Thursday, December 11, 2014

Standing as a Witness

September 3rd was a free day at home playing catch up.  I really needed it.  Lincoln and I enjoyed the day together and he was my little helper right by my side.  I was busy getting ready for Young Womens that night-- we were doing a special evening preparing for Young Women in Excellence.  The girls are going to wear formal gowns and have exhorts and everything. It is going to be a beautiful night. So we decided to have a night of preparing the girls. We talked about refinement and being true princesses. One of the classes was on presence and composure and I was in charge of teaching the other class on modesty and purity.  Some of my family (extended) were wondering why I hadn't passed this assignment to someone else in light of all that I had going on. I considered it, but really felt like I needed to be there.  
 I was very excited about the night. I planned to show the Alex Boye music video, “Virtue Makes You Beautiful,”  then talk about what motivates us to be modest and what modesty is according to the “For the Strength of the Youth” pamphlet. I also I brought some clothes to show them how to take stylish clothes they loved and make them modest.  (Here is the video. It is so fun.)

Well, I got to the church and the video wouldn’t work.  I was so sad that things weren't going as planned but just went with it and it turned out great. I noticed one girl with a smirky smile on her face like she thought this was a little foolish.  She was just barely learning about the gospel so I wasn’t hurt or really even surprised, but I instantly said a little prayer that I would be able to help these girls recognize the blessings available to them as they live pure and virtuous lives.  I immediately thought of my MRI experience I had had just the day before, and the protection of my garments.  I was a little apprehensive sharing such a personal story about such sacred things but the prompting was so strong.    
I told the girls that being modest now will help prepare them to make covenants in the temple that can bless their lives in so many ways.  I told them that they can’t expect to dress immodestly now and then just one day go to the temple and make the switch to being modest.  Modesty is an outward expression of an inward commitment to follow the Savior.  I shared that when they go to the temple they will make covenants in regard to modesty and purity and they will have the great blessings of wearing the temple garments as part of their covenant.  As we keep our covenants we are  promised protection and that protection is real.  I then told them my experience with the MRI and the protection I knew I received from wearing my garments.  The spirit was so strong in the room and I could see that the young sister could feel it.  It was an amazing experience.
   As I pondered on my day I thought of how grateful I was for my MRI experience, and the opportunity to share it with amazing Young Women. It reminds me of the line in the Young Women theme which says, "We will stand as witnesses of all things." That day I was able to stand as a witness of God's protection and power. I also thought about my good friend, Angela, who said I would one day be grateful for cancer.  Well today in one small way, I was.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

MRI, Miracles, and Angels

September 2 was our MRI appointment.  I was very nervous about it.  The doctors told me that it was a pretty safe procedure and it didn’t use radiation. However I had also heard of many people who have had them and experienced extreme headaches after.  Shaun and I had prayed super hard that all would be ok. Dr. Glen the Oncologist said that this appointment could last 3 hours, so that also made me nervous.  I've never had an MRI before but everyone who had told me how loud it was. Just before they took us back to change they took us in a little room and had us sign a waiver.  They had to do a special consultation since I was pregnant, letting us know what we were doing and making sure we were ok with it...this didn't exactly strengthen my confidence in the "this is completely safe for your baby" idea.  
They took me to a changing room and gave me this gown and told me to take everything off but my underwear.  I was a little confused because as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I don't wear your normal underwear. I wear garments (a religious top with cap sleeves and bottoms that go to the knees that are worn under your clothes). I wondered if I should leave them on or not.  I peaked my head out and asked Shaun what he thought and he was thinking they probably would want them off.  I agreed and began to change when I had the thought, “Don’t take them off, leave them on.”  I took a minute to consider where that thought had come from. As I did I remembered the promised blessings that come from wearing them worthily - I decided to leave them on. 
They took me back and told me it should only last about 45min to an hour. I was so relieved.  I lay on my back and they got me all situated and then moved me into this long tube.  I haven’t ever been claustrophobic until that moment.  I just started to feel a little panic set in. I tried to just concentrate on breathing and relaxing all while focusing on the opening at the end of the tube above my head. (This is great practice for childbirth.) I was able to gain control when they started a little test run.  I had asked for the headphones and I wanted to listen to classical music. However when the noise started it didn’t matter what I was listening to. The machine was so LOUD!  I was so startled…it was nothing like I had imagined. 
I got through the practice test and then they started the real thing.  All of the sudden I got super nervous again.  I was worried about my baby and things started feeling really tight again.  I thought, "I'm going to push this button and tell them I don’t want to do this anymore."  I started to say a little  prayer that my baby would be safe and I would be able to calm down. The night before I was expressing my fear for the baby and this test to my sister Niki. She told me that I should pray for guardian angels to protect me and my baby. I did just that while I was laying in that tube. Right then I remembered that I was wearing my garments, and I remembered the promised blessings of protection that they provide.  I also became very aware that I was not alone in that tube.  I could feel the presence of heavenly angels surrounding me and my baby.  I knew that we both had the protection of heaven and all was going to be fine.  It was one of the most spiritual experiences I have ever had. I calmed down immediately and then I noticed in my headphones that there were beautiful hymns playing.  
In the Doctrine and Covenants 84:88 it says, "...I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up."  I had experienced this promise exactly this day, and was I was filled with peace. Needless to say the rest of the MRI was a breeze.  In fact a couple times they asked me if I was breathing cause I was so relaxed.
    I couldn’t wait to tell Shaun about this amazing experience and as I did of course my emotions got the best of me and once again we were both reminded that Heavenly Father truly knew who we are and what we go through. I was so humbled and grateful.
When we got home that night I ran to a Relief Society dinner our ward was putting on.  I hadn’t been home very much but I felt like I should really go because the sisters in the ward had been so supportive and kind and I never see them because I am in Young Women's.  So I went. I really couldn’t eat anything but salad but it was fun to get to know some of the sisters better.  After the dinner was over we played a game and then the relief Society President, Sister Boothe, spoke.  She talked about the power we have as women and daughters of God and how much we are capable-- of especially when we all work together.  We had just done a quilt and children's book service project and they had everything that was made or collected on display. It was amazing what our little group of sisters had accomplished.  I don’t remember the number but it was A LOT!  
Then she talked about the miracles that they had experienced as a ward recently due to united prayer.  In closing she told the sisters about me and asked them all to join in a special Relief Society fast that Thursday night in my behalf.  She expressed her testimony of the power that comes from fasting a prayer and especially as a united group of sisters.  I was so humbled to be in that room and could not keep the tears back as I felt the love of each one of those sisters and the love of my Heavenly Father knowing that He is aware of me.  What a wonderful blessing it is to be apart of such an amazing organization as Relief Society and to have so many wonderful women, some of whom I don't even know, fasting and praying for me. I know the power a righteous group of women carries and I am so grateful.  

