Sunday, June 21, 2015

Dealing with Death

Perhaps the title alone suggests, for many, an "untouchable area."

Yet here I am, and for the first time in my life I have come to the realization that I am not as immortal as I once felt. Yes, immortal is a strong word, yet it's how everybody seems to live. 
"Live like there's no tomorrow."

I entered this world of cancer only two months ago. It's a place of new feelings, realizations, and realities. Obviously, the chemo has worn my body down. On Monday I head in for round 6 - round 6 out of 36. That leaves a good 30 rounds to go, a bout of radiation, and multiple surgeries. Frankly, this doesn't depress/discourage me. If it takes these two terrible years to save my life, then I have no reason to complain. 

However, there is a much more luminous side to this disease than I have really allowed myself to realize. 

To be "straight up" with you all, where I am at in this fight is like this . . .

Ten people will enter this specific fight- and three will get to win. 


Too many people (including myself before all this) assume that beating cancer is all about the size of the "fight in the dog," the "will to live," the "fight in the fighter."

It's not.

In the course of my coming out of sedation (2/3 chemos include being drugged so this is a frequent habit), I have learned a lot about my own cancer, and also cancer in general. The realization of what I am dealing with hasn't been easy, which is why I have written this post.

I keep writing even when I don't want to write. I write when I would love to curl up and deny everything that is happening. I write when reality is too painful and I'm ready to be done with it all. I write when I know that where I stand could help others - even the many who haven't and probably will never be in my position. So what is to be learned at this point in my journey?

Death is now real.

At any moment, it could be my time to go. In fact, statistically - that's the most likely. I totally get that if God doesn't plan for this cancer to take me, then all of my treatment will be my lifesaver! Just understand that our prayers may not be His plan. For me, that is what I'm having to process.

For you? 

You never know what you have until it's gone.

Don't take life for granted. I find it amazing how much my perspective has changed- and even now life in the doldrums seems precious.

Yet most importantly - know you have hope.

Hope that lies beyond this world- beyond this suffering and pain. I couldn't imagine facing these realities without such hope. That is what keeps me smiling. That is what keeps me fighting.

Hope is the realization that cancer can be beat; and an early death is only the doorstep to an eternal beginning!

(Stem Cell Harvesting and also a double red cell transfusion on Saturday. When I tested my blood sugar that was 4 needles in me at once- new personal record!) 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

"Cancer Difficulties: In Me" by Me

What is the most difficult part of cancer?

This seems to be my most frequently asked question (and often one that I wondered) before I entered this new world. Before I break it down, I have to disclaim and inform you all of an important fact: this is me. I can’t speak for others who have had cancer, but now I can certainly relate. Every cancer is different and difficult in many ways. 

So what are the hardest things about cancer?

It’s evil.

Both my younger siblings and I have lived for five years with a deadly and serious disease- Type One Diabetes. T1D doesn’t play by the rules. It ruins days, ruins weeks, ruins plans and wrecks havoc on normal life.

Cancer is different.

 Cancer attacks the body and mind with an evil vengeance. . . At times it makes one doubt their will to live. It cripples the soul and works to drag one’s focus onto the ominous task of surviving. Cancer thrives on the fear of the unknown - the opportunities that could arise at any moment. Hence, I think I can easily state it’s apparent evilness.

It’s selfish.

I used to have an incredibly focused and driven life.

Fueled by my ambitions of becoming a pediatric nurse, my days were carefully structured and managed to raise grades and become the best nursing student possible.

Then I was blindsided by my cancer.

College stopped completely as new tests, surgeries, and appointments filled my agenda. With only two weeks two go in the semester, I was completely stripped of my opportunity to finish strong. My ambitions and dreams have come to a stand still, and now I have at least two years of fighting. With a year of chemo/ radiation/ surgery/stem cell transplant, and then the process of removing/rebuilding my entire shoulder blade - happiness and hope are easily fogged out by the darkness that is my cancer.

My emotions are easily shaken by the longing for normal life of one day being a pediatric nurse! The simplicity of helping others without the dark reality of living just to “beat the odds”.

It’s powerful.

