Chicken Soup for the Soul

Yes, I’m going to work today.

Listen, if I was able to work in the shape I was in last week, this is nothing.

I’m packing my cold lunch food, cream, and Tylenol of needed, but I haven’t had any pain medicine since Friday night. I’ll be good.

When you are hooked up to an IV pole and in a bed not knowing if you are going to make it, getting to go to work and be normal?

It’s a blessing.

Rob was up early yesterday and helped Quinn pack up. Quinn has a red rash all around his lips. He tends to get that when nervous, and having his mom in the hospital for days and then outside camping probably didn’t help. But man, he had an amazing weekend. Boy Scouts has been awesome for him. He was especially proud he learned to make grilled cheese and also had ramen noodles. We were so proud of him that he stuck through the tent collapse with the wind and set up a new tent at 2:30 am with the older scouts. I love that the older boys look out for the younger boys. Adventure, respect, responsibility, fun, new friends… God bless the Boy Scouts.

We straightened up the house a bit, did some laundry, went food shopping and rested. We appreciated having the five of us in one place at one time.

My friend Laurie made us chicken soup and it was so nice to just all sit and have soup on a Sunday. I also has some of sarahs famous chicken pot pie.

I may have had to have it all cooled, but it was Nourishing.

The rash is still a bit painful but slowly starting to improve. I can actually swallow and not cry. I can have liquids and solids on all parts of my Mouth without sore issues. I can walk on my feet without hobbling.

It’s going to be a good day.

Here is to a healing day, a peaceful day, and a day full of kindness.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri

I Busted Out!

It was a long day yesterday. I got up early, cleaned myself all up, got only best yoga pants and tank top, brushed out my wig and teased it up, fixed my eyebrows, and got ready for my 7 am inspection. The young doctor came in and his first words were, “Wow! You look good!” I had a good feeling after that.

Rob came early to back me up…

At ten the oncologist on call came and was a dream. She was my kind of doctor and said she wanted me to get another dose in the afternoon of steroids but i could go home that evening. HUZZAH!!

I had my last cold meal of tuna sandwich, prayed over my roommate one last time, and was wheeled out later that day.

We all crashed on the couch.

One would think i would have had the best night sleep ever, right?

Instead of vitals at 4:00 am…

We got a call from Quinn at 3:30 am.

His tent collapsed, he was scared, and he had to go sleep in a new tent.

Going back to sleep was easier in the hospital than after getting Quinn’s call.

Rob is already up and at camp help the troop break down and pack up. If anyone needs a vacation, it’s my husband.

It’s good to be home, but also unsettling.

I had a few panic attacks when I got home.

The worst first thing to be told is you have cancer.

The next worst thing to be told is it has spread and is fatal.

The next worst thing is to be told is treatment isn’t working and it is spreading.

I’ve heard all of those.

There is only one thing left to hear.

“We are out of options”.

And it’s pretty clear that after all of this, the fact we are still going to try to stick with a chemo that put me in the hospital with the worst side effects they’ve ever seen means we have to hold on tight to every single option so I dont hear the final horrible thing.

I have to work very hard to stay in each moment.

I have to work very hard to be grateful for every single thing.

My roommate helped me with that.

You see, she was an 83 old woman who cried and called out to Jesus all the time. She was also bedridden and her arthritis was so bad, she couldn’t move her arms. So she had to be fed. She had to have someone wipe her face and arms from crying so much. She couldn’t get up to use the bathroom. She didn’t have visitors all day and night so the tv was her friend. People kept suggesting I switch rooms.

God put me in that room for a reason.

It helped me stay grateful.

I had all of you.

I had my family coming and sitting with me.

I had my family taking care of my children.

For me to use the bathroom, I simply had to slowly stand up, unplug my IV pole from the wall, make sure my port tube wasn’t in danger of getting caught on anything, and roll right in.

I could feed myself, and even though it was all cold food, I was still allowed to eat solid food.

I couldn’t take hot showers, but I could use the packages of wipes and clean myself without needing help.

And her constant talking to Jesus?

