Monday, March 31, 2008

48 hours later

Well, well, well. Back to work. Today started like any other Monday, meetings with my staff, meetings with my team and a few brief moments behind my desk. Even though it might seem that Mondays make me crazy, I love them. I am one who likes to work with a plan and getting all my projects lined out, really helps. I'm also a huge fan of teams and see real value in how they make me personally more effective, so it is always so good to come together as both an Admissions team and an Advancement team and collaborate. Sometimes you need people with an outside perspective to give you the insight you're looking for.

This afternoon, Dr. Kluck called and told me that Mrs. Horne had called Dr. Mendelsohn's office and they had my results, but she couldn't get them and he couldn't get them without me in his office. In the second of pause that followed, I quickly responded, "so, do you want me to come over there?". "Yeah" was given as a very quick response. So, I took a super huge deep breath, grabbed my cell phone (lesson one learned on Wednesday night), announced with my big mouth that I was headed over to the clinic and pranced, in my black high heels, myself across campus. Of course I ran into a couple people. Some that had heard and some that had not, but all realized that I was going to hear the news of a lifetime. What is this?

Dr. Kluck called in and after some digging, found the lady we were trying to reach (I love that he is so persistent. What a blessing!) I could tell after probably the first sentence was spoken that it was what we thought it could be. Some form of lymphoma. SWEET! I know that sounds weird, but at least we know now. He continued his conversation trying to find out what kind. So answer # 1 came, but we are needing two. Yeah...they don't know that yet. So, we know it is some form of lymphoma, but we do not yet know what type. She said we might be able to find out at my appointment with the oncologist on Monday (April 7). Yeah...your math is right, that's 7 days from today. But, you know. That's ok. If wait until then is what we have to do, then it is what we will do. No blaming, no asking more questions, just waiting b/c that's what we have to do.

Asking why without the "because I said so" response was not really something we got away with growing up, so I fully understand what dealing with waiting is like. You know I have a very simple faith in life in general. Although some would disagree, I'm not extremely gullible, but if something just is, it is. Black or white, one way or another. It drives me crazy when you are in a group and the total of yes votes and the number of no votes don't add up to the total number of people voting. Maybe that mentality is helping me and maybe not, but here are some things that I do know.

1. I have a amazing support group that is surrounding me. My family, my Ouachita family, my Arkadelphia family, my girls and my friends near and far are incredible.

2. I will never be able to drink fruit punch without thinking of my CT scan and all the "Contrast juice" I had to drink.

3. I could not ask for a better staff or counselors and an administrative team. Not only do I feel supported, but totally surrounded by overly capable people!

4. God is in control.

5. There is not a better place to be than in the center of God's will. And, while he did not cause this to happen, he allowed it to. So, for that reason I will be grateful for the opportunities ahead.

6. I now know that a small, simple, mustard seed faith can help.

7. I will wait, because that is what we have to do, to find out what all this is and what treatments we have in store.

8. I will go on doing what I know to do until I know to do something different. And, yes that does include talking and laughing and making stupid jokes.

9. My mom made a total mess of my apartment today. But, it is ok, she is on a cleaning frenzy and she is doing good things that I have been putting off for months. That lady rocks!

10. God is in control! Have I mentioned that yet?

Our prayer now changes. Well, we still pray for God's miracles and for this to be gone. But, we also pray for this to be a very treatable form of lymphoma that has a smooth treatment and remission process. God is so good...he's so good to me!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

mom's magic

I got to sleep in. That is one of my favorite things in the world to do. When I woke up mom and dad were down stairs. Dad heard me up and was going to sneak in and watch TV with me. But I was already up. So, we invited mom to come up and we all got back in my bed and watched some TV. A little after 11 we decided to get ready and go have Breakfast at Cracker Barrel. Since everything was going so well, Dad decided to go ahead and go back home and leave mom here with me.