It was a day full of miracles and love. As I got on my knees my heart was full of thanksgiving for a loving Heavenly Father who knows and loves me and also a ward family who works to emulate the Savior in word and deed.  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

An Angel from Heaven

August 29-September 1, 2014

These days were full of family time and a lot of research, phone calls, more research, and more phone calls.  We were trying to find, research, and talk to every homeopathic, natural doctor in the world, practically.  We talked to a lot of different people who have heard of ways to cure cancer naturally and those who have had their cancer healed naturally.  We set up phone consultations with many different kinds of doctors.  We had people contacting us everyday with great leads and information.  I felt like there was a whole army searching for the right treatment for us.  We entered all the info into the spreadsheet and we began to eliminate the things that would not work for a pregnant mom and treatments that just didn’t feel right.  It was amazing at how we were led during this process.   We only had a couple of options we were seriously considering  left and we were actually already applying some of those.  I had began juicing carrots, beets, celery, and apples 3 times a day to get as much nutrients in me as possible.  I was taking a lot of vitamins and supplements.  I was also blending greens 2 twice a day.  You can imagine how badly I wanted to just chew food.  Every once in a great while I just needed a steak and Shaun made sure I got it.  I stopped eating any sugar- including fruits and natural sugars- and thanks to my amazing neighbors, Judy and Kendell Barrows, who made sure I had a gallon of alkaline water to drink everyday and many more healthy eating tips. We were so grateful for so many who were working to help us find anything that would help.
On Friday night the 29th I got a call from the referral in Las Vegas...her name is Rachel.  She said she was on her way to Salt Lake right then and she would love to meet me really quick and drop a few things off for me to read and try.  I was so excited.  She also said, “I haven’t been to Utah in 8 years and we just happened to be coming this weekend."  I was so grateful.  We ended up meeting around 9pm in the parking lot at KFC.  I have to tell you that just before we had left home we were putting the kids in bed and Lincoln had been crying...pleading with me not to leave anymore.  He didn’t want me to leave his sight or go to anymore doctor appointments.  It really tore at me and when Shaun and I got in the car I just started crying.  I knew we were just starting this journey and I was scared and I hated seeing Lincoln so sad and I knew the other boys wey re being so brave and helpful but everyone was worried.  
By the time we pulled up to KFC I was trying to pull myself together and I thought I had done a pretty good job, but when I got out of the car and started walking toward them I couldn’t help it.  This woman I had never met before opened her arms with complete understanding. She knew exactly what I was feeling and I could feel her love and compassion.  Not just Rachel but her husband also.  He wrapped his arms around me and hugged me just like a dad would.  After we got that out of the way she and her husband quickly told us their life story.  Man can she talk fast.  Rachel had so much information and things she had learned and studied through the years; she was so excited and had such faith in me and my body and the Lord.  She told me, “Tenille cancer is an amazing journey and when you are finished with it you will be so grateful for it.”  I hadn’t up to that point ever thought I’d be grateful for it.  I knew I could get through it, but be grateful for it was something entirely different.  
Rachel had been pregnant 21 years ago with her 5th child when she was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma cancer.  It was bad!!  I think even with chemo she was only given a short amount of time to live.  So she opted to go home and fight it naturally and get her baby here.  She knew about the herbal world a little from her mom and grandma, but she wasn’t a pro. And there was no internet yet so she went to the library and poured over books and began doing everything she knew to get her body healthy.  She came across a guy who had a tea that was very helpful in cleansing the body and had evidence of shrinking cancer tumors.  It's called Esiac tea. He sent her a bunch and she began using that and all the other things she could find to make her body strong.  She said they lived in this little apartment, they had just moved to Vegas, and her husband worked two jobs just to pay for all the herbs and stuff she needed to heal.  They didn’t have doors on their cabinets in their kitchen, no stove, and only a little fridge and microwave.  They were so poor and it was summer and hot and they only had a swamp cooler in the hall.  She would just lay there in the hall, pregnant and sick, and her kids would bring her medicine and encourage her.  Her oldest daughter would make lunch for the other kids and basically take care of things around the house. Rachlel worked hard to make her body super strong- and then her body got rid of cancer.  
That was 21 yrs ago and her little baby is now married and just had a little baby of her own.  I was feeling humbled and grateful for my circumstance at that moment and also amazed at her faith, hard work, and positive attitude. She gave me a bunch of herbs and told me to continue my diet of healthy clean eating.  I told her I was basically starving because I didn’t know what was going to make things worse or better and EVERYONE had a different opinion.  She said, “Tenille study the word of wisdom and follow it.”  If the spirit had not testified of what she had been saying already, it did right then.  Duh...she said eat clean and smart but don’t starve.  If your body is calling out for it eat it just make sure it's clean- unless it’s a candy bar.  My very favorite thing she said all night was, “Don’t worry Tenille- you haven’t had your last Snickers.”  This amazing women came swooping into my world that night like a Fairy God Mother. She gave me hope and confidence in all the feelings and impressions I had had during all my appointments.  She reminded me of how amazing the bodies that God gave us truly are and shared a lot of her herbs with me.  I’ve rarely met a person as giving as she is.  She didn’t even know me but I felt like her daughter.  She said, “Someone did this once for me and now it’s my turn to give back.”  She said when she heard my message on the phone she felt an immediate pull and connection to help me.  She told me that she would be going back to Vegas in the middle of the next week and she would love it if I came down and we could do a 3 day detox.  
It was an amazing experience for both Shaun and I.  When we got back in the car I had tears of joy and thanksgiving and we were both just awe struck by the whole experience. That night I was feeling scared, weak, frustrated, and helpless. Then Heavenly Father sent down an Angel from heaven full of love and hope, letting us know that it was all going to be ok and we could in fact do this. I didn't know if this path would be the one that we would choose, but I knew there was a path for us and Heavenly Father was aware of us. This trial might in fact stretch us and our children to our very limits and it might seem to difficult to bare sometimes, but that night, like so many times, the Lord in His tender mercy steps in and rescues. That night I saw what enduring a trial well with the Lord looked like. Rachel was full of light, life, and joy. She had come through her trial on top and although I didn't know her before I could feel the love, charity, and faith in Jesus Christ she had acquired during her trials. It made me a little excited for the future...if I can endure as well as she had, I know my faith in and understanding of the Atonement will grow. And I just might acquire some of the Christlike attributes I need to return back to my Heavenly Father.

