Sunday, January 29, 2012

I like Sunrises more than Sunsets

I like sunrises more that sunsets.

Jan 28th, 2012- 11:50pm, 12:10am, 12:28am, 1:30am, 1:45am, 2:10am, Bible Study- read Isaiah 41:10 and pray it back “Please strengthen me and Help me“ , Tylenol PM, 2:30am, 2:50am, 3:10am, 3:28am, 4:15am, 4:35am, 5:20am, 5:30am, 5:28am, 5:34am, 6:10am, 6:20.… bathroom, 6:30am Bible study again. Thank you God for another day of sunlight!

As I heal I’m beginning to realize that the numbness across my chest may be permanent. I can’t sleep a wink as my mind considers all things. Mostly, bad things. I’m taking clippings and excerpts from one line sentences throughout the week to battle my bad thoughts. Officially I‘ll call it living hell. I tried to convince myself over the long night that everything would be okay with verbal evidence I picked up during the week. I’ve heard, “This is beatable”, “ you may still get feeling back” “reconstruction can come later” , “You’re beautiful”, “You’re courageous.” God’s Word says, “He will strengthen me”, “He will Uphold me”, He loves me”, “He will help me.” I wrestled all night long with my bad thoughts which I don’t even have the nerve to put in writing right now because they were so morbid.

Perpetual optimism used to be my husband’s most annoying attribute in my eyes. I laid there awake doing mental gymnastics hoping that he would wake up and share his Good Ship Lollypop opinions with me. I was hoping he’d find me stirring and remind me that the birds were chirping in another part of the world or remind me of all the cases where someone else was worse off than us. Better yet, that he would point me back to Jesus. Instead, I tried to lay still so I didn’t wake him up, with my eyes facing the clock and waiting to fall asleep.

This is “The Fight” or at least part of it. It was a rough week meeting the oncologist deciding on the treatment plan and returning to the surgeon to get all the drains and tubes removed. I am trying to hurry and heal from the surgery so I can start treatments. Honestly, I don’t want to start treatments. I don’t want to loose my hair and I don’t want to be numb across my chest anymore . The fight is getting through all of this mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually.

It’s time to deal with stuff! You know the stuff I’m talking about. The stuff crammed in that outdoor shed that you’ve been meaning clean out for years. It’s dealing with the control freak within and the abuse taken as a kid. It’s handling insecurities and stubbornness. It’s an opportunity to let God in those self protected heart places. Breath, just breath Sheri. It’s time for the next step.

Friday, January 27, 2012

With GREAT Faith!!!

Monday was my first oncology appointment and the weather held perfect expression for me. Rain wasn't pouring from the clouds that hung low, it was only a slight drizzle that lasted all day long. There was a chill indoors that was somewhat uncomfortable. I wrapped myself in a big sweater, stood at a window that faced the backyard and then the weather and I cried small raindrops all day long. I realized that as the rain was coming down it would bring rich nutrient to the soil  and that’s beneficial... so, it was a good day to cry.

The bright spot of the day was taking a step into the new world of oncology. Who knew that I would love a doctor so much who was going to prescribe poison for my body? Who knew, she would be kind and compassionate, gentle and patient? I've driven by this place a million times and never noticed the packed parking lot! There was a little city going on inside of this medical office park. I've never seen so many people in one doctors office before. The chemo chairs were full, the waiting room was full and every patient was being soothed. I'm the new girl in town and I think I'll fit right in. I'm not alone. I had only ever known a few people with cancer and now there is a whole damn building filled with people like me, strolling down the recovery path!

You know you've got something threatening when you have a team of doctors! This doctor was selling me an insurance plan called chemicals, that would increase my odds of cancer being killed off systematically. First, twelve to eighteen weeks of chemo followed by six weeks of radiation and then five years of hormone therapy. My hair will fall out, I'll get sunburned and complete my menopause cycle. "It's optional," she said!

"Not for me, hook me up, let's get this thing started." I didn't hesitate one single moment.

With each layer of treatment my odds of survival increase. Treatment can't start until I am finished healing from the mastectomies. She must have meant physically healing because I’m pretty sure it will be quite sometime before I’m mentally healed from this amputation.

I just want a day between now and that first drip of chemicals where I don't have to think about my life, my fight or my prognosis. I wanna go to the San Diego Zoo. I wanna laugh at the monkeys and be awed by the tigers. I wanna eat pop corn and watch the towering giraffes. I wanna be surrounded by life and at a simplistic level.

It’s with great faith that I press on. It’s a new kind of faith, one that I’ve not known before. It’s bigger than the comfortable knowledge that God is with you or to coin the phrase, “things happen for a reason.” It’s so big that there is a force behind it. Momentum? No, more like exponential power, I’d say. In the book of Mark Chapter 9 there is a story of a man who brings his child to Jesus to be healed of demons. The father asks Jesus if He would have compassion on them and heal his son.   Here’s their interaction. Mark 9:23-24

Jesus said to him, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes." Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!"

Here’s Sheri Page’s response, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!"

Here’s what happened next… Mark 9:25

When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: "Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!"

Here’ what happened next in my faith,

When Jesus saw that the people came running together ( who prayed for Sheri) , He rebuked the unclean spirit,( the cancer) saying to it: "Deaf and dumb spirit, ( cancer) I command you, come out of him( her) and enter him ( her) no more!"

With GREAT FAITH, In the name of Jesus!!!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

More Resources!

Yesterday I set out to look for wigs and prosthetics. So, I opened my handy dandy notebook and began to call some resources that were published in some of the reading material found in my “little pink book bag”. Monday morning I’ll meet with my Oncologist for the first time and begin treatment options. Please pray!

First up was American Cancer Society 1-800-227-2345 There was a cancer specialist on the other end of the line who went over my diagnosis with me. Told me about the typical treatment I could expect and in general gave me more information and perspective about the type of cancer I have. In addition to that helpful information they gave me some other practical resources.

