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September 29, 2015

The real face of cancer…


 Of course I want to always be as positive as possible yet over the past several days I have felt closer to death than I wish to travel again. I remain fatigued, feeling broken, and without much hope. I told a few friends last week “fuck it, I am no longer going to hide what my real truth is when I feel awful”. So I will not. It has really been a struggle since last Friday. This weekend I was unable to get out of bed; Monday, it was difficult to walk to the sofa – but I finally made it. Today, I feel like shit yet again, but after finally giving in and taking some medication, am seeing a bit of relief. There have been many tears shed over the past few days.  Curtis looking after me so gently – with love, that kind of love that clearly shows –“for better or worse, we are in this together”, he says this often. His heart breaks; he knows not where to place his pain or make sense of all this. Together we cannot make sense of it either. I think it is one of those – it just sucks kind of deals. No sense can be made.

I want to feel better for a lot of reasons, I want to live and I feel as though I am merely existing right now. I am quite sure my photo speaks loudly – it is painful. I hope to gain my strength to be able to travel to Texas in a couple weeks. At this moment, I just cannot see it happening, but then I am just struggling in this moment, so the future seems too far off to consider. 

While we appreciate everyone’s dedication to sending and offering positive healing energy and prayers for healing I am going to be frank – what we need is to raise money so Curtis can take leave from work – FMLA  Family Medical Leave Act – this is an unpaid leave from work, leaving us no income to pay our bills. In addition, we must make our health insurance premium payment while he is on leave. My family has helped with medical premiums and our rent for three months – but we have many more expenses and no way to pay them. Please spread the word that we need help. I want to spend time with Curtis and he wants to spend time with me. Please help us, every dollar counts!

Please support our fundraising efforts:


I am behind on my return letter writing, really too fatigued to do much of anything, but appreciate each word that is sent my way. I just got off the phone with my oncologist and he has placed orders for me to go to the infusion center for hydration, hoping this may help. Now I wait for the infusion center to contact me and schedule my appointment, hopefully sooner than later.




Today, I am hopeful~  

September 23, 2015

Time to change things up a bit...

I am having some mixed emotions as I write this blog post. Currently, I am at the CoHo Inn, sitting on a sofa, my feet perched upon the coffee table as I feel the Oregon Coastal breeze blow softly into the hotel room, and the waves crashing in a unique rhythmic fashion, I wonder if they are trying to speak to me. The view from the sofa is amazing. The sun shining brightly as it dances off the deep blue ocean water, the water dancing around the rock clusters as the waves break and shatter to the color white. To me – this is just about as close to heaven on earth as one can get. Communing with nature, there is nothing quite like it. Yes, I would rather have my feet in the sand, the water splashing over my toes – embracing natures coastal ice cube bath. I know the limits of my physical body right now, and enjoying a walk on the beach and sand between my toes is not an option. Although, I will be looking for an opportunity to get close enough to the sand, without walking too much, to feel the energy of the earth rise up through my body; this is healing. 

I have completed 2 chemotherapy cycles consisting of 3 sessions within each cycle; totally 6 chemotherapy infusions. The past month, I have been rendered virtually home bound, due to the side effects of the Abraxane – that is the drug I have been allowing to enter my veins over the past two months. The side effects are particularly challenging because I am left with very little energy and deep body aches. If you have ever had the pleasure of having chemotherapy, you most likely know this feeling. My appetite has been significantly diminished – which is not exactly a bad thing as I am about 30 pounds heavier then when I had chemo the first go around. When you don’t have much body weight to work with and you are losing it, that can create a set of issues. So not to worry – my extra plump sista’ booty and thighs are serving me well! The side effects I speak of are the ones you can see, but then there is another set going on inside my body. Oh by the way, I did not mention losing my hair as a side effect, because I am way to sexy with this baldhead – it’s a bit unfair to those around me, so I do not want to even make you think that baldness is a Con – it is actually a Pro in my book.

I am so distracted by the ocean sounds, I am finding it difficult to continue on writing this update. You see, there are different ways to look at things – take the old adage, do you see the glass as half full or half empty? It is what it is and yet there are two different ways to consider the cup – positive, it is half full or negative it is half empty. To know me is to know, I am a half-full kind of girl AKA Queen of the reframe. After visiting with the oncologist, he was pleasantly surprised at how much of a rock star my body is. “you look really good” and “wow your body really responded to that chemo better than I imagined”. These are the types of things that you love to hear from your oncologist! The awesome thing that has been achieved from this chemo is that while I am taking chemo infusions, my tumor markers have nearly all returned back into “normal range”. I will share a graph that shows how well my body responded to the chemotherapy.

