Monday, September 21, 2009

Ice, Ice, Baby...

You know you want to sing along with me "Vanilla Ice, Ice, Baby..."

Operation Mer Mer Egg Rescue is reaching the critical hour... things are on course... the hormone injections have been working and the eggs growing... in a normal "month" women usually release one egg... I now have between 10-12 that are go for launch. I'm EXHAUSTED and nauseated, but comforted in knowing that cancer has NOT crushed my hope for mommyhood.

So, tonight at 11:30pm sharp Alyson has the privilege of giving me an intramuscular injection in my gluteal area... Translation: she gets to stick me in the caboose with a big needle after tolerating my raging hormones and emotions for over a week... amazingly, I still trust her. This is called the "trigger shot" that starts the countdown clock beginning with hour 35.

Then on Wednesday, 9/23/09 at 10am the fertility specialist will retrieve the Mer Mer eggs... and put them on Ice, Ice, Baby....

Thursday, September 17, 2009


Hormones.... lots and lots of hormones... Don't misunderstand me... I am so grateful that God put me in front of the only fertility specialist in Texas who is performing the egg freezing technique that has a chance at being successful. The procedure involves giving myself 3 types of injections twice a day that are telling my eggs to grow and pack their bags... 'cause they're going on a big trip soon. Then, when they are the right size, I'll get a "trigger shot" and egg retrieval will happen 35 hours later.

This week has been trying. The change in hormones has been a roller coaster. I've had a couple of nights when the tears turned on like a faucet that had no stop valve. There's a new definition to the word tired that I have not experienced before now. And I'm having what I assume are hot flashes...either that or I have the super hero power of being a space heater and didn't know it.

And I realized something earlier this surgeon took my boobs... this I knew, however, it occurred to me that he's not going to return them.

Then came the appointment with the oncologist on Wednesday morning. The reality of chemo and the next steps of treatment started to set in... I really preferred being in denial. Nevertheless, there I was, sitting in her office talking about toxic drugs. She reviewed 3 main options of treatment courses that are medically sound, however I personally wished to hear about answer D: "none of the above".

The stress caught up with me this week in combination with the hormones, which lead to my blood pressure being elevated enough at the oncologist's office that it made Nurse Meredith concerned. I left there and went to physical therapy for my left arm, then home and straight to bed. I'm watching the blood pressure and it did come down to acceptable numbers after some rest.

I decided to let go of denial and try to read the information from the oncologist that I had been avoiding. So, there I was in my bed having hot flashes and feeling hormonal while reading about chemo potentially putting my ovaries out of business and causing me to go into menopause... and all the joys that menopause brings. So, of course the brain started swirling... ok, let me get this straight, I'm going to be boobless, bald, nauseated, tired, dizzy, with hormones flying, and finally in a long-term relationship but it's going to be with a port and toxic drugs? Really? Menopause? age 35? Can we just rewind for a minute? Is this really my life? And then there's this thing called "chemo brain"... I SOOOO do NOT need anything making me more scatter-brained than I already am!!!!

So, to my Mr. Wonderful, if you're reading this, please believe me when I tell you to be afraid... be very afraid of the mess I am and please wait to make an appearance at a better time.

So much for my blog being "inspirational"... I have been committed from the beginning that this is God's story to write, and I just want to be obedient in telling it. The story includes all kinds of Diva hormonal drama, so I'm telling it like it is, and if you've been paying attention at all, you know it's best not to argue with hormone girl about it. So take that.

Wednesday night I finally got out of bed to come downstairs for my 7pm round of injections. Katie (age 5) had on her own decided to draw a 4 page card for me to make me feel better. And the waterworks's this sweet girl doing a wonderful thing for me... and my face looks like she just ran over my dog... and the play therapist in me got concerned about traumatizing her... so, I did my best to explain to her that "Mer Mer's face may look sad because she doesn't feel good, but I love you very much, and your card has made my heart happy, even though my face doesn't show it."

