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Tuesday, November 29, 2011


We are in the Wait and See mode right now.

I have LOTS of questions for the doctors. They have one answer for me. And I don't like it.

Are the antibiotics working? We'll just have to wait and see...

Did the blood transfusions help? We'll just have to wait and see...

How long before she gets some strength back? We'll just have to wait and see...

Maybe you've figured out, but I am not much of a Wait and See person. My motto is more "Git-R-Done." But maybe not quite so redneck :)

The good news is that the blood transfusion did help somewhat with the White Blood Cell Count. It is now a whopping 2! Normal is above 4.8, so we have a ways to go.  But while we weren't looking, the Platelets sunk to new lows. Down to 16. That's critically low as well. She received a platelet transfusion this evening.

Mom is also having some trouble (actually a lot of trouble) with her right hip. She fell against the coffee table last Saturday and bruised it. But the swelling, bruising and pain have been getting worse, so x-rays were ordered. Good news is that preliminary results do not indicate a break. However, that doesn't make the pain go away. She's getting kinda gimpy in addition to feeling crappy. Not the best combination.

Dad is staying with her tonight at the hospital. He found the stash of strawberry Blue Bell ice cream in the 6th floor kitchen, oh boy! Sometimes you just have to enjoy the little pleasures in life...
Praying that sleep brings restoring comfort to mom this night. And praying for wisdom for her doctors, as well as safety. If I hear we'll just have to wait and see one more time, mayhem may result...

Love you, Jane

Monday, November 28, 2011

Life Can Turn on a Dime

One day you're up, the next you're flat on your back in a hospital bed...

Greetings from Denton Regional Hospital.  Mom was admitted yesterday. It wasn't the turkey, I promise! The culprit this time appears to be a roaring case of pneumonia.

She started feeling a little under the weather Friday, and rapidly worsened through the weekend. Her blood work has tanked, and she's getting 2 units of blood as we speak, along with bags and bags of fluids, and 3 different antibiotics.

Her White Blood Cell count is being particularly obnoxious and has dropped below 1.0. That's very low, as in the "Red Flag, High Alert, put her in the Isolation Room" low. She basically has no fight left in her immune system. So no new "bugs" allowed while she's battling the pneumonia.

Please keep her and dad in your prayers. This has been a rough weekend, and from the looks of things, we are heading into a long week.

Will keep you updated as I can. We cherish your thoughts, your hugs and your prayers, Always,

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Big Kid's Table

Happy Thanksgiving from our house to yours...

Today was a day for feasting and family.  And football...

We enjoyed every minute, and with the weather cooperating so beautifully we couldn't have asked for a sweeter day.  Here's the day in snapshots, smiles abounding...

Cheers!  Let the fun begin!

Turkey Carving Magic

Feasting for all!
From the Big Kid's Table

To the Little Kid's Table  :-)

And after the feasting,
a Beautiful Afternoon Hike!

With some side-splitting,
goat-bustin thrown in for good measure!

And then while the guys (and mom) napped, the girls crafted.
Here we are with our 3-D crosses.  Such fun!

A day full of love and laughter.

We're exhausted, stuffed and blissfully content...

Praying Blessings of Joy to Fall Upon you Softly this Day. 


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Good New/Bad News

Today has been a Good News/Bad News kind of day.

As a rule we're a pretty optimistic family. Doesn't take much for us to find a silver lining in any storm cloud. But sometimes life just takes the wind out of your sails, and you can't outrun the storm.

And today that storm dumped a boatload of rain on our barely afloat dinghy...

Mom's tumor marker took a huge leap up this week (we don't want it taking leaps, jumps or even little baby steps anywhere but down!). It's up to 509. And this while still on the chemo. We're not smiling.

Dr. Davis wasn't smiling either, BUT (here's the good news), he's not ready to throw in the towel yet. While the tumor marker jump is troubling, he reminded us that it is not a scientifically exact measuring stick. He wants to finish this round of chemo and then do a CT scan to get a more accurate pic of the situation before concluding (gulp) that the Gemzar has stopped working.

