Saturday, January 30, 2016

Uncle Fred

"I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly." (John 10:10)

My dear Uncle Fred went to be with our Lord on Thursday as I was receiving my last chemotherapy treatment. He now has new life and no need for his sick body. He fought cancer for 2 years ending up with a battle that was just too much for his body to handle. He had a strong faith and had prepared to die. He was predeceased by his parents and two sisters, Lourdes and Teresa.

That morning as mom sat with me in the cancer unit all we talked about was Uncle Fred, her baby brother, the youngest of 14 children of my grandparents. There was a definite worry going on that morning among her brothers in Miami as they could not get in touch with Fred. Mom was answering their e-mails and filling me in on what was happening. We did not know until later in the evening that he had died that morning, possibly as mom and I received the Holy Eucharist which dad had so faithfully brought to us. Later in the evening, as I ate my celebratory dinner with Pete and the boys, mom called me to give me the news about Uncle Fred. In a way, there was a sense of relief that his struggle was over. But then the thoughts of missing him began. He had such a BIG presence in our large family.

Uncle Fred and I didn't have much in common, but I have great memories of him playing with us as children. He was typically a very silly person who loved to have fun. He had nicknamed me and my sister, Cristina the owl and Elena the hippo. We called him Freddy the frog. The names came from watching the New Zoo Review on t.v.

At our big family reunion in Miami the summer of 2013 Uncle Fred and I had several great conversations on a deeper emotional level. He was reflecting on life as he had just received his cancer diagnosis and was facing a scary surgery. He had to spend most of the reunion being pushed around in a wheel chair as he had very little energy. Ricky took a liking to Uncle Fred and enjoyed pushing him around and getting to know him. Even in his weakness, Uncle Fred took it upon himself to shuttle family to the nearest basketball court for the traditional family basket ball game. He even had taken care of providing a couple of big coolers full of drinks for the players. He had great skill in taking care of others. He had a heart full of compassion and love for all around him.

We recently saw him and Myra, his wife, in the Keys when we all gathered for my cousin, Cristina and Hans' wedding. He had been very excited about that trip. It was great to see him again. I was able to share much more with him as we now had something in common, a cancer diagnosis and the medical jargon that comes with it. We compared our chemo therapy symptoms and how we overcome them. I was even able to share my oils with him. We were both there to enjoy family, breathe in some ocean air and enjoy the beauty of the island. We were both in need of some good natural therapy. Here is a picture of Uncle Fred with Ricky as we watched the traditional family basket ball game in the Keys.

His wife, Myra, and son, Kevin, as well as his brothers and sisters and many friends did so much to care for him. I pray for them all as they grieve. No doubt that his absence will be felt. It hurts not to be able to attend his funeral in Miami. I just can't travel right now since I just received treatment. There will be plenty of family representation. And we will pray from here. May his soul rest in peace! We love you Uncle Fred, Freddy the frog!

"If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation:everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new." (2 Corin 5:17).

Thursday, January 28, 2016

"Have no anxiety at all....." You all know this verse by now. I rely on it and God's promises daily.

Thursday, January 28th I'll be receiving my last big chemo treatment. This will certainly mark the end of the hardest part of my journey, but it is not the end. Please pray for me as I try to keep life somewhat normal for the next 10 days while I experience the side effects from the chemo. It will definitely be a little easier knowing that this is the last time I will need to experience all of those side effects.

In six weeks I will be going through the surgery to remove the left breast and reconstruct it. Then shortly after I will begin the radiation treatments. I don't have any details about all of this yet as I am just making the appointments with those doctors and specialists. I promise to keep you all posted.

Thank you to all of you for the amazing support you continue to provide! We truly could not do this without all of you praying and showing up to bless us with meals, your time and your love!

I was so blessed today when 3 different sisters in Christ visited me and brought me flowers. I do love flowers, but I love seeing friends even more! So I was doubly blessed!!!! The flowers will keep me focused on something happy for the next week and their love will be with me forever! Thank you Nicole, Jennifer and Christine!