The dates listed are when I had chemotherapy and the test type is listed on the left hand side. As you can see – my tumor markers immediately began to decrease when taking chemotherapy. Once the number are below 31 – all will be within normal limits again. So what does this mean? It means the chemo is killing cancer cells. So when you look at this graph, you may be super stoked – but wait, there is another side of this too; so celebrate cautiously.

TEST
8/6/2015
8/13/2015
8/20/2015
8/28/2015
9/10/2015
9/17/2015
CA 125
539
350
180
75
23
16
15.3
115
89
78
60
42
37
27.29
197
127
119
88
42
38
CEA
0.4
0.4
.6
1.1
0.7
.8

It is fabulous that my body responded so well to the Abraxane, but this poison kills all my good cells along with the cancer cells. Chemotherapy can cause one’s body organs to begin to shut down due to toxicity. The side effects, like the newly experienced neuropathy on my feet is no fun at all. Continuing to do this aggressive chemotherapy regiment is not sustainable to life and living. I must make a choice at this juncture – because something has to change.

The oncologist is still talking life expectancy of perhaps being stretched beyond six months to a year, maybe longer – I got him to say the maybe longer reminding him that I am determined woman. Curtis and I have talked a lot about what to do next. I too have sat in silence considering my next steps. I can tell you that as I write this, the amazing beautiful ocean crashing below – a gentle breeze touches my cheeks – I know I am making the right choice for me, with the support of my oncologist. This week happens to be my chemo off week!  Yippee!!!!!! I really look forward to these weeks. I will still have my blood checked on Thursday, and if current trends continue, my tumor makers will have finally land into normal range. Next week, I will undergo at CT/PET scan to see if the tumors have shrunk and completely left my body – which would be so awesome!!!!! I will then take, what my oncologist calls “a chemo holiday” and stop chemo for a cycle as I resume my alternative practices. During this four-week period, I will monitor my blood weekly to insure that my tumor markers are remaining low. I will be focusing on taking care of my body – eating clean, allowing a great deal of rest, and remaining steadfast with my alternative practices that have kept me living a wonderful life for so many years. During this time period, if my tumor markers increase rapidly, which is statistically what typically occurs, I will need to make some difficult choices once again and perhaps get a bump of Abraxane.

My hope is that this Abraxane has killed off enough cancer cells, to give my body a chance to heal itself and get back to work. Our bodies heal broken bones – this is a miracle that we forget to acknowledge far too often. Healing  miracles happen every day; I am counting on my body healing itself and asking that the creator and angels that surround me protect me and help heal my body by removing all these cancer cells from my body – and for them never to return. I am realistic – but I too am super hopeful!


Please keep sending me letters and cards, I respond to each one I receive. Your letters of support keep me going, especially on those emotionally hard days. Many thanks to everyone that loves us and is supporting us in many ways. 


Please keep sending letters to:
Christina Garrett
PO Box 192
Philomath, Oregon 97370


Please support our fundraising efforts:

Today, I am hopeful~

September 17, 2015

So it is done~

Christina, Joan, and Jody~
Joan & Jody my RN Angels!
But not over! Today, I have completed two full cycles of chemotherapy – 6 sessions. Although I was dreading today’s treatment, it went as planned. I have been blessed with oncology RN’s that are a kick in the pants and make getting chemo-infusions so much better; my two RN Angels are Joan and Jody. I love and appreciate these two women – they both have a wonderful sense of humor, at times I observe interactions between them that are so silly it could be featured on an up and coming sitcom! Joan presents as the alpha nurse – she is definitely in charge during my sessions – with Jody being her dutiful spunky sidekick. My infusions are not always easy since I do not have a port or pic line for the RNs to just plug into. It takes master level skills to get a good IV going without needing a pain reliever shot prior to IV entry. My gals Joan and Jody are so fantastic at IV placement; I can pass on the extra poke forgoing the numbing medication. It makes all the difference when you have outstanding RN’s taking care of me!!

This past week has been a bumpy road – it started off really really rough and ended quit pleasant. One great thing about chemo-brain is that you forget things all the time. In reflection, I know the first part of the week – since the last chemo session included Friday night fever. I remember that I was so fatigued on Sunday that I canceled a visit with a friend. I too recall that on Monday, after acupuncture, I was so fatigued that I was seriously considering using a wheelchair while at Hobby Lobby. Instead, I cleared sitting spots along the way by rearranging Hobby Lobby displays to accommodate my butt for sitting. I was just so grateful that my Acupuncture Buddy, Vicki, was willing to take me to the Hobby Lobby after acupuncture – I needed more cools stuff to keep writing back to my friends and family.