"All of these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good."
D&C 122:5–8

Monday, December 1, 2014

Ultra Sound & Baby Doctor

August 28, 2014
       Again we made our way up to Salt Lake early in the morning for the ultrasound appointment at 8:30 a.m.  We had our sweet neighbor and friend, Becky Pendleton, volunteer to come over in the morning and help get our kids off to school and watch Lincoln for the day.  Once again I am so grateful for willing and loving friends that my kids love and I trust.
This was an exciting time.  In fact, it was the first ray of sunshine in a long time.  I was really nervous because of course I want a girl and I just knew it was a boy- but really at this point who the heck cares- a healthy baby and healthy mom is all I care about...RIGHT?? (NOT.)  We got in and they did all the normal stuff, measurements, checking all the organs, looking at the brain, and spine.  Finally it was time to see what the sex is.  Well by now in all our other ultrasounds we knew exactly what we were having, but this little stink would not give us anything.  A couple times we thought we saw girl and then we would think we were seeing boy. Then the technician would say oh that’s just umbilical cord.  Well, we tried forever and I even got up and walked and went to the restroom...we did everything to try and get the baby in a good position.  After 1.5 hours, not joking, she went and had the person who looks at the pictures read them and make sure she had taken all the pics needed and they decided that they were 70% sure it was a girl.  WHAT!! How are we supposed to go home and have a "guess that baby" party with the boys?  What do we make a cake that is 70% pink and the rest blue?  Seriously…
Oh, well. We DID find out that our baby was looking really good and secretly I was thinking it was a girl because all our boys measured about 2 weeks ahead of schedule by 20 weeks. They are so big- but this baby only measured 3 days early.  (Yay. Maybe I'll finally have a 7 or 8 pounder.)  I will say that this long ultrasound was a tender mercy for me as I was able to just sit there and enjoy watching this little miracle inside of me.  I felt so blessed and knew that we were in for a ride together but we would fight to get her/him here safely.
Well the fun was over as we made our way to meet with Dr. Silva our OBGYN specialist.  This was my 3rd or 4th day of appointments and they all last forever and I am always starving by the time we leave.  Seriously, they need food for pregnant ladies doing testing all day...water doesn’t cut it.  Anyway, the doc came in and right off the bat it turns into a difficult conversation full of tears.  He like everyone else acknowledged that there is no easy answer but my life is very important.  He said he wished he had a ton of evidence on this but he didn’t… sure this had happened 30 times and most of the time it all works out great and the baby is healthy.   However he did say that he is here to get a healthy baby also, and he won’t take a baby if it’s not going to make it.  We were very frank with him, too.  At this point we had no test results that could tell us if the cancer was spread farther than we already knew, so all of this was hypothetical.  We told him we really wanted to try some natural things if the oncologist would give us anytime.  We told him we didn't like the plan of doing chemo while I was carrying a baby and we would love to hold out until our baby could be born VERY safely-- not kind of safely. He listened and for once understood and even said he’d work with us if the cancer was giving us time.  He told us that we really needed to study our options out and be careful. I have to share my impressions I was having at this time. Here I am sitting in an office talking about my fate and the fate of my unborn baby with so many other factors to consider, like 4 kids and a husband. I am very much aware how important these factors are and everything the Doctors are telling me makes perfect sense, but the clear message in my heart and in my mind was, "you cannot do chemo at this time." It wasn't fear or the protecting mom feelings it was just a knowledge that there is another way for me right now and starting chemo is not it. How do you explain that to your doctor? They have experience and a ton of studies to back them up and I have "The spirit is telling me there is another way."  We did our best to share what we were feeling and we left feeling confident in this Doctors abilities and grateful for his willingness to work with us if our tests turned out good. In the mean time we were working and praying hard to find that "other way." In the Bible Dictionary it defines faith as..."Faith is to hope for things which are not seen, but which are true (Heb. 11:1Alma 32:21), and must be centered in Jesus Christ in order to produce salvation. To have faith is to have confidence in something or someone. The Lord has revealed Himself and His perfect character, possessing in their fulness all the attributes of love, knowledge, justice, mercy, unchangeableness, power, and every other needful thing, so as to enable the mind of man to place confidence in Him without reservation."   Today faith is what I'm holding onto.  How grateful I am that there is a loving Savior who possesses these attributes, knows, and loves me, and whom I can trust in.  This knowledge gives me the strength to have Faith in the words of the spirit, "You can't do chemo right now, there is another way."   