On our way to breakfast Dr. Kluck called to check on me and asked how I was feeling. I told him my neck was really sore. He asked if it felt like I had had a needle stuck in it and dug around yesterday....he has a good point! After breakfast we came back and dad packed up and headed out. Well, mom had a little project she wanted to work on here and with this being the Henderson / Ouachita baseball weekend, I had games to watch.

The Tigers smoked...the Reddies today and that was so awesome. I mean really 15-2 and 22-7. That's pretty amazing. Not as amazing as the surprise waiting for me when I got home. Mom had worked in my room while I was gone and got my new scrapbook workstation set up. You see she got me a new table for Christmas and I had been dreading getting it all set up. But, she cleaned out both my room and my spare bedroom and got everything put in its place. Why did she not get here sooner? I will now start working on projects to line up for the rest of the week!

As I finish today's entry, I will leave you with these words that my dad prayed today before he left:

God, while we know you did not cause this to happen, we know that you allowed it to happen and we will trust you to show us why!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Friday, March 28

This morning is my biopsy in Little Rock. I woke up kinda weepy. I'm not sure if realizing what I was doing today or if I had a reality check, but still, I was kinda sad. I knew my dad was next door praying and well, prayer always makes me cry. I think I know how powerful it can be and how much God craves hearing us talk to Him, so it is always overwhelming to feel His presence when you just talk to him and it is a total privilege that we share.

We found the doctors office very easy. This was my first time in the Baptist Hospital complex so I was a little worried that we might get turned around. The people there were really sweet and since all my information had been passed along yesterday I didn't have to do all that fun paperwork stuff. I will admit, it was overwhelming walking into that office. I had this fear going into it that I would walk in and there would be other cancer patients around the room and I would see people at different stages in the process and have to wonder if that was something I would look like. It really was a fear of mine. But once I got there, I realized this was a radiology office, so that was not the case today. There were people sitting around the room getting IV's but I just put it out of my mind, because that was not what I had come to do here today. Mrs. Horne arrived shortly after we did and it was so great to see a familiar face. She thinks highly of the people who work in that office and that helped me feel better about it. Mr. Casey came back and got me and walked us back into the consultation room. He told us what we could expect from our visit with the the radiologist and we waited for him to come in.

When the radiologist came in, he explained that they were going to go into the mass near my neck and pull out several tissue samples. I had the choice to do a local anesthesia or have and IV that sedates you as well. I asked the questions I needed to, to understand what I would feel and hear during the procedure to decide that I just wanted to go with the local. Part of the control freak in me wanted to know what was going on and experience as much of it as I could (I was so glad I did. It was cool.) One of the things they told me was that the stick to get my neck numb was going to one of the most painful parts. Sometimes they just say those things, but this time they were right. I went back in the room for the biopsy. There was a really nice lady who took some ultra sound pictures of the mass for the doctor to be able to see where to insert and what to do. She let me look over at the screen and it was neat to be able to see what was on the inside of my neck. She was using an ultrasound just like they do for babies (yes my neck had slimy jelly stuff on it). It was neat to watch and I was grateful that she allowed me to do that. Once the pictures were taken, she got the room ready for the procedure. The doctor came in and numbed my neck. Even that though, wasn't really that bad and it worked pretty quick. It wasn't the paralyzing kind of numbing like you get at the dentist, but I couldn't feel the prick of the needle when they inserted it into my neck. I didn't get to see any of the instruments they used to know how big it was or anything, but I do know that it had to be like a small casing, because they stuck another instrument down inside it to extract the tissue samples.

She would stick it down in there and the doctor would tell her to insert it and then there would be a click (which he showed me once before they did the first one, so I could hear what it would sound like). They did this 5 or six times and then the needle slipped out. Now, I forgot to add that the doctor was holding the ultrasound wand at the bottom of the mass so he could watch every insertion. This medicine stuff really amazes me. Ok, the worst part of the the pain came when they pulled the needle out and had to put pressure on my neck to keep the bleeding down. Wowzers. I mean really they just had a needle in my neck and now they are pushing on it. I wasn't mad b/c it was part of the process, but really, this is going to be the thing that is uncomfortable?

