Monday, January 20, 2014

Four Years Ago Today

When you are diagnosed/living with any form of cancer, you can lose hope, forget how to laugh, and immerse yourself in a world where numbers suddenly become the most important thing to you. EZ has always been a "numbers person", but I have always struggled with numbers...I am a people person. You are soon forced to discover a lot of new terminology that you never dreamed you would become proficient with, and you can hardly concentrate on anything but the disease.

Four years ago today we had our first meeting with Oncologist Dr. Alan Kritz, from Cancer Centers of North Carolina. Having the results of EZ's MRI (1/4/10) and sacral biopsy (1/14/10) in hand, Dr. Kritz did a bone marrow biopsy and extensive bloodwork, ordered a 24 hour urinalysis and long bone x-rays (bone survey).   The Bone Marrow Biopsy Report and labwork from 1/20/10 revealed the following: 
  •     M-spike 2, WBC - 7.0, Hemoglobin- 12.0, Platelets - 200 K
  •     20-30% plasma cells, monoclonal IgA kappa plasma cell population
  •   Cytogenic studies revealed trisomy 3, but negative for both a deletion of RB1 on chromosome 13 and a deletion of TP35 on chromosome 17. 
  A Bone Survey from 1/22/10 showed the following:
  • Multiple punched-out lesions involving the skull, bilateral humeri and left femur 
I often look back to my notes from 1/5/10 when we met with our orthopedic doctor to get the results of the MRI. I didn't even know how to spell "myeloma", let alone understand what he was telling us about the suspicion that this mass of abnormal cells (plasmacytoma) on EZ's sacrum most likely indicated some form of blood cancer. Complete shock!

 We were indeed facing Multiple Myeloma, and treatment proceeded in earnest. Radiation to EZ's sacrum began on 1/26/10, a port was surgically implanted on 2/4/10, and chemotherapy and bone strengthener infusions began on 2/5/10. All the while we were trying to educate ourselves about what we were facing and what the prognosis might look like. As many of you know, much of the literature can be outdated and grim, but many new advances are taking place in the world of Multiple Myeloma, and though not curable, it is highly treatable. Wow, how we clung to those words...highly treatable. Our plan was to beat this aggressive blood cancer into remission, and move on to stem cell transplant, and maintenance therapy. Though not without its share of hardships, we accomplished our mission and EZ has remained on maintenance therapy (Revlimid 10mg) for over 3 years now. Under the care of Dr. Kritz, and Dr. Cristina Gasparetto at Duke, he has achieved wonderful results and we are so very grateful. We, of course, are praying that remission continues for a long time to come, though we are not ignorant of the fact that relapse is a very real possibility.

I want to encourage those of you who may have also received very unexpected news at one time or another, that all hope should not be lost. Dig your heels in, educate yourself with up-to-date information about what you are facing, choose your doctors wisely, don't be afraid to seek second opinions, ask questions, surround yourself with family and supportive friends who will "come along side" you in your battle, and never underestimate the power of prayer! All that we have been through has served to strengthen our marriage, deepen our faith, and enlighten us as to the beauty of each day, never taking life for granted. 

We have many fond memories of the past 4 years. We have had 3 grandchildren born (with another on the way) since EZ's diagnosis. We have traveled to Disney World, the Keys, Seattle, Alaska and soon, The Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam. We have moved to a new home where life is more manageable (and yard maintenance is provided!). We have met some incredible people, in person and online, who are also battling MM or caring for a loved one with MM, and our lives are richer because of them. We have been humbled by the generosity of many, some of whom we have never met. We have learned to accept help. We have laughed. Most of all, we are even more convinced of how much we are loved by God, who in His faithfulness, has sustained us. 

We look forward to 2014 with hope and excitement, as there will be a new baby boy to meet, and new travel adventures to enjoy with one another. Live life, remain hopeful, and stay positive.


Friday, January 17, 2014

Five Little Blessings with a Sixth on the Way!

Can I just say what a blessing these five little ones are to us? To think that four years ago, when EZ was diagnosed on January 20th of 2010, we had one set of twin grandchildren, Natalie and Nathan. Our daughter Tara was expecting our second set of twin grandchildren, Samantha and Samuel, that February. A year later, our daughter Leah gave birth to our little singleton, Emery, and so there were five. In May, Emery will have a little brother and there will be six! We are beyond ecstatic!

When we were told that EZ had Multiple Myeloma, we were so very uncertain about what the future held. And though the past four years have had their share of peaks and valleys, we can say without a doubt that these five have been the best medicine, and brought the most joy! Their giggles, exuberance, cuddles, and love have brought us smiles on even the most painful of days. We are so grateful for our family and the love we share. This Grandma and Grandpa will never take it for granted, as we treasure each day with them. God is so very good. 