The boys and I had a great time tonight making gift bags for the oncology nurses and staff as thank you gifts. We included samples of 4 of our favorite essential oils: Peppermint, Lavender, Lemon and OnGuard with some information about each one. Then we also added a sample of Deep Blue rub and the OnGuard toothpaste. These are all products that supported my body while going through chemo therapy! I am hoping the nurses will enjoy the products but also think about how they could bless patients and friends with these natural ways to support the systems of the body. They already know me as the oil lady and love asking me questions about what I am using for what. This will be fun tomorrow!
I will still get to see them once in a while as I continue with my maintenance dose of Herceptin, one of the chemos that I will be on until next October. I have to have it for a full year. Also, if I ever need fluids while I go through radiation, I will get to see them. They have become my friends and have been an amazing support!

This past week I experienced great pain from what I think was my port pinching a nerve and then causing me to tense up and develop sore muscles. I went 7 days with pain while visiting my doctors to get checked. They checked for a clot and the results were negative- thank God! Then my breast surgeon checked it all out and all she could think was that maybe I had the start of an infection so she put me on an antibiotic just to be safe. I told her I would do anything to make sure my last treatment was not delayed. Thank you to my amazing nurse friends, Amy, Julie and Melissa for answering my questions and even texting or calling me back to check on me.

Yesterday my sister in love, Christina, who is an amazingly talented physical therapist, insisted that I go visit her so that she could work on me. Well, after 30 minutes of intense massage/manipulation of my sore muscles I was already feeling stronger. She also taught me some stretches and exercises as well as good posture to help out. I was still experiencing sharp pain this morning on my way to work but at lunch I realized that the pain was completely GONE!!!!! She did it! I know that what she did to assist my body was the key. Every time she has helped me I have experienced quick and full healing! She is absolutely AMAZING! Thank you Christina! And thank you Mariana and Nina for making me laugh and for loving on me!

I had another very interesting experience last week. On Friday I had a transfusion. They infused 2 units of blood into me because my platelet and hemoglobin counts were so low on Thursday. I did feel better after the transfusion and since then I have not felt the intense fatigue I was feeling. That allowed me to go to work and will allow me to stay on course with my last treatment. At first I told the nurse I felt guilty taking this blood that could save someone's life who is in much more dire need. She assured me that this was a very important reason to receive blood. Again, thank you to the medical expert friends who counseled me as I made the decision to get the transfusion.
So, I am encouraging everyone to consider donating blood. It is actually good for your health to do so. Find a blood drive or call the Red Cross or a blood bank to find a way to donate blood and maybe even platelets. I am so grateful for the person who donated that O positive blood that was a match for me.

Ok. So, I may not write for another week since I will most likely be too tired to even watch t.v. Thank you for keeping us all in your prayers. I will be praying for each of you and your intentions.

I must also thank a very special prayer team of colleagues who are praying non-stop for me! Thank you ladies!

Much LOVE,

Thursday, January 7, 2016

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen!" - Ephesians 3:20-21

This is one of those Bible passages that makes me think of so many angles and so many blessings!

I'm sorry I have not written at all throughout the 12 days of Christmas. I had every intention of doing so but I have been sick and resting most of the time. On Christmas Eve Ricky came down with a cold with fever. Christmas day we were both sick as I had some pretty tough GI issues. Then I caught a cold which turned into a sinus infection which landed me in Urgent Care on Sunday. Now I am on major medications to kill the sinus infection and I can breathe and sleep again. There are definitely times to be very grateful for medical intervention and the amazing nurses, doctors, pharmacists and other medical staff who will even work on a Sunday to care for the sick. I also continue to give thanks for the gifts of the earth, the gifts from God, which continue to support my body through this time of healing in my body. #savorthegifts

So, let me fill you in. Friday, December 18th as I was leaving work for the holidays, a friend brought a Christmas card to me saying someone had anonymously dropped it off at her desk for me. I opened it up and found a beautiful note with a gift card saying, "This is for you to buy the boys' bikes for Christmas." How did this person know I wanted to buy bikes for the boys for Christmas? All I could do was cry the whole way home in pure gratitude for the amazing love and generosity this person was showing. I called mom on the way home to tell her what had happened and she said that I would not believe the amount of gifts an anonymous group had just dropped off at her house for our family. She said she was in tears looking at the room full of gifts. I truly did not know how to react. We usually keep Christmas gift giving very simple in our family. We realize that we really don't "need" anything and there are so many more families that are truly in NEED. We try to focus on the spiritual gifts of Christmas.

