Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Block 3 Done!

Can you believe it? Moving right along with this project, I'm still on schedule- but it's hard to believe how fast a month goes by! I just finished this last night, and I expect that block 4 will arrive in the mail any day now.... BTW this BOM is called Settler's Pride by Maggie Bonanomi. See Block 1 and Block 2.
Also, we've been working on making yo-yo's for pins. I managed to get my kids to help out a little, cutting out the circles, and I got my 83 year old grandma to sew some for me. But there's still lots to do.... I had planned on making hundreds of pins this month, but the month is gone without much work to show for it. Oh well. I never seem to get anything done during the month of December, despite my best intentions. Come to think of it, I recall that last year around this time I had decided that this year I would just plan on taking December off. OK so reminder to self- take next December off! Because I probably won't accomplish anything anyway!

I have already done my calendar for next year. During the last week of every year, I get out my new calendars (one is the wall calendar, so I can see the whole month, and one is my planner, where I can write the details) and fill it in with holidays, birthdays, school schedules, filing deadlines, monthly pet medication reminders, doctor and dentist reminders, etc. It takes me a few hours to do this. But if I don't, the household will grind to a halt by the third week of January, so it's got to be done. And as Household Operations Manager (hey, it's a lot of work, I think I deserve a title, even if it does not include a salary), that responsibility falls on me. But it feels really good to be organized, even just a little bit. It is a good way to start off the new year. And maybe, right now, while I am planning out my year, I should just block out the entire month of December with a big black marker......

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Blessings

The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.

For to us a Child is born,
to us a Son is given,
and the government will be on His shoulders.
And He will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of His government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David's throne
and over His kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.

“So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the Baby, Who was lying in the manger. When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this Child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”- Luke 2:16-20

The Savior is here- Hallelujah! Hallelujah! A Blessed Day to you all!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Merry Christmas to Me!

I got my biopsy report today:
Fragments of bladder mucosa with hypertrophy of smooth muscle.
There is no evidence of malignancy.

Thank God, Thank God. I have something called a leiomyoma, probably on my uterus. I am trying to make an appointment with a gynecologist/surgeon. The first available I could get was January 25, and I'd probably have to wait until March for surgery. (But then again, I've really had enough of doctors lately, and I could use a break..........) So, it's not over yet, but now I can enjoy Christmas knowing that I do not have cancer. Again, Thank God, Praise God, Hallelujah!!!

I just wanted to say, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to everyone who has given me such kind words and encouragement. It has meant more to me than I can ever say.......
And a very blessed season to you all. The Savior is here. God keeps His promises......

Monday, December 21, 2009


When I saw the doctor last Wednesday, he said there was a possibility that my biopsy would be back on Friday. So at about 5 minutes after 2 on Friday I called to see if it had come in. The receptionist said that it had. I asked to speak to the doctor, but she said he had already left. She said the reports had come in just minutes before I called, after he had left for the weekend. I don't begrudge the guy taking off early on a Friday, but why last Friday?? I got to spend the whole weekend knowing that my report was sitting on his desk, and that the receptionist knows what I have, but I don't. I imagined maybe my friend and I breaking in to the office, and making a copy of the report for myself. But when I picture that scenario in my head, it looks like a Laverne and Shirley episode, so I decided to just let it go..... The doctor does surgery on Mondays, so I don't know if I will hear from him at all today. I will probably just have to wait until my appointment tomorrow (have I mentioned that I am extremely impatient and a control freak?)

I have to admit that when this all began, I would characterize my faith as "weak." I knew ultimately that God would take care of me, but my fear was that things wouldn't turn out the way I wanted them to. While God always holds us in the palm of His hand, some people do not get physical healing. My fear was that I would die much earlier than I had planned.... My fear was that God taking care of me would entail me having peace with my premature suffering and death (I really do have a very active imagination, I know.) I never asked myself  "Why me?", it has always been "Why not me?" Why shouldn't I be the one to get cancer.... sometimes bad things, terrible things, happen. I just don't want them to happen to me, but I recognize that they very well could. (notice how many times I and me appear in this paragraph- I have hilighted them for you, just in case you didn't notice. Could it be that my focus on myself, and not on Him, is the problem......)