The sickness that I feel isn’t comparable to anything in life that I had experienced. I assume it is this way because our bodies are never meant to be this sick. Chemo kills the cancer, yet it feels like it’s killing me at the same time. Both the cancer and the chemo are working to destroy.
It’s a deadly duo.
 All this with the lovely combination of Type One Diabetes. Any T1D knows the comforting sickness that high blood sugars entail. Well, combine that with the BG-spiking chemo and we have a combination that will really send one for a ride! Yet even diabetes has a hard time topping the lovely side effects of chemotherapy - so far.

My reality.

So there it is. Up above I have detailed the side of this disease I usually don’t describe: the harsh, demanding, selfish battle with cancer that seems to strip me of so much!

Even as I type this out, my head begins to spin. Emotions begin to flood my heart and thoughts of the hardships ahead make me yearn for a normal life.

But first of all, this is all momentary. I can do two years. I can handle a month in the hospital in complete isolation because that means I can beat this cancer! I can do a year of chemotherapy because that means I can beat sickening statistics! I can do momentary.

Second of all, yes, cancer appears to be robbing me of everything I dream about and love. Cancer can take my normal life away. It can destroy even the normalcy of feeling physically well. But it can’t take away my core! Though at times I don’t feel like myself, I have an incredible support team, family, and God. Cancer can’t touch that.

Finally, the most significant question that people are asking me, and that I have wondered myself, is why God allows cancer and other trials in our lives. This is a very important question, and I want to lay it out somewhere other than the end of this post. Within the next few weeks, I’’ll actually add a tab called “Why Hope?” permanently on the blog. That will provide a great way to share with you the significance of what God is doing in my life right now.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Awesomes / Not Awesomes Update

Well hey there world! 

There's so much to write about and then the difficult task of, well, writing it. 

I had my first 5-day admitted Chemo. This was actually incredibly interesting in so many regards. As I sit here reminiscing of where I was just a week ago, it is like trying to think back to a year ago. How so? I'm not sure. I suspect either the chemo did it- or my nurses slipped some "forget-everything drug" into my port. 

Due to the fact that my awesome nurses are now part of my blogging audience, I'm gonna go with the chemo.

In my opinion, the 5d Chemo has wrecked many more side effects and havoc. Through the week of chemo, I "felt" like I was me. I slept a crazy amount - yet I still played soccer in the hallway with my PT dude, talked to my doctors (sometime), and did all the extremely thrilling things people do in hospitals . . . but I only vaguely remember all of it. My family has enjoyed fabricating false stories and now I have had to beg to find out whether they are true or not.

(My T1D nurses! If I look partially drugged ... it's because I was.)

Also during my stay I got to meet two of the nurses with T1 Diabetes. The one on the right is practically one of my main P4 nurses for the next year: we have a blast! All of my nurses are incredible - I just didn't get a picture with every single one. (I have a feeling I will be kindly reminded by the rest upon my return) They also have become fans of the "Diabetes4Dummies" videos Daniel and I put together - as they had ever so kindly referenced on the welcome board...

(If you haven't seen "Food Police", you can watch here)

Instead of rambling on, I thought I would conclude this update with my ER trip. As many of you heard, I was in the ER on Tuesday - for 14 hours. Although it was extremely complicated then, thankfully it is more simple now that we are on this side of it. Tuesday I was instructed to go to the ER after "blacking out" and also having low blood pressure/ sodium levels. Upon getting to the ER, my blood pressure was fine, but my heart rate was hitting 130s (should be 60-90s). To make a long story short, they had an EKG done, put me on fluids, and monitored me for 6 hours. I was very dehydrated from the 5d Chemo, my wonderful sleeping spells (wasn't drinking fluids), and high blood sugars (from Chemo). After my heart was stable, they re-evaluated and gave me the go-ahead to go home. 

Ten minutes from home, I get a call from the ER saying that I possibly had blood clots in my lungs - thus putting a strain on my heart. So, we turned back and headed up for an MRI. Due to a bad night in the ER, we waited 9 more hours and didn't get home till 6 AM. The tests came back negative on the MRI, and it was just my lovely Ewing's tumors in my lungs (EKG) and severe dehydration (heart rate) that caused the wonderful dilemma. Anyways, thank you all so much who were praying for me during the lengthy event.

