Sunday, July 12, 2009

New News

I'm happy to say that my doctor's appointment right after my Florida trip went really well.  My PET scan had no "shadowed spots," which basically means no cancerous cells.  And what's more, I don't have to go back to MDA until October, which is fantastic.  That will be the longest I've ever gone without going to the hospital in over a year now.  If I can go one year from this past April, my doctor says it will not come back--and as we've gone over before, she's a genius so what she says is the truth.  Dr. Thomas gave me a hug, which I know doesn't sound too weird, but if you only knew her.  She's not a huggy type of person, so I was a little shocked when she did.  Those of you who know me, know that I like to hug, so I was A-Ok with it.  That's the latest news on the cancer front.  On the more exciting life front, I went back to school for four weeks to take my very first nursing class--Health Assessment.  I was basically learning about everything they used to do to me in the hospital, why they did it, what it showed, etc, etc.  Crazy.  Needless to say, I got an A.  Don't get me wrong though, it was pretty hard.  At least it was hard to focus and study.  Dr. Thomas told me that I was going to have to retrain my mind how to study--and was she right.  I still have a hard time remembering words, or what I like to call "word searching."  I know what I want to say, I just forget it.  It's the most frustrating thing ever, and I was already bad at it before.  It's only gotten worse, but hopefully with time it will get better.  Other than that though, I am doing pretty well.  Physically I'm doing better, Kari Ann tells me that I don't look quite as "soft" (or in other words completely devoid of muscle).  I haven't been sick either, minus some nasty sinus problems.  Some people still seem to think I'm in danger of getting sick, but not so.  My blood counts are back up, minus my platelets.  Dr. Thomas says they'll probably stay a little below normal for a quite a while, if not forever.  I guess I better not get any big cuts or anything, seeing as how platelets are what clot your blood to make you stop bleeding.  
Right now I'm in Portland, Oregon, visiting my sister and brother-in-law--kari ann and bryan.  I've never been west of Colorado, and I will say that I like it a lot.  We've gone berry picking, walked on the beach, had a gin tasting party, cooked dinner, and I've been drinking a whole lot of coffee.  Coffee is a big thing here, what with being so close to Seattle, and I l-o-v-e my coffee.  People in Portland are a different breed.  Anything goes here.  I like that.  No one stares at me and my now incredibly short hair.  Whereas in Texas, people look at me like I'm crazy or disapproval, and I'm sure I don't have to say why.  I went out with a couple friends in Waco, and actually got hit on by a girl.  That was a first.  Dr. Thomas told me she liked my short hair.  She said it looked good with my face, and like I said earlier--what she says is the truth, haha.  Back to Portland, the coast was exactly what you would expect.  It was misty, overcast and cold, but absolutely beautiful.  I've never seen a beach quite like it, and I've seen quite a few beaches.  The best part of this trip is getting to hang out with my sister and Bryan, and being able to go out and do stuff.  No more sitting inside all day for this girl--no thank you.  I like Portland, with all it's outdoorsy, eclectic, adventurous and easy going people.  I go back home in a couple of days, then in a week I head out for Boston and my grandfather's lake house in New Hampshire.  I just need to go to Southern California now, and I will have made it to all the four corners of the United States in one summer.  Anyways, I'm about to go for a walk around Portland with KA and Bryan, but I hope that catches everyone up on how I'm doing.  Thanks for keeping up with me :)
Signing off...

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Kendall is MIA.
Don't worry though because this action is good. I'm in sunshiny Florida, losing the oh-so-white ghost look. I no longer am super pale--a side effect of staying indoors for seven months. This is going to be super short because I'm exhausted, but I'll give you the quick low down.
I'm feeling A LOT better. I've been walking everyday with my dad, which is really good because I was very easily fatigued before I came. Now I'm doing a lot better, but I guess it helps when you're walking on the beach. I got my CVC (central venous catheter=the tube in my chest) taken out before I came to Florida. I have taken long showers everyday since then. I'm still on some meds, five to be exact--anti viral, magnesium, potassium, and a couple for my stomach. I go back in for another appointment on the 26th, four days after I get back from Florida. After that I have to go back every two weeks so that my doctor can keep an eye on my lymph node--the one that made me look like I had three cheeks back in October. Hopefully these frequent visits will slow up in a couple of months, but as it is, I'm going to have to fly from Dallas to Houston every two weeks. Oh yea, I'm going to school in Dallas for summer I (june 2nd to july 7th). I'll be taking several trips during summer II, then I'll start the fall semester in August. These are all my plans, but as I've learned, my plans and Gods plans don't always coincide so I guess we'll see how it all goes. I'm not going to reflect on anything in particular in this post--that one will come later. Right now the bed is calling my name. All this walking and sitting out in the sun by the beach is really tiring...(sigh). Maybe I'll stay forever.
God is good.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Final Lap