She continued to be sweet and loving, and I continued to cry. Then I helped get her and her sister Gracie ready for bed. We ended the night with what has become a routine for us. I got out the Baptist Hymnal my parents gave me for Christmas and opened it to what has become one of the girls' favorite new songs, and one that I have in my head constantly throughout this whole cancer business:

Standing on the Promises
Standing on the promises of Christ my King, Thro' eternal ages let His praises ring;
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing, Standing on the promises of God.
Standing, Standing, Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
Standing, Standing, I'm standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises that cannot fail, When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail, Standing on the promises of God
Standing, Standing, Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
Standing, Standing, I'm standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises I cannot fall, List'ning every moment to the Spirit's call,
Resting in my Savior as my all in all, Standing on the promises of God.
Standing, Standing, Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
Standing, Standing, I'm standing on the promises of God.

I awaken every morning and the first thought in my head is God, I can't... but you can.

I'm tired, and I'm moody, and I'm overwhelmed by the thought of the future... but by God's grace alone, I'm standing every day.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Komen Houston Race for the Cure®:

Komen Houston Race for the Cure®:
Visit this link to learn more about how to join and support "Team Mer Mer" on October 3, 2009 in the Houston Race for the Cure.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Houston, We Are Go For Launch...

I will be writing a more detailed update this weekend, but know many of you were praying today about the appointment with the fertility specialist, so before I went to bed I wanted you all to know that everything went well... the lab results and estrogen levels were in the range we needed, and we are officially a go for "Operation Mer Mer Egg Rescue".  Hormone injections start tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Two months ago was the beginning of this journey... I had a repeat mammogram and knew that there was something the radiologist found that caused enough concern to schedule a biopsy. I have to stop and take a deep breath every time I think of the enormity of the last 2 months... from being diagnosed with cancer, to the break in, to moving, to surgery and beyond. I can HONESTLY say to you all that the ONLY reason I have made it through these past two months is because of the grace and provision of God.

So, let me answer your question, "How are you Meredith... how have you been coping?"

Physical: I'm healing well... the two big incisions on my chest will take a long time to fade, but they are looking the best they can. I have tissue expanders in place on both sides... the one on the right was inflated some immediately in surgery because there was plenty of tissue to cover it (the right side had no cancer at all.... the mastectomy was preventative). The expander on the left is flat because the left side had much more trauma from surgery... more skin had to be removed and 15 lymph nodes total. I have slowly regained the range of motion in my arms... the right arm is pretty much back to normal, the left is going to take a little more time. I originally had 4 drains for the excess fluid (my "tentacles"), which were not fun to deal with and made day-to-day life more complicated, but they were necessary. The last 2 drains were removed on Wednesday, and I was very excited to be a free woman. I still have some swelling in my left armpit, and my chest feels tight because of the stretching of the skin... it will take time and patience. I have a physical therapy appointment in 2 days and have to continue my arm exercises and careful monitoring for signs of lymphedema which is a potential post-op complication of this type of surgery. Overall I've been sleeping well and haven't needed any pain meds besides Tylenol recently.

Test Results: Left boob had lots of cancer and it was all cut out. Left armpit had 15 lymph nodes removed... only one was positive (which is awesome!). Right boob was completely cancer free, but I did NOT want a ticking time bomb strapped to my chest, so it had to go too. It still is very puzzling to me... what got my left boob so angry when the right one was content? The positive lymph node and other areas of cancer were all hormone receptor positive. The HER-2 on the lymph node was negative (that's a good thing.) All of the other blood work, tumor markers, bone scan, ultrasounds, etc were clean.

Cosmetic Appearance: I was never "gifted" in the chest region to begin with... now I'm half expanded on the right and flat on the left, so wearing "normal" clothes becomes a concern. Luckily I found a wonderful woman who helped me with a specialty bra and "stuffing", so I can feel confident in my work clothes.
I still have my thick hair on my head for now... but I'm also preparing and planning for chemo. I have purchased a wig and that looks like me, just a shorter cut, so I'll be ready.

Emotional: In the last 3 weeks since surgery I can only count three "melt downs" total. The first one I already blogged about (the post titled "Storms"), the second was after a phone call with the fertility clinic (more on that in a minute), and the third was this week and was the result of me working really hard to try and get my life and surroundings under control... which of course is an impossible task. The tears have flowed, but also have quickly dried and I am confident that God's plan for my life is GOOD despite setbacks and temporary suffering.

Moving In: I am finally "settled" in Wayne and Alyson's house... several people have worked hard to help get me situated and unpacked so that I can rest, recover, and prepare for the phases ahead.

