Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Resilient Kim

Our Kim

Kim Smith is our daughter-in-law, the wife of our oldest son, Calvin. They live in Roanoke, Virginia. Their sons are Josh (9) and Jackson (7). Calvin is an attorney. Kim is an occupational therapist. They are among the families who founded Christ the King Presbyterian Church. Kim left the hospital and began home hospice care on Friday, November 2. They began posting on CarePages when Kim was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer. Calvin has done most of the posting, but Kim has made some excellent posts, especially during the current year. Below I have collected some of these, which reveal Kim’s heart. I have provided a very few notes to give context for Kim’s comments. I have put these in italics within parentheses.

One further note: Kim and Calvin are involved with Susan G. Komen. I understand that some do not want any association with Komen because it provides some funds to Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood does provided abortions. But Komen does not provide funds to PP for the purpose of funding abortions. It provides funds for mammograms, which Planned Parenthood does not do but which they can send patients elsewhere to receive. No doubt the funds are intermingled. But, there are many organizations, including charitable ones, which are “mixed in nature” to which Christians give. Komen’s main purpose is to raise and direct funds for research to find the cure(s) for breast cancer, a cause about which Smiths care much.

Kim’s Story. On April 2, 2010, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. We learned about 2 weeks later that it had already metastasized to my liver. Following 8months of treatments in March 2011 I had a mastectomy. In April, 2011, we learned that the cancer had now moved into my bones - along multiple vertebra and ribs. We are continually trying potential chemotherapy agents and radiation. We continue on a chemo as long as there is some evidence of its effectiveness. If that evidence does not exist then my oncologist works with colleagues all over to determine the best next treatment for my cancer. We are thankful for your prayers, love, and encouragement for myself, my husband Calvin, and our two sons Josh and Jackson. I have been married to Calvin since July 1, 2000. The Lord has blessed us with 2 handsome and energetic boys - Josh and Jackson. I have a wonderful church family at Christ the King Presbyterian. I work full-time (although a flexible schedule) as an Occupational Therapist, teaching and coordinating fieldwork education (clinicals).

March 16, 2012. This weekend our Red Sox (Salem, VA, Red Sox) are having Pink in the Park to raise awareness of breast cancer. On Saturday night I will be participating by running out on the field with a player before the game. If you are able to attend the game Saturday night we would love to have you join us. We typically sit in sections 108 or 110 - just over the Sox dugout. You can buy tickets through this link and benefit Komen for the Cure....

(This paragraph mentions Laura Black, a member of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, who became a friend bound by their shared fight against cancer.) Finally, I ask that you join me in prayer for a wife and mother that I have met from this battle with breast cancer. (Some of you have seen my posts on facebook). Laura Black is in Birmingham, AL. She too has stage 4 breast cancer and is currently in the hospital fighting pneumonia and also finding out that her cancer has likely spread to new places. As I follow what is going on with her it really resonates with me. The new spots/tumors in places that I have tumors, the physical weakness, the after effects of chemo and radiation combined... There is such fear that surfaces when new cancer is found... not necessarily fear of death but fear for those that death would leave behind.... sorry I don't mean to be so morbid sounding.....and fear of not being able to LIVE out life with our husbands and kids. Oh the desire to be healed on this side of heaven is huge! Please join me and many others and pray for Laura as you pray for me.

March 19, 2012. (In March, Calvin and Kim and Josh and Jackson went to Legoland in Florida, a Christmas gift from Kim’s mother.)  My final walk back through the park was bitter sweet. I remembered the excitement and joy from earlier, but didn't anticipate I would feel quite this bad. I knew it would be a tough day for me, but I just thought I would be wiped out afterward, not having to sleep while there. As I walked behind the boys and watched them, I could only smile! They had had a day to remember!!! Along with that smile came a few tears though. I thought I was hiding them through my sunglasses, but my wonderful husband noticed and asked. Yes, I was crying..... I hated the way I felt right then, my back hurt, I was miserable, I hated that I could not make a day at an amusement park with my family, I hated that my boys had to look at their mom and feel sad for her, I hated that I missed some of their day - a day they were so excited about, and they knew I missed it, I hated that they looked at me with sadness because mommy doesn't feel good, I hated that this stupid cancer and even stupider chemo was making me feel this way. I hate that I will likely miss so much more! Bittersweet - pleasure alloyed with pain.