First things first...
Kari Ann and Bryan flew in from Portland two weekends ago, and I was able to spend four days with my sister. Kolby had a dance competition in Houston that that weekend, so she and my dad came down as well. My eighth and final round started last Tuesday. I think my feelings were mixed as I got the call saying that my bed was ready at the hospital. Part of me wanted to wait until Kari Ann left so that we could spend our last day together doing something fun, part of me wanted to get in there and just get it over with. Story of my life, but you can’t really put off the inevitable. My mom, sister and I watched Baylor lose to Penn State that evening, Kari Ann stayed the night with me at the hospital although I doubt she really slept well, and then she had to pack up the next afternoon to catch a flight home. I hate good-byes, and I especially hate saying good bye to my big sis and best friend.
After Kari Ann left I was back in normal hospital mode—staying up until 3 am, waking up every couple of hours for blood testing/vitals/etc, and then sleeping until lunch. I swear, my nurses probably think I’m crazy. Like I said a long time ago, the hospital just doesn’t sleep and neither do the patients. I did have the sweetest little nurse from the Philippines; her name was Michelle. She told me (more than once) that she would be praying for me. My last day in the hospital was Saturday. Kara and Emmy Jo (2 of the greatest/craziest girls ever) drove down from Waco to celebrate my last chemo hospital stay. We ate at Free Birds (Kara had a major craving) went to a movie, baked some treats, played Disney’s Scene It and then they had to go back to Baylor on Sunday—a short but much needed visit. They definitely boosted my spirits for my final weeks in Houston. Since they’ve left it’s been me and my mom hanging out, doing what we do best—shopping and watching Law and Order. I’m only kidding about the shopping, dad.
I had my 16th and final lumbar puncture yesterday. I am SO happy to be finished with those. I got used to them, but let’s face it, nobody in their right mind enjoys having a needle stuck in their spine. Seriously…yuck. I must say though, I have a pretty cool scar on my lower back. This might be tmi, but I got some really weird skin reaction on the backs of my hands which thankfully is starting to clear up. My doctor thinks it was photosensitivity—or photosynthesis if you’re my mom (love you momma). In normal people terms—it’s a mixture of chemo and too much exposure to sunlight resulting in a red burn-like rash that hurts like the dickens. So dad, next time we sit outside of Starbucks for two hours, remind me to put on some SPF. In other more interesting news, my mom now has a Facebook (dad got one about a month ago), and I taught her how to “facebook stalk.” This could be potentially dangerous (at least for me).
I have to stick around Houston for another 2 weeks or so for blood transfusions and for any other problem that could come up. I don’t really feel like it’s over yet, and I probably won’t until we’re loading the moving van or they take out the tube in my chest—that should be interesting. Until then though, I’m still in my MD Anderson world of yucky chemo side effects (but hallelujah for no more chemo), bloodwork, transfusions, and such.
For those of you who don’t know, on both rounds 4 and 6, I had to go to the ER thus landing me in the hospital for an extra 5 days of IV antibiotics. I was looking up the dates and saw that I got sick on day 14 (remember each round has 21 days) of both rounds. I am trying to take good care of myself with the hope that I won’t have anymore inpatient stays. Please pray that God will protect my body from infection and illness.
Tomorrow I go in for my routine blood work and then to see my doctor (she wanted to check on my nasty hands). Dr. Thomas jokingly asked me last week what I was going to do without her. It took me a second to think before I told her I was going back to my normal life. We laughed, but it made me think about how “normal” life will be. My friend Kara asked me last weekend if I feel like I’ve changed any. I said yes, but I couldn’t tell her exactly how. This is the conclusion that I’ve come to—I may go back and resume “normal life:” friends, family, church, school, etc, but I am not going to go back the same person I was before.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The Beginning of the End