The day that I got a bad test report and went to the church in the middle of a breakdown, the lady praying with me was first praying for me and my family to have peace. And I remember thinking- No, no! not peace! Healing! Pray for healing, because I do not want this thing that I fear so much. Of course, then she did pray for healing for me. But isn't it funny (and very human) that we want our pain and suffering to be taken away, instead of just asking God to use it! I lean on the works of the apostle Paul, who said:

there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-12)

Oh, to be like James, who wrote: Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4)

Oh goodness- does he really expect me to consider my trials a joy, because they develop perseverance and character!? What I really want is just to live a simple life, free from pain and drama.... I just want to go on with my plans for my life.... Really, is developing perseverance and character that important.... can't I just skip that part....

The first week or 2 of all of this, I was paralyzed with fear. People were telling me that these tests are often wrong and don't mean anything. I have to admit, that made me angry- because even though that may be completely true, when it is happening to you, it is terrifying, and you don't want to feel like maybe you are overreacting and being irrational. And no matter how many people rally around you and support you and pray for you- you still know that ultimately you are alone in it. No one else can walk through it for you. I realized early on that this was just gonna me and God walking through this one together..... Even though I leaned on God and trusted Him..... my human self was just terrified, and even though people were telling me that God had me in the palm of His hand, it was hard to believe, many times I just didn't feel it. I mean, I believed and had faith, but I didn't really believe and have faith. Does anyone understand what I mean? It's like I had it in my head, but it took a while to work down into my heart. Like the father of the possessed boy who said to Jesus- I do believe! Help me overcome my unbelief! Mark 9:24. We believe, we think we believe, but there is always another level of faith that we strive toward.

So about 10 days ago, I guess all the prayers that people were praying for me to have peace actually kicked in. Suddenly, almost overnight, I felt better. I still had to have the biopsy, I still feared the surgery itself. But I have no longer been paralyzed by the fear of the outcome. Somehow, I really know that I am going to be OK. I have been able to move on with my life and enjoy my family and enjoy the holiday season. I have somehow been able to "look past the curve" (I will explain that one later- this post is already too long.) The only explanation I have for how I went from terror to peace is a miraculous work of God on my heart, an answer to the prayers of so many.....

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Oh, the weather outside is frightful.....

Of course, this is not news to any of you living in the northeast- indeed, I am sure you all have your own snow stories to tell. 18" of snow here (and it's not even officially winter until tomorrow!) Our church even cancelled services today (as most churches did), so the pageant that we were supposed to do today is pushed off till next week. We were supposed to have a big family dinner here today, but we cancelled it, since no one would be able to get up our driveway anyway!

This is the biggest snow in December in our area in recorded history! The next biggest snowfall happened on December 25 and 26 in 1909!  It was fun to stay inside yesterday during the blizzard and just hang out and watch movies. But today it was time to "pay the piper" and the dig out began. Our neighbor is here as I type, plowing our rather long driveway with his tractor. But it took a couple of hours for us to just dig from the back door to the drive way, and then to dig out the cars. We had drifts that were waist high on my 5"11" husband.

Since we are assuming that school will be closed tomorrow, the girls and I will be "snowed in" for the 3rd day in a row (which is really OK with me.....) Poor hubby has to get out to work, though. I actually talked my husband into giving the girls their big Christmas gift today (and explained to them that there won't be a lot of presents Christmas morning). We got them a wii, and they are already having fun playing with it. Perfect day for it.

For those of you also digging out, stay warm!

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Few Crafty Ideas....

On Wednesday, my older daughter called me from WalMart. She was shopping, and she wanted to know what I wanted for Christmas. I told her that I'd gotten my catheter removed that day, and that's all I really wanted! Then she said, Oh Darn, I was going to find you a really cute knit cover for it. So then we thought, maybe we should design a whole line of covers, you know, in all different colors and styles for every outfit and occasion. We would market it as the "Catheter Cozy"...... I don't know, do you think the world is ready for that?!? Ha ha!!! (That was my last catheter comment- PROMISE!!!!!!)