People: One of the biggest blessings by far has been amazing people in my life. My parents are completely supportive in any way I need them... my mom stayed for over a week after my surgery... my brother graciously handled all the details of my apartment lease and getting my car AC fixed successfully... my relatives came to the hospital for support (with my Sonic drink in hand)... friends and family made delicious meals and drove all the way to The Woodlands and we had great visits... many friends have called, emailed, sent text messages and flowers... and ALL of the staff at my work have rallied and supported me faithfully. The prayer pager continues to go off every day consistently.

Mental: There has been A LOT to process!!! The calendar continues to gather more doctor appointments and other things necessary for my treatment. The "To Do" List is totally overwhelming, but of course I managed to color-code it on Outlook (Many of you are well aware that when I get anxious or stressed, I attempt to figure out a plan and want to label everything.... I mean literally put labels on everything.) Just today we finished setting up my laptop (the one that replaced the laptop that was stolen....renter's insurance is a good thing to have), so I find some comfort in knowing that it can be my "brain" that goes with me to keep me organized. I still am processing treatment one step at a time... I was focused on surgery, now I'm shifting to fertility treatment and starting to see chemo on the horizon.

Financial: God is faithful and has provided in awesome ways through generous people. The insurance company has been good to follow through on their end in a timely manner. I'm still filing reimbursement claims for some things, but expect them to be approved. So far I have had the means to pay for doctor appointments, biopsies, surgery, wigs, etc. One of the biggest out-of-pocket expenses happens this week... fertility treatment, which is not covered by insurance. There's an amazing foundation called "Fertile Hope" that has donated the funds to cover the cost of my meds and hormone injections (which normally runs about $3,000.00) My fertility specialist also gives a significant discount on services to cancer patients, however the cost for the office visits, anesthesia, procedures, and storage fees will total somewhere near $10,000.00 I am going to receive a call from the fertility office today with the exact amount due. I humbly want to say THANK YOU to all of you who have contributed your monetary resources... I can't come up with words to express how comforting it has been in the midst of all the recent chaos to NOT have to also be in a panic about how to pay for it all. My brother Nathan Stedham is still managing any donations for my medical expenses. He can be reached by email at .

Work: I start back to work this week after a little over a 3 week absence. I am extremely blessed to work in a place that values me so much that they are willing to do whatever is necessary to support me and allow me the ability to make my healing a priority. I'm a little bit nervous about how I'll do... but confident that God will provide the strength and stamina I need.

Okay... I've procrastinated as long as I can and covered every other topic I can think of... now comes the part that's hard for me...

Fertility: Certain types of chemo tend to send women into permanent early menopause... and it's very likely that my chemo recipe will include a drug that is not ovarian-friendly. Also my cancer will require me to be on Tamoxifen for 5 years, which is a drug that would be damaging during any pregnancy. And since Mr. Wonderful has not made an appearance that I know of yet, the earliest we're looking at a possible baby bump on me is age 40 or after... the age that fertility issues for "healthy" women becomes significantly more difficult. Now, I realize there are many women who have had beautiful and healthy children after the age of 40...and also many cancer survivors who had no problems becoming pregnant after chemo. Every case is unique... and all of the factors in my particular case, with my particular cancer and treatment regimen add up to discouraging statistical probabilities in the eyes of the experienced scientific community. HOWEVER, GOD IS BIG ENOUGH AND HE IS FAITHFUL. HE ALONE IS THE GIVER OF ALL GOOD THINGS AND THE SOURCE OF HOPE.

Those of you who have been following my blog know that weeks ago I asked you to pray that I get my period against the odds (surgery and stress cause many women to go weeks or months without one)... thank you for your prayers...obviously my period came and we were able to start the process to retrieve and freeze my eggs. There was a limited window of opportunity between surgery and starting chemo... so this was really the only chance to do this. I have an appointment with the fertility specialist Thursday morning, then will start twice daily hormone injections this Friday that will last 10-12 days. The good news is that my eggs will forever be age 35, even when I'm in my 40's! I still am absolutely amazed at how this part of God's story is playing out... There's even more that I need to tell you all about it, but just looked at the clock and must go to bed immediately... I need to get up in a few hours and back to work!

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11