Reminded me to keep my faith.

What if she was scared and in pain and couldn’t do anything and was calling out to Jesus at 3:00 am when nurses couldn’t get any blood out of her painful arms, she had a roommate who grumbled and was not nice? I would talk to her through our curtains when she would ask God why, and remind her it’s not for us to know why, but to know He is with us in this room. That He has plans for us. Good plans. And she is a testimony at 83 years old.

I prayed over her as I was wheeled out yesterday, and prayed for her at 3:30 am after Quinn’s call.

So keep Joyce in your prayers today.

Keep Quinn in your prayers. Today is the first day he gets to see me since Wednesday. We didn’t bring the kids to the hospital until I was in shape to see them. Which means he didn’t get to see me at all.

Keep my friend Karen in prayer as she continues to recover from hip surgery. I’m so lucky that the women I work with are like family. We get each other through some hard times, and last year? What a year. Let’s just say 2020 hasn’t been too good for us yet with the hospital. Here’s to a healing February.

I love that I can laugh with my friends, even when in so much pain. I sent them my picture of my thigh with my biopsy scar. It looks like a little asshole, and we laughed and laughed. Even little assholes can cause a world of pain. I’m including the picture so you can laugh too. Be kind about the dragon scales though. That’s a prayer that they go away and I don’t have scars on the outside from all of this… as we all know I’ll be scarred on the inside from this past week for a long time.

Keep rob in prayer. He has been holding it all together with my family. I just love him.

May today be a quiet and healing day.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri

Hospital Day Four

I wake up with a tired and grateful heart.

A very tired and exhausted heart.

A heart that really wants to go home, was told I would probably be going home, then later night told may not go home for a few more days.

So I’m praying really hard that labs are good, rash is acceptable, and whoever is on rounds today says that I can get one more good IV push this morning of steroids and then can go home to begin an oral taper.

Yesterday was a mixed bag of news.

I started the day with another round of several oncology residents and interns and the head coming to see me. There was a hot discussion about how supplements could have caused this reaction, and I kept saying nooooooo, because number one, I havent been taking them for a few weeks because of the issues of swallowing, and number two, Donnie is brilliant and they all know what I’m doing. The doctor was adamant he wanted the list of supplements which meant more emails back and forth. As he walked out I hear him telling the young doctors how you can’t trust patients at times to be honest about what they are taking.

Which means that a whole new generation of doctors need to be re-educated when they finish medical school.

Which meant that when two of the young doctors came back to me last night I made sure to re-educate them.

I know that some of my best teachers have been my students. The same can be true in the medical field. Some of the doctors best teachers can be their patients if they have an open mind.

Unfortunately, after educating them, they said their doctor said I may not be allowed to leave until Sunday or Monday.

My doctor had come by at lunch at saw no reason to hold me past today. I looked better, I’ll rest better and eat better at home, and I’ve already weaned myself off pain meds. My lymphocytes took a big hit yesterday, which is not good as a cancer patient. I need those to fight cancer, and steroids are releasing them from where they are needed and into the bloodstream. So steroids are great short term but not great long term, and I’m a big picture long term kind of girl lately. We even agreed to do a 20 mg dose of chemo in two weeks with Benadryl push and no steroids, to see if we can try this dance again and not affect my micro biome.

The dermatologist came soon after my oncologist and was excited. Why? Because there is some super scary skin issue which can be a life threatening disease, called Stephen Johnson syndrome, which apparently they all thought was a possibility. Hence the biopsy. It was a core biopsy, which meant it went several layers down into my thigh. The good news is the rash was only on the top layer and on the upper part of the second layer. Which ruled out the SJS and pretty much verified it was a doxil reaction to too much chemo at one time.

The nice thing was the doctor told me how impressed he was by my ability to go toe to toe with doctors and speak the language. He said he recognized immediately I knew my stuff. We now have a mutual admiration society. He also spoke to us about Morgan and her alopecia which seems to be stress related. We will be watching her closely after this episode, as her hair has started to grow back and we pray it doesn’t fall out after this stress of the last month. It’s nice to have another doctor in our toolbox.