That leads me to the other bit of Good News. Mom's blood work was looking great this week (except for the rebellious tumor marker :-/), so the Gemzar was a go.

And one more little bit of Good News. The thrush is just about gone. Okay, that's a Big piece of Good News.
And here's the Best Good News - Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day!

There will be feasting and family, laughter and hugging. And feasting some more!

Despite this setback with the tumor marker, and the black cloud of worry that nags at us, we are unbelievably grateful for another day to be together.

May your day be filled with only the Best Good News, the love of family and friends, and hearts overflowing with gratitude for the miracle of Grace.

My Love, Jane

Monday, November 21, 2011

In honor of...

Last night I was humbled to attend the PurpleLight Vigil for Hope at the downtown Ft. Worth Water Gardens.  Mom wasn't feeling well enough to go, but Leroy and I didn't want to miss it.

PurpleLight Vigils were held across the nation last night.

The event was sponsored by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network as a way to bring the spotlight to bear on this relentless disease.   The tribute to our loved ones was beyond touching, and I was honored to lift my purple light up high as we called mom's name out as a 1 year pancreatic cancer survivor.

Tears ran freely as so many of the families raised their light in memory of loved ones lost to this cancer.  There were too many lost...  Names were read and many of the families shared the length of their fight.  Most battles were lost in months.  Hearts and voices broke as the list of names became heroic men and women who left behind friends and family struggling to work through their grief.  One grieving sister spoke of a brother she loved and lost just 5 short weeks after diagnosis.  My mind couldn't grasp the brevity and the shock of loss.  Even Leroy whispered in my ear, Did she say 5 weeks?  Inconceivable, the brutality of this cancer.

But there was solidarity there, an understanding of the fight, a sympathy born of experience.  We all knew.  And in the midst of the sadness, a soft, lilting voice began to tell of her journey with pancreatic cancer.  Her name was Dee and she smiled as she shared that she was a 16 year pancreatic cancer survivor.

Hope.  Pure and Simple.  Her story was Beautiful.  A beacon of Light for those of us in the trenches.  It may not be mom's story.  Or yours.  But as long as we breathe, there is Hope.

As we all raised our lights at the end of the ceremony, a single Bagpipe played it's sorrowful tune and the music mingled with the waterfall of tears as we grieved for what we've lost, and for what's ahead in mom's journey.  But as the last note lingered, I looked around and saw people hugging, then smiling.  Offering encouragement to one another.  My heart lifted.

We are not alone in this journey.  And neither are you.

The PurpleLight Vigil held at the Ft. Worth Water Gardens

Our walk down to the Meditation Pool at the Gardens

Dee, speaking Hope to us, sharing her 16 year story of survival

Musicians, sharing their heart in song

Our local County Commissioner, sharing the story of his brother-in-law, a physician who lost his fight with pancreatic cancer several years ago

Purple lit up the night

Lights raised in honor of those we love

In honor of you, mom. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Christmas Tree Time

It's Christmas Tree Time! At least here at the Polly household...

Dean and Ryan stopped by on Friday to help Mom get a jump start on the festivities. They pulled all the decorations out of the attic

and got the tree up. Now mom can decorate it at her leisure.

Which is a good thing, because she's been laid low by another tiresome round of thrush. She's been feeling pretty "ishy" all week. Most likely from the thrush. We think it's gone down the back of her throat and is messing with her stomach, hence the nausea and yuckies.

The good news is that she was able to continue with her chemo this week and began another round of Gemzar on Thursday.  Even feeling crummy from the thrush, her blood work was all close to normal and that deserves a thumbs up for sure.  The doctors have put her back on Diflucan for 10 more days for the thrush.  Hopefully this time she'll be able to beat it back for good.

In the meantime, the Christmas decorations can wait. After all, we still have Thanksgiving to enjoy! This Thursday, at the Schraceo farm, be here for Turkey and all the trimmings! Dinner served at noon straight up! Naps and football to follow...