Support group called Reach to Recover. This is one on one support. I will be matched with cancer survivor who has the same diagnosis as I do. Yeah! I can learn from someone else’s battle how to beat it.
Look Good Feel Better is a 2 hour workshop when beauty experts from the community come together to show patients under going treatment how to maximize and enhance beauty techniques.
American Cancer Society Resource Center for Wigs, prosthetics, Hat and Turbans!
Health Insurance Information Team- There are three types of insurance available for pre-existing.
1. PICP.
2. Local, State and Federal assistance ( Social Services, Medicaid and Social Security) .
3. Women’s Health Connection. You must be diagnosed through affiliation of the Women’s Health connection and Insurance will be available through the Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Act.

Susan G Koman 702-822-2324The following resources were shared

Y-Me 1-800-221-2141 This organization is run by cancer survivors. They will provide gently used Wigs and prosthetics for FREE! The intake telephone operators are kind and compassionate
Barbara Greenspun 702-616-4910- Women’s care Center- Support groups and classes
Carol’s Post Mastectomy 702-568-9595 - Wigs and Prosthetics
The Caring Place- 702-871-7333 Free massages!- Support Groups and Classes
Center for Compassionate Care- 702-796-3167

Moving forward and Believing God

I read somewhere this week to stop saying, "I have cancer" and start saying that "God has Answers." What a great perspective to have while moving forward. It's time to turn the page and begin the next phase of this process and begin to think about treatments with my bilateral mastectomy behind me and new pathology reports in.

There are a few things I am going to hold on to moving forward and the most important is that God has positioned us for a miracle. Here's the obvious; I found a non cancerous lump and went for an over due mammogram. Right behind that lump is where the cancer was hanging out. Stage II, late but still early. God warned me in His Word before the mammogram that I must take quick action when I hear the trumpet, so I did! I am at the most aggressive cancer treatment center in Las Vegas. My surgeon had never taken an uninsured patient before and found grace to take me, I was fortunate to get in. Miraculously, I will be insured at the onset of treatment. God has provided in every area of our lives. So far, all medical bills will get paid. One of our daughters can stay in college because of the generosity of friends an family. I have seen healing within my family and friendships. Everything is going to be okay.

I'm in a bible study called "Believing God" by Beth Moore. She has pointed out in her study that Jacob was not given the keys to the city so to speak when he came into the Promise Land. He had to conquer it! He had to win it back! Jacob had to believe God, not be afraid and carry out all that God requested. Gosh, that just has not left my mind nor my spirit.

A dear friend of mine makes beaded bracelets which she so sweetly gave me on the day of that mammogram. The bracelet is hand beaded with each bead representing the story of creation and Jesus' resurrection. I memorized the symbolic meaning of each bead so I could tell other people and walk them through the story as they inquired. Well, I memorized all the beads accept one. I couldn't remember the bead that represented the Miracles that Jesus performed. Boy, how I studied that bead, looking at it from all angles trying hard to remember what it meant. Then when my friend told me what it was, I knew that I was going to become familiar with Jesus' miracles.

So, as I move forward to take back the Promise Land that God promised Abraham and a thousand generations ( that includes me and you) I will commit myself to Believing God for a miracle.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pre Existing Insurance! Yes, I got it!

Just in the nick of time! My application for pre existing insurance was approved and starting Feb 1 I will have insurance! Thank you God. This means that at the exact time I have to start treatment, I will be insured.
Here's the information. Please pass it on!  Call this number 1-800-220-7898
  1. You must be a US citizen. I think legal residents are eligible as well
  2. You must have a pre existing illness
  3. You can't have had insurance in the last 6 months
The monthly rates are reasonable and the total out of pocket cost is approx 7,000. After that 100% coverage. It takes about 3-4 weeks to be approved. This is part of the Obama Health Care Plan.

It was micro metastases

Don't you just love it when you get the same scripture verse more than once? I do! I recently received a beautiful card in the mail from a  relative who sent her love and some supportive scripture hand written in the card. One of the verses she wrote was: Isaiah 41:10

Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

I found it again in my own handwriting  taped to the hutch on my desk. What an incredible reminder that God is with me. I can not describe the fear that over comes me when I forget that simple precept. It's like Peter who was called to get out of the boat and walk on water. The moment he was distracted by an oncoming wave he took his eyes off of Jesus and began to sink. That's what happens to me! When I take my eyes off of God I forget the confidence I have in Him who has gone before me and whispers behind me telling me which way to go.

That fear is exactly what I experienced a few days ago when we received some bad news. Originally, the pathologist in the surgery room found no trace of cancer in my lymph nodes and we delighted ourselves with celebration and joy. But, when the official pathology report came back it was indeed in the sentinel lymph node. It was micro metastases. I didn't know what that meant so I conjured up my own definition, which was not a good scenario. It created fear and trembling and a sleepless night. But after I saw the doctor, I realized that it wasn't as bad as I had dreamed up. It was a tiny 1mm speck and she is confident that it can be annihilated through radiation. I think I have figured out that when I stay within the realms of what God has prepared me for then I am at perfect peace. When I wonder off in my own imagination then I seem to get on a roller coaster with no seat belt.

The front of the card said, God is before you, God is behind you, God is over you and God is in you.
From here on out I will remember that if I get that frightened again, then God simply isn't in it. Amen.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

First Look

It's been a couple of days since the surgery and I can't believe how well I am getting around. Not ready to run a marathon, but still I am walking on my own and can change my clothes. All the instructions say that I can’t use my arm on the side of the mastectomy. So, since it's both sides I'm using more ab muscles than I remember having in the past. Oh.. I'm so sore!