I was definitely on a high after my doctor and the dermatologist. I took some laps around the hospital wing.

My brother Scott came in the morning with my mom and we had some laughs. I now have more hair than him again and we compared.

My mom stayed all day, rob was by for a few hours mid day to make sure he was able to meet with doctors, my dad was driving really the kids around, scott and dad met Quinn off the bus, rob got Quinn to tennis and to his camp out this weekend, and my dad brought the girls to the hospital to see me and grab mom. It was good to see the girls and we had some good mom talk. I’m always amazed how petty some girls who can seem like friends can be. I’m glad I was able to be here to talk through a life lesson.

They all left and I was alone, and a little thrown off that the two doctors had just burst my bubble that I may not go home today.

That’s when my neighbors stopped by.

I had their son in first grade twenty two years ago. We moved onto their block years later, and the wife runs a bible study group on Facebook that I start my day with.

I knew God sent them to me at the right moment. We stood and held hands and prayed, she read psalm 91 and sang to me, and we hugged. It was what I needed at that moment.

God always provides.

Rob then came and stayed until 11:30.

I dont know what today will bring me.

I’m praying it brings me home.

I’m grateful I have access to good care, kind nurses, and a family that has been here for me and rob. We could not have been able to do this without their love and support. Rob and my family and kids have a texting thread and we all have been in constant contact. My kids have been so supported by all of them. So I’m thankful for cell phones too.

It was my niece brennan’s birthday yesterday and even though they are all states away now, they all texted and have been showing how much they love us.

I’ve had so much support through my blog and Facebook and instagram as well. I had a new friend stop by yesterday and my mom and scott saw a glimpse of why I share so much. We fill our own cups when we help others fill their own.

I’m praying for my roommate today. She had a very long day of tests and is scared, and prays out loud all night and day. I’ve been talking to her through the curtain as she is alone all day. 83 years old. God bless Joyce.

I’m praying for my friend Karen. Hip replacement is no joke. We were texting again at 1:00 am. I’m praying for sleep, pain relief, and the first of many strong steps towards a pain free and beautiful, peaceful life.

I’m praying for rob and my kids and my parents and siblings. I may look good in pictures, but in real life this has been scary. This has not been easy. This has been a little too real about what a terminal illness is. This has been hard physically and mentally and emotionally on us all. We have our tribe and are grateful for everyone.

I’m praying that whoever is on rounds agrees with my oncologist and the dermatologist and agrees to let me go home to continue to heal.

And I’m praying for healing.

Complete and total healing to last for years and years and decades.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri

Hospital Day Three

I was admitted into the hospital Wednesday. I was too out of it to update the blog, but I’m on the upswing now, so here it goes.

I wake up with a grateful heart.

Yes, I am still covered all over in what my friend Karen and I were joking about at 1:00 am …my dragon scales. You should see my Khaleesi GIF. It’s an appropriate name for them, as I feel like I’ve walked through yet another fire. Your skin is your biggest organ and we take advantage of it.

“Love the skin you’re in.”

So true, people.

Get up today and moisturize or something.

Yesterday started off stressful, as at one point I had the attending oncologist, his four attendings, and as I am explaining my history another doctor walked in. I knew he was my guy right away, because I was in the middle of making sure they all knew that I may be a kindergarten teacher, but I have a doctorate degree from Save my Ass, University. The new

Guy listened to me for a minute and got that look in his eye of “She knows her stuff.”

The other men cleared out pretty quickly when he showed up so I knew he was a big deal.

Apparently, he is the dermatological specialist. He explained he read my chart and based on what he read, he booked over because he was afraid I had the fatal kind of reaction happening. The fact that he walked in on me speaking and reviewing medical jargon toe to toe with five doctors, even with marble mouth, relaxed him greatly.

I’ve lost all shame elements, and he took pictures of my body all over. Maybe they’ll make a dragon scale calendar and I’ll be their girl of the month… meet Keri, Miss November.