We went home and told the boys the doctors couldn’t tell for sure what we were having but they were all very excited about the 70% girl prediction.  It was good to have a night at home with the boys. In fact, we have a whole weekend all to ourselves, and all I wanted to do was gather my family around me and hold them close.  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The First Big Appointment

August 28th was the big day at the Huntsman Cancer Institute with Dr. Glen— a Lymphoma specialist Shaun found. Our appointment was at 8:30am. Thank goodness the Andersons were still with us.  They got our kids up, had scripture with them, got them out the door for school, took Duke for a walk, and dropped Lincoln off at our neighbors.  He was so excited for his play date with his friend, Maron, so that always makes things easy. We had no idea how long this appointment would last but they told us to plan up 5 hours so we were so grateful for good neighbors. We got there and they did all the regular stuff—weight, height, blood pressure.  Everything looked good. (On a side note, one bonus to all of this was that instead of my usual 5-10 lbs I gain every month while pregnant I had lost a little weight, and since my belly was still growing I felt like It was ok. Maybe for once my baby wouldn’t weigh 10lbs and I wouldn’t gain 60…) 
We then met with Dr. Glen’s assistant, Andy. She was very nice.  She took down all our info about how we found the cancer, what doctors we had seen so far, my symptoms, and pregnancy.  She did a little exam checking all my lymph nodes in my arm pits, groin, and neck, determining their size so they could begin tracking them.  She then said, “This is not going to be an easy decision, and to say there is a right or wrong is not true. But you are the mother of 4 other boys and a wife and it is very important we get you better first.”  That was my first super strong wave of fear and “mother bear” moment.  I went straight into self talk mode inside my head. “ baby is every bit as important as me and I am not just going to forget about it.  I will do everything I can to protect this child, I don’t care what you say.”  All while nodding and smiling at Andy.  I know that what she said was very true, but my momma bear was rearing her head right then. 
Shortly after Dr. Glen came in and did the exact same exam on me that Andy had done and briefly reviewed all her notes.  Dr. Glen was very nice but less of a personable person, more like an intense researcher.  Everything she said was backed up by studies and she got right to the point.  First she told us that at the very least my cancer so far was Hodgkins Lymphoma stage 2. That means it is in two parts of my body— my neck and my chest.  They would have to do more exams to determine if it was in my bone, abdomen, liver, groin, and kidneys.  That would change the staging.  She then told me that after this testing they would begin chemo immediately. You can imagine how shocked we were to hear they expected me to do chemo with my baby still inside my body when I was not even feeling sick.  
We asked them about the safety of the baby and she said there are 4 different medicines that would be used in my treatment— A,B,C, and D.  They know for sure that D cannot get through the placenta barrier and is very safe but the others can.  However, they believe it to be fairly safe for the baby.  They basically told us they wished they had tons of studies on this but they don’t. They have done it before and it has been fine, but they don’t have data yet for long term effects to the baby because those babies are still young.  They said as part of the prep for chemo they would need to do a test on my heart, liver, and lungs just to get a baseline so they could monitor them during chemo since the A,B, and C affect those organs.  You can imagine how the momma bear was feeling about baby and chemo now.
   I feel like I should share that I know that the Huntsman Institute has done and is doing great things and has saved a lot of lives.  Those doctors definitely were doing their very best to help me and they were so kind.  I know that my path and another person’s with cancer— even pregnant with cancer— could be very different.  This is simply my honest experience, personal feelings, and unique journey.
     We started making a plan to find out if I had cancer in other places.  We were very limited on what we could do because of the baby.  CT scans were out of the question because of the high radiation.  So we decided that we would do an MRI.  It doesn’t use radiation— it uses magnets instead and is much safer.  Additionally, they would do a bone marrow test to see if it was in my bone, as well as all the baseline tests to prep for chemo (heart, liver, and lungs). They also wanted me to meet with an OBGYN specialist to get an ultrasound and discuss different options we might have for the baby. Wow. Did I mention that I was sick of doctors and tests?  
We scheduled the appointments but did the bone marrow test right then.  That was a crazy test.  I had to lay on my side while she numbed me up.  This hurt the worst by far.  I thought it would be like a shot, but no, it was like what I imagine getting stung by a wasp 20 times feels like.  Finally, I was numb enough to stick what looked like a mini tent stake into my hip bone and get a little piece of bone and marrow.  It didn’t really hurt, it was just a lot of pressure and she was rocking me hard to get the stake into the bone.  It took about 30 minutes and then we had to sit there for 20 more minutes…which turned into 45. Shaun was going nuts and was trying to find someone in the hall.  Finally the nurse came in and let us go after confirming our next couple of appointments, and announcing they had slipped a few MORE in there—all the pre-chemo tests.  I quickly dismissed all of those and told her that we would rather wait and get the tests results back before we proceed.  She agreed and we were off.
It was about 2pm when we finally left the Huntsman.  The Andersons had found a great Raw foods place to eat and were waiting to have lunch with us before they headed back to Idaho.  I was a little emotional as we left Huntsmans, just trying to process all that they had told us and trying to gain control over the fear I felt.  I thought it was under control, but when we walked in the restaurant Amy and Justin jumped to their feet, and…well, I lost it. They both wrapped their arms around us.  I’m sure it was a sight to everyone watching.  We sat down and I was trying to gain control as they looked at us for answers.  I said just talk about something funny so I can stop crying.  So of course it took like 2 seconds for them to have us all laughing as they told us about their crazy morning walking Duke and how he pooped all over the neighborhood and all the things they had used to pick it up, and how a neighbor had come out and they thought he was going to get after them. The two of them animatedly telling this story was so funny and just what Shaun and I both needed.  They were so great offering to help in every way possible, even going on my crazy diet with me.  I was reminded how much support I have with all my family and friends and I can totally do this!

We got home and found the kids had done a great job getting all their stuff done, and we had dinner waiting for us from my sweet visiting teachers.  I was so grateful to have that there because I had to run James to his soccer game and Shaun ran the boys to their football games. (Just like life was normal right??)  Our ward was so great—we have had so many people offer to bring meals and others just brought meals without even a word.  I keep thinking things could get really hard and we may need this help later so I don’t want to wear everyone out while I still feel good, but these doctors appointments have been very stressful and LONG and all of the meals really saved us. I once again went to bed thanking my Heavenly Father for such a great ward family.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Love of Friends and Family

         Sunday, August 24th, was a little crazy at church.  Lots of people saw my stitches on my neck the week before and they wanted to know what we found out.  It’s a little different being on the opposite end of the cancer conversation.  You can immediately see the fear that comes into people’s eyes when the word “cancer” is spoken.  It has affected almost everyone of us in one way or another— and most of us have experienced it with death.  In the last year alone in our previous stake, 3 young mothers lost their lives to cancer.  So I understood as I heard all of them say, “you’re going to make it and I know you can beat this” that the fear was still there.  