Time for my first sponge bath. Until now I haven’t had the courage to remove a big heavy sweater that I put on as soon as I got home from the hospital in fear that I might see my profile. With my head upside down in the kitchen sink my sisters and I started with a shampoo. We worked our way back to my bathroom where pretty sheets were hanging over the mirrors. My daughters were so sweet to cover all the mirrors in my bathroom so I didn't have to look until I was ready. I slowly un buttoned my sweater and started to peel of the security blanket. Then off came the shirt. Wrapped around my chest was a huge bandage that went horizontally from one arm pit to another and reached down to my last set of ribs. The shape was flat. Completely flat. I couldn’t see underneath the bandages, only the shape. None. With my bottom lip quivering one of my sisters started to soap up the wash cloth. I had to unhook the drainage tubes that were pinned to my pants. While the tubes were still attached to me I handed them to my other sister. So, the three of us that day, in my bathroom, nurtured the body that was left after surgery. With little strength I sat down on a vanity bench and allowed to tears to come and the moaning to be heard. I’ll never forget looking up at one sister and seeing her with draining tubes in her hand that were connected to my body and watching mascara run down her face as she grieved for me while the other sister stood behind me softly and gently brushed out my tangled wet hair, telling me that it’s going to be okay. Then my husband tip toed in with a cup of hot tea, taking over the hair brush. He and I took the time we needed to reassure one another that we made a good decision and that everything was going to be alright. With clean clothes and freshly washed hair I enjoyed a day on the patio in perfect 60 degree temperatures, sun shining on a new horizon.

In Good Hands!

The day of the surgery was pretty remarkable when you consider that I checked in at 7:30am and checked out at 3pm! That’s right I’m not kidding.. bilateral (double) mastectomy! Vomit bowl under chin and cold wash cloth on my fore head and away we went on our way home. Looking back, it was kind of funny when I think about my poor husband who was trying to get me home quickly; the faster he went the more I got sick!

I think the most intimate moment I have ever experienced with my husband was in the recovery room. I remember looking up out of my fog and seeing that wonderful face with his charming smile looking back at me. He just kept saying, I love you. I couldn’t say much because my voice hadn’t returned yet, but I was telling him with my eyes that I loved him too. I made it! Here I am! Almost in one piece and I’m so grateful that you are here waiting for me! There was so much to tell him about my experience since I had last seen him hours ago when he left pre-op. My surgeon picked up my hand and held it like he was holding it as they wheeled my bed into the operating room and once we got there she didn’t let go. The nurse was setting everything up and she just continued to hold onto my hand, caressing it until she leaned over and softly spoke…goodnight Sheri. I remember as they wheeled me in the operating room that it was very cold. The radio was playing oldies and Team Boobie was in good cheer. My doctor, nurse and anesthesiologist were a team who worked together frequently on breast cancer patients. They called themselves Team Boobie, I called them my All Girl Rock Band. The chill of the operating room was sobering. Instantly I snapped out of vanity and became very aware of what was really happening. Team Boobie was not taking off my breasts. They were saving my life. Oh God, I have cancer. Please get it ALL! Take it all! Then Joshua 1:9 ran through my mind and over my lips. "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid nor dismayed for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." That’s what I was repeating when the lights went out.
When the lights came back on there was my husband waiting patiently to tell me he loved me. I was only home a few hours when my sisters got in town. One of my sisters is a nurse and going to school to be a P.A. Whew, thank goodness because I tend to be a nervous nilly about everything. But, she was there to keep track of medicine and to help measure and drain the tubes. It was like having my own personal doctor! I was so happy to not be in the hospital! By the end of the day my whole family and close friends had stopped by to say hello. It was a celebration. I am officially a cancer survivor!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Battle Inside of Me

Embracing cancer is like putting together a 5000 piece puzzle. It takes more than a week. You put it together one piece at a time and each piece is examined to find its perfect fit. Brief moments are taken to refocus on the big picture and gain perspective. If I accept this mastectomy that means that I accept that I have cancer. That's like putting together the inside pieces before you put together the border. By the way, that's cancer will a lowercase c. I've decided that it doesn't deserve a capital c. The surgery marks the beginning of the battle inside of me. I can hardly believe that I have the little "c". How do I wrap my mind around a mastectomy when I can't even believe that  I have c....? Hum.
It's the eve of my surgery and I'm not ready yet, not ready I tell ya!!!! I don't want to do this. I'm just not ready. Oh my God! Big picture, cancer un treated kills. Little puzzle piece, I'm alive today and don't feel anything. Big picture, it's going to be a long year of treatment, maybe hair loss and hopefully reconstruction. Little picture, they are going to CUT OFF my boobs tomorrow?!!!!
It's the eve of my battle and new troops have flown into Las Vegas to bring support. My brother, his wife and children have arrived. We've busied ourselves preparing for their arrival by assembling taco night! No one was very hungry though. We shelled out small plates, made small talk and small bites were taken before we cleaned up. Looks like we'll be eating tacos and that chicken enchilada dish  for days to come!
After my brother took his  family to a hotel for a night's rest I sat up with my husband, daughter, son and mother and made my last not ready yet plea... I'm still not ready and there is no more time to get ready. We held hands and prayed. I heard the most gentle requests from our kids that Jesus would help me because I was seeking Him. I don't think I will ever forget the power of their prayers that night as I lay down to sleep and apologized to my husband that cancer in my breasts was about to affect our life as husband and wife in a gigantic way. He told me that one day I would understand how much he loves me and how little it would  affect our life as a couple.
There was little sleep that night. I fell asleep around 1am and woke up again at 4am. What the heck, I was about to be knocked out and get plenty of rest for the next few days! Early in the morning I stumbled to a computer and found a message on facebook from someone who knew of me but didn't know me personally. She said that she couldn't sleep and that she was awake and praying for my surgeon. I gratefully responded to her that I was up praying for my surgeon as well! Boy, I was glad that the Lord woke someone else up to pray with me! I came to find out that several people were up that morning praying for my surgeon. In the midst of it all I remembered a scripture that one of my friends shared with me in Joshua 1:9  "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; Do not be afraid nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."
That was it! That was what I needed. I could hear the power and reprimand in that scripture. It was God convincing me to Trust in Him. I repeated over and over... " Have I not commanded you?..." At last, I found the right puzzle piece to move forward. Just in time to leave for the hospital.