It’s about 1:30 am, Wednesday morning. I’m up, grudgingly, as the steroids have taken full affect. My fate is to lie in bed for hours, tossing and turning in my inability to sleep, so I have decided to do something productive with this free “uninterrupted” time. “Uninterrupted” is used loosely of course.
I guess I’ll start with my Spring Break. On Thursday, after my early morning appointments, my mom and I drove down to my grandparents’ lakehouse for a little vacation before coming back in for round 7 on Tuesday. Thankfully, my dad and Kolby made it down on Friday, and my entire family (minus Kari Ann and Bryan—obviously) was able to spend 2 full days and 2 half days together. My cousin Lyle was at my grandparents—I hadn’t seen him in a year and a half, and the day that he left, my friend Lauren came to spend two days at the lake with us. I felt so blessed to be surrounded by the people I love the most, and amazingly, we were all together at the same time. I came home Monday in the late afternoon, had dinner and dessert with eight sorority sisters and just great friends who came to visit. Now I’m in the hospital. So far nothing worth noting has happened minus getting re-stitched—which hardly qualifies as eventful. I must move around a lot in my sleep or something because two stitches holding the CVC (central venous catheter) to my chest finally pulled out—whoops. I got shot with some novocain, and was painlessly stitched back up. Thank the Lord for modern medicine—I mean that in all seriousness. I don’t understand how people hundreds of years ago dealt with pain. I guess a lot of brandy or any other kind of hard liquor (so I’ve seen in the movies and read in books).
I know in my blog from February 28th, I mentioned a little bit about other patients I’ve encountered here at MDA. I really want to share Tana’s story with you all. I first met her while we were both in the hospital celebrating the New Year. Tana is a sweet yet feisty, small and very self-confident 25 year-old girl or rather young woman. She has AML. She first had it four years ago, and after a long and grueling bout of chemo, she went into remission. AML is not like the cancer that I have. You basically fight it until you go into remission—no 8 round/6 month timeline like mine, and then you just pray that it doesn’t come back. About two weeks before hurricane Ike hit, Tana had just started a great new job, was excitedly making final preparations for her wedding, but she also started to feel sickly. She ignored it, thinking that there was too much going on in her life to worry. She was married in Houston on the day of Hurricane Ike—brave girl, two weeks later she went to MDA to get tested only to find out that the cancer had come back. She had to quit her job; she had to start new treatments, not to mention play her new role as a wife. The doctors told her that her best bet was to have a bone marrow transplant. They eventually found her a match, but he backed out at the last minute, and now they are in search of a new donor. I can’t even begin to imagine the kind of fear and pain that Tana and her family must be feeling—to have an open-ended amount of treatment that didn’t work, only to be let down by a flakey donor. Through it all, she and her mother really and truly amaze me. I won’t forget seeing them in the waiting room, passing out homemade candy bars to everyone for Valentine’s Day. I also won’t forget how unashamed she is to go bald-headed everywhere, and I mean everywhere…Herman park, in the hospital and just about anywhere else. I rarely see her trying to cover her head. I would never be able to do that, I am far too self-conscious, and for this reason and many others, I really respect and look up to her. She is one of the people who give me a reason to not feel sorry for myself. I refuse to let self-pity take over while I see so many other people suffering far worse than I. I say that I refuse, but to clarify, it is definitely a conscious refusal. I have to remind myself all the time when I start to feel that dark cloud settling in over my thoughts.
People always tell me that I am handling this whole situation so well, but that is exactly my problem. I would say generally I’m pretty level-headed and take things in stride, but when I do have “those days,” I don’t talk about it. Actually, I don’t really feel comfortable talking about this whole situation in general most of the time, good day or bad. I have various theories on why I am unable to talk openly about it. First off, I don’t like the attention, I suppose I don’t know how to handle it—it makes me uncomfortable because I am so not used to being an object of pity. Second, I have far too much pride and I guess I don’t want to show weakness, so I put on a brave face and trudge right on through. It’s not that I don’t want to talk about it because I do; it’s just the vulnerability that makes me so uncomfortable, thus making it hard to talk about this experience. I would guess though that in the future, when I am better and done, it will be a lot easier to talk about everything in hindsight. So now you know. I’m pretty surprised that I shared all that, but I guess that’s step one, right? Besides, it’s far easier (at least for me) to write rather than talk.
I don’t have that much else going on, but I will keep you updated on my hospital stay. Please pray that my nausea doesn’t get too bad this time around. Also, please continue to pray for my family as we are still separated; I know that it is hard for everyone.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Free At Last!

