess!  Deb called in the troops.  Tuesday night, I had 4 friends....Deb, Kim, Becca, and Jackie and even Deb's daughter Ashlyn.  They and my kiddos had my house whipped back into shape and even took laundry home with them!  Against my repeated protests, they just lovingly told me to get in bed and shut up!  I was so moved at such a loving act.....and shaking my own head at how someone else was washing my underwear!  lol 
I couldn't believe my eyes as my home felt like "me" again, clean, fresh flowers, and candles burning!  How will I ever thank them????

Wed night, received salad and pizza from the Johnsons and Aunt Gayle......Was so happy to see them.  Guys, I have the greatest friends on the planet.

Thursday and Friday, I drug myself into the office for a few hours each day.  Financial worries are consuming me, without being to work.  But it seems that God always sends me what we need at just the right moment.  So I try not to let it get me down.  Hebrews 11:1 -- Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, and evidence of things not seen.

Friday evening.....I was brought to tears, by the act of two special little boys.  Little Jessie and Gary.  Both are "little brothers" in our baseball family. They had a birthday party recently.....and in lieu of gifts, they chose to ask for donations for the kiddos and I.  I have had alot of thoughtful gestures.  But this coming from two very sweet little boys just tugged at my heart.  Again....blessings in the midst of the storm.

The weekend was a quiet one.  My Sam is at a crossroads and he spent alot of time hanging out with me.  I love that he talks to me about everything.  That he seeks my advice when he is hurting.  That he tells me he loves me.....and often.  That he is honest and faithful.  I remember how hard "being a kid" was sometimes.  He is such a good boy.  He sees the good in most every situation.  Entering high school is a big deal....and I'm so proud of the young man he has become.  I hate watching him hurt...but I love how he constantly thinks of others instead of his own pain.  I've often joked.....If I can't meet the perfect cracky I'll raise one!  :) 

Made it to Sunday School and church.....hugged friends....and enjoyed my family.  Sunday evening, I could feel the effects of my counts back to bed I went. 

I met with Dr. Sneed today.  I was bound and determined to back him into a corner and ask him to tell me, "Terri, you are not going to die."  Of course, my friends and family tell me that all the time.  But nobody in a "white coat" will do that.  I pretended to be calm as a cucumber, while my sweet Sam sat in the room with me.  And asked about the whole 20% thing.  When you reach the "half-point" start to see the light at the end of your treatment tunnel.  I never got those words out of him of course.  But what he DID tell me was this.....That "20%" really was a good thing.  Means that 80% chance it won't come back.  I asked what would happen at the end of this.  He told me that he and I would be friends for a long long time.  We will stay very on top of this and he would not leave me until he retires.  He even shared his age....53.  And he isn't planning to retire until age 67.  And at that time....he would leave me in good hands.  In his own way, he was telling me he wouldn't let me die.  Above his head on the wall.....hangs a framed art that says "With God, I believe in miracles"....

My friend Kara, who I go to more than she knows when I need to be brought "back to reality"....reminded me that when the weatherman tells us 80% chance of rain....we bring our umbrellas and most all of the time we use them.  My God is my umbrella!  He covers and protect me even when I'm being a belligerernt, whiney, grumpy, cancer patient.  My sweet Deb reminded me through her tears and mine.....that the devil will use my low times to test my faith.  And that I HAVE to fight back.  No more devil!  :)   No more "googling".  Just faith.  So I'll tell ya....THAT is how I plan to lower that 20%.  Prayer.  Faith.  My God is bigger than ANY problem we face.  Even cancer.

Dr. Sneed discussed my new chemo drug...Taxol, which I will start this coming Friday.  He predicts that it won't be as "messy" as the others I've withstood.  I'm a bit anxious.....more unknowns.  But with school fast approaching.....and TWO football seasons....both Jr., JV, and Sr. high that I must be present for.....I need those "chemo gods" to be nice to me!  :)  Stay tuned.......:)

I've had a lot of ups and downs since my last post.  A couple of really LOW downs.  But even in the midst of struggle....I have been reminded of my blessings.  2 awesome God-loving children.  Wonderful family.  Incredible Friends.  My support system is perfect.  I simply couldn't ask for more.  Within this struggle....there are blessings.  New friends.  God has brought such special people into my life.  My doctors, nurses, caregivers, friends.....I'm so very lucky.  My prognosis.  I am going out on a limb to say I am cancer free.  My faith tells me so.  Is the road still rocky?  Yep. Am I finished yet?  Nope.  But faith is going to see me through.

Please don't forget to join my team!!!

Lord....I continue to praise you in this storm......

In Him,