When I awoke Tuesday morning, I felt a little piece of my spunky self a couple times. I was not feeling as fatigued, although still a bit nauseous. I was thinking how cool it was that I was feeling a little bit alive again after feeling like shit for the 2 months. Then there was Wednesday – Oh my, I felt good again. Yes, my body continued to ache, especially my hips, knees, and ankles but I felt well enough to take a shower and Curtis and I went to McGraths to get a little bit to eat during happy hour. This was a big deal because I have been virtually homebound for the past two months! McGraths was our typical spot – we used to go there a couple times a week for date night. When we came in, after not being in for a couple months, our regular bar tenders, both did a triple take when they saw me – you know, my sexy baldhead! They were both so kind and we all agreed it had been far too long since we last saw each other! For Curtis and me, we were finally experience “normal” for about an hour, it was nice. I miss the little things –

Christina's 6th Chemotherapy Session
I feel as though my crying spells are not as often and I am regaining some footing again. Yes, I am still sad that this cancer continues to hold on – but I am trying to focus my energy on getting well and saying a big huge Fuck You to the statistics and reports that I am terminal. I have much more to do and remain determined to continue living a life that is positive, filled with love, authenticity, strength, and determination. I am finding strength from many places – a place that consistently lifts my spirits is the letters and card that are being delivered to my mailbox daily. I absolutely love writing back and forth. I may not recall what I write – but that is what makes it even more special. There are times when my tears are left on the paper of the letters I write, and this is okay. There are times when I forget words in sentences, repeat myself, go off on strange rants, share the depths of my pain, and when I am leaving a whole lot of real talk on the paper. I appreciate everyone that is writing and sharing with me – this is so therapeutic, it seems like on both sides. Thank you for accepting my writing, my pain, my silliness, my words, just as they are. I hope that my words touch your heart as your words touch mine.

I want to tell everyone how lucky I am to have a devoted spouse, Curtis. He takes care of me as though I am a queen – I love it! He makes me breakfast, he has taken over a majority of the domesticated duties I typically do. He takes care of me without complaining – he loves me deeply and I can feel it during any interaction he and I have. I am lucky. Do you know there are a large percentage of men that leave their wives when the wife is diagnosed with a chronic or terminal illness? Well not my sweet Curtis; He loves me even more – I am so lucky! I love him forever.

It is not often that you find individuals that give of themselves, without expectation of something in return. For example, Mandi Schwendiman with Albany Acupuncture (Albany, Oregon) has been treating me weekly without expectation, for many months, because she cares about me and is with me on this journey. Similarly, Rita Baxter with Shamana Massage (Eugene, Oregon) came to my home this week to do an in-home massage. Rita then offered to travel to my home weekly to provide a massage to me, without expectation. I am filled with gratitude that these two women are using their healing gifts to make me more comfortable, without charging a fee. If you feel inclined to offer monetary assistance, to Rita who will be traveling from Eugene weekly or Mandi,  I encourage you to offer a heart donate in their name and mail it to my address and I will pass it along to them. Or contact them directly.


Albany Acupuncture Clinic
Mandi Schwendiman
(541) 928-2171
 


                                                                                                 


Rita Baxter
Shamana Massage
Phone:(541) 689-0918






I am surrounded by so many that individuals that love me – I am a lucky lady. I feel as though I am finally getting back to my better positive self. Even though it is rough right now, I know I can continue to Thrive despite all these speed bumps because I am surrounded by so many that believe in me. Please keep writing those letters and encouraging me – it truly makes a huge difference to my spirit.


Please keep sending letters to:
Christina Garrett
PO Box 192
Philomath, Oregon 97370


Please support our fundraising efforts:


Today, I am hopeful~

September 10, 2015

Cry Christina Cry Day~

Yesterday, I was home alone for the first time in a very long time; Curtis was at work and Jackson at school. For a majority of the day, I cried. No seriously, I cried most of the day. I cried about everything that was on my heart. I cried because I was sad, unhappy, feeling helpless and hopeless. I was fatigued like never before, body ached beyond words – deep bone aches. It was painful to think about my life and imagine what the next steps were; they all seemed to be leaning in a downward direction of grave discomfort. I was sad and for whatever reason could not find my footing to support myself to get beyond this painful and hurtful space I was in. This chemotherapy treatment of three weeks on, one week off is not sustainable for much longer – I state this as I am in the middle of cycle 2 infusion 2. I have not cried so hard nor felt the depth of pain that arose as I cried. Crying is one way to literally refresh oneself – It can be seen as a way to off load unnecessary burden that is weighting one down. Yesterday was a dark day for me. I felt paralyzed in my pain. I was not sure how to become unstuck. I reached out to a few individuals, via text, to share my current condition. I am not sure what I was hoping in reply other than to validate my feelings assuring me this was totally normal.