I got out of the hospital on Sunday, but I forgot to write about it. I guess I was just too excited to remember to update. I'm on an oral antibiotic, am feeling great, and am almost 100% back to normal. yay!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Doing the Time

Well, I guess first off I want to apologize because I’m not going to proofread this post. Sorry in advance for all the spelling and grammatical errors.
Once again I am sick. I’ve been told that I don’t keep people updated enough on these kinds of things, so I’m going to try to be better. Well, on Wednesday evening, I started feeling a little “blah.” I was home alone because my parents were both on highway 6, headed in opposite directions, one to Lorena and the other to Waco. Mom says that they like to wave as they pass each other on the road; that’s about all the contact they get these days. My dad got to Houston, and maybe two hours after he had arrived I realized that I wasn’t feeling the normal “blah.” No, this was a sick “blah”—Almost flu-like. We took my temperature, it was only 99.3 F. You might be thinking, “That’s hardly a temperature at all.” But when your white blood cell count is low, any temperature is bad. Here’s a little FYI for those of you not so scientifically inclined readers: white blood cells are the cells that fight off infection and are what keep people from being sick 24/7. A normal persons’ white blood cell count is supposed to be at 4,000, but mine was at 100. Anyways, I was NOT ready to go back into the hospital, so my dad and I decided to wake up 2 hours later and check my temperature. We sleep a couple of hours and at 3 o’clock my temperature is at 99.9 F. We probably should have gone then, but I (stupidly) was convinced that the thermometer was wrong. My reasoning was that I had an appointment at 7:30 a.m. anyways, so they could check it there and we could get my “real temperature.” (Note to readers: please don’t tell my doctor about this little episode, she might get upset with me) We woke up at 5 a.m. to take my temperature one more time, and it was at 101.5 F. We go to the Emergency Room at MDA, that’s where everyone goes when they have any kind of problem, so don’t freak out because I used the term “emergency.” They got me in, and started me on 3 different IV antibiotics. I haven’t had a fever since last night (Friday night), so that’s good I guess. Another good thing—my white blood cells have jumped from 100 to a whopping 300 and are continuing their slow upward climb. I saw the doctor today, and he said that I might be able to go home tomorrow. That was until I showed him a red/swollen lymph node (where white blood cells are stored). He looked at it and told me that I won’t be going home tomorrow. Bummer. As if missing one of my best friends 21st birthdays and Baylor’s SING (ALL of my friends are in it) wasn’t enough. I was supposed to go home on Saturday, have lunch with my friend Lauren (whose 21st birthday is today—Happy birthday Laurita!! Te quiero), then we were going to go to SING with some other people, celebrate her 21st after, and go to our church, Redeemer (which I miss so so much), on Sunday morning. Sadly, instead of being on the road, I’m in Houston writing this blog. Am I disappointed?? Definitely. But honestly, this whole experience has brought a lot of disappointment, and I’ve almost come to expect it. I’m just looking forward to April, but it seems that the more you look to the future, the slower the present becomes. The days are dragging a little bit, so I’m going to try to keep the “day by day” attitude.
I feel bad for the hundreds of patients who get sick a lot more than I do. I met a girl named Eliana; I’m pretty sure I wrote about her in a previous blog. She is in the hospital ALL the time with fevers. It’s people like her who remind me that although this sucks, it could always be worse. I’ve seen cancer patients stick skinny from their inability to eat (due to nausea), people whose faces and other body parts are mangled or just completely amputated, people so weak that they can’t walk at all and need a wheelchair AND somebody to push them. I’ve talked to a woman who’s had 2 different people change their mind about donating bone marrow. She was devastated. I’ve talked to people who have had cancer for years and people whose treatment just isn’t working anymore. When my dad and I arrived in the ER, there was nobody in the waiting room yet it took almost an hour for them to see me. We wondered why. When we asked the lady told us “We had two people coding, and they needed all of the staff.” My dad not understanding the hospital jargon asked what “coding” was, and she replied “it means they are being resuscitated.” In the most basic terms—they were trying to bring them back to life. All in all, I would say that being here at MDA has kept me grounded in respect to understanding that my situation isn’t the worst out there.
I wanted to write a little paragraph to my baby sister, Kolby. I doubt she’ll read this, but I’ll write it anyways—I’m so very proud of her. She’s only 12 years old, but she has lived the past four and a half months as the woman of the house. I know it’s been hard for her, but it’s almost over and hopefully life will become normal for her once again.
So that’s about it…I’ve run out of words and I have “chemo-brain.” (That’s my new excuse for everything…I’m so bad.)
I want to end with this thought. I believe that trials are God’s necessary way to shape us, teach us faith, strengthen us, affect people around us, ready us for the future and inevitably make us more and more like Christ. Although a lot of the time I definitely don’t feel like it, I know that God is doing His work in my life—the affects of which I may see now, in the future or that I may never see at all. Most importantly, all is in His plan, and in the end all will be for His glory. I’m going to end with this familiar verse
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. ----James 1:2-4

