Cancer, Favorite Posts

christmas miracles, massive update, & peace, 2014.

I hope everyone has enjoyed the holidays! By my lack of blogging it’s very safe to assume we did 🙂

Here is what has been going on…

MOVING:
We moved to my home town of Cedar Hills! As mentioned before, HERE, we were only staying at my grandparent’s house temporarily to try and help them out.  It definitely was a HASSLE trying to find a place, pack, & move during doc appointments, Nate’s surgery, recovery, etc.  But we made it happen!  Mostly thanks to my amazing Momma! She gets crap done.  Also, big thanks to Nate’s family who helped us move and everything.  It was rough, but now that it is said and done (well, mostly…there is a box to my left still waiting to be unpacked… *sigh*) we are SO glad.  Having a place of our own has been amazing….just what the doctor ordered for all 3 of us I think 🙂

this was the night we moved it…we finished unloading boxes at 8:00pm, but that didn’t stop me from setting up our tree!
the only picture I have even taken of our house. it’s cute, we really love it!
Ames “helping me” unpack. he loves to wear our clothes & it is the cutest.

CHRISTMAS MIRACLES:

I know by now I probably sound like a broken record, but we just keep getting SO many blessings.  Y’all are too amazing to us!  We have had a few “Christmas Miracles” happen this season…

– Snickerdoodle cookies & $$ door bell ditched on our door — THANK YOU!! Seriously, whoever did that you made our day. And those cookies were SO good. I ate like 5 that day, ha 🙂

– 2 huge gift baskets & $$ also left anonymously. One basket was full of treats, the other basket was a “Cancer Care Kit.” It had lots of stuff to help Nate get through the next phase (which starts TOMORROW, more on that later on). It was SUPER thoughtful 🙂 — THANK YOU!! We will put it all to good use 🙂

– Snowshoes. Nate has been wanting to build his snow gear up and so for Christmas I wanted to get him some snowshoes.  I ordered some through his cousin, Davy. He came and dropped them off a few days before Christmas and I hurry and put the box in the garage.  A few hours later I went to go actually look at them and to my surprise there were TWO pairs of brand new snowshoes…the second just happened to be in my size.  When questioned, Davy exclaimed it was a “Christmas Miracle!” Not so sure I believe in those kinds of miracles, Davy, but seriously, THANK YOU! We already have a time set to go next week 🙂 (and p.s. let us know when you guys can go! You need to show us the ropes!)

– Continued thoughts, prayers, & donations. I thought once the domiNATE 5k was over everything from the outside world would essentially stop.  But I have been amazed over and over again as we have been flooded by texts, letters, phone calls, visits, etc of people still remembering us and helping us during our rough patch.  we really can’t even being to THANK YOU! I promise every prayer, thought, penny, & hug is absolutely felt and needed.  We wouldn’t be surviving well at all without you guys.

– Dinner at “Frank’s” and a Limo ride. Nate’s sister, Heather, and her husband, Austin, wanted to spoil Nate (and, sub-sequentially, me) to a really nice dinner before phase 2 of cancer treatments start.  One of the side effects that he will almost guaranteed have is loss of taste.  Knowing this, they wanted Nate to have a “Last Supper” at probably THE best restaurant in Utah. They even took it a step further and invited his siblings and parents to the dinner.  The day of the dinner was a day that I for realz think the world was against me.  EVERYTHING went wrong and by the time we needed to leave for dinner, I was frazzled, frustrated, and late.  We planned to meet up at a park n’ ride off the freeway.  As we pulled in, there was a limo waiting there.  Nate jokingly said, “There’s our ride!”  A few seconds later we hopped out of the car to find that it was in fact our ride!  Nate’s other sister, Ashley, and her husband, Rich, knew that Nate had never been in a limo.  So one of
‘those’ days turned into one of THOSE! days 🙂  Even though we were super late, once we got there everything was amazing.  Food was awesome and it was a great night just hanging out with the family!  So thanks, Heather, Austin, Ashley, Rich, (and everyone else) you made our night…and it definitely was a night that needed to be made!

top picture are the limo-givers, Ashley & Rich. Bottom left: “Frank’s” givers Austin & Heather w/ Ashley & Rich. Bottom right, Heidi, Nate’s sister & the domiNATE 5k race director showing off her “Frank’s” dish
our Frank’s dishes…SO good!