Someone Special to Prepare Me

It was the Saturday morning before surgery when the phone rang in the morning. Really all I had to do for the day was a little laundry and house cleaning. I knew that we would have company over the week and in typical fashion I wanted the house to be clean. Mom was on the other end of the line letting me know that she was at the airport ready to board her flight for Las Vegas. That doesn't seem unusual, but I actually thought she was coming the Saturday after surgery. Oh my gosh! I was so happy! What a surprise. The days were all so full of details and decisions that I couldn't be happier that I was shocked. I had planned to fiddle around the house the whole day only to make an hour chore out of it and quickly get to the airport for our special arrival. Before she hung up she murmured that we had her for a week! I whispered to myself that it was my turn, finally my turn.... unfortunately my turn. My mom is really my step mom. We really don't go into full explanation when we introduce one another to our friends and acquaintances. Instead, you will see that we make direct eye contact with one another and smile BIG when someone questions; your mom looks so young? I'm really only 12 years younger but, she's still the only woman who dared to love me during those rebellious teenage years. She gave me years of belonging as she took me in her fold and claimed me as her own. My mom helped me understand and forgive the woman who gave birth to me, because my birth mother didn't have all that it took to mother me. God had a perfect plan to match us up. Because of the power of  her unyielding love, I have made it  my purpose to keep my wings open wide, pay it forward and love every child as my own who finds themselves in my reach. My mom came to Las Vegas early to prepare me for the sacrifice I was about to make. She listened more than she spoke. She took my side. She took up my defense. She reminded me who I was and turned the last few years of defeat into strength. She told me the truth, I am defined by my boobs, that was my womanhood.... until now. Now, more would be required of me. She told me that she came so I could cry. She prepared me for battle, sent me off with a note pinned to my chest telling of her mighty prayers that had girded up more than one of her children over the years. She has six. Now, we have all had our turn to have her by our side during life's threats. I've watched and learned and I want to be that kind of mom.

Fear and Love can't be present at the same time!

I woke up this morning and walked to the kitchen slowly on my own for a glass of water. Passing the living room, I glanced at the couch and noticed the empty room. Dark and quiet again after the fullness of life and activity camped out for a week. Everyone has gone back home now. All that's left behind are two refrigerators full of food, a heap of blankets, pillows piled on the couch and half empty water bottles standing by crumpled candy wrappers. It was a seven day slumber party with loved ones who were brave and willing to lay on the couch with me. The doors were left wide wide open to let the cool breeze in. We snuggled under blankets, watched movie after movie and ate ALL DAY LONG! I can't imagine recovering from a double mastectomy any other way. Who else besides sisters and brother can make fun of the way you got yourself out of trouble as a teenager or how bad you stink because you haven't had a bath in two days? Pictures were pulled out, the camera lens cover is still off and there are DVDs longing for their place back in their cases. All reminding me of the love, laughter and strength found in a family. The last flight left yesterday at 6pm with a final good-bye text from my brother who said that they were flying over our home. Yes, the angels were flying over us and he is one of them. It's four days after surgery and there is so much to report. I hope I can straighten out the flurry of events that happened last week and remember everything. It was a week that I was completely buffered from the reality of cancer and surgery. I found out first hand that love and fear can not be present at the same time. God opened up the flood gates from Heaven and showered His love upon us as His people were stirred to be near us and pray for us. We were sheltered as a family and covered. Every need that I could hope for was met; even the needs that I didn't know I had were met! So please bear with me as I walk you through the last week of events that will amaze you as they have amazed us!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


Hello Everyone! This is Sheri's daughter Monika and I wanted to give a brief update after her surgery today. It went PERFECT!!! We were blessed to hear that although we had heard that the cancer had spread into the lymph nodes, the doctor came out to announce to my Dad that the lymph nodes seem to have NO problems. She did remove a sentinal lymph node just to check it out in the lab and confirm that there is indeed no cancer. They have a follow up appointment on Thur to review the pathology reports and to discuss possible ongoing care. She is surrounded tonight by family, friends,food and laughter. Those are all things sure to get your spirits up after a long day. She is smiling and cracking jokes already. We are all believers in the power of prayer and thank you so much in advance for your continued prayers. Sheri sends out her love and I myself would like to thank each of you for following this blog and supporting Sheri's fight. She is courageous and made a huge sacrifice today for her family. But small compared to our Savior. Thanks everyone! God Bless and Happy 2012 :)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tomorrow, Wednesday morning at 7:30a I check in at Summerlin Hospital for a 9:30a surgery

I can hear the beat of the drums and the battle cry from Heaven! I have heard the promises from God in Psalm 91. I believe that He is near and going before me on every occasion. The prayers of His intercessors have reached my ears and I know they have reached His ears too. Thank you to my sister warrior friends and our bible study group for your prayers. I have been like a child so little in my faith, but I am borrowing yours. Thank you for your certainty about a miracle and healing. Thank you for the burden that God has given you to pray. Thank you for your praise and your worship to Him, as you have me and my cancer on your minds. Thank you for pointing me right back to Jesus. Thank you for reminding me of my Faith. I was stunned on the battlefield and lost my armour. You brought back all the pieces and strengthened me again. Thank you for the whispers of love in my ears and the touch of our hands. Thank you that it is about you too. Thank you.

 Tomorrow, Wednesday  morning at 7:30a I check in at Summerlin Hospital for a 9:30a surgery. It's an outpatient surgery believe it or not. The surgery will only take a few hours and the skillful hands of my surgeon will carve out the breast tissue which holds the poison in my body. A bittersweet good-bye. It will take about 10 days for the pathology report to come back in and then we will know what strategy and how to plan the treatments. And I still can't believe that I have cancer!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Five Tips for Financial Aid in Nevada

My time to track down assistance as an uninsured cancer patient has left me little time to consider the reality of the cancer itself. If you know of someone who is in the position of being uninsured, under insured or will need assistance of any kind please pass on this blog. Although the task of applying for assistance is daunting and it is hard to find organizations who have funds to help, there are some worthy resources available. I found possible insurance this late in the game, help with utility bills, house payments, rides, companionship, counseling and the list goes on. I know not one agency who has all the answers but collectively they make an impact in the lives of those who are struggling with an illness.