When Curtis arrived home from work, he walked in to see a sad wifey curled up on the sofa. My husband loves me so much, it is amazing. We both talked and cried together – then we moved forward. This morning, my husband made me the most thoughtful wall hanging, brought me breakfast in bed, and cleaned the house! See – I have an AWESOME husband. I love you Curtis and know that I could not be walking this journey the way I am without you by my side; you are my strength, biggest fan, and love me deeply.

I have four brothers, 1 older the rest younger. This illness I carry, breaks my brothers’ hearts. As adults, they have developed soft tender souls and spirits – especially for their sister. I like to tease them – “you are all just a bunch of pussies!” Walking this journey of cancer for over four years, some of my brothers have difficulty even looking me in the eye, because they begin to cry – they love me and cannot imagine this is really happening. My oldest brother David is perhaps the worst offender. Very little eye contact or the tears will begin to flow. I find this quite lovely and it touches my heart in a special place. Well, yesterday as I established Cry Christina Cry day – I send David a text. Now keep in mind, he and I rarely directly communicate, it is typically through his wife, so this was special. I poured out my broken heart to him and waited for a response. I am not sure why I chose him, but I followed my intuition. Below is what he wrote back:

From: David
To: Christina

To It hurts my heart you are feeling weak and broken. Not so much the feeling the physical side of things but the mental and emotional part. At this point short of praying I don't think there's much i can do to impact anything physical. As far as the mental part goes I have a better chance....maybe. I fully acknowledge my experiences on which I base my thoughts pale in comparison to what you are dealing with. These are more like principles I guess. Hopefully they'll extrapolate into something useful for you. It's always hardest when we feel alone to try and be optimistic. Then The discouragement sets in  which uses up all our mental resources so instead of focusing on the things that can bring us peace we get into a spiral of doom. Frankly as you have battled this fucking disease I have focused praying for you and your family to have peace. Maybe it's because of the  things I'm exposed to at work, maybe it's because of my level of faith that God has a plan for us that we sometimes can't understand. I know more than anything else I wish for peace. Not the war type of peace but that calmness which comes when we clearly see the truly important things. If we focus on those things our perspective changes. Things that are just things become less of a focus. I know your body may be broken and betraying you but I don't think your soul is broken. When we have peace our bodies gain strength and else end up doing better. Hopefully that helps or at least doesn't make anything worse. I will keep praying. Let me know what you want or need. I love you and am totally flabbergasted by How you've faced this challenge.  (David Morse, 2015)

After carefully reading each word – searching for something that would help me in this moment of being lost…there it was! What he wrote was perfect; it was exactly what I needed to be reminded of. He was right – my soul is not broke, but yes, my body was failing me. I believe with every piece of my being that there are no accidents in our lives. I know that my intuition to reach out to David, as ridiculous as I thought of the idea at the time – because he has mastered avoidance like nobody’s business, he provided me just what I needed. Speak our desires into the universe and she will respond. So to my big brother – thank you for knowing what to say, in the moment I needed it. I love you and know that I see you – and understand that your heart breaks for me. I too know that you believe I have strength to continue to walk this journey with grace – and I intend to do exactly this. Thank you Davey – for loving me and sharing a piece of your heart.

Today was Cycle 2 session 2 – next Thursday will be the last in this cycle. Where my treatment goes from there is up for discussion and plans are being discussed. I must always remember that quality of life is #1 to me – above all else. I am so happy my friend Vicki was by my side and even came over a bit early to see me. Even though I was still in bed, she didn’t think twice and  jumped on into my big bed with tons of pillows and lay there with me as we just chatted prior to my chemo infusion. I love you Vicki Bern – you are a special woman. There are hopefully some new and exciting things to come in the near future – for now, please continue sending positive healing thoughts, energy, and prayers.