Then he explained he wanted to do a biopsy to make sure it’s simply the type of reaction he is thinking, and to see if it is a deep reaction or just skin. This would entail getting a core sample of my thigh. As my dad always says, “knowledge is power”, so I agreed.

Speaking of my dad, the six time cancer survivor, former marine, and retired police officer… keep him in your prayers. I think this is harder than he lets on. He had a hard time staying for the port access, the morphine injections, and walked out when they did the biopsy yesterday. Don’t let anyone fool you…

My mom is the marine.

They did the biopsy right there on my hospital bed and she held my hand the whole time. Poor Rob was rushing to the hospital after dealing with the kids and drop offs and trying to get things from his office. He ended up coming right after we finished, and mom, dad and Rob and I all had a discussion with the doctor/specialist/surgeon. Results will be in today.

The rest of the day was a flurry of emails between Erin, Donnie’s secretary, and my team at Stony Brook. I’m refusing heparin injections and making sure I get up and walk to prevent blood clots.

We had a huge relief when my oncologist stopped by after her long day. We are not stopping the doxil. We are adjusting our sails a bit.

I’m canceling the chemo for next week and pushing it off a week. We may push it another week if needed, but I already know in my heart

I will be fine by then. We are going with metronomic dosing. Lower doses at a more frequent schedule. So instead of one one big dose once a month, we will do a small dose once every two weeks, or maybe even three. Donnie is pleased with the tumor markers and also noticed a jump in lymphocytes which is good. The spike in oesinophils is probably due to an allergic reaction. We asked when I could go home and it will probably be tomorrow or Sunday. She wants to keep getting fluids and the steroid IV push into me. I’ve been wearing myself off the pain medicine as well.

Don’t get me wrong, morphine and oxicodine are good things. They’ve been life savers and necessary to even have fabric touch my

Skin. My doctor last night said I looked

Worse than a week ago… and last night was after a day in the hospital already. I guess bloated and dragon scales won’t win me the calendar girl contest.

She shook her head that I was even teaching Wednesday morning. I had a new student coming and wanted to be there. She just laughed and shook her head like I was crazy. I said i would probably be back to work Monday.

Teachers are crazy, but kindergarten teachers are a special kind of crazy.

It was another long night. Vitals every four hours, my Roommate’s phone going off in the middle of the night. I used my Headphones and listened to Christmas music all night long. It helped.

“Joy to the World”.

I’m up now, and going to attempt to clean myself up a bit before slathering the lotion all over my scales again.

The thigh hurts where they took the biopsy, so I may need some pain management there as well.

I think my brother Scott is on “Keri duty” today and will bring my mom here. My dad is the kids Uber driver today. Rob is going to come from mid morning until about 3. Jill went over last night to help out with the kids. Morgan got hit in the face in gym and had to have her braces looked at after school, and Quinn had to pack for his big Boy Scout camping weekend. I dont know what we would do without my family. They have been here for us every step of the way.

I also had God step in a few times yesterday. My friend Melissa, a swim mom and one of the most amazing and passionate teachers I’ve ever met, sent me a selfie. She was with carol Masin. Carol was my building reading teacher when I was hired at Roanoke, and left every day with a suitcase of plans. She was a dynamo, and part of what will always be called my “Roanoke Family”. She retired, and school districts now hire her as a trainer. If I ran our district, she would be my first call, followed by Pat Bloss, math trainer extraordinaire..

These two women, both who I admire and love, met for the first time and sent me a selfie.

I looked at it all day long.

God sent us Stephen too. Rob has been dealing with this and so strong. He doesn’t have a big open Facebook. He has a few close friends, and one came yesterday. Stephen is actually one of the people who helped rob and I meet. Digger O’Dells is “our place”. It’s where he asked me to be his girlfriend by quoting New Edition. “If it isn’t love, why do I feel this way?”

How could I have ever said no to that?

We laughed when I joked that here I am, not wearing pants, or a bra, and had on a hot blond wig. Years ago that would have been called a wild Friday night. I think rob needed to see him more than me.

He isn’t a hugger or emotional , but please, send him love. He is a good man.