After they were done with the pressure, they put a band-aid on me and cleaned my neck up from the biopsy. Then, they gave me a cold pack for my neck and I laid there for a while. I asked if my parents could come back. I knew they would want to know what happened and there was no reason for them to just sit out there and me to just sit back there. So, mom, dad and Mrs. Horne came back there. It was great to see them and I wanted to them to be reassured that it went well and that I was doing ok. Mr. Casey was cool to get them for me and make sure I felt modest enough for visitors...little known fact..that was the least of my concerns!

So, we waited for probably 30 minutes. No need to rush, this could keep the swelling and bruising down. But, dad was breakfast for us and we were headed to Mimi's Cafe. I love that place and mom and dad had not eaten there. When I finally got up, my neck was really stiff and very sore. But, it is amazing what a set of Tylenol and some food can do. We did a little shopping in Little Rock and headed back to the Delph. I drove us home and dad slept. I cant imagine why he was so tired :)

The rest of the afternoon and evening was very relaxing. Dad laid down for a nap at 4:30 and we did not see him until the next morning. Mom and I had an amazing dinner of popcorn chicken and shells and cheese. We watched this awesome Dateline NBC special about the girls from Taylor University who were in a wreck together and their bodies were switched. I would so encourage you to pick up a copy of the family's new book Mistaken Identity. It is a great story of faith and courage.

Thursday, March 27

Today, I got the good news. At 6:40 this morning I got a Yahoo Messenger text from Dr. Kluck. All the masses were in my chest. Everything is above the diaphragm! Praise God. That is totally what we were praying for. The better and more treatable option. So that was exciting. I couldn't sleep really after that. We were waiting to be able to call into the doctor and I knew that he and Mrs. Horne were on that. Lisa and I were going to get up at 7:30 so we could be ready to go if they called and said I could get into the doctor today.

Today is Lisa's birthday and I am so excited that I was there at 12:00 when it turned to her birthday and that we are hanging out together just talking on her birthday. Not the way either one of us imagined it, but let's make the best of it none the less.

Sometime after 8:00, my cell phone died and I had not thought to get the charger from my apartment the night before, so it was hard to get messages communicated around. Mrs. Horne called and said the doctor was on Spring Break, but they were going to try and still call about the biopsy. Sometime later, Dr. Kluck called and said they had me scheduled for 10:00 tomorrow. It is still so amazing to me that he and the radiologist were lab partners all the way through medical school. What an amazing little web God has weaved together! So, Lisa and I went for a big birthday breakfast at...McDonald's. I mean where else can you get Sweet Tea at 8:30 in the morning. We had a fun breakfast and decided to just try and keep the day as normal as possible and get what we could done.

I decided to go ahead and go into work. I knew my co-workers were worried and I knew that it would make all of us feel better if we got together and talked. I cannot imagine what it feels like to know your boss is going through a major life change and you are on the outside looking in. They have been so great and so supportive. One of the great things about working for a place like Ouachita, is that the family atmosphere of the campus passes through the lines of the faculty and staff as well. I have a great group of counselors who are very hard workers and who have set themselves up to be very successful. So, I was encouraged by that, but I wanted them to be as well.

So much of this afternoon was spent talking to people and making sure the right story was going around. In a small town and on a small campus, all kinds of things start stirring. I am super optimistic and I know that God is going to use this for His glory. So, I want to live as normal a life as I can and I will not expect that God is going to do anything but to continue to work things out for good. Up to this point, we have continued to hear the good side of what things could be and that is what we will continue to expect.