 

– The kicker – Utah Business Insurance Co. Sub for Santa.  A couple weeks before Christmas Nate’s sister, Ashley, said she had tickets to a Christmas event and to keep our Saturday morning open.  She was pretty vague about everything but it was right in the middle of moving so I really didn’t think anything of it.  The Saturday of the “event” rolled around and we met up with them at the movie theater at Jordan Commons.  I was getting more suspicious but when we got there it seemed like it was just a work party.  I knew it wasn’t for either Rich or Ashley’s work, but I assumed they knew someone who gave them tickets.  The “event” turned out to be grabbing treats, talking to Santa’s elf & telling him what you wanted, then going to a private showing of The Penguins of Madagascar (which Ames just sat and watched 75% of! The, for real, Christmas miracle).  At this point I wasn’t as suspicious.  But when we went to go and visit Santa’s elf before the movie, I noticed that their was someone in the corner writing something down as we told him what we wanted.  It got me thinking a little but I still didn’t draw any conclusions.  The movie was great and after the movie they told everyone to head back to the room we met in and they were serving Cold Stone ice cream.  As everyone was eating ice cream, Santa’s elf came bursting in the room saying that he told Santa what we wanted and that he was on his way to bring us presents!  Santa came a few mins later and called me, Nate, & Ames up first.  By this point I was overwhelmed…I couldn’t believe what was happening!  They brought out bags of clothes & a big motorized car for Ames, a set of DeWalt tools and snow boots for Nate.  I was super glad that that was all they brought, cause I asked for something I shouldn’t have…a “big” TV.  I had told Santa’s elf as he pried to get something out of me that we were in the process of moving & that in our new house we actually had space for a bigger TV compared to the small one we have.  Well as I was helping Ames unwrap his presents (which he LOVES) out comes a huge boxed wrapped up addressed to me.  By this point tears had already started flowing.  I kinda just ignored that box and continued to help Ames.  One of the employees of the company said that “I think Mom needs to open her present.” I really didn’t want to because I almost felt guilty for asking for something like that! I know I didn’t have a clue that they were going to actually go out and buy it, but still! Through tears I opened a brand new 50″ TV.  They told us that they understood that we had been going through a hard time and that they hoped that they could bring us some cheer.  All I could do was cry and say thank you.  It seriously was an amazing morning.  Even more so because there were probably 5 or more families other than us that got the same special treatment.  I was truly just overwhelmed, in the best way. So, THANK YOU!. Utah Business Insurance Co.  You guys are an amazing company! (P.S. back story– Nate’s old workmate, Brent, has a brother that works for this company & when the company was asking for deserving people he submitted our story.  Then Brent contacted our friends the Ally’s who then contacted Ashley who was the one who actually got us there…THANK YOU TO ALL WHO WERE INVOLVED!)

 

asking for my TV…still feel bad…

 

still can’t believe it.

 

he LOVES that thing. plays with it everyday.

I know I am probably forgetting some things along the way, but seriously, best holiday season ever!  THANK YOU to everyone for all that you continue to do for us!


TEXAS:

My family moved to Texas about a year ago.  We had been planning to go to Texas for Christmas the entire year, and luckily, Nate was feeling well enough to make the trip out.  We spent a week in the “beautiful” city of Odessa, Texas.  It was SO, so nice having my whole family there and just hanging out with them.  My Mom made us amazing food, we played multiple games that had everyone crying from laughter, we remembered Christ’s birth & the true meaning of Christmas, opened beautiful & thoughtful presents, & really just had an amazing time.  Especially Ames, that kid is spoiled rotten being the only grandbaby 🙂

before we left to Texas we had our own mini Christmas. Ames loved it & I loved him loving it!
We had planned to take pictures…but that night the weather did NOT agree with us. it was SOO windy. So we resorted to this little square that was still outside-ish. not the best background, but I LOVE MY FAMILY!

 

the men.
the stocking I made to hang at my parents 🙂
while in Texas dem boys were extra cute!
Nate’s pride and joy – his Christmas present from my parents – his RAB down coat! Ask him about it, he’ll love to tell you all about it 🙂

PHASE 2:

Now to the stuff that I’m sure everyone cares most about – How is Nate and what are the next plans moving forward…

Nate:

I am SOOOOOOO happy to report that Nate is doing amazingly well.  The first 3-4 weeks were really rough, but since then, every week has been exponentially better.  To the point that he says he feels pretty much back to normal.  He’s gained 5.5 lbs (that was the goal for him!) & he even ran again! The only thing that still gets him is his jaw.  He has a TON of scar tissue that only allows him to open it wide enough to put one finger in.  As you can imagine, eating is super hard like this.  He can chew and swallow normally again, but getting the food in is an issue.  He still grinds up most of his meals.  The doctor said that he will need another surgery down the road to cut up some of the scar tissue to allow Nate to at least take a bite of a sandwich.  The scariest thing about this is that radiation causes hardening of tissues.  So if Nate doesn’t keep up on his exercises his jaw could be permanently stuck this way, or even worse!  He had a device called the Therabite but it was too weak to really do much.  So now they ordered him a device that is metal and essentially a jack for his jaw.  It’s called the Dinabite, but I prefer to call it… THE DINOBITE! #rawr. Hopefully his new contraption gets the job done.  All in all Nate looks and feels almost back to normal and it makes me SO happy 🙂 Feels amazing to have my husband back.