The best.

Please pray for my dear friend Karen, who is recovering from hip surgery. Texting at 1:00 and laughing with her was a blessing during a long night.

Please pray for my roommate Joyce. She is an elderly woman who speaks out loud to Jesus all night long and is cries and is scared. I just prayed again with her, and pulled a nurse aside that perhaps a clergy visit would calm her down. Listen, anyone can pray with anyone, but she knows her bible verses and names and numbers, and it’s time for a professional.

Please pray for Quinn’s troop as they camp this weekend. I miss my kids. I won’t see him now until Sunday.

Please pray for all of these amazing and overworked nurses who are so kind. 19 North is now added to my nurse squad.

Please pray for good biopsy results, healing, and along life ahead.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri

Better Healed than Unbroken

I made it through the day yesterday.

My whole body hurts to touch a bit, and opening snacks is a bit hard but I’m managing.

I’m excited about the next two months as it’s when everything starts to come together in kindergarten and their confidence grows.

I still can’t believe this is happening.

It’s so hard to not play the “What would I be like now if this hadn’t happened?”

What kind of wife would I be?

Mom?

Friend?

Teacher?

Christian?

Stranger?

I read something yesterday about how we can become better people healed than when we were unbroken.

I like that thought.

That’s what I’m going for in both ways.

Healed and better.

I look around and see others who don’t even recognize how lucky their lives are and the blessings they have. Can you touch something and not wince in pain? Can you swallow water and not want to cry? Can you go through an hour and not think about dying this year?

If so… you are blessed beyond your own knowing. Be happy and grateful . That doesn’t seem to be the way lately.

I see people, adults, name calling and writing about others, and we wonder why we have children who bully.

Do as I say, not as I do.

Remember…

The children are watching.

Today, let’s all be better people. Raise others up who need a hand. Give a second chance, or a third, or a fourth. If we can’t ever come back from mistakes, we all lose as a society. People will stop trying. Accept apologies. And of one isn’t given, live your own life anyway.

Keep your eyes on your own life and how to make it better for those around you.

And if the people around you aren’t who you want to be like… I saw a quote

yesterday.

“You can’t change the people around you..

But you can change the people around you.”

Be a blessing.

Pray for healing.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri

Back to Work to be a Blessing

I’m up and going to try to head to work today.

Perhaps hitting the ground running isn’t the best way to come back to kindergarten, but instead slowly easing into the routines again.

Review, play, sing, dance and breathe.

I’ve been getting a little better the past two days, and expect by Friday I’ll be as strong as I was when this all started.

That’s the plan anyway.

Yesterday was a relief in so many ways. I once again didn’t realize how much the water was boiling until I hopped out of it, so to speak. I’ve always felt church should be warm, welcoming, and never stressful. Seeing Morgan visibly relax in front of my eyes was amazing. No stress about test grades, no memory work expected, just presence, a sermon summary and welcome arms. Come and learn and love the Lord. Even Quinn, who is notoriously tough to win over, said he was so happy. Maddie was upset that she had to do two hard years to get her confirmation after realizing how different it could have been for her.

The sermon yesterday was about how God gives you what you need, even if you don’t know you need it. That’s what He did here. I never ever would have left without that letter.

He knew.

In the sermon the three wise men were discussed. They were called the Magi. Almost like magicians. They were probably astrologers and great thinkers more than Kings, and their names weren’t even mentioned until the 600’s. The star they followed could have been a special star, a “God Star” meant for them to follow. The gifts they have were traveling gifts, gifts that a young couple to take with them as they fled a ruler who wanted to kill all young boys.

It’s amazing if you think about it.

They didn’t have internet, or GPS, but they found Jesus by a star in the sky and ancient texts they had read. They followed and everything happened as it was supposed to happen.

Everything is as it should be, which is sometimes so hard.

Why did this chemo overload happen?

I don’t know.

Maybe it destroyed every single cancer cell at once. That’s what I am praying for now.

Maybe it happened at this moment in time because I had the time off from work.