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

1st Year Canciversary Celebration

Today is a day circled red on our calendar.

It is mom's 1st Year Canciversary. One year ago today, we received the devastating news that the biopsy on her pancreas was positive for cancer. Terminal cancer. The memory replays like a bad movie. The ferocious punch to the gut, the frozen numbness as we tried to process the doctor's words, and the hard sting of tears swallowed deep. It is not a day we ever want to celebrate.

But after much consideration, there is something else we do want to celebrate. And that would be the triumphs we have experienced during the past year, despite living with this unrelenting cancer diagnosis.

In his book, A General's Spiritual Journey, Lieutenant General Hal Moore shared this quote:

When you walk to the edge of all the light you have, and take that first step into the darkness of the unknown, you must believe that one of two things will happen: There will be something solid for you to stand upon, or you will be taught how to fly.

I believe that sometime during this past year of testing and trial, mom has learned to fly. At times she has soared above the horrors, other times she has flown right through them. But each crisis was faced with a steadfast will to walk with grace and dignity. And plenty of humor.

Maybe we're all just a tad bit morbid, but we've learned to laugh at the most socially unacceptable moments. At funeral homes, and in the hospital. While mom was throwing up and when she was hallucinating from her first dose of marinol. Emily Post is probably rolling over in her grave at our lack of etiquette.

But really, mom started it all. One year ago, she made us laugh even while our hearts were breaking.

It's true.

After we got the news of the biopsy results, the nurses got her ready to check out of the hospital. We waited quietly, shell-shocked really, for the orderly to bring up the wheel chair to escort her out. When the young man arrived, he wheeled in one of those Big-Butt (pardon me), but really big (huge) wheelchairs for my 130lb mom. She obediently slide into the seat and tried to position her legs onto the leg rests. She looked like she was trying to ride an elephant. A snort escaped from her lips, which she tried to subdue, but then couldn't. She looked up at Dad, me and the orderly and said, "You think it's big enough?" We laughed, and the tension was broken. Mom was still there. Cancer or no cancer, she is still the same loveable, goofy, no-nonsense, laughter-loving person she always has been. And that began our journey. Of course, I think the orderly was traumatized for life, but no matter. You can't spend all the time crying...

So, today, in honor of this year, we Celebrated the Triumphs with a delicious bite of creme brulee,

and then an afternoon at the spa (we're hooked, what can I say?!)

But, the real celebration begins in two weeks. Mom, Dad, Leroy and I booked a Cruise to the Caribbean! How's that for spontaneous? We leave two weeks from tomorrow! Mom really knows how to celebrate!

We can't end this day without celebrating the faithfulness of each one of you. Your unwavering love in the face of these trials has carried us through the fire. You may have brought a meal, offered a shoulder to cry on, prayed unceasingly, listened with your heart, cleaned house, ran errands, sent cards, encouraged through a smile... you have all been the Hands and Feet of Faithfulness. And we know, without a doubt, that you have bridged the gap for us so many times when we were too weak, too numb, or too afraid to speak. You are our Blessing,

May God be Glorified through all the Triumphs of this past year. He sustains even when we don't understand.

And that's Grace Enough for Today, Love you all, Jane

Monday, November 14, 2011

Back to the Grind

Vacation's Over! Back to work...

Let's be honest, the Monday after a wonderful vacation is usually kind of a let-down. It's back to the grind, back to work, back to laundry! And today, mom was back to physical therapy.

And that John, he's a regular slave-driver! With a smile...

She worked on toe raises, calf lifts, quad squats, and bicep pulls. Plus a stint on the Total Gym and some lovely balance bobbing on the exercise ball. I was working up a sweat watching the drill. Not to worry, I kept myself well hydrated and maintained a steady heart rate through it all :)

Mom did very well too! But that John, he wasn't satisfied with his 45 minute boot camp, he just had to send her home with more exercises... There is simply no rest for the weary.

On our way to therapy, Mom asked me if I thought it was a useless endeavor for a terminally ill patient to attempt physical therapy. My immediate response was absolutely not. Her motivation to keep her body as strong as possible is but a glimpse of her determination to live life well.