I will sing of the Lord's great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. Psalm 89:1

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Blessed By The Beauty

EZ and I recently spent a week in our cabin over in the beautiful North Carolina mountains. The leaves were definitely peaking and we were so blessed each day as we took excursions to soak in the beauty that surrounded us. In the midst of whatever you might be facing, it is so refreshing to just stop and rejoice over the good in your life. Many people always seem to see the cup half empty, but we seem to see the cup half full. Why not count your blessings, be positive, smile and hold on to hope for a wonderful tomorrow? Enjoy this road trip through the Appalachians and have a great day!


Friday, October 18, 2013

Eat More Fruit and Veggies

Seems like I am always on a quest to make better food choices, but "will power" gets in the way. As the holiday season approaches, what better time to TRY to commit to eating more fruit and veggies. We all know processed food, way too many grains, and tons of sugar are the staples of the American diet, and I am the first to admit I love to bake and sweets are my greatest weakness! But I am reading, learning from others, and trying to change the way we eat, slowly but surely. The Paleo lifestyle makes alot of sense to me, but actually making the change is difficult, so we are taking baby steps. My mother is insulin diabetic, and with EZ's compromised immune system, we need to give ourselves every advantage by making better food choices. There, I said it, now I have to be held accountable. I'm not saying there will never be another Monkey Bread in our future, but we will try to do better on a day to day basis. 

My niece, Sarah, is an excellent cook, or should I say chef, and she has started a blog that can really encourage anyone who wants to make a change in what they buy and how they eat. She is especially vigilant about what she feeds her children, in order to establish better lifestyle choices from an early age. Her blog is called My Paleotastic Kitchen. I encourage you to go take a look at what she has to say.  In the meantime, here are a few things we have enjoyed lately. Have a great weekend everyone, and eat more fruit and veggies!

 P.S. Contrast these foods with many of the new offerings at the NC state fair here in Raleigh this week:  Krispy Kreme Sloppy Joes, and deep fried Red Velvet Oreos.We will NOT be sampling these...heart attack waiting to happen!


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Getting Crafty - Burlap Wreath and Drop Cloth Curtains

My daughter, Leah, has inspired me to get back to DIY projects and crafts. She recently made a burlap wreath and gave me a one-on-one lesson as to how it's done. I also watched a few tutorials on Pinterest which were a big help. I ended up using twice as much burlap (2 full rolls - 20 yards!) as Leah did, but I wanted a thicker appearance. It is easy to do, requiring only a little time, burlap, accent ribbon, and a wire frame. It makes a large wreath which is perfect for a big front door, or you can scale it down if your door is smaller. 

Here is a simple tutorial you can look at to see how its done, and there are many others on Pinterest:

I took a few pictures of mine as I worked on it one day at our cabin and believe me, it isn't something you can easily mess up. Just make your loops look pretty uniform, scrunching them together as you go, and before you know it, you are done! (I made a different bow after these pictures)

Here is another fun wreath I found on Pinterest that I might have to try next, along with some really pretty burlap flowers I would like to make.

And hey, since it's Fall, look at this great idea for embellishing plain pillar candles...anything with cinnamon smell is fabulous to me!

My other project was making drop cloth curtains for our new screened porch. The morning sun is pretty intense shining in, and curtains would filter that, and give us some privacy on both sides of our house. Again, my daughter, Leah had made some for her family room, so I followed her lead. I simply headed out to Lowes (or Home Depot), purchased my drop cloths, broke out my sewing machine (which I hadn't used in about 9 years), and got started. I pre-washed the cloths, laid each panel out on the family room floor to measure, cut and pin, then stitched the hem, ironed them, and hung them up. We found the perfect rods at Lowes that had the clips on rollers in a built-in groove, so they slide open and closed very easily.

There you go! Don't expect them to be perfect...after all they are drop cloths and the edges won't always be straight, but they are very natural, fairly inexpensive, washable and easy. Let me know if you have any questions or have made either of these projects yourself!

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Recipe for You - Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Shortly after we moved, our new neighbor, Darlene, surprised us with a warm, delicious coffee cake. We enjoyed it so much all week, that I decided to bake one myself and take it to the kind folks that bought our house. Easy, pretty foolproof, and scrumptious...especially if you love all things cinnamon like me. For those of you looking for a sweet breakfast treat to go with your coffee this weekend, here ya go! I would say it serves 16-20, so it's a good recipe to keep in mind for a family gathering at Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Sour Cream Coffee Cake
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 cups flour

Topping ingredients (mix together):

¾ cup chopped nuts
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter, sugar, eggs and sour cream together with a mixer, adding one ingredient at a time for a fluffier cake. Beat in dry ingredients. In separate bowl, stir topping ingredients together. Grease an angel food cake or tube pan. Pour more than half the batter into pan. Spread with half the topping. Pour in remainder of batter and cover with remaining topping. Bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let cool a bit (20 minutes), then remove from pan keeping topping side up. Make your favorite vanilla glaze (confectioner’s sugar, milk and vanilla) and drizzle it over the cake when cool. Enjoy!

Have a great weekend everyone! I'll be back next week.