Well, the Tuesday before Christmas we took the boys to see Star Wars. While we were out, mom and dad delivered all of the gifts and placed them around our Christmas tree. When we returned, the boys were surprised and amazed as were we! We decided to let them open 2 gifts each day and then the rest on Christmas morning.

The very first gift Ricky opened was a certificate announcing that they had paid for 7 guitar lessons! He was so touched and excited! He realized how cool it was that someone went through the trouble of contacting his teacher and actually paying for the lessons. Wow!
Then Paul opened up his first gift and it happened to be the money to register him for Academy Soccer at GSA! WHAT???? This has been a dream of his for years. We had finally told him that we would put together the money to register him this year, but that was before I was diagnosed. So, we had been worried about how we would make this work. Even my mom was worried about this. So, for our family both of these gifts were a huge deal and had me in tears. What a blessing to see my boys and my family feel so BLESSED!

Each day the boys opened two more gifts and each time they were so overjoyed. Then Christmas morning we all truly enjoyed opening our gifts and feeling so taken care of, so BLESSED! There were even gifts for me and Pete. I could go through and mention each gift as each one was so very special from gift cards to clothes, to shoes, to video games and legos. The details were not lost on me. The wrapping, the bows, the beautiful Christmas cards that were attached were all so special.

I just HAD to know who did this for us! Well, mom let me know that the group was from work, from the C&I department. And then a few of the cards did say, "Love, your C&I friend." So, now I knew. And it was confirmed that I work with the most caring, giving and loving group of people that anyone could wish to work with. My Gwinnett County Public Schools Curriculum and Instruction Department friends had gone way above and beyond their calling as colleagues, friends and as Christian brothers and sisters. They had truly acted as the hands, and I will say heart, of God as they blessed us with so much joy. Yes, we really didn't need any of the material things, but the happiness they gesture brought to my family was priceless. The happiness came from knowing that a group of people cared so much about us that they gave from their heart. We have never been on the receiving end of something like this. My boys declared, "THIS IS THE BEST CHRISTMAS EVER!!!" For them to be able to say amidst mommy being sick is truly a blessing.

As a family we are committed to providing a Christmas blessing like that to another family next year. This is a lesson that will live in our memory for the rest of our lives. I also want them to know that my parents and my siblings, as well as friends who knew about the gifts were also very touched. This kind of act of giving has far reaching ripple effects. You brought joy to many at Christmas time.
Thank you to all of my "C&I friends!"

So, today, January 7, 2016, I will go in to the Gwinnett Cancer Center for my 5th round of chemo therapy. I am so grateful to only have one more round after this. My last chemo treatment will be on January 28th!!!!!! I just ask you to pray that my body will be able to deal with the side effects from these last two rounds. The latest side effect to creep up on me is that my finger nail beds are sore. I have always had very strong nails and I have been working hard to protect them from the possible side effects of the chemo that I was warned about. I was surprised to wake up one morning with all of my fingers hurting. After some research I realized it was another side effect manifesting itself. So, Pete has banned me from washing dishes and I am working to keep my nails healthy. I'll continue using the frozen mittens from Julie during treatment. And I know that with your prayers I'll be able to deal with whatever comes my way.

Please join me in praising God for the completion of treatment for my friend Nikki Mouton. She had her last treatment on Monday and will now move on to other stages of her plan for full healing. Nikki and I were just featured on Gwinnett's Relay for Life Facebook page as this month's Survivor Spotlight.
She is the heart of our C&I department and has been such a beautiful example to me and a wonderful support!

At the same time I ask you to add another friend to your prayer list who was just diagnosed with breast cancer. Her name is Mary W. I taught with her for many years in Gwinnett County.

Again, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the amazing support you are all providing whether through prayer, having Mass offered for us, providing meals, texting, calling, e-mailing, sending cards, etc. Thank you for praying not juts for me but for my whole family.

We are so very blessed and are sure to Savor each and every blessing! We hope you will do the same.

Much love,