Anyway, here are some actual crafty ideas for you. I recently did a talk at a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting, and the theme was inexpensive gift giving ideas. Here are some of the super easy projects I had for the ladies......
This one is really my favorite, and you might already have everything you need.

Get an inexpensive unpainted frame- these were only a dollar each at Michael's and IKEA. Paint them a contemporary color, like black, dark charcoal, dark brown, or shabby chic white (very Pottery Barn-esque.) Layer scrapbook papers on the cardboard insert that comes with the frame. Glue down with a glue stick or double sided tape. Add embellishments like ribbon or buttons. Glue on photo. The great thing about this that you don't have to crop your photo to a specific predetermined size to match a ready-made frame - the photo can be any size or dimension.

Baked goods always make a nice gift. Put them in containers you have decorated yourself.
For this, I just got a plain cake box at the craft store or party store (I think it was only $1.49.), or some plain undecorated take out boxes. Cut out simple designs/shapes from scrapbook paper and glue on. Add ribbon and voila! Who wouldn't want some delicious homemade goodies in one of these cute boxes.

I am going to try to do a little baking today.  Only a week till Christmas!!!! Have a great weekend.                        

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Free at Last!

I woke up at 4 am in a panic. Oh no! Did I really do a post talking about my catheter! Yikes! I expect that readers will turn away in droves. But then I read your really kind comments, and I felt better. I really am a private person. But I guess 2 weeks away from the blog really gives one the urge to purge!!!
I went to the urologist this morning, and he removed the catheter. Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty! Free at last! I feel better already. Now I just have to wait till Tuesday for the biopsy results. He said he will call me if he hears anything sooner, but right now I am just assuming that I have to wait another whole week.

So, life goes on. I am trying to catch up on stuff, it feels good to be back in my studio. A little bit of normalcy. I think I will work on making some wool pins. My inventory is very low. I ordered a bunch of wool back at the beginning of November, thinking I would spend any free time I had in December making pins. Then all of this happened. I think it will be good to think about someone other than ME for a change. On a particularly bad day a couple of weeks ago, I found myself in Walgreen's with a shopping cart full of toys for the local women's and children's shelter. I just didn't know what else to do with myself. Doing something for someone else is always good therapy, and in conjunction with "retail therapy", well, I think that is just a good combination!

It is just 9 days till Christmas. I have not baked a single cookie. Oh well. Daughter comes home from college on Thursday, so maybe the kids will make them this year. Then again, not having the cookies in the house has probably saved me from gaining my usual "Christmas cookie weight" this year, so maybe it's not such a bad thing. And I am really trying to eat healthier, because I never want to go through something like this again. Maybe my body is trying to tell me that I am no longer young and invincible, but I am aging, just like my parents and grandparents. Middle age stinks! But I would not trade the wisdom I have gained for my 20 year old body and face. And of course, it is during our most difficult times that God really reveals Himself to us (I'm sure it has more to do with the fact that during trials we are vulnerable and needy and desperate for Him, and we will seek Him more, and not because He is more present in difficult situations..... He is always the same, always present.... it is just during these times that we can really see Him, because we look for Him...)

The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
For in the day of trouble
He will keep me safe in His dwelling;
He will hide me in the shelter of His tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.
Psalm 27

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Where in the World is Jacquelynne Steves??

Many some two of you may be wondering where I have been. It has been a heckuva couple of weeks (and not in a good way.) I have been going through a really difficult time. I thought about blogging it- but frankly, it has been hard enough to just live it, I just didn't feel like sitting down and writing it and rehashing it. I know for some people, writing is therapeutic, but for me in this case, I have spent most of my time trying not to think about it. Also, my kids read my blog and I didn't want to freak them out.

I apologize that this is a very long post, and I hope it is not too graphic. I have spent a long time considering how much I should divulge.  But it has been the major part of my life lately, and it feels dishonest to blog about Christmas decorations when, right now, they are the furthest thing from my mind. I am usually a very private person, but God and the prayers of many wonderful and faithful friends have, and continue, to lead me through this.