1) For the uninsured with pre existing illness. PCIP insurance was initiated as part of the Obama health care plan. If you have a pre existing illness and you cannot get health care coverage, have not had health coverage for the last 6 months or been denied health coverage because your illness and you are a US Citizen, you are eligible for health insurance. Go to Phone # 1-800-220-7898. Make sure to call this number.

2) Federal, State and Local assistance. This one  is tough to get and you have to apply for it in the right order or else you may find yourself starting all over. Make sure you have all the documents they request. You will need to disclose all of your retirement funds, cash on hand, bank account balances and assets. The workers at the independent agencies do not always know how the system works. Keep all your paperwork in a three ring binder. Record names, dates and conversations.

  • First, make an appointment for the Social Security office. File an application for both SSI and Disability. Make sure you apply for both! It may take up to 6 months to be approved for SS, but you can be approved for State and Local assistance sooner. You just need to be in the system.  If you have any additional medical procedures make sure to send your information in for your case worker to keep in their file. You will not be able to get any assistance if you don't start here first. Clark County will not help you if you didn't ask the State of Nevada first, and the State of Nevada will not help you unless you ask the Federal Government first.
  • Second, Medicaid programs are found at the Nevada State Welfare Division. There are several physical offices you can go to. You can print the application online and then go to the office to submit it. Your approval at Social Security will help with the approval at Medicaid. Medicaid will issue you a letter in 7-15 days. You will receive at case number and PIN number to track your information.
  • Social Services is Clark County's program for assistance. Social Services requires the most paperwork by far, so be ready to start gathering all your documents. The will require an appointment to bring in all your medical and financial records which takes approx 3-4 weeks to get. You must apply in person to get the appointment. You will need to be in the Medicaid database before you can see Clark County Social Services at your scheduled appointment.

3) Negotiate your bills! Doctors, Hospitals and other medical facilites can and will negotiate better prices with the uninsured. Some may want cash up front and others will allow you to make payments. They want to help but it takes a little pre planning. Call ahead, tell them who you are and negotiate ahead of your appointment. I was able to negotiate 80% off of my hospital bill.

4) Hold a fundraiser. You don't have to do this all on your own. Everyone has someone in their sphere of friends and family who has the perfect personality to help out in this area. Think creatively and have fun with it.

5) There are hundreds of Non-Profit cancer support groups that have funds and man hours available to help. Here are a few I found helpful

  • Susan G Koman, not only has funding but has resources to help your families with counseling, wigs and prosthetics to massages. They provided that pink book bag I spoke of in an earlier blog post
  • Access to Healthcare- 877-385-2345. They are a patient advocate group. They will help you with negotiating medical bills and finding financial aid. Their program has been so successful that they have now gone before a federal committee as a model program for national needs.
  • State of Nevada Consumer Health Assistant Program. I called them last and when I did, I wished I had called them first! They had all the information I dug up, including the information about PCIP for pre existing insurance.
  • Your treatment facility will have social workers who can also help you with medical needs, other financial needs and emotional needs. Use them, that's what they are there for!

Friday, January 6, 2012


IDC is the diagnosis. Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. Five years ago the cancer or atypical cells (really not cancer apparently to my original doc) were in a tiny lobe just sitting inside of it. Now it has spread outside the lobe, into the duct and beyond into the breast tissue. There is no cure, I've been told.  That's why I have to remove it; 'cause it has no boundaries and doesn't know how to stop.
Yesterday, when I was doing my morning chores, my mind slipped off to that lofty place. Why have I choose mastectomies? Is there someway around it? Gosh, for a day there I  had a moment of denial. Someone must be playing a trick on me. This just can't be possible. This happens to other people, not me. Besides it's just not fair. My husband's sister just passed away 4 months ago after living for 10 fighting years with this thing.
Where are the cameras? I've been punked. You can come on out now and call off the bluff. I fell asleep with that level of  hope only to pop  up in the dark, panicked and announced to my husband that they are taking my TaTa's in 6 days! I found a comfortable place in his arms as he soothed me back to sleep.
Today is ANOTHER busy day with pre-op procedures at the hospital and more retirement liquidation. I'm pulled and tugged to think of long term decisions and make sure the car registration gets done before we begin this process. It's all a whirlwind. I still need to say good-bye to a part of my body!
Good-Bye Ta Tas. Thank you for helping me feed my babies and enjoy the incredible bond that happens when a mother nurses her children. There is no way to describe the joy and affection a mother feels. I remember how I waited for you come then hid you during those Jr. High showers. I remember all the times you grew with me when I over indulged in food and then disappeared when I was fit. It was just the last few years that I really enjoyed your maturity, your shape and familiarity. The disease that grows inside of you has an insatiable desire that can not be quenched. Thank you for taking the sacrifice. It's been a pleasure and an honor to have you with me for 47 years. You've been awesome. Let's say good-bye in peace.
As much as this sacrifice hurts, how do I comprehend the sacrifice of Jesus? It's in Him that I can find my comfort. He knows about sacrifice and how there can be new life because of it.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

So Blessed

One last entry today that will catch us all up to speed. I have promised to blog then it took a few weeks to put it into action. Boy, do you see a pattern here in my personality. I do. I must tell you about all the blessings. I was sitting at the dinning table with one of my daughters the other day. I had a million things on my mind and two million that needed to be done, but for that moment there was nothing more important to me than to just sit with her and talk about nothing as we talked about everything. My husband always tells me, slow down and smell the flowers. I always retort, pick up the pace!
My kids have been right there ready willing and able to do what ever I need. My friends are another line of defense that have come to our aid. Our family members are holding us up in their love. All I could think is that there is no way I can accomplish all that I need to accomplish in such a short amount of time. I took a strong look at everyone who stood up and said I'm ready and I'm here for you. For one of the very few times in my life, I asked for help. I was able to delegate my needs to my family and boy; they came through with flying colors. I have many sets of eyes now to help me understand nutrition, reports, chemo treatments, organize prayer supports and fundraisers. I have been upheld spiritual, mentally and physically. As I write this my husband just brought in the mail. He placed an envelope on my desk and when I opened it there was a message inside along with a check. We don't know the person who sent this gift of help to us. We are so grateful and this is not the first time treasures of information and resources have been shared with us. I can only hope that I can give of myself so freely when I see the need.  I Trust in the Lord my God!