However, despite that fear I heard the phrase, “we are going to pray for you” over and over and I can’t tell you how much peace and strength that brought.  I knew that everyone was praying for me and I believe in the power of prayer.  I have seen its effects a million times since I was a little girl and I drew a lot of strength from those words that day. What a blessing to be apart of a ward family who loves and cares for me.  Everyone was immediately fighting to bring us meals, offering to watch our kids, and give me rides to doctor appointments. We have only been in this ward since March, but that day I felt like I had been a part of it for a lifetime as I experience each member opening their hearts and arms to us.  I knew I would never be alone or without help.  The Gospel of Jesus Christ is amazing!!  

  The next day my mom and dad went home.  I know Mom was dying and didn’t want to leave me.  I was so grateful they had been here with us during this  time. I am so blessed with amazing parents who care so much and have such great faith.  I have always drawn on that strength and faith and I was blessed by it again that weekend.  I think it was also good for Mom to see that I was ok and in good spirits.  I knew that the time would come that I would really need her, so I told her to go home and prepare for my full diagnosis. After that we would make a plan and she would be a big part of it.  However, there was still a part of me that screamed, “Don’t leave!” because in between all of these appointments, my pregnancy, and my emotional craziness, we still had our normal life to keep up with—-James’ soccer games and practices, Bryant and Mason’s football games and practices, young women’s, scouts, piano, Shaun keeping up at work, and homework. Plus we were in the middle of an uphill battle trying to get Bryant into an accelerated math class. I was hoping I could juggle all the balls that I had at this moment and not drop any. I was a little scared I might not be able to do it all.   

      That night we had two of our good friends come over, the Bastians and the Andersons.  It was fun to see them both. The Bastians brought us these stinking cute little BYU booties for our baby.  

I was so grateful for their gesture of faith and love.  As they expressed their desire to help and concern for our needs I felt their sincerity.  The Andersons had just moved to Idaho and were down on business so we were so excited to have them stay the next two nights at our house. I really needed to laugh, and if anyone has spent time around Justin and Amy you know they can always make you laugh.  In addition to the healing that comes through laughter, Amy created this great spreadsheet for us.  It had all our doctor appointments past and present,  all the doctors and natural healers we had heard about and a description of their methods, and all their phone numbers.  It also had a tab for foods I could eat and couldn’t eat, a recipes tab, and all the books and information we had obtained thus far about cancer.  It was amazing and a great resource that we have referred many many times.  It was also great for Shaun and I to see it all on one page. 

I don’t think I ever realized this before, but having family and friends who sincerely care brings a certain peace— knowing that even if things got really bad we would have so many to lean upon. The Andersons and Bastians are definitely those kinds of friends.  When Shaun gave me a blessing before my biopsy he said I would be blessed to know the love friends and family. Between the love of my ward family and the visits of concerned friends, I truly felt it that weekend.  What a blessing good friends are. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Telling the Family

August 23rd was a little bit of an emotional but very spiritual day for me.  It was the day we told our kids and our families about this life changing situation that was about to ROCK our world.  Telling our kids was a little tricky. Shaun and I had to come to an agreement on what to say to them.  Shaun wasn't sure how much to say because he was worried about scaring them and making them worry-- and while I could totally understand his concerns and agreed, I felt like this was an ideal time for them to learn about faith and see the power of prayer and fasting in action and even come to know the Savior more. I know those are a lot of big words for our young children but I remembered many faith promoting experiences as a young child and I know how receptive these little ones are to the spirit.  Not to mention Bryant is about to turn 12 and get the priesthood.  

So we just kinda combined both our feelings and sat them down for a little family talk before bed.  These situations with young kids are always less than ideal. I think Mason had gone to bed early for some reason and so we drug him out of bed and Lincoln was on a crazy high wanting to run all over the place but that’s how it goes with kids, right?  We had already shared a little with them when Shaun had given me a blessing (before my biopsy) but at that time it was just, “Mom's having a little surgery on her neck to see what is causing these little lumps in her neck. So we are going to pray for her, the doctors, and the baby to be safe tomorrow during her surgery.  It’s not a big deal everything is going to be fine."   Today Bryant and Mason were very aware that there was more going on than a little surgery.  Shaun explained to them that the doctors had done some tests on the lump they took out of my neck and found out that my body is a little sick.  He told them that some of the cells in my body that are supposed to die aren’t, and they are making these lumps in my neck and chest and the lumps are making me sick.  Then he told them my sickness is called cancer.  

Bryant knew for sure what cancer was.  Last year a good friend of mine in our stake named Shannon Sevison had passed away from cancer and I had shed a few tears and shared with the family a lot about her struggle with cancer.  He also knew of a few other family members and friends whose lives had been taken from cancer so I could see the fear come into his eyes.  Mason also had that nervous look on his face, maybe not knowing exactly how bad cancer is but knowing this was serious.  James who is 7, I think was feeling the fear in the air but seemed confused and was just waiting for us to tell him what to think.  Shaun reminded the boys of the blessing I had received and the promises I had been given.  He told them that we were going to get through this and I would be fine we just needed to remember Mom in our prayers everyday and really help out at home.  He told them I still needed to have more tests done so the doctors would know the best way to help me get better. And we were all going to need to pitch in and help. 

After Shaun finished talking Bryant said, “I know what cancer is and it’s not good.”  I told him he’s right-- it’s not good but we have to have faith Heavenly Father will bless us and pray hard and fast. I also told him that we caught it really early and that makes getting rid of it a lot easier.  Everyone seemed to be ok and the second Shaun said I would get better and be fine James was checked out and fine.  He trusted his dad and that was that.  Oh to have the faith of a child again.  We had family prayer and everyone gave hugs and kisses and they all went to bed.  