A couple of months ago at my regular gyn appointment, I mentioned to the doctor that I felt bloated and crampy etc. so she gave me a prescription for an ultrasound. I put it off for 2 1/2 months because I figured it would just turn out to be something like fibroids or something, and hey, I was busy, you know? So I finally got around to going for the ultrasound in mid-November. After calling a couple of times for the results, I finally heard back from them 6 days later (after I left a message demanding that they call me) and they tell me I have a mass on my bladder and recommend a CT scan. So I called for that appointment, and had to wait another 6 days. Which made for an anxious Thanksgiving week for me. And that's when things got worse.

Monday November 30.  Drink disgusting barium and go for CT of pelvis and abdomen. Ask the doctor's office to call me right away with the results, since I have now been waiting around for a week wondering if this "mass" is something to be worried about. Of course, my mind wanders to the darkest scenarios possible.

Tuesday December 1. Receive word from gyn in morning that there is definitely a mass, she recommends I get to a urologist ASAP. And by the way, I also have a couple of kidney stones, a slightly enlarged uterus, and fluid on one of my ovaries. She recommends (under her breath, so that others in the office can't hear her) that I don't go to a local hospital and instead go to a large city hospital, and tells me to let them know if there is anything at all they can do for me..... I make some calls. Get a recommendation for a urologist from a lady in our church who is currently undergoing bladder cancer treatment. Call the urologist and get appointment for the next day. They want me to bring the CT scan films, so I arrange to pick them up at the radiologist.

Wednesday December 2. Pick up the films and written report from the radiologist. Get in my car and read the report. Mass on bladder.... lesion on kidney..... something else "uncharacterized" in my liver and the base of my lungs. I hyperventilate, freak out, feel like I am going to throw up. This is the end of me, I have just found out how I am going to die. Start to drive home. Decide to stop at church because I don't want to go home and be by myself. A couple of ladies at church pray and talk me through my breakdown.
I go home, hubby comes home from work to go to doctor appointment with me. I let him eat his lunch, and then tell him that the report looks really bad and start to confess my fears. He assures me that yes I will see my daughters get married and see my grandchildren and live a long life. He is a rock, I am falling apart.
See the urologist. He looks at my bladder with something called a cystoscope- not a pleasant experience. The tumor is not in my bladder, but behind it, possibly on my uterus, pushing in on the bladder. He gives me a script for a STAT MRI and sends me home with an antibiotic to prevent an infection from the test he performed. For the next 18 hours, peeing is torture. He tells me to see my gyn for the CT report, because he thinks this is a gynecological issue.

Thursday December 4. Go for MRI. One of the techs makes an innocent inquiry regarding what they have found on my CT scan. I spend the next hour in the MRI tube (aka "coffin") with nothing else to do but think about my impending doom.
I have tried to get through the week and do what I need to do- Christmas shopping, help build the Christmas Village at church, go to choir practice, etc. In the evenings at church, people comment that they haven't seen me wear glasses before. I don't tell them that I can't wear my contacts because I have spent the week crying. I deal with being really angry with myself for waiting 2 1/2 months to get the ultrasound. If this ends up really bad, it's my fault....

Friday December 5. Hubby goes with me to gyn appointment to get the MRI report. I am full of anxiety. I have not been to this office before, and I find it odd that there is a young guy about 22 years old working the desk. I have never been to a gyn office where the office staff was male, unless the male was the doctor. Also, I find it disconcerting that apparently it is "casual Friday" and this guy is wearing baggy jeans, a Phillies sweatshirt, and a Phillies baseball cap. This does not set my mind at ease. He looks like he is going to a baseball game, and he's working in my doctor's office. Seems unprofessional and does not put me at ease. Finally go in to see the doctor. There are 2 MRI reports- 1 abdomen, 1 for pelvis. The pelvic MRI does show a mass on my bladder, but the abdominal one is OK- no mention of anything on my kidney, liver, pancreas..... She sends me back to the urologist. I break into tears. She thinks that it is because I still don't have an answer about what this thing is- but I explain to her that I am so relieved that apparently, my body is not full of cancer. I come home and call the urologist's office and get an appointment for Tuesday. Later I tell my husband and a couple of friends that I have never been so relieved to find out that I might "just" have bladder cancer.