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Round 6

Well, I just got out of the hospital yesterday—a nice, long, 5 night stay at M.D. Anderson. I’m getting used to these little overnight stays as I’m about to finish all my rounds, just in time…right? I can’t stress enough how important good nurses, doctors and nurses aids really are. I have had some of the best nurses at MDA. For example, there’s sweet little Stephanie, who never fails to come in and talk with me a bit. Not to mention Susan, Tricia, Sara (a fellow Baylor Bear), Sarah, etc. They all say that I’m their “favorite patient,” but I think the truth is that they all like to be my nurse because I’m not sick. You have to understand that there are A LOT of pretty sick people in the leukemia ward, remember, horrible immune responses. All the nurses know where I go to school, that my major is nursing, and they’ve met my entire family. They genuinely care about their patients as they always ask me if I had to be hospitalized in between rounds. I once had a doctor, Dr. Nguyen, sit on my bed with me for 20 minutes or so and give me a list of places I needed to visit in California. This is pretty unheard of—doctors have SO much to do. Then on the flip side, you have the food and the horribly annoying pole with all the IVs, chemo, etc. Okay, to give MDA a little credit, the food really isn’t so bad. Actually, at first, I liked it. However, the more and more you have to go into the hospital and eat the food there, the more you associate the food they serve you with sickness and not feeling well, and then before you know it you just start feeling nauseous at the thought of eating it. I honestly can’t even walk by the cafeteria anymore, I have to hold my breath because it makes me feel so yuck. This last stay, my grandparents came, and they and my mom brought me dinner and lunch almost everyday. For some reason (this happens quite a bit), I could only eat bean burritos from Taco Bell. Weird, I know. I went through this before with cheese and crackers, and I literally couldn’t eat anything but cheese and crackers. And the pole…oohhh the pole…named “Stan” by my family. They plug you into it as soon as you get in, and it doesn’t come out until you get discharged. I guess you just have to take the good in with the bad—good people, bad food. I think I can handle it.
Like I said earlier, my grandparents stayed in our apartment in Houston and came to the hospital during the day to visit. On Valentine’s Day, they came in with a three foot heart balloon, a cake, pizza, letters, and lotion. We had a little party. Then my friend Paige and her sister Holly came to visit, we totally took advantage young adult room—“Kim’s Place”—where there’s an arcade, pool table, free drinks and popcorn, a movie room, etc. Overall, I would say it was a pretty good 5-day stay. Minus the difficulty they had with my lumbar puncture, yet again (they had the same problem last round during my out-patient LP). As you can see, I know all the terms and lingo of the hospital scene. You kind of have to if you want to know what’s going on.
Well the good news is that I should be completely done with my chemo around mid-April. I’ll be going to Dallas in the beginning of June to take a month-long nursing course. My advisor suggested taking it early to “lighten the load” a little. It’s going to be weird to be living back at home for a month and a half. The last time I lived at home for that long was the summer after my high school graduation. I’m looking forward to it.

Please continue to pray for my family and me, that God would give us the strength to finish this out.