My parents came up this afternoon and it was good to be together. I know it had to be overwhelming for them to have to come here for this reason and to come into my apartment that is totally set up for just me to be here (meaning I have stuff everywhere), but somehow we will manage. With dinner at the Pig Pit and our first trip to Wal-mart, our evening is complete. Tomorrow holds a new process and a new adventure.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Wednesday, March 26

OK, so I came in late. I was hoping to be able to get a little extra sleep to make up for getting in at 1:30, but mom called three times and woke me up. I knew I would be in a bad mood if I talked to her so she got the ignore button twice (we have talked about this and she knows...I'm a bear if my sleep is interrupted). This was a day that had been on my calendar for a couple weeks. OK, that sounded funny. of course it was it is on the world calendar. would you expect me to say anything but something so dumbly obvious? What I mean is that I had lots of things on my office calendar. I knew I had to come in and work with the Assistant to the President to make sure we had the script ready for Dr. Horne to record for a video project we are working on. I also knew the Dunklin family was coming to campus to make a presentation to Gov. Huckabee at a luncheon that I was supposed to attend to meet their daughter who is a senior in high school and talk to her about Ouachita. So, I was ready to catch Dr. Kluck at some point. Have him look at me, tell me it was no big deal or what it was, give me a prescription to make it go away and go do my thing.

Well, I made it to work, went to the Presidents office, did my thing up there, but realized that Wed is Dr. Kluck's day to come in late to Ouachita because he has responsibilities at another office that morning. So, I went on and did what I needed to do. (of course both my parents are a little concerned and wanting me to call them, but I don't know anything. I cant imagine what they were thinking, but I didn't have anything to tell them.) Around 11:30ish, I happen to be standing at the front desk of my office talking to my friend Chris Babb and Dr. Kluck walks by. So, we snagged him. I showed him my neck and asked him what he thought. He felt of it and said that it was def something weird. And, that there were different things it could be. We could wait another 24 hours and see what it does, but if it were him, he would want to know what it was and the only way to know what it was, was a CT scan. AWESOME! In my sick mind I thought...I don't have time for that right now. So, I asked, "I'm supposed to go over to this luncheon and do my thing and I really want to do this...can I?". He laughed at me, like he usually does when I want to do work instead of take care of myself. He said it would be fine if I waited and came over to the clinic in the afternoon.

So, I did. Lunch was great. As always, it was great to see Gov. and Mrs. Huckabee and it was awesome to be there to witness a very special day for the Dunklin family, Huckabee family, and Ouachita. It was amazing to realize that the lives of current and future Ouachita students will forever be changed because of these very generous people. We went over and listened to the Q and A time with Gov Huckabee and our students. I also was able to take the Dunklins and show them Ouachita's campus for the first time, so it was such a fun day.

After we were finished, I went over to see Dr. Kluck. He saw me and Debbie helped set up the CT scan of my neck at the Arkadelphia hospital. I headed up there to get set up. I checked myself in and went on back to meet my friends (we are now) in radiology. I was so really I had just walked all over campus on a warm afternoon. But, I had to wait to drink water. They got me set up and stuck and ready to receive the contrast dye in my arm. The contrast dye will help them be able to differentiate my blood stuff from other things in my body on the CT scan. So bring it on. She told me it would be warm, but forgot to tell me that when it hit my body and ran all through my blood stream, at some point (about .1 sec after it entered my body) it would make me feel like I had peed in my pants. Yeah that was cool.

I know this is hard to believe, but I laid there, very still and quiet as they did the scan. It was super easy and really quicker than I thought. The lady was so nice, she brought me a cup of water with ice in it when she was finished and I was on my way. Well, it was just before 4:00 and I had not sat down at my office all day so I decided to go to my apt and get into comfortable clothes and check some email or clean off my desk or something. So, that's what I did. I knew Dr. Kluck would call me as soon as he knew something, so I decided to just hang out up there. Sometime after 5:00 and and I think it was closer to 5:30, Dr. Kluck called and came down to get me at my office and take me up to his to look at the scan pictures.

INSERT LIFE CHANGE!!! Let me just go ahead and tell you how lucky I am that Dr. Kluck is treating me. If there is anything to be figured out, I have full confidence that he is going to do it, and if he does not know how, he will figure it out, or find the people to do so. Through this whole process, I can see God at work and one of the early signs of His work is placing me at Ouachita at this time in my life and putting me on Dr. Kluck's team. So, while none of what happens in the coming paragraphs is fun, I had the best people surrounding me to walk me through it.