In conclusion, thanks a million for your support, prayers, and encouraging messages you have sent! 
Small/big detail: my platelets and white blood cells are low so I may be going in for transfusion on Saturday/Sunday. I also have a 2 Day Chemo on Tuesday (if transfusion goes well), so if you could pray that my counts cooperate and I can stay on schedule that would be awesome! Seeing I have a year of this to go, I'd rather not get off track this early on. 

You guys are an amazing support group!! 

I'll update soon!

(My main activity during chemos, with my little princess)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Temporary Hairlessness

I'm finally back on my laptop since last I posted. 

I thought that with all of these crazy happenings I would be totally on top of blogging, FB, and all the updating . . . but usually, I would rather sleep than think. 

So here are some answers to the top questions I am sure many are wondering at this time...

How are we doing? I would say very good, considering. I personally figured that once I started chemo I would "snap into the reality" that I have cancer. It didn't work. Not to mention, we pretty much had a "second diagnosis" while in my first round of chemo (In my last post I let you all know that the cancer spread to my lungs). However, for me that is a much bigger deal than I care to delve into right now. Thankfully, my oncology team is still optimistic about it all! So I'm going to bank on that and the BIG reality that we have a big God instead of going off into all the lovely statistics and articles I have read. 

We head in to the hospital this coming Tuesday for five days of chemo treatments. I'm not at all looking forward to being cooped in the hospital for a week, but since this will be common-place for the next year, I'd better buck up and learn to like it. The staff is absolutely incredible! I couldn't have better doctors, nurse practitioners, or nurses in the world! (NOT to mention I have a Type One Diabetic Nurse!! Yeah! so totally fun) So I do have positive things to anticipate - which is a blessing. 

(The "temporary hairlessness" happened on Monday. I shaved it instead of it all falling out soon)

I find days have their own ups and downs. Obviously they aren't all "ups." Between sickness, nausea, low white blood cell counts, and the craziness of having three T1Ds, days can definitely bottom out. Yet what helps is the incredible support that we have (you included): being with my family, getting outside in this amazing weather, and focusing on anything other than the fact I have cancer. :)

In conclusion, we are starting to find our groove. We just have to keep plodding and focus  on beating the odds and kicking this cancer!! Thank you so much for your prayers, emails, and love. It means more than I can sometimes personally express thanks.

Until the next update, See you then! 

(I must say, supervision is much more fun than actually working ;) Lots of fun out with Sam and Jon)

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

First Chemo Down: Bad and Good News

Hi my friends, fellow-cancer fighters, and readers:

It's me!!!

It has taken me a full three days to get through my first round of chemotherapy. Not to mention the surgery in which my chemo port was installed and also when my bone marrow biopsy was done.
I still feel a little loopy but I wanted to go ahead and send out an update!

So there's some good news, and some bad news.

The good news, is that the cancer has not spread throughout my body! 

However, the bad news is that the cancer had spread to my lungs. There are multiple small tumors, and one large tumor in my lungs. This is another blow from the back- mainly because the PET scan seemed to show that the cancer was localized. Sadly, that is not the truth.

The gameplan from this new finding is going to entail more intense chemo and radiation. Also, at the last 3 month period, my body will be in the hospital for a whole month to severely attack the remaining cancer.

Please pray for my family and I. We have a year-long battle ahead, and
"bad news" never helps. 

All I can rest in, is that God knew this was going to spread far before any of us. 

Thanks Again! :)  

Monday, May 11, 2015

Guest Post: Trying To Breathe

Please enjoy the following guest post written by Kate Skidmore, a dear family friend.

Written by a listening ear for the Hatchetts as they struggle for the words to say.

Dear friends and family and friends of family and family friends and well, you get the picture...

Please know we love you. Please know we need you. Please know we covet every prayer on our behalf. Like a ship at sea raises flags to communicate with other boaters in the water, we too need to raise our flags to communicate with all those that surround our lives at this time.

I don't know what color tomorrow's flag will be but today's flag is Delta. It looks like this

And it means: I am maneuvering with difficulty - steer clear

On our land-lived life, this looks like granting space to a mom and a dad and the five kids living under our roof, hunkering down together as we learn to breathe once again in our new normal. Keep in mind that our reserves are already low due to three T1D diagnoses and daily management, major changes in the past year too numerous to recount, and now an aggressive bone cancer diagnosis.

