Thursday, December 12, 2013

In the Land of Miracles

Enjoying the last few moments of my long
hair...the dread is palpable!
I've had dozens of post ideas rolling around in my mind for the past three weeks, but I kept vetoing all of them before they made it to the page. I considered writing a eulogy to my hair the day we cut it to have a wig made, but I decided that would only be meaningful to me. Then I thought about giving a running list of chemo side effects but figured that would be intensely boring. Next, on a particularly rough day, I almost wrote about how I was feeling a distinct kinship with good old Biblical Job. That, however, sounded depressing. Besides, things really aren't all that bad--I still have an amazing family and incredibly supportive friends. And in fact, that's part of what I wanted to focus on today. I can't tell you all how impressed I've been--overwhelmed, really--by the amount of love and support we've received. Your prayers are definitely helping, friends. I feel them every day, and I have never felt so surrounded by miracles at any time in my life. In fact, when I went for my second round of chemo yesterday, the doctor was honestly floored at how the tumor seems to have disappeared after only one treatment. Things are going incredibly well!

After a couple of rough weeks with a variety of crazy side effects, I started feeling like my normal self about a week ago. This freed us up to hit wedding preparations really hard, but that brought on a new set of worries and troubles. Last Monday, after purchasing two plane tickets that we wouldn't have had to buy if it weren't for a tumor we've "affectionately" named Amalickiah, I started feeling really stressed about money. With a wedding, medical bills, and a variety of other unanticipated expenses, money has been flying out of my bank account at a frightening rate. As Roby and I discussed possibilities and tried to decide what expenses we could start cutting back on, the doorbell rang. To our complete amazement, some
anonymous soul had left a jar full of coins and topped with two $20 bills on the doorstep. This unexpected gift was simply accompanied by a cute Christmas card wishing me a Merry Christmas and expressing hopes that things were going well. The timing was incredible; the love behind the gift nearly made me cry. Whoever that kind soul was (most likely a young family), that simple gesture changed my perspective on how God has been lifting me constantly these past weeks. Minutes later, I got a call from one of my brothers saying they wanted to reserve and pay for a nice hotel for our brief honeymoon (three days in Salt Lake). Heavenly Father really knows our hearts and our troubles. He really does listen. So rather than a list of downer days and depressing moments, here's a slightly more uplifting catalogue of some of the things I've learned recently as we walk through a land of miracles.

1. Cutting my hair was extremely difficult, but as much as I still miss it, it wasn't as hard to get used to not having it as I thought it might be. And while I hung out in a hat for the first several days, nobody thought I looked ridiculous either with or without the hat. Lesson learned: physical traits really don't have to define us--even if it's hard to deal with being forced to change some of our favorite things about ourselves. PLUS--the awesome wig-making place promised to have my wig done before the wedding! YAY!! It normally takes almost two months, but they were willing to pull a few strings under the circumstances... I'm excited to have my hair back, and it'll be particularly special to have it for my wedding day.

2. Chemo can do really weird things to your body--there were days when I felt lightheaded and swollen, days when I couldn't seem to remember even simple things like my credit card number, days when I ached all over as if I'd climbed a mountain, and days where I hovered through fevers and insomnia. But amazingly, it still wasn't as awful as I thought it might be. Don't get me wrong--it was HARD--but none of the side effects last that long. And my favorite part was when I started feeling normal again and learned to appreciate the benefit of good health.

3. Mouth sores are seriously awful business. When the doctor mentioned that as a potential side effect, I dismissed it thinking, "I've had plenty of cankers in my day--not a problem." Oh man...I got only one mouth sore on the bottom of my tongue, but it was a beast. It got infected, and with zero white blood cells to fight it, that thing hung around for days in an extremely painful state. I couldn't eat anything but bland purée for almost a week, and I developed a lot of empathy for people who get jaw surgery or who regularly struggle with painful sores in their mouths. And the good part inside this hard thing? It eventually did go away--and I learned to take better care of my mouth. We are now well-equipped with all sorts of mouth washes and medicines, and we are going to fight those suckers the instant they give me trouble in the future!

Sporting my temporary fake wig at the shower
4. People are really awesome. I got flowers three times in the past couple of weeks, cards from all sorts of kind souls, surprise visits from friends, family, and neighbors, and a truly special Thanksgiving with foods tailored to my special chemo diet. My family is a marvel--my mom in particular makes a huge effort to find fun things for me to eat and keep me healthy and happy. I also had a wonderful bridal shower last weekend with so many dear friends braving a crazy snow storm to be with me. I continue to receive kind messages of support on Facebook and through email, and everyone always mentions they are praying for me. It means a lot, friends. I've cried a lot in the past weeks, and it's only rarely been from sadness.

5. I started losing my hair about a week ago, and it's a little gross. I feel like I'm wearing extra furry sweaters all the time--especially around the collar. Poor Roby quickly learned that kissing my head is a bad idea unless he wants a mouthful of fluff. But, in spite of the hairiness, I'm actually relieved about the way it's been falling out. So many people told me it would fall out in clumps, and I was terrified to wake up with huge bald spots. Apparently, though, the particular chemo I'm on causes hair to thin in a more natural way. So while it's falling out a lot (especially since I have a ton of hair), it's still just looking progressively thinner. It's a lot less of a shock this way, and I'm really grateful it hasn't been worse.

6. I love snow--especially in December. It makes everything look clean and beautiful and magical. And this year, it's been even more fun than usual, because Roby has been transformed into a little boy by it! He doesn't see a lot of snow in the south of Italy, and he is constantly overjoyed every time it starts snowing. Even though it's too cold to play around in it much or even go for walks, Roby still bundled up a few times to stand outside in the falling snow. He's too adorable.

7. Being in love is wonderful--no matter how I feel physically, having Roby around always makes me feel better. And of all the blessings and miracles I've witnessed recently, his support is one of the most invaluable things for me. I'm pretty excited to get married in 15 days. :) Who wouldn't be with a guy like this?!
Even chemo days can be happy days.
Seven is a good number, so we'll leave it at that. Just know, friends, that things are good because God is good. I feel His support and love through your support and love. Thank you for being there for me.


  1. This is beautiful, Donna! All of your post ideas would've been good because they are a way for you to express yourself and share your experiences. Still, I think you settled on an excellent one, one that helps so many of us appreciate our blessings, too, and to see God's goodness through you. I'm happy to hear how everything is progressing and I'm so excited for you! You're a trooper, a friend that I and so many others admire. Hang in there, and yes, there are many prayers being offered on your behalf! God bless you.

  2. Such a beautiful post. You look amazing in that temporary wig. Seriously. I have never seen a wig look so good! Continually sending prayers and well wishes your way Donna!

  3. Donna, I loved this post so so much. Thank you for your strength and Spirit! And I agree, the temporary wig looks amazing on you! I love it so much! And you even look amazing with your short hair. Thoughts and prayers still coming your way, and congrats again on your wedding! So glad you have such an amazingly good man to be there with you through this, as well as all of your family and friends!

  4. Donna, I love your wonderful attitude. You are such a great example for all of us when dealing with a huge trial. By the way, I love you with bangs. I love your wig look. You might get some great hair ideas through all this.
    We pray for you every day--love you dear lady. Give Roby a kiss, and say Aunt Sylvia says thanks for giving you extra strength through all this hard stuff.