I went up and talked to Bryant and Mason for a bit to make sure they were ok.  I asked how they were doing and Bryant said, “Well, you have cancer.” Kinda like, how do you think we're doing?  I told them it seems really scary but I feel really good about all of this and that there must be something Heavenly Father wants us to learn from this experience.  I told them I knew I could get better and I was going to do everything I could to show Heavenly Father that.  I told them Dad would be fasting the next day if they wanted to join him they could.  They said yes and I told them good night.  I left their room that night pleading to my Heavenly Father that He would answer all our prayers and let me stay here and raise these amazing young men of mine.   

Next, we called our families to tell them the big news.  Shaun’s parents were a little prepared because they had been here earlier and knew how we were feeling about things.  They had some big leads for us to start with on our quest for the right treatment and knew a lady in their town who had whipped stage 4 ovarian cancer with Vitamin C treatments.  This was super exciting to me...every success story I hear gives me a little more faith and a little more hope.
     At 9 pm we had a conference call with all my siblings.  It’s always a little crazy to get 20 people on one phone call and have any order at all, especially when it comes to the Merrill Permann family who all love to talk (except Ladd and Shaun).  However this call was very different; I couldn't get anyone to say anything at the beginning. No one really laughed at my jokes I was trying to crack. It was painful.  It’s a little weird to hear myself say, “I have cancer,” and tonight was no exception.  I let Shaun take the lead because it didn’t take long for the tears to come.... having all of these brothers and sisters who I love so much on the phone and feeling such love and faith from them.  I am sure that most of them knew what was coming because a lot of them already knew about the biopsy and were waiting to hear back. And why would I call a family meeting to tell them I have a swollen lymph node?   

Anyway Shaun told them all that we knew so far and let them know we were feeling really good about everything and had a lot of faith it was all going to work out.  SILENCE…there was not a peep  for what seemed like hours.  Gradually they each began to speak and say really nice things about me that could bring pride into my life if I concentrated on them too much ;)  They shared moments of trials in their lives and how each trial had turned into huge blessings.  
My brother Todd told me to just have faith in Heavenly Father’s will.  He talked about sitting in a hospital room looking at his own very sick child and wondering if she would make it.  All he could do in those moments was trust God.  Kirk talked about when Brook (their daughter who has down syndrome) was born and some of the feelings he and Amanda struggled with. But what an amazing blessing she will receive after her physical trial is over.  I was so strengthened by this knowing that my trial had a purpose and if I endured it well it would bring me closer to my Heavenly Father.  
Rock said each one of us needed to look at our lives and see if we had any “weapons of war” (pride, things we need to forgive, envy, malice) and get rid of them.  He said we can pray for the windows of heaven to open, but the scriptures say the Lord is bound only when we do what He says-- and if we do not what He says we have no promise.  He was saying, “Let’s not just ask the Lord to pour out his blessings on Tenille. Let’s live our lives so that the Lord is bound by his promise to bless her.”  I immediately began thinking, “What weapons of war am I carrying around?”  What changes do I need to make in my life so that I ensure the Lord’s blessings?  

This made me think of my patriarchal blessing, where I am told to always remember this scripture in D&C 130:20-21: “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated--and when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”  I wanted--no I needed--every blessing I could get from God at this time.  Even/especially if His plan for me is to leave this earth.  Which of God’s laws am I not following? How can I become more obedient, more worthy?  I realized (with a little excitement) I was being forced in a sense to wake up and look inside myself and ask as Alma, “Have I spiritually been born of God today?”  I could feel the beginnings of my own change of heart and was so grateful for the reminder.

    Paul talked about ways our family had been prepared for this and different strengths and talents each family member had that could help me whip this disease.  He expressed his feelings that we all need to start making life changes and participate in this journey of healing with Tenille.  

    I don’t think any of the girls could talk because we are all bawl babies, but a member from each family offered love, service, and encouragement.  Dad and Mom both talked after everyone was done.  Mom expressed love and faith in each one of us and the Savior and said she would be here to help at a moment’s notice whatever time of day or night I needed her.  How grateful I am to have her as my mother.  Dad talked about the many times in our lives when our family had pulled together and fasted and prayed for miracles and they had come.  He had no doubt that if we all pooled our faith, energy, and talents I would get through this.  He expressed love for me and the family and his complete faith in my coming through on top.  I was blessed as a young girl to witness many miracles in response to faith, fasting, and prayer and I loved my Dad today once again as he rallied his children together for another miracle.
This was a such a wonderful experience and I realized how blessed I am to have this eternal family who loves me and is willing to sacrifice for me. Shaun and I both felt a renewed faith and hope when this call had ended. I was reminded how blessed I am to have the gospel of Jesus Christ and know about the promised blessings and power that is available to me as I follow Him.  

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Beginning

I'm not quite sure how to start this blog, but I want to say that I feel a huge pull to keep it.  In fact, I think this may one of the most important things I do with this whole experience.  I don't understand all of the whys of the situation I currently find myself in and the whys of how we have been inspired to deal with it, but I do know that Heavenly Father is guiding me everyday.  I find hope in that knowledge everyday and know that as I look to the Savior, feast on his words, and constantly seek to know his will, we will all come through it stronger and closer to the Savior. And for that I am so grateful.

    So lets just start at the beginning.  One Sunday in early August we had been at Grandpa Fairbanks house for Sunday dinner and on the way home I noticed a couple marble sized lumps in my neck.  They were on the side below my left ear just above my collar bone.  I mentioned it to Shaun but really figured it was some lymph nodes and thought I’d just run it past my midwife at my next appointment that next week.  I had also been experiencing a little shortness of breath it kinda felt like I was catching a little pneumonia but it only happened at night when I was laying down specifically on my side.  I at first thought maybe I'm getting sick but then I thought it might be pregnancy, however I was only 4 months pregnant so I shouldn’t be experiencing shortness of breath yet.  Anyway I made a mental note to talk to my midwife about that also.  One last thing I had been experiencing for a while was a full body itch.  I have had this itch for over a year but thought it was just dry skin or something.  I had exhausted everything I or anyone around me could think of to fix it and had heard a couple times that poor liver function could result in a bad itch.  