So, we small talk on the way up the stairs, run into a couple people and sit down in his office. He pulls up the scan and tells me what all the images represent. It is cool because a CT scan basically is a cross section aerial view of your body that they scanned and you can scroll up and down to see the images. Again, very patiently and explaining everything as he went, he started at the top of my neck and begins scrolling down pointing out bones and other things as we go down. He points out the bulge that we see on the neck and then shows me that under it is a "mass". What?!? Yeah, this is when I kinda stop hearing what he is saying and my breathing changes. Are you stinking kidding me. I was thinking he was going to say there is a big cyst and we are going to have to cut your neck open and get it out and sew you back up and send you merrily on your way! But, that was not the news today. A mass can be a tumor, but it is not necessarily. As with most people who hear this news personally, I was trying to be strong...I'm sure he wasn't fooled...but on the inside I was shrinking up thinking..."I'm going to have to call my parent's and tell them this".."I'm going to have to call my friends and tell them this"..I just was giving campus tours, prancing around in high heels, eating cheese cake, making jokes, I have just been with my family and spent Spring Break with my best friend..and now, I might have cancer and who knows what. Yeah, that's fun. But, Dr. Kluck just kept talking and letting me know that we don't know what it is. He told me that he had been on the phone with the radiologist and that he wanted to get an additional CT scan run. If this is what it could be, then we wanted to see if there were more and what they could be. I agreed, let's just figure it all out and then know what to do. You know me. I like making plans. But, this was not on the agenda.

He took me back up to the hospital and got me checked in and started on the process. I met X-ray Dave and got started on my "Dye juice". This time, they were doing a chest, abdomen, pelvis scan, so they wanted to be able to not only have my blood stuff contrasted, but my digestive organs as well. I got super lucky that the flavor was fruit punch. I had three of my 6 cups of it. We decided not to rush things and to just let it flow through. I had to drink so many cups so all my digestive organs would be full. (the fun part of this medicine is that it has laxative you know there were lots of fun jokes involved!). When I came out Randy was already there waiting and I knew Travis and Lisa were on their way. Travis arrived shortly and Lisa zoomed in from Little Rock. While we waited, I called my mom. She was in the nursery at church and dad was teaching his Wednesday night class. I tried to be collected, but this was the first time I told her about the mass in my neck and that I was back up at the hospital getting dyed up on the inside like an Easter Egg..good thing it wasn't that crazy crackle or hologram kind! Mom was cool and collected like she always is at these times. And, she was going to wait until dad got out of his class to tell him. In the mean time Lisa walks up. And I have to go potty. We wait until Dave shows back up for two more cups. Then we come out and laugh some more. I was waiting for them to come out and make us be quiet, but they never did. Then, Lisa went back with me to drink some more. Between each of these, we are waiting like 40 minutes to let it do its thing. The last time, he told me we were going to wait 40 minutes, I suggested that I thought it had all worked its way through and that I might be ready. So, he just ran a simple x-ray of those areas and showed it to me. It was kinda cool, but I was ready for sure. So, we decided to get ready for the scan. This time, I laid, with my feet first and he got me all set up. Chris, the stick me guy, had come down from upstairs with his bathroom caddy full of little viles and got me ready with a port thingy for the dye. So, Dave, got me all lined up and sent some more dye in and we did the scan. Then, I was finished. My favorite line of the night was when he came over and helped me sit up after the scan. "You have to pee"..I responded with "Yeah I know and all that warm stuff you just put in me didn't help". He told me there are no secrets with him. My bladder was huge on the scan. You think, after 6 cups of medical kool-aid in an hour and a half.

While I was in the scan Dr. Kluck talked with the Horne's, our president and his wife, and Becky was so great to offer to get involved and help with getting us in with Dr. Mendelsohn in Little Rock as my oncologist. She used to work for him and is still very close to his staff. Again, another answer to prayer. A personal connection and another offer to walk with me through this process. God is so good and the people around me here are so great.