The hard part for us, and for you, is sorting out what is helpful and what is overwhelming as people reach out and into our lives to offer support. The only thing I know right now with the DELTA flag flying is that we need your offerings of support from a distance as we focus on trying to breathe. 

Love us through the mail, the blog, through prayers, send pictures that make us smile, or jokes to make us laugh, or songs, or poems, or words of truth and hope. Direct our hope to the Lord. Beg God for his favor on Caleb and our family. Pray for a miracle of healing. If you choose to join us and give anything during this time please give with an open hand with no reciprocation expected. Please don't feel offended if we give access to one support and turn away another. Expected people may not have access while unexpected people will. Please give grace as we attempt to navigate these treacherous waters. Right now there are seven people on the boat trying to breathe. When we are ready to fly a new flag, we will let you know.

Helping is a card...instead of a call.
Helping is a comment or a like on Facebook or Caleb's blog...instead of stopping by.
Helping is honoring the preset visit times and leaving without us having to ask.
Helping is recognizing that managing our energy and time will look different than what you might think we need.
Helping is allowing us to take in your gifts and offerings of support on our own timeframe. 

Today the Delta flag may be flying but tomorrow we may need to call an "all hands on deck."

Thank you for loving us the way we need to be loved right now.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Numbing Myself

 (Dad and I, exhausted after D-Day (Diagnosis Day))

A lot has happened to me in the last three weeks.

I went from an ambitious nursing student with goals of specializing in Pediatric Endocrinology- to a cancer patient.

I went from a Type One Diabetic still overwhelmed with the enormity of a chronic disease- to a Type One cancer patient. 

I went from a 19 year old with big exciting plans on life- to a cancer patient stripped of my own ideas.

These are the realities I am trying to wrap my mind around. I have people constantly asking, "How are you?", "You doing okay?", "How are you holding up?". Honestly, I don't really know. I'm trapped in a blur of a new reality. A new battle that has erupted and blindsided me in the middle of my journey as a college student. 

It's hard to process this all. It's hard to accept that I'm only 19 and don't feel anything near ready to tackle another ominous disease such as cancer; let alone a cancer that demands a year of Chemotherapy. A year. Thoughts of where I could be in the Nursing program haunt me when I try  thinking ahead. 

So how am I coping? How do I even make sense of it all? How do I make sense of Ewing Sarcoma, or chemotherapy, or the replacement of my shoulder after the fight with cancer?

Well I have found the key to it all is to numb myself to myself. 

Numbing myself occurs when I stop myself from thinking ahead. When I prevent myself from panicking about the terror of the unknown. . . the endless possibilities and pathways this journey could go. I tend to do that a lot, think ahead, process, prepare. Yet God has promised only enough grace for today . . . not tomorrow, not next week, month, or year! Only today. 

Also, I have found that to numb myself- I have to "infuse" myself with Scripture. If you haven't had the opportunity to truly enjoy the riches of God's Word than you may be completely lost here. So what do I mean. When you have a personal relationship with the God of the Universe, you are given the discernment and understanding to be completely immersed in the comfort that it provides. I have found that the Bible has been more real to me now than ever before. Beyond a doubt II Corinthians has spoken to me the most! The reason for the depths of II Corinthians is the truth that God comforts us in our greatest tribulation, so that we can comfort others- with His comfort!

If you didn't quite get that- here's the simplified edition. ;)

I want to use this terrible, overwhelming, confusing, difficult and ominous diagnosis of Ewing Sarcoma to do one thing- be able to minister to others around me.

Everybody relates to cancer. And the worst thing that I could do is squander this opportunity God has given me- in my own grief and pain.

Now am I grieving? Totally. Am I hurting? Completely. Am I going to hurt more? Positively. 

But here's the focus, I am given the chance that very few get. An opportunity to reach out to others that are grieving and hurting- and to show them the comfort that God can only instill. 

Thank you so much for all your prayers and amazing support! I look for this year to be extremely difficult, but I couldn't have a better support group, or more powerful God!

Love to all! Will post again soon, hopefully!