Her goal is to improve her stamina, balance, and core strength. The alternative is to give up, lay down and die. And that is an option. I am eternally thankful that mom has taken the harder road. There are no delusions, she is still struggling with pain, with the fatigue, with fevers and chemo side effects, with leg swelling and moments of nausea.

Terminal, yes that is the prognosis. Rolling over and giving up? Not hardly. Mom has chosen to live her best life, and sometimes that takes work.

Anything worth having is worth fighting for...  And she is in the fight of her life right now.

I am totally undone by the way she is preparing for the moments yet to be lived. We know how much discipline this takes, and are so incredibly proud of her determination.

Bring on the barbells and punching bags!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Potter's Wheel Moments of Life

I listen, and think, reflect on the words.  I've heard them a thousand times before, today I listened from a different place.

God is the Potter,
We are the Clay.

Clay shaped into vessels.  Beauty born of a fragile nature.  We are shaped for unique purpose, but so easily chipped and cracked.  Clay vessels, broken, filled with disease, cancer riddled.  This is the reality of the Potter's clay.

And yet, the Word speaks hope, for whenever "the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands, the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him." (Jeremiah 1:4 NIV) 

We have been made by God to be just as we are, designed right down to our DNA.  He is the Potter and we are the Clay.  He is touching, smoothing, kneading, bending, and molding us into things of grace, both useful and lovely.   That shaping is hard, the clay becomes stiff and oft times difficult.  I have been there... I am there, chafing at the bending from this cancer diagnosis.  Words fell soft on my spirit this day and I heard the lessons spoken from the Clay:

1.  The clay has no right to criticize the Potter, for in the eyes of God you are not a mistake...

2.  The clay has no say in the Potter's design, for God has a purpose in mind for each of his creations...

3.  The clay has no power to shape itself, for God created a longing in each of us for His touch alone....

To become a vessel that glorifies God, can I learn to submit my life to each moment that God's Hand uses to shape me?

* sometimes it's pleasureable; I think of the shaping of our family through the miraculous births of our children, but
* sometimes it's painful: the molding of our lives through the harrowing trial of mom's cancer, 
* either way, it always, always serves God's purposes.

And in Romans 9:23 His purpose rings sweetly over us.  To make the riches of His glory known to the objects of His mercy.  Us, granted His mercy in simple clay vessels, shown riches beyond imagination, His glory.

I listened, now I think... the shaping of my life these last months has been hard.  I have refused to see that pancreatic cancer can serve any purpose, let alone Heavenly gain.  Not that God has brought this disease upon us, for we live in a broken world, but can I see that God can use this cancer to shape me? To reveal the riches of His Grace, a wealth beyond comprehension?

I try to see how these moments, these trials have shaped me, changed me.  Perhaps more compassion, for indeed I now view those struggling hard with my heart's eye.  And yes, He is shaping more patience into my life, for now the busyness of life has faded and the priorities have focused.  And, too, time has expanded, for the things, the ones who matter.  Ultimately it has turned my soul to the Light, for His Love promises to perfect that which He has begun... 

I ponder the shaping and the molding.   The Potter's wheel moments of Life.  Changing us more and more into His Likeness, where all the riches of His glory will be revealed, a radiance beyond description. 

He is bending us all with this cancer journey.  Where the clay is marred, we pray that His touch turns us into a vessels overflowing with grace and mercy,

We will bend, but never break, He promises...

Friday, November 11, 2011

My Favorite Veteran

In honor of Veteran's Day, I salute my very favorite Veteran of all time.

Leroy, I couldn't be more proud of your service to our country. But even more than that I am privileged to count you as husband and friend. You embody the discipline and heart of all it means to honor God, love your family and serve our country. I feel safe in your arms, cherished and blessed.

And I know we are some of the lucky ones. On this day we are reminded of the cost of war and dissension. How many in the military have given their all protecting our freedoms? And how many have spilt blood on foreign soil, leaving the arms of mothers and wives empty and aching? To these families, we owe a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.