Maybe it happened to me because I have Donnies creams which have helped and can show others how helpful they are.

I don’t know.

All I know is that I am grateful.

Grateful for a church community that welcomed my family.

Grateful for my mom and Aunt and cousins who had our backs when we were put in a horrible situation during a hard time in our lives.

Grateful for this body, which after having been flooded with chemicals for three years, and bombed two weeks ago, continues to get me through the day.

Grateful we salvaged vacation by finding a new place to treat ourselves.

I’ve looked inward at my blessings…. I mean, even when I head to the bathroom I thank my kidneys for still working.

That’s what everyone should do more.

People are unhappy so they look to tear down others. Judge others. Pass condemnation. Gossip.

Instead, how about we give thanks for what we are given. Our own blessings. Think of how we can bless others with our words and actions.

Perhaps you will be used today by God to BE the light. Perhaps you will say or do the exact things someone needs to hear or see, something that will suddenly make everything make sense in their own world.

What kind of messenger are you?

Will you bring words of anger or hate?

Will you bring glad tidings of joy?

Today may we all have a peaceful day of blessings and healing.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri

God Came Through in Little Ways

I highly recommend to never ever ever have a chemo overdose.

I felt like I was dying yesterday.

It was actually worse than the day before, so I am grateful that I had gone into the hospital and gotten fluids and labs and a plan and answers and ordered the creams and lotions.

God came through once again and everything that I needed came.

My dad was the kids Uber driver. He went and got me a nutritious smoothie order from Paula so I can keep up my energy.

Quinn was picked up by a mom friend and had a great day of bowling and laughs.

The cream we had overnighted came at 11:00 in the morning so I had all day to lather it on.

My mom came and sat with me and I slept with my head on her lap on and off.

Our family Christmas gift that was on backorder finally came, two weeks earlier than planned, so the kids have something fun to do now the last two days of break.

I binge watched “Virgin River” on Netflix and it kept my mind off of the pain all day.

I managed to eat and drink.

I can swallow without crying.

I played with a new wig I was gifted.

Mentally however… talk about the tightrope.

I tried not to think about how this is how it will be at the end.

My friend Vanessa said that maybe this huge dose knocked all the cancer out at once. Having my doctor call early in the morning to say how great the labs are made it more tolerable.

It’s the chemo, not the cancer.

Rob is literally the best man I’ve ever known.

He helped me as I had to gingerly rub lotion all over my body and hands while swishing and trying to swallow mouthwash while I was simultaneously crying at how bald I am and have this rash everywhere and can’t move my fingers.

He kept reminding me it’s temporary.

He kept telling me he loves me.

He kept reminding me of the labs.

The lotion smells horrible and he reminded me of the lavender sheet spray.

I told him I’m afraid this is how it will be at the end, and he said it won’t be like this forever.

It was a hard day.

If you can wake up today and just go and do what you want, please realize how lucky you are.

Then go be kind to everyone, because apparently this world needs kindness. Pray for Australia, pray for our troops, pray for your local town, pray for people who are ready to throw stones at others while carrying their own sandbags of sins.

Yesterday was a day where i felt like i was a hospice type patient.

I’m about to get up and start moving today.

Today will be better, as I see the steroids have started to lessen the rash on my arms.

We may go to St Isidores tonight for a 6 pm Polish Christmas carol concert if I am up to it.

Tomorrow we will try to get Morgan to the new church that has agreed to allow her to finish confirmation classes AND accept me. Thank you, Jesus, for kind people and family members.

I’ll make the judgement call tomorrow about going to work Monday.

I tend to bounce back quickly, and as long as I can walk and talk, I’ll be there.

I’ve got two days to see.

Please continue to pray for a full recovery from this… from the chemo and the cancer.

I keep thinking if this has made me such a hot mess on the outside, it must be destroying the cancer on the inside. Plus I’ve got the chinese herbs, donnies protocol which i can begin again once I can swallow, I’ve done some major forgiveness and soul work the past two weeks, and I’ve got Jesus by my side.

Im all good.

In Jesus’s name, amen.

Xoxo

Keri