On Top Of The World!

    It has been six and a half years since I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma.  Three and a half years since I finished treatment and maintenance, and 7 months since I was finally able to get off all pain medication.  Over the past several months I have felt new life and energy returning to my body!   
          On Top of the World
 It feels so good to feel so good!   No pain! No fatigue!  No treatment!  I actually have energy!!  I wake up every morning excited to start a new day.  Believe it or not, I actually get excited to clean my house (my son is thrilled!)
Last week the opportunity came to hike the “Y.” This is a large painted letter Y. It is made of concrete and is 380 feet high and 130 feet wide near the top of the mountain 
above Brigham Young University.
 This popular hike is not very long but it is fairly steep with 12 different switchbacks rising over 1000ft in elevation. Even though I had a cold, I jumped at the opportunity to check this off my “bucket list.” I was lucky to have two of my sons come with me.

      I had no idea how much this hike would affect me when I started out early Tuesday morning.

With each step, memories of my past “mountain climbing” experiences with Multiple Myeloma came flooding into my mind and occasionally dripping down my cheeks. I recalled a post I wrote on January 12, 2009 titled, “Shaking out my Shoes.”
Many of the feelings and thoughts I had when I started this journey were vividly symbolized with each step I took up “Y” mountain.  I recalled these words;
    Sometimes when you climb mountains you have to take time out to sit down in the dirt and shake the rocks, pebbles, and sand out of your shoes. Sometimes while I am climbing this mountain I have to “shake out my shoes,” with a box of kleenex by my side. This is a pretty steep mountain and there are times when I don’t feel like taking another step. Sometimes this upward climb becomes more of a mental than a physical challenge.”
      This trek was harder than I had envisioned and my view of the “Y” disappeared within the first few hundred feet of the hike.  It wasn’t long before I had to stop, catch my breath, and take a sip of water.  The higher I climbed, the harder my heart started beating and the more often I had to stop and rest along the trail.  I watched young children and older adults pass me with ease.   I had to remind myself this isn’t a race and I am not competing with anyone else on the trail but myself.
       As the incline increased I grabbed onto the strap of one of my son’s backpack.  I found this helped keep me moving a little further between breaks.  Eventually I hooked my elbows between both my sons and hiked up the rest of the path to our destination.  We were rewarded with a beautiful view of the valley.  I was overcome with emotion that I was able to accomplish something that a few years ago I thought might never happen.  I was overwhelmed with gratitude that my body has healed and my life has been blessed with more time to enjoy with my friends and family.

     I once again realized that I can’t climb my mountain alone.  Just as I a leaned on my sons to help me climb to the “Y,” -my family, friends, and my faith in God help me keep going.  I can’t compare myself to others and where they are on the trail.  Their steep places are not mine and the rocks that I may stumble on and grow from may be a “walk in the park,” for them.  
      Sometimes I can’t see where a path will lead or when a trial/trail may end.  That is the time when I need to stop, take a drink of water, gather strength from those around me and take another step knowing that God is bigger than any mountain I may have to climb and with His help no matter what challenges any of us face if we are willing to keep moving upward He will bless us.  

By the way I’m writing this from the hospital.  I had labs, a PET scan, and now an Aredia (bone hardening) infusion.  I have had plenty of time to write.  After waiting a half hour for the medication to come from the pharmacy, the nurse started the two hour infusion and the pump started beeping 30 minutes later.  When she came over to check it out, she stepped in a puddle of Aredia dripping off of the tube by my recliner.  Apparently she had forgoten to hook up the line and I was just getting saline.  So she had to order it again. She was embarrassed, but no harm done as long as I don’t have to pay for that puddle!  Four hours later I’m finally headed home just in time for rush hour traffic.  
Gotta love it.  It makes for an interesting day to what has become my three/six month routine.

Great Views

               The sun has been shining over the past several weeks and
I just wanted to post something a little brighter
than my previous post.
The weather is beautiful and the last few weekends
 have brought our family a chance to work in
our yard and garden.

Even Tabitha helped water the tomatoes.

We planted 300  tomato plants as well as onions, peppers, watermelons,
catalops, beets, peas, radishes,
 beans,raspberries and I’m sure there are more I have forgotten. 
My son-in-law and two sons plan on selling most of the
 produce at the local Farmer’s Market.

Kirby and Zoey enjoyed the outdoors too,
Here are a “few good men outstanding in their field.”
Trent always works better while listening to a few good tunes
 on his headphones.
See the blue beehive in the background? 
That’s the new home of 30,000 bees
 thanks to my son-in-law and
another one of his new hobbies.
Eggs anyone?
What a great life I have!
The views from
 the top
 of my mountain
 are amazing!

I am learning to live joyfully in the moment!

A BEaUtifUL MeSs

Family Easter Egg Hunt.
That cute little bunny is my grand daughter.

How can I explain all that has gone on in the past several months?  Life just seems to roll along and sometimes I can roll along with it and keep up with the daily normalcy of life.  Other times I have been the rock that silently lies still and immovable as life swirls too swiftly for me to catch up.
So How am I doing?
I am trying to make it through the last three months of maintenance therapy.  It seems to be getting harder.  I have been on 20 mg of Dexamethasone every three weeks.  I take it on days 1-4.  I used to get a little energy on those days but thats seems to be dwindling.  
From about day 5 to to 14 I get severe fatigue, achy muscles, and pain.  I slowly work my way back up and feel pretty good for a few days and then start all over again on day 21.  If all tests are good I should be off of any treatment by September.  If I can hold out that long.  It is SO tempting to just call it quits!  I have too many things to do, projects to accomplish, and people to do it with to spend half my life laying down!  
So that’s the latest report on “How I’m doing.”  I’m just telling it like it is.  