These soldiers gave their tomorrows for our todays...

And for those serving around the world this day, many stationed in conditions of turmoil and peril that we can't begin to imagine, we send our prayers. As they stand steadfast and strong in the fight to protect us from harm, we offer words of thanks from humbled hearts.

May God Bless the Soldiers and their families, keeping them safe in His arms until they All come home again.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

When Life is Turned Upside Down

This gifted artist needs no embellishment from me.

Watch and be blessed....


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Vacation Doings

All is well at Vacation Central!  I drove up to the Lake today to spend some time with mom and dad and found everyone rested and happy.  Actually fat and sassy was more like it!  Vacations seem to agree with them.  I mean, what's there not to like about Fishing, Eating, Napping, Laughing and Relaxing?!

Here's a taste of the day:

As you can see, the afternoon ended up at Country Java's Coffee Shop for a little somethin' sweet!  The Mile High Chocolate Heath Bar Cake sure hit the spot.  As did the Strawberry Melt-in-your-Mouth Cake.  We didn't want to be pigs, so we only got two desserts and shared.  Good idea, yes?  Yes.

Mom is feeling pretty good, all things considered.  The thrush is just about gone, and the pain under her ribcage is maybe a little better.  She's only taking the break-through pain once or twice a day (as opposed to 4 or 5 times a week ago).  And this will be her week off from chemo, so we're expecting her stamina to continue.  She and Ruth have been taking short walks each day, and I think that's also helping strengthen her leg muscles.  Of course, next week she will be back in full swing with physical therapy and doctor visits.

But for this week, it's Vacation Full Blast.  Ahhhh... Nothing Better!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Canciversary Dilemma

Not really sure if Canciversary is a word, but we're going with it.  It's the anniversary of mom's cancer diagnosis, Canciversary....anniversary, cancer...  Ok, so I was never an English major...

But, the thing is, mom's Canciversary is just around the corner.  On November 16, 2010 she began the fight of her life when the doctor told her she had pancreatic cancer.  Life has not been the same since.  One year of living with this beast.  Good days and bad days, all under the shadow of cancer.

The dilemma: How do you celebrate a Canciversary? 

Part of us wants to ignore it...

And part of us wants to celebrate with all the gusto we've got...

I mean, how do you reconcile the two?  If we had our fondest wish, we would never have been dealt the cancer hand at all.  So who really wants to celebrate living with cancer for a year?  But then there's that exact sentiment: mom has lived the entire year with joy and grace, defying the grim statistics facing most pancreatic cancer patients.  That's reason to celebrate, right?  Of course, it only reminds us we are on borrowed time.  Ever since she passed the first 6-month prognosis we've known her time with us has been narrowing to the final chapter. 

So...  we stew over the upcoming Canciversary.  Odds are the celebration will win out.  We do like to party!  But reality is such that celebrating cancer in any shape or form just doesn't feel appropriate.

Dilemma debate is ongoing.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Flea Market Heaven

With Mom and Dad safely relaxing at Lake Texoma, Katie and I decided to do some "serious" shopping at our favorite of all favorite Flea Markets, Canton Trade Days.  This is the Original First Monday Trade Days, full of antiques, crafts, collectibles, home furnishings and the most amazing assortment of junk you've ever seen.  It has been toted as the world's largest outdoor flea market and I think it just might be!  My feet are sure protesting this morning!  But what fun we had!

We laughed, ate and shopped the day away.  Along with about a million other shoppers!  It was enthusiastic, elbow to elbow, treasure-hunting fun from sun-up to sun-down...

There were babies...


Turkey Legs....

And crafts galore...

And for the drive home, some heavenly cookies and cream fudge....

Definitely a good day!  May all your "treasure-hunting" this week be full of sweet surprises and satisfying successes!

Love ya, Jane

Friday, November 4, 2011

Busy Days!