Monday December 7. I have an appointment with my primary physician for a routine physical, which I had scheduled a couple of months previously. I keep the appointment and hope he can give me some answers. He is sure that this cannot be biopsied in the urologist's office, so he gets the ball rolling with my pre-op testing so that whenever they can take me, I will be ready to go. I leave his office and go for bloodwork (which I can do since I have not eaten all day- I have not been able to eat for at least a week....) and then I go for a STAT CT of my chest, just to make sure that whatever it was in my lungs that they saw on the first CT scan is not something to worry about. He reassures me several times that he is over-reacting, but it is disconcerting to say the least to be handed a script that says- STAT CT of chest, rule out metastases, bladder tumor. I call the radiologist from my car, at first they want me to wait till Wednesday, but I tell them it is a stat order so they squeeze me in that afternoon.

Tuesday December 8. Appointment with urologist. He will schedule me for same day surgery at the hospital on Monday for the biopsy. I ask if I really have to wait that long, he replies that he does surgery on Mondays, unless it's an emergency, and this is not an emergency (well, maybe not to him.....) He says I may come home with a catheter.... I really hope not.

Wednesday December 9. Back to primary physician to get a note for medical clearance for surgery, get EKG done. Come home. 2 hours later, I break out into a horrendous rash that is red and angry looking and itchy.  Are you kidding me? I've already been to my primary physician's office twice this week. My husband thinks it looks like a drug reaction. I find this odd, because I have just taken the 13th of 14 doses of the antibiotic I received last week. You would think I'd react when I first begin to take it. Go to bed hoping it will be better when I wake up.

Thursday December 10. Rash is worse. Go back to primary physician. What do you know? It is a drug reaction- I am now allergic to sulfa. Get prescription for steroids to help calm my system down before surgery on Monday. In the afternoon, I go to my pre-op appointment at the hospital. Fill out the forms etc. They will call me between 2 and 5 pm on Friday to let me know what time to report to the hospital on Monday.

Friday December 11. The first day in a long time that I have not had a doctor's appointment or test. I get the call to arrive at the hospital at 11:30 am on Monday. No food or water after midnight Sunday.

Monday December 13. Arrive at the hospital. Terribly dehydrated and feeling icky. They have trouble finding my veins for the IV. I am scheduled to go in at 12:45, but they don't take me in until 3. I am weepy. They give me something to calm me down, but I am still weepy. The last thing I remember as I go to sleep is a very kind nurse, caressing the tears from my cheek and telling me it's going to be OK. She is an angel. When I wake up, the first thing I feel is a catheter. Crap. I was really hoping to avoid that. Also, my throat is killing me, so I guess they intubated me, though no one mentions that. Nurse helps me to get dressed. The doctor has also given hubby a picture of my bladder to bring home (I will spare you and not post it here!) Hubby picks me up at the door and drives me home. I spend the next 4 hours on the couch, watching Penelope and Little Shop of Horrors on DVD. Younger daughter comes home from her grandmother's and kindly fetches anything I need. When it is bedtime, hubby helps me walk to the kitchen for a glass of water so I can take my antibiotic (not sulfa....) After a few minutes, I start to feel really dizzy. My face is hot and there is ringing in my ears. I sit on the kitchen floor, and after a couple of minutes I don't feel better and wonder if we should call the doctor. I then lay down on the kitchen floor. A few minutes on the cool kitchen floor makes me feel better. Hubby helps me up to bed. He has to help me out of my clothes and into my pajamas, and drains my catheter bag for me. He is a saint. It is hard to get comfortable in bed. It is hard to sleep.

Tuesday December 15. I wake up feeling a little better. Still weak from not eating and a little dizzy. But hubby has taken another day off from work, helps me shower and dress and get downstairs, and makes me something to eat. Have I mentioned that he is a saint?
The biopsy will take 5-7 days to come back, so now I just wait....

This has been the longest few weeks of my life. I am ever grateful for the prayers and wonderful support I have received from so many. God has taught me a lot through this, and I would like to share some of that a little later. If you have spent the time to read through this whole post- thanks for your patience.

The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
He will quiet you with His love,
And rejoice over you with singing.
Zephaniah 3:17


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