Surgery Date Set and logistics

New Year's Eve weekend took sooooo long be over. I couldn't wait for the first business day after the New Year's Eve conversation with my doctor. With all of the results at my finger tips, there is only urgency on my mind. Jan 11th, 2012 is The Day. Moving through this is like sprinting up a mountain. Every now and then I need a minute to digest the terrain. Where am I, where am I going and what comes next runs through my mind like a scrolling banner. Did you know that cancer loves an acidic environment? That it can't survive in an oxygen cell environment? PH balance is important and I should not eat red meat?
That's nice to know, right? So much to do like filing for a modification on my home loan so they won't foreclose while I'm recovering from surgery and chemo. Did I mention that I have no insurance? I spared you from the stories of filing for Social Security, Medicaid and social service financial assistance. I first was surprised that there were so many private agencies to give financial assistance and even more surprised to find out that they are all out of money. One organization told me that no organization could help with the medication because it was against the law! Really? The IRS says that I can't get help from a non-profit organizations to pay for chemo?! The thought is that they can help with  my power bill so I can pay for my treatments. Let's see how does that work? If I qualify, I can be blessed with $150.00 for my power bill, but the $10,000 Chemo drip is on me? Something doesn't make sense here folks? I kindly told the lady on the phone from the last organization I called, "Honestly, I really don't need $150.00 for my power bill, what I need is insurance!
Some good news came from a family member and doctor as well as another friend who is a pharmaceutical rep. The companies that make the chemo will help with the cost if you have a hardship letter. So there is hope. Another friend told us that there is an insurance company called PCIP that will cover pre-existing conditions. I am applying for that immediately! It takes about 4 weeks to be approved and it is the same insurance that our government workers get. I will end up paying for the surgery with deep discounts for cash paying patients. Insurance, if I get it will kick in for treatments. If I don't get it then I always have the option of relying on the county and UMC. Now I know why they show such a loss every year! Cash paying patients at UMC are charged just 50.00 for treatment and a 500.00 deductible. Downfall is I don't get to use my own doctors and who knows if the meds offered are the best ones for me? Fundraiser!!!! I would have rather never been the one in need, but I am. There was a moment when I was sitting in the welfare office, I turned and looked at my husband and ask, "How did I get here"? Gosh I must have been day dreaming during the bus ride that dropped me off here. Then the tears just ran and ran and ran... How do I get back to being a giver again?
With that said and my nightmare spoken out loud, I am so blessed.

Mastecomy, are you sure?

Christmas is over and we are back in the Doctor's office. Mammogram, check. Ultrasound, check. PET scan, check. The PET scan not only said that there was no other cancer found in my body, it told us a lot about the cancer itself. I found out that the HER2 protien was negative. That means that my cells are not cancer friendly...that's a good thing. The growth stage was 1, this is not the same as the "stage" we laymen think it is. Growth one means that it's simply not hungry and agressive.... that's also a good thing. We know what kind of cancer it is so they know how to treat it. It has a 93% chance of responding to estrogen treatment... another good thing! I don't know what that means excactly yet, but I'm researching. It will get the staging number after it is removed from my body and the lympnodes are dissected. But, so far.. I'm thinking this is not so bad. I'm thinking so positively I am talking my self right out of the mastectomy! With this news I began to back peddle on the mastectomy. Maybe it's not necessary? I've been reading a lot about lumpectomys with radiation treatment and I could save my breast. The thoughts of mastectomy have had me in tears non stop! I can't imagine... I just can't do it. At this hesitation the doctor orders one more test, an MRI and wants another biopsy if I chose lumpectomy. It's worth the extra look to save a ta ta!
Leaving the office I got the referral for the MRI and remarkably I had the MRI done within a few hours and stood back in the doctors office with MRI results in my hand by 4p that day. I got an appointment the following week to review the results. Bad news this time. There are 4  tumors in my right breast, three appear to be cancer and it appears on the MRI that two lymphnodes have been affected. Although the left bresat appears to be clear on the MRI, I will need a biopsy of the two pre-cancer leison on that side. Okay, time to take some of that anti-anxiety medicine.
New Year's Eve. the phone rang and the Doctor was calling to check on me. "How are you"? she says.
"Not a good day," I responded.
"What's wrong, Sheri"? she said directly.
"It has all just caught me by surpise," I said weeping.
Boldly the Doctor called me to reality, "No it has not, you did not get your mammogram screening since 2007, why is that? It was becasue you didn't want to know."
Resolved to the truth I said, "You're right."
"So we are doing a double mastectomy,"  she questioned?
"Yes,".... I said simply.
With that we had a few giggles about what party animals we are NOT. She encouraged that I not spend a quite evening at home, but to go out and have some fun. Doctor's orders. I fell asleep on the couch at 9p on New Year's Eve. Woke up right at midnight to watch the count down and said to myself... "this is going to be a rough year."