As for the home front it has been filled with great things as well as crisis.  I am writing about these things not to brag but explain how great, as well as crazy my life has been lately.
Trevor and Mallory. UVU graduation April 2011
Mallory our only daughter graduated from Utah Valley University in April.  She received a Bachelors degree in Behavioral Science.  We are so proud of her!  She has worked so hard to get through school quickly and can hopefully Trevor can do the same.

 Our son Jace has been out in the mission field for about ten weeks.  He Loves Puerto Rico and the people there.  Every week we wait anxiously for his next email.  Right now he is in Ponce.  He rides a bike along with another missionary-called his companion.  The companion instructed Jace on the fine art of catching lizards.  So as they are traveling along on their bikes they will catch a few and put them on their backpacks where they stay until taken off.  He has met many nice people and certainly stands out in a crowd.  He said several grandmothers tell him he has beautiful blues eyes.  
    It is so fun to share in his adventure.  If you would like to read parts of the letters he sends home you can go here.
Our two sons at home are keeping life rolling along, as I said before sometimes I can keep up and sometimes life just swirls around me.  Thankfully my husband pulls up the slack and spends a lot of needed time with them.
Last month, my son Trent completed his eagle project,  which took much planning and preparation.  He and several friends painted several buildings at a campground.  The total project took over 100 service hours to complete.  Trent demonstrated leadership and organizational skills to complete it.
   Our church has a very strong scouting program for boys and we really feel like it helps build Young men.  In a couple weeks their troop will go camping and river rafting. 
  Oh also this past month Spencer tested for his black belt.  He has worked really hard and for years to accomplish this goal.  It was more challenging to him then his older brothers,  We are so proud of him for sticking with it.  Now all my family have earned their black belts.  
Joe, Tyler, and Spencer after getting his blackbelt.
(whew stay with me here I’m not done yet.)  
So life has been just rolling along until Thursday May 26.  That evening I really  understood what it felt like to come so close to losing my husband.  As far as we can figure he choked on something and passed out.  When Trent and I found him he was turning blue with sporadic breathing.  I had Trent call an ambulance while I called my neighbor who is a Nurse Practitioner.  I was a basket case- (I guess becoming an EMT is out of the question for me.) Luckily his heart kept beating and he was getting some oxygen.  He was taken to the hospital and ended up spending three days there.  He had aspirated into his lungs so he was kept sedated and incubated for 24 hrs while they cleaned out his lungs and ran every imaginable test.  Nothing was conclusive.  The best possible medical reason this happened was that he just choked on something.  Thank goodness the other possibilities  were extremely serious.  Non-the-less this incident completely humbled us.  

    My body was already worn down from “dex week” and then with this added crisis, I ended up with an ugly case of pneumonia.  I’m sure you can imagine the chaos at our home this past week as he was recovering and I was getting sicker.  I am so eternally  grateful for strong family and neighbor support. 
Me at Huntsman Cancer Institute where I was treated
 March 2011
I have basically written the facts or events of the last few months, however the feelings and emotions are somewhat overwhelming.  It has been hard! and brings plenty of fresh prospective on what really matters.  I thought I pretty well had that covered with getting cancer but apparently the Lord has much more for us to learn.   It is absolutely a “Beautiful Mess” right now but as the song says, “here we are.”  I am still here and my husband is still here and we and our family are in this for the long haul.  But I do thinks its time for a vacation!

Mat Talk

Lest you think our family is obsessed with all things martial arts, I wanted to share something else we are involved in.


(Trent, my 112 lb. 9th grade wrestler with the yellow shoes)

  Joe started his career as a teacher and high school wrestling coach.  He coached for ten years and has been involved with community wrestling since then.
  When our first son was about two years old, he used to put all of his stuffed animals in a pile and run around them yelling, “two points! two points.”

(Trent and Tyler. Brothers talking strategy)
Well, twenty-three years and four sons later, wrestling continues to play a big part in our lives.  All of our sons have been quite successful in the sport. 
Jace and Trent who took 5th in State!!
We just finished the official wrestling season last week.  We spent two days at the Utah 4A State tournament cheering for our high school team and supporting my freshman son.

   I feel so blessed to have been able to watch most of Trent’s matches this year.  I’ve missed so many of them over the past two years. Even if I don’t understand all the moves and rules, and the seats get uncomfortable and the crowd gets so noisy, there is nothing better than being able to watch your child work and struggle and wrestle after paying the price in practice for weeks and months.

Jace declared the winner of a match last year

I live each second on the mat with him. My heart pounds in my chest with each point given.  Whether the ref raises my wrestlers arm at the end …. or not, I was there standing on sidelines or seating in the stands rooting for him all the way.  Feeling his successes or his failures, I am there. 

   Wrestling is a lot like life. It’s tough! We all need a lot of practice.  Sooner or later we will be out on that mat by ourselves facing challenges and fighting to come out on top.  Somethings we must face alone.  We all must be prepared to face our opponents or situations and sometimes we must do it by ourselves; One on one against the opposition or problem. However, through the easy or the hard it is good to know there are family or fans cheering us on from the sidelines.
  I hope my sons and my daughters will know and understand that no matter what comes in their lives, I will be there cheering them on from the sidelines and enjoying my involvement in their lives.

Oh, and about me. I go to Huntsman for tests this week. Labs, an MRI, and another biopsy.  Fun.  Wish me Luck and may all my numbers be good.