Anyway on August 12, I made it to my midwives and she told me that she would like me to go and get these little lumps checked out.  She thought my lungs sounded good so she was uncertain about the raspy breathing at night.  Friday August 15 I had an appointment with our family Practicionaer Dr. Takasaki, who is also in our ward.  He checked out the lumps and thought they were just lymph nodes and didn’t hear anything in my lungs so he thought it might be acid reflux.   This is common in women at night and can have the same symptoms.  So he said watch the lumps and then he told me that often the lumps on the side above the colar bone are often just swollen lymph nodes but the when you find them towards the front right on top of the clavical you get a little worried.  So I went home feeling relieved about the lumps but really feeling like acid reflux was not what was going on in my chest.  I just couldn’t figure why they couldn’t hear what I was feeling.  It felt so raspy.  

That night I was telling Shaun about my appointment and the doubts I had about the nightly cough.  I then I was showing him where the lumps are that really worry them and I found this huge 1+ inch lump.  It was so big when I turned my head you could see it sticking out.  I wondered how in the heck the Doc and I had missed that.  Shaun also reminded me that I had not menitioned to the Doc my crazy year long itch.  So on Sunday after church I pulled Dr. Takasaki aside and showed him my new found lump and also told him about my itch.  He told me he wanted me to come in and get a blood test and these checked out again ASAP.  So Tuesday August 19 I went in and Dr. Takasaki checked them again and this time he felt a lot more lumps ordered blood tests and an ultrasound.  He also said that when I about 26 weeks along he would like to do a chest x-ray.  So off I went to take blood (keep in mind I was all alone.  Shaun had stayed home from work sick that day and I thought I was getting my blood drawn so I left our 3 year old with him).  Right after my blood draw I went across the parking lot for my ultrasound.

And this is where I got a little scared.  The Ultrasoundographer :) was super kind but he couldn’t help himself I guess because he kept making comments like, “Oh hunny I don’t have enough fingers to count all the lumps I see,” or “This didnt just appear Friday this has been growing for awhile” and “These things are lighting up like a Christmas tree.”   I know they aren’t supposed to talk and I don’t want to get him trouble because he was very good and sweet.  I asked him, "So have you seen lumps like this that have just been swollen lymph nodes?"  After deep blown out breath he said, “Yes. But don’t ask me anything else.”  I think that was when I really knew for sure that I had cancer.  I had felt that it was very likely when I found the lump on Friday night but I knew in the ultrasound room and the tears quietly trickled down my cheeks.   When the ultrasound was finished he explained to me when they light up that means they are very fleshy and active.  He had noted 10 lumps big enough to take note of and many other little ones.  I also had a small lump on thyroid which may or may not have anything to do with anything.  

I walked out of that room feeling very heavy and scared.  I received a phone call on my way out the door from Dr. Takasaki telling me that he wanted me to do a chest x-ray right now.  He had done a little research and it was safe for my baby and he felt like we really needed that info.  So I went to the x-ray room and the nice girl had me change into my gown top while she preped everything.  When I came out I said, "Now, you know I'm pregnant, right?  I was told you had protective shield to put over my tummy."  She said, “No I didn’t know that. This must be really important for them to do an x-ray while you're pregnant.”  Well that opened the flood gates and I was a mess.  I really wanted Shaun to be there at that moment.  She felt so bad and was like, “Oh no your baby will be fine this is just the same as living 4 days on earth. It’s very little radiation."  I told her I was sorry- just too many tests today for a pregnant lady.  She did  the x-ray and I was finally able to head home and wait.  

When I walked in the door Shaun was there to greet me and I just threw my arms around him and cried.  I knew I had cancer and I DIDN’T WANT IT and I was scared.  Shaun is always really good at calming things down and playing the positive part.  He calmed me down and said, "Hey, let's just wait and see what they say. Maybe it’s nothing and if it’s cancer then we’ll beat it."  I was so grateful for him at that moment I knew he was right-- we, us, together would beat it.  I wasn’t alone. 
Well we waited and that night Dr. Takasaki called said he was ordering a biopsy of the big lump in my neck and he would set the appointment up.  The appointment was made for the next day August 20 to see Dr. Gibb, an ear, nose, and throat specialist.  We were told the procedure was pretty easy.  They would just stick a needle in my neck and take out a sample of the lump to get tested.  When we got there after waiting 45 minutes to get in, Dr. Gibb talked to us about the lump and all the procedures done so far and said, "Ok, well we'll get you set to have this taken out at the hospital."  We told him we thought this was just a little pin prick.  He said he needed to take the whole thing out to get a good biopsy and that we would need to do it at a hospital because I’m pregnant and would be under anesthisia.  I was so tired of going from doc appointment to doc appointment at that time; I just wanted to know for sure if I had cancer and get on with my life.  Little did I know what was in store for me.  

That day Shauns parents came into town from AZ. They were headed right up to Salt Lake to stay for the next 2 days for a wedding and to see Grandpa Fairbanks.  Also, my sister and her husband Jeff were coming into town to stay for the next few days for work and a wedding.  It was so nice to have a few things to keep our minds busy until the surgery.  Also, it was so nice to Angie there to talk to about it.  We talked about how Shaun and I both knew I had cancer.  She felt like something was wrong but didn’t think it was cancer.  She thought maybe it was my liver or something.  We cried and laughed about all the what ifs and I was reminded how blessed I am that I have family who would strengthen and bless me in whatever trial I was given.  She also had this new beautiful little baby girl who reminded me of the amazing blessing and miracle of life that was growing inside of me.

That was something I absolutely  could rejoice in and I knew this baby I was carrying was strong and wanted to and would get here safely.  These feelings brought me so much strength.  