Time to tell the Kids

Christmas Eve is our annual family kickball game. It's a day when we make the Christmas hustle and bustle stop and our family plays at the park. When we first became a blended family is was hard to squeeze in every one's favorite holiday traditions. Sad to say some were sacrificed and not everyone got to keep their favorite childhood memory alive. This annual kickball game seems to be something all of us are determined to hold on to rain or shine, sick or not, young or old! This year the weather was beautiful. No wind, blue skies, happy faces and a great attendance. After the game we sat in a big circle to announce to one last daughter and her family about the diagnosis. Somehow, it worked out that they were all told separately. That was brutal on me. Every time I had to re-tell my story I became weaker emotional. This being the last go round I was pretty much milk toast, weepy before I said a word. My husband and kids helped to fill in the blanks for the announcement. There we were sitting in a round circle in the park on Christmas eve discussing Mom's cancer. Lumpectomy? Mastecomy? Chemo? What's next? Merry Christmas? Hands down, the overwhelming vote was mastectomy! Good thing, I already decided that's what I wanted. What a brave crew we have; all brilliant, intelligent, loving and compassionate. Everything is going to be alright. It's just another earthquake, but this too shall pass and strengthen our family along the way. Life circumstances are less scary when you hear I Love You out loud. Only one thing was missing.. I had one daughter out of state. She was told over the phone, thank goodness for modern technology!

At the Blast of the Trumpet he says, 'Aha!'

In the book of Job, God answers Job's desperate questions about the cause for his calamity. Job, a righteous man was shaken down so to speak. His children, material wealth, status and physical health were taken away.  God answers him with questions that bring perspective and understanding to Job's situations. My favorite questions from God are found in Job chapter 38-41.  It was on Dec 2, 2011, three days before my mammogram that the scripture lept off the page to me. Sort of like God put a highlighter over the words as if I had fallen in love with the words that were stringed together.Love at first sight you might say, like I had already known them my whole life. I owned them, they were mine. They had deep penetrating meaning to my heart and soul.... and I didn't yet know why.

Have you given the horse strength?
Have you clothed his neck with thunder?
Can you frighten him like a locust?
His majestic snorting strikes terror.
He paws in the valley, and rejoices in his strength;
He gallops into the clash of arms.
He mocks at fear, and is not frightened:
Nor does he turn back from the sword.
The quiver rattles against him,
The glittering spear and javelin.
He devours the distance with fierceness and rage;
Nor does he come to a halt because the trumpet has sounded.
At the blast of  the trumpet he says, 'Aha!'
He smells the battle from afar,
The thunder of captains and shouting.
Job 39:19-25  NKJV

Have you every seen the power and the strength of a horse? I don't ride horses but I have always been awed by their majestic nature. Did you know a horse will run until it's death? What vigor, what determination! At  the blast of a trumpet he says, Aha!' God is asking Job if he has considered who created this magnificent animal?

The next day, December 3th 2011, I read a message of hope and restoration for God's people from the prophet Ezekiel chapter 33:4. Get a load of this...
"...then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet ad does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head.

Okay, the Lord and I have been walking together long enough that I know some things up! He had gone before me just as he promised he would. He prepared me to hear, it's Cancer. We had joined a small group  to study the book of Job in Sept. We thought it would be a wonderful study for us because we had been crushed by the failure of the housing market. Realtors in Vegas, what can I say?
I watched a lifetime of hard work and material wealth slip through my fingers in just a few years. I had just sent  two of my three daughters out of state and the third was preparing for her move too. That's pretty close to the story of Job. So, needing encouragement and hope we joined in. Little did I know that was just the beginning.

When I heard the trumpet, I was getting a second chance to read the pathology report, to ask questions and to make life saving decisions.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

When you hear the Trumpet part 3

My husband popped by the Doctor's office the day of my diagnosis to pick up the pathology report. By the way, I read that one! They gave him a pink book bag from Susan G. Koman. Inside the bag was a cute little teddy bear that had the word Hope written on his chest. I plopped him right on my night stand. There were a ton of books and magazines, a pink ball cap and a pink warrior scarf. We played this little game of hide the bag as we moved it room to room sneaking a book or two out, reading to one another in the early morning and late at night. Stopping for a hug and embrace more than usual during the day.
We were hiding from the kids! How do we tell them? When do we tell them? We were still waiting for one to come home from college for winter break and one to fly home from New York. There was another who was living in Montana, one living with us and a bonus child finding peace and shelter in our home. There were two others who live just down the road. In case you lost count there are seven. Three from my previous marriage, three from his previous marriage and a bonus daughter that the Lord gave our family to love as a seventh Page.
Nothing makes breast cancer more official than the pink book bag, not even the doctor's words or the pathology report. I began to read the books in the bag and look at all the diagrams. My eyes scanned over the words and pictures several times before I actually read them. I would start to read then my mind would wonder.. what will I look like with no hair and no breasts? I hope I can be buried by that pretty lake at the cemetery. I hope I get to be one of the lucky ones who has one round of chemo and it never comes back. Then a wave of tears come, the book closes and I start read again in about an hour.

Before I could see my doctor again she needs a PET scan. Standard procedure in these cases. It helps tell us more about the cancer and if it is anywhere else in my body. I was very scared since I realized that cancer had been my diagnosis for almost 5 years, with no treatment and total neglect. The PET scan would reveal all. They injected me with nuclear medicine and scanned my body. The whole process took about 45 minutes. Since I was radioactive I could not be around anyone. I didn't bring any books with me. All I could do was be still and know that God was God. I closed my eyes, took  hold of my peace and had a conversation with God. When I closed my eyes I saw Him standing by a river. He motioned me to come to Him. I shook my head, no. I don't want to get in the river. I don't want to go with you. I want to stay here. In my heart, I asked if there was anyway I could stay. He simply held up a pen and handed it to me. I knew that writing is my purpose. Well, at least one of my purposes. I agreed with Him that I would use that pen. As soon as that agreement came the test was over. "Job well done," said the technician, "we got a great scan, your doctor will have the results in a few hours."
By the end of the day, sure enough the doctor's nurse called and said that it came back negative. "Negative," I said! "Okay what does that mean"? "Negative what"? you see, I'm asking questions now!
She said, " Negative for more cancer"