Radiation & (possible) Chemo:

Tomorrow is the big day.  Phase 2 will officially begin.  He goes in at 3:00 pm for his first day of radiation.  The whole time going through this process they said that they will be doing chemo in conjunction with radiation.  The chemo drug makes the radiation more effective and increases his survival rate by around 5%.  Even though I know doing both at the same time will be miserable, I was totally on board.  Any percentage in the right direction is good percentage!  Though a couple weeks ago we met with his radiation doctor, Dr. Hitchcock, and she is nervous about doing chemo.  She thinks that doing chemo at the same time will make the radiation side effects too bad and cause a lot more permanent damage.  Last week we talked to Dr. Hunt about it and he called it a “Risk Benefit”  – it could benefit him, but risks could be so server that they could majorly affect his quality of life.  They discussed it again this past Friday so we should hear tomorrow if chemo is still happening.  It is amazing how much there is to learn about cancer.  When I was an “outsider” I thought all types of cancers were essentially treated the same and the treatments were all standard.  Come to find out every aspect of the treatments is very variable, and depending on the cancer, some chemos are worse and some radiations are worse.  With Nate’s case, radiation is going to be the doozy, especially because of the location they are treating being so close to so many vital things.  The type and amount of radiation they are giving him is going to be miserable.  Just for fun I wrote down all of the possible side effects he could experience as they listed them at an appointment…*ahem*

Dry mouth, mucus plug, hearing loss (short term or long term), 100% going to get a cataract (which will require a surgery down the road), possible second cancer from the radiation (wouldn’t that be lovely…), major fatigue, dry eye, teeth decay, fried tastebuds (up to a year or longer), nasal drip, localized hair loss (possibly permanently), stroke (radiation hardens vessels..hardened vessels cause strokes), skin burns, mouth sores, fibrosis, infertility (I’ll address this topic another time), pituitary gland problems, other brain problems.

Phew.  Like I said – doozy.  These are possible side effects from the radiation alone.  Chemo intensifies these and brings its own baggage. As you can imagine, they are a little scared to do Chemo at the same time.  I’m on the fence if I want it to happen.  As we currently stand, Nate has an 80% chance of the cancer coming back, and if it does come back, it will be a lot more fatal.  With that, I absolutely want to do chemo with it.  But at the same time, they are pretty confident that radiation will take care of most of the problem and so if he did chemo when it wasn’t really necessary and had a life long handicap because of it I would be pretty sad.  So really, there isn’t a perfect solution. We will find out tomorrow what route we will be taking.

With all of that being said….

Cancer is still a major B.

I am so not looking forward to seeing Nate get knocked down again.  But in the long run, I am ready to get this next phase over with!  Time to #domiNATE once more!

PHASE 3 &/or 4 &/or 5, etc:

If everything goes as planned and the radiation(/chemo) is successful we might be done with the big treatments! It’s all a waiting game though and we won’t have a clear answer until they are finished.  Though we do know that once Phase 2 is over he still has another phase or more ahead.  He has to get jaw surgery, surgery to get teeth implanted, cataract surgery, & some ‘touch-up’ surgery to fix the roof of his mouth.

PEACE, 2014:

This year has been…well, quite a year.  I’ll do more of a 2014 recap another time, but if you asked me a few years ago if our lives would have ever gone down these roads, I would have chuckled.  But I couldn’t be more grateful for the roads life has taken us.  Like I wrote, HERE, this road ahead will still be long and hard…but I absolutely know this road is worth it.  I mean, just refer back to all the other sections of this post!  Though times are rough, we are being blessed beyond compare.  This cancer crap has changed our lives for the better. Funny to say that, but it’s true.  I have more hope in this world, more trust in those around me, more love, more compassion, and a much stronger relationship with our Savior and Heavenly Father. No arguments – this year has been really hard.  But I can also say that I have never felt this strong and sound than I do now in my entire life.

So, bring it 2015. I, & we, are ready.

#teamdomiNATE
 

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