Thursday night Shaun’s mom and dad came back. Shaun had met them in Orem for dinner with all of Nancy’s siblings and he told them all the things we were going through. They came back to the house with him that night to stay the rest of weekend.  Shaun, Vince, and Jeff gave me a priesthood blessing that night that was so full of personal revelation.  I knew at the end of the blessing that I for sure had cancer or some health trial that was going to come from all of this.  I knew that Heavenly Father was aware of me and that my baby would get here safely.  I knew that it was going to be hard and a trial of my faith.  Shaun blessed me that I would know and feel the love and strength that comes from family and friends and that I would draw on that strength.  He blessed me that I would still be able to fulfill all of roles as a mother and a wife.  He blessed me that I would find a way to heal my body and prepare for this little baby coming to our home. He said that through this experience I would come to know the Savior better and that I would rely on him and strengthen my relationship with him.  It was one of the most spiritual blessings I have ever had.  That night in our room I told Shaun I knew from his blessing that I had cancer.  We both felt the same way but this time we had great faith and strength from heaven that all would be well-- and as scary as it may be we were ready for the journey together.

The next day on Friday August 22 at 6:30am we left Angie and Shaun's parents in charge of getting our kids off to school and watching Lincoln.  We headed to the hospital for the biopsy.  I was so ready to get this done but I was kinda scared becasue of the anethesia and being prego.  I was just praying I wouldn’t have to go all the way out.  Heck, I had a C-section and didn’t have to go all the way out-- why couldn’t they take a little lump out of my neck the same way?.  We got right back when we arrived and they gave me a cute little outfit to put on, took all my vitals and some blood, and then we waited for the doc. 

 The robe they had me put on was really cool.  It wasn’t like the cotton gowns you're used to but it was all very heavy layered paper with little plastic holes in it.  I thought it was so wierd but the nurse came in and told us that they have done studies and concluded that people heal and recover faster if they are warm when they have surgery. Sso she stuck this hose in one of the plastic holes and handed me this little remote that controled how much hot air blew into it.  Holy cow, can I take one of those home with me.  I was in heaven.  Dr. Gibb finally came in and told us what we could expect with the surgery and that the anesthsiologist had ordered me to go all the way under.   He told me that he would be in soon and I could discuss this with him. The anethesiologist came in and he told me that there were three medicines that he could use on me for just a local or that would make me out of it but not under completely.  One of them would not be strong enough for the amout of digging in the neck and its just too dangerous when they are working so close to arteries and stuff to have me move or be in any pain.  The other two were not safe for baby.  So the one he was going to use was very safe for baby and me.  I felt a little better but emotions were running high so right after he left they started wheeling me to the operating room, without Shaun, and my tears started flowing.

The operating room was freezing like always.  They gave me some oxygen because I was laying on my back and they wanted to make sure the baby had plenty of O2.  I was still crying just a little and didn’t even know why.  I told them I was sorry I was so emtional and nervous and the Dr. said, “It's ok honey, I have something that will help with that. Why don’t you count for me.”  Well I remember saying 10, 9, 8 and bam- I was gone.  I woke up coughing and gagging because they had had a huge tube down my throat and really scratched it up.  I could hardly breath and of course I woke the same as when I fell asleep-- a little emotional.  They wheeled me back to the room to be with Shaun and hooked my warmer up and of course Shaun was all the soothing I needed.  I calmed right down and went back to sleep.  I think Shaun was ready to get out of there because after a bit he was trying to get me to wake up.  I finally woke up and realized how many muscles I use in my neck when trying to do anything.  It really hurt.  I was determined not to take any pain pills.  I felt like my baby had already had enough for one day and it’s little heart rate had gone down so I was going to tough it out.

Well after they had determined I could use the restroom, my pain was ok, and I wasn’t throwing up, they let me go home.  It was good to be home and I pretty much just sat around for the rest of the weekend trying not to use my neck muscles.  Nights were the worst when I tried to turn over or sit up in bed or even get out bed.  This little cut sure was annoying.  We were so blessed to have Shaun's parents there all weekend.  They were such a help and my kids loved having them and they made sure I didn’t lift a finger.  I'd say I was pretty spoiled for such a minor surgery.

Nancy and Vince went home Sunday morning and on Monday we awaited anxiously for any news.  My mom and dad came from Idaho around 5pm and we had given up on receiving any news.  We were all outside pulling weeds trying to get a few things done around the house when a couple from our old ward stopped by to look at a car we had for sale. They were just about to take it for a test drive when our doctor showed up.  Shaun and I looked at each other with knowing eyes and I could see the fear in my moms face.  Shaun sent the couple on the drive and Shaun and I and Mom and Dad went into the living room.

 Poor Dr. Takasaki was really struggling I could tell so I already having been prepared by the spirit for this news, decided to make it easier on him.  I said with a smile, “It must not be that great of news if you came all the way here to tell us.”  He gave us his most remorseful smile and said, “No. You have Hodgkins Lymphoma.”  Then he told us that they knew it was stage 2 already because it was in 2 places and they would like me to meet with an oncologist ASAP to do more tests and make sure it wasn’t anywhere else in my body.  He told me that it would probably be smart to meet with an OB specialist too since I might have to deliver my baby early to receive treatment.  He said nowadays they can deliver babies at 28 weeks pretty safely.  Wow, my mind was reeling at all the information he was giving and how much my life was about to change. But Shaun grabbed my hand and thanked the doctor and said, “Well, we are going to beat this thing.”  I don’t think my parents felt the same peace at the point as Shaun and I did judging by their faces. But I really did feal peace.  At that moment there was no tears and I was so grateful I was had been prepared before.  

I won’t lie-- after an hour of discussing and speculating, the tears did come as I thought about having my baby so early and all the risk involved in that.  I was pretty determined at that moment that I was going to do everything I could to try and get my baby very safely not just pretty safely.  I was going to fight this cancer every way I knew how without chemo.  That night Shaun I kneeled down to pray together.  Once again the peace came as I heard Shaun confidently thank Heavenly Father for all our blessings and ask him to guide us as we seek out all the options available for fighting this disease and that we would know what path to take.  Can I just tell you that I fell in love with my husband all over again? I felt his role as protector in our home and in our marriage shine through.  I was so grateful for the power, faith, and hope I felt as he prayed.  I could feel heaven already surrounding us as we faced the future.