The Sharps showed up while I was in there and Debbie brought Dr. Kluck some food while we waited. The radiologist in LR was filled up with scans to look at and called to say he wanted to take his time looking at mine, so it may not be until in the morning when we know something. We waited for a while and then decided that was silly. So, we decided to go on and they could call Dr. Kluck and he could call me once we knew something.

Lisa had already told me we were going to have a slumber party so we called Kirt and Justin to come over with Ashton and Whitley and we had a Tiger Tunes Party. Travis went to Wal-mart to get snacks and we went to get my stuff. When we got to the Berry's Cody and Jessica were there. It was such a fun night. We laughed and told stories and had a great time.

I know it was a hard night for everyone around me, but it was so great for them to be strong for me and for us to have fun. I loved it and we knew that we were just going to be strong. Have a great attitude and until we knew something else, we were just going to take each day at a time. Tomorrow will bring some more answers (or, questions).

Tuesday, March 25

Two of my co-workers and I decided to travel to Southhaven, MS to see one of our girls who is in her senior play of Beauty and the Beast as Belle. She was so amazing and it was so fun to surprise she and her mom. They just could not believe we were there. All that to say, the show was amazing and I was glued from the first note.

At intermission, we were talking and I realized my neck was really stiff. That is not too weird for me. My neck is always stiff. That is where my body has collected stress since I was in high school. And, it is the side of the neck that I hurt when I went skiing in college. So, needless to say it was no big deal and nothing out of the ordinary to me. I thought I had been so into the show and had held my neck weird during the first half of the show.

I reached my left hand up to just grab my neck as I said "Man, my neck hurts". When I did I noticed that my neck was swollen. Well, there was a spot at the base of my neck that was swollen. It was raised. That was weird. So I asked Ashlee, one of my counselors, if it looked swollen and her eyes turned into silver dollars. (She is pregnant and due in July so it was a definite mother type response.) At this point, we are in line for the restroom. All the sweet tea I drank at dinner had arrived. When she said that my neck look weird, I just started laughing. Which, if you know me was loud and we were in a school hallway. The ladies in line around us of course turned when the Wicked Witch laugh came out. Then with my big mouth just talking, they knew what was going on. I had a cardigan sweater on, so it was not hard to be able to look at it. Finally we made it to the restroom and I could see it. She was right. There was a weird spot at the base of my neck that was swollen. It felt like something full of fluid or a swollen muscle. All I could do was laugh. Weird things always happen to me. Here I am in Southhaven, MS. Three Hours from home. Half of a show to go. And, we are driving home when this is over. Also, I'm the boss out with two of my counselors, so I have to be the big girl. And, since I am usually the hypochondriac, I am also trying to make it seem like not that big of a deal.

We laughed and made so many jokes on the way home. Ashlee wanted to stop in Memphis and take me to an Emergency room, but that seemed so silly to me. I mean, my boss is a doctor. If any one is going to push on this thing and figure out what it is, he is the one that is going to do it. And, since we were leaving Southhaven after 10:30, I knew it wasn't going to be tonight. I called mom and dad and tried to get some parent advice. It really is a hard thing to try to describe over the phone. You have to make as big a deal as you need to out of it, but when your parents are 7 hours away, you don't want to make too big a deal out of it. Mom thought is was a colonel under my chin. Resa, my sister, got on the phone since she is trained in all this stuff and offered some advice. At this point, I'm chilling in the back seat with my Cherry coke and Tropical Mike 'n Ike's.

A fun trip home. Singing (and making up our own versions) all the songs from the show. We solved a lot of world problems. Laughed until my neck hurt...oh wait! And, listened to the studio version of every favorite song from American Idol. (I'm recommending a therapy group for my two road trip friends). We were tired when we got in a 1:30, and I promised them that I would find Dr. Kluck when I got into work the next day.

new blog

Welcome. This is a new adventure for me (blogging, not all this other stuff!). I'm going to try and use this as a way to keep in touch with all the amazing people that have wrapped themselves around me and my family in the last few days. Thank you for your love, support and most importantly prayers. God is so good and we are going to stay strong through the coming days.