It's been a busy couple of days for mom. You would never know she was fighting an aggressive battle with cancer by the schedule she's been keeping! Her perseverance, I believe, is due to her amazing will power and mind over matter attitude. So glad she's pushing thru, even with bouts of pain and sleepless nights...

So let's see, on Wednesday, Pat and Ruth took her for her first physical therapy session. I think they had an ulterior motive. They didn't go along just to watch her work up a sweat! They took her to lunch and shopping afterwards! An enjoyable, as well as productive afternoon was had by all!

Mom said physical therapy went well and she was encouraged by the therapist. His name is John and he told her he was pleased with the muscle mass she still had. He acknowledged that she was in negative catabolism, which means her body is now breaking down her muscles because it's already used up all her fat stores. This is a serious problem and is common among many pancreatic cancer patients. It even has a name, catabolic wasting. The trick to handling it, is of course to eat more, and to make every calorie count. Because her appetite is a little better, that's becoming easier to do. John wants her to up her protein intake and continue with exercises at home. In addition she will go in for therapy several times a week. That will strengthen her remaining muscles and increase her stability. What a workout.

Wednesday was definitely a busy day!

Thursday was Chemo Day. Doctor appointments, blood work and chemotherapy make for a long day too! But good news here - blood work was all behaving, chemo was a go! However, the doctor confirmed another side effect that mom has been dealing with. Thrush, in her mouth and throat. She suspected it, he confirmed it. Just when you think you've experienced everything... Now thrush. What next? Oh, nix that question! I don't want to know! Anyway, they caught the thrush early and she is on Diflucan, an antifungal that will take care of the problem. Thank goodness. But, whoa, another pill to add to the regimen!

By the time we got her home, we declared Thursday was really a busy day!

Today, Friday, has been busy too. Mom and Dad packed all morning, then met up with their friends, Manny and Ruth and headed for a week long vacation on Lake Texoma. They are staying at a beautiful resort right on the banks of the lake. Lots of fishing, relaxing, card playing and eating is in the works. But just getting there has made Friday a very busy day!

But.... the next week will be sooooo relaxing! Nothing more strenuous than planning what to have for dinner. Great week is in store for them all. And it's about time. We've had enough of the busy days for awhile!

Praying your week is winding down, and plans are in place for a kicked-back, fun-filled, soul-rejuvenating weekend. May time slow down and moments expand as you Live Life Fully.

Grace to you, Jane

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Goat Roundup

Time for the annual goat roundup here at the farm.  Vaccinations, de-worming and hoof-trims.  It is not the goat's favorite activity.  But we take our goat wellness program seriously! So here's the drill:

Start with a nice bucket of feed

Open gate and walk around the Guard Cat

Holler for Goats, rattle feed bucket, and wait for them to come running

Corral goats in makeshift chute

Draw up Vaccine

Inject Vaccine.  Ouch!

Deworm and trim hooves.
No pictures, sorry :), my hands were needed for goat-handling!
Job Done...
Reward everyone with Sweet Feed

Mama's are happy.  All's forgiven. 
Papa Buck doesn't trust us. Go figure...

Working with the goats reminds me of how easy it would be to neglect our own health.  Sometimes it's a real hassle dealing with those annual physicals and doctor visits.  Just like it's a hassle working the goats, knowing we're going to get hot, sweaty and dirty ensuring that they are healthy and vaccinated.  And I for one dislike injections of any kind.   But vaccinations are necessary and save lives every year (for goats and people!).   Just like the new pancreatic cancer vaccine could save lives every year.  We can hope and pray that it comes out of trials with a Big Yes!

For now, we sigh with relief.  Goat Roundup was a success.  Mama's are due to kid around mid-February, and then the real fun begins!  Can't wait...

If today you are facing a Roundup of sorts, whether it is medically, emotionally or spiritually related, just know that you are not alone.  This cancer journey will bring us all occasional days of  delightful green pastures with quiet waters, and also nights of shadowy valleys filled with paths to dark to walk. May the struggles we wrestle with now, lead to that sweet place of peace, where fear has no place and cancer has no hold.

Only in Grace, Jane