Today, I am hopeful~

September 8, 2015

News Story and Ways to Help our family~

Today was an exciting day for the Garrett Family. After being interviewed by a local news station, KEZI - the piece aired today. Please check out the link to read the story and watch the interview below. 
http://www.kezi.com/news/Local_Couple_looks_to_Reunite_With_Foster_Kids_while_Battling_Illness.html




Our second exciting event is, Curtis' cousin Courtney Montano has created a unique fundraiser through her business, LoopinLizards, to help our family. Please take a look the the link below.
https://www.etsy.com/listing/247241983/





Today, I am hopeful~

September 5, 2015

I am wondering...a lot!

After one week off of chemotherapy, my body was strong enough to handle another round of chemotherapy. The new chemo treatment plan is three weeks on, one week off. I will be meeting with my oncology surgeon this week to discuss the possibility of having a port placed. After reviewing my blood pressure and pulse rate during chemo sessions, with a snappy excel spreadsheet created by Curtis, we discovered that my heartrate and blood pressure is much lower when accompanied by only one chemo-buddy. My friend Leslie, is in charge of my LotsOfHelpingHands volunteer site, she has made changes to the schedule to adjust for just one chemo-buddy to be with me during the infusion.

I am two days post chemotherapy. Last night I had my first real scare. After waking from a late afternoon nap, I did not feel well at all. Barely able to walk and too weak to crawl, my husband assisted getting me into the bathroom. Curtis then tucked me into bed and we continued to try and figure out what was going on. I made a couple calls to local friends hoping they could stop by RiteAid to purchase a newer thermometer – the one we had was saying in one ear I had a low-grade fever and the other ear over 100; sadly, no one was in town to help. Jackson was at his first football game so it was just Curtis and I at home; he did not want to leave me alone because I felt so bad. I talked on the phone to my friend Lene’ for a quick minute while Curtis dashed off to get the thermometer – I wanted to keep talking but I had no energy to talk and hung up.  

After taking my temperature with this new snappy designed thermometer, you hold up to your forehead, it was confirmed I had a fever of 101.8. Rarely do I ever get a fever and my baseline temperature is 97.7, so this fever was a big deal!  I made a call to the on-call oncologist to get medical direction. The oncologist suggested taking Tylenol to reduce the fever and to go to the ER if the fever reaches 103. The oncologist called in an antibiotic as well. Being that my fever broke after taking Tylenol and after reading the medication insert – I thought I would only take this medication as a last resort. That kind of sounds funny saying being that I am choosing to allow poison to be pumped into my veins weekly. Anyway, back to this antibiotic, it is used to treat exposure to the plague and anthrax! Seems like a pretty hefty antibiotic.

There is this dance that Curtis and I do with each other; no, less than once a day, Curtis looks deep into my eyes and tells me “I really don’t want you to die”. Today was no different. It just breaks my heart. Repeatedly throughout the day, I apologize for being sick. This situation sucks! Or as Curtis often says – “this is really fucked up” – he doesn’t have a potty mouth like me so it’s a big deal when he rolls out the F word. But you know, he is right, this is a pretty fucked up situation right now. This journey is stretching our ability to cope, to remain positive, to not be angry, and to release the need for understanding exactly why this situation is occurring – being okay with not knowing why this cancer has been brought into our lives. After one such dance, we briefly checked in with each other about stages of grief, but Curtis quickly changed the subject saying something like I cannot go there yet because “you are still here”. I offered that yes it is totally okay to be experiencing the stages of grief. I briefly psychoanalyzed where he was at, and was grateful he quickly ended that conversation.


 
Bald is Beautiful August 2015
Bald is Beautiful August 2011











I am not sure why this is happening – but I wish this cancer would take a hike and let me continue on living a glorious life. There are moments when I am sitting in my spot on the sofa, writing cards and notes back to people, decorating each one, and including creative words of inspiration – When I start to wonder, is this how I will be spending the rest of my days? I wonder if my words of encouragement are needed at just the right moment for someone. I wonder if I still inspire others? I wonder if I give others hope? I wonder if my strength and grace is helping others dig deep on those really hard days. I wonder what is my purpose. I suppose you could say that I wonder a lot! Clearly we have confirmed that I am in fact Wonder Woman, we can now move on.

I am learning what my new baseline is and I can say that I do not much fancy it at all. I am however, willing to get used to it while keeping my eye on feeling better. I will share that I am getting tired of being tired and not feeling well. Please keep sending positive healing thoughts and prayers. I love reading your letters and I hope you enjoy the letters I am writing back! I believe in miracles and am open to receiving.

Please keep sending letters to:
Christina Garrett
PO Box 192
Philomath, Oregon 97370


Please support our fundraising efforts:


Today, I am hopeful~