When you hear the Trumpet part 2

I'm in the breast cancer surgeons office. The office is so tranquil. Brest cancer symbols everywhere you look. They are in shadow box frames, magazines and pictures hanging on the wall. Each one telling of some inspirational phrase that encourages survivors. Looking around and holding my husbands hand like he can save me from the Pit, it's beginning to sink in. I have breast cancer. How can it be? I feel perfectly normal, perfectly fine. Not even a runny nose. I just lost 30lbs and I feel healthier and more vibrant then I've felt in the last few years. Besides all my clothes fit and that will always  make you feel great.
When my Doctor entered the room I felt like an army sergeant had blasted through the door. With barely an introduction she put up my old mammograms films on wall from 2007, turn to looked at me and said, "Do you remember these in 2007"?
Yes, "I said."
She pointed out the suspicious areas. I swear she glared at me when she asked where are the 2008, 2009 and 2010 films. She knew there weren't any, she shook her head in that disappointed parent way. I was too ashamed to cry. Then she held up the new films and pointed out the better quality in technology that we have now. The lump I came in for was a cyst. A simple cyst that was extracted from my body right there in her office. Not cancerous but behind that cyst where two little conniving cancer tumors just hanging out and multiplying daily. We biopsied them right there on  Dec 15th, 2011. She told my that because they were not round, they were jagged and irregular and because this was the area in 2007 that was suspicious; Well. she really didn't tell me anything, she looked at me straight in the eye, caulked her head to the side and shrugged her shoulders.
We'll find out, "I am sorry that I have to be so hard on you, but you have neglected yourself ", she spoke tenderly.
I said, "That's okay, I need it. So, kick my ass and then please save my life."
She said, ''I will do my very best.''
The very next day, December 16th, 2011 I was in the social services building trying to apply for some kind of medical coverage through Clark County. I just knew I was in big trouble. I didn't need a biopsy to tell me. The look on the mammogram technician's face, the attitude of my breast cancer surgeon.. that said enough for me to spring into action. It was there among the homeless and the children running around in coats too small, among the veterans in wheel chairs that I took the phone call from my Doc.
"May I tell you the results over the phone," she asked.
 I said, "yes of course".
Once more she asked for permission.. "are you sure"?
"Yes, please." I said.
We giggled for a moment when she asked where I was and why was it so noisy? I canfessed where I was and she was glad the I was taking action.
"It is cancer my dear." Long pause. She continued, "We know at lot about this cancer. 80% of all women who get this cancer get this one, and that's good."
 My first response was cold and calculated as I heard my own voice say," double mastectomy please." As if I was ordering a hamburger at a fast food joint. Hold the onions!
There were 10 days between my mammogram appointment and the results. During those 10 days my husband and I both shed many tears. We re-evaluated and re-prioritized. we were kinder to one another, giving more allowances and grace.  We allowed the what ifs to be reality before it really was. Somehow, we were prepared. I knew that I knew that I knew. I already knew that I had stage two cancer and that I needed THEM OFF! With no tests and no consultations... I just already knew.
Social Services called my name. I went to the counter window with my paper work in hand and spoke the words out loud to a perfect stranger. "Hi, I'm Sheri and I have just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Is there a way I can get insurance"?

When you hear the Trumpet part 1

What used to be normal days have quickly faded into a foggy blurr. This is like preparing for a long trip, not knowing where the destination is! I have to pack everything it seems and be ready at the end of the day to go! One phase after another unfolds and I am running hard into battle. No time for boot camp, guess I'll be strengthen along the way. When you hear the word Cancer there is no pausing, no more waking gently from your sleep or peaceably laying your head on a pillow at night. Instead, there is a high alert siren going off inside your heart and mind continually. The top priority is to take care of yourself. This is sort of like standing up with complete balance during an earthquake. By the way, stay calm.
The first report of cancer was a shock on Dec 5th  when I had found a lump and went in for a mammogram and discoverd the real reason I was always turned down for health insurance and life insurance ( why do they call it life insurance when it is given when you die?) Anyhow,  I had a pathology report in 2007 that said I had cancer. Wow, really? That report said cancer? I could swear that my doc at that time said it wasn't cancer, it wasn't even really a pre-cancer. In fact he said that my risk of it turning into cancer was about 10%. So, I said no thanks to the tamoxifen, threw my hands up in the air and swore of going back again for another mammogram and another biopsy just to be told I didn't have cancer. I believe my exact words were, "They are going to give me cancer with all the stress they put me under with these painful and frightening biopsies"
I'm eating those words now, I didn't read my pathology report, I didn't get a second opinion because the Doc I went to was supposed to be "The Best". I didn't ask questions and I didn't double check. I didn't do the right thing and I didn't keep going back for annual screenings. In other words, this was preventable. How do I live with that... Oh, better question. How long do I get to live with that? Arrogance. I was completely arrogant in my independence and thoughts that whispered, "I know what's best." Now I will live out the consequences.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Really... It's Cancer?

Dear Cancer,

Hello. I would love to say it’s nice to meet you, but pardon me if I can’t extend such a gracious introduction to you. I do think though, someday I will say that it was nice to have met you for the brief time we knew each other. I understand that you have been hiding in my breasts like an invader in the night who waits for an opportunity to violently intrude on unsuspecting souls. You, sir have been found out, revealed and uncovered. Although I don’t know much about you, I am learning quickly about your plans, schemes and tactics. You have had years to study me. You have studied my mental health, my physical health and my spiritual health. You have conquered and destroyed and evaded cells in my body, enjoying quite a head start, if I do say so myself. You can run but you can not hide from us anymore. I have an army looking for you; Physicians, technology, family and friends. God and I will find you and we will conquer you.

I understand that your purpose is to test me and teach me. Let me tell you straight out that I Trust the Lord my God and that I am a quick learner. Cancer, You and I will dance a few dances we will step on each other’s toes I’m sure. Eventually, the dance will be over and you will have to go home… not matter what. That puts a smile on my face, because you may think you can win- but your win is futile because you need me to survive. I however, will live no matter what.

I have been frightened by you and you have scared my family and loved ones. Our wagons are circled and I have heard the trumpet’s revelry. Like a horse who charges at it’s sound, so shall we. So, as we shake hands and a nod to one another, let us begin. May God’s chosen live!