April 2, 2012. Certainly I believe that God knew what He was doing when He put Calvin and I together! But I must say He was an excellent matchmaker when He considered one characteristic...traveling. Yep, when it comes to Road Trips Calvin and I are very alike. We are not about the journey, but we are in it for the destination. We aren't the type to lolly-gag, to make many long drawn-out stops, or to check things out along the way! No, we are all about getting there! We stop for gas, bathroom, and lunch all at the same time and it's back on the road! (Calvin wants to make sure you know that we don't actually eat IN the bathroom) Get me to the beach...or parents' houses or whatever.

Never did we anticipate THIS LONG ROAD TRIP though! As of today, we have been traveling this road for 2 LONG YEARS. One thing that God is working on with us, throughout this road trip, is to learn to enjoy the journey. Wherever it takes us. Our "anxious-to-get-there" selves are stopping to see the sights and finding ways to enjoy even the bumps in the road (and boy have there been bumps, pot holes, detours and dead ends these last 2 years)!

I am so thankful that God has continued to allow me such fullness of life despite the diagnosis and treatment. I try daily to not focus negatively on the prognosis - or to continue my theme, the destination. It can be overwhelming and often a struggle t

I have not said thank you enough to those of you that have provided help through meals, encouragement, prayer, loving on and entertaining Josh and Jackson, and many other ways. But please know you have made this journey more pleasant and have provided me the opportunity to use my strength in ways that let me focus on the joys of this journey. I thank you!!!
Continuing this long lasting road trip...

"You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Psalm 16:11

June 19, 2012. (In June the family took a trip to Destin, stopping on the way in Birmingham to meet and visit with Laura and her family.) -BONUS BLESSING - To top it off, on our trip to Florida, we were able to drive through Birmingham, AL to meet someone that has become very dear to my heart. Many of you have heard me mention my friend Laura from Alabama. Laura is also a young woman, wife and mother of 3 kids close to the ages of Josh and Jackson who is fighting stage IV breast cancer as well. Laura and I have communicated over the phone, email, and facebook over the last 8 months or so. Calvin, the boys, and I were able to stop at her house to meet and visit with each other. It was very good for my soul to be in the room with, talk, and pray with someone who truly knows this struggle! Friends I ask you to be in prayer for Laura, her husband, and children as she continues this fight. Laura is currently having breathing complications (her metastases are in lungs and bones)and is very weak and on 24 hour oxygen. Laura is a beautiful woman. She has a beautiful smile and a heart that desires to bring glory to our God throughout this trial. My hope is that I have been able to show Christ through this, for without Him folks - I have no hope!
June 29, 2012. "You have granted me life and steadfast love, and your care has preserved my spirit." Job 10:12

Several mornings while sitting on the balcony at the beach and taking it all in, I spent time in the book of Job. Throughout all of the struggles, devastation, loss, and grief I must continue to recall God's blessings and promises. It can be so easy to focus on the negatives and the curses, but truly I am blessed and the Lord has preserved my spirit (for now and for eternity)!! How can I not be thankful!

This week has continued to be up and down as I reflect on Laura's death. I was in the car yesterday singing Oh Love That Will Not Let Me Go and as the verse mentioned "I trace the rainbow through the rain and feel the promise is not vain" I just burst out in tears. Laura always reminded friends of God's promise made to Noah and the sign of the rainbow... I will never look at a rainbow without thinking of her. "That morn shall tearless be!" Calvin and I still have not told Josh and Jackson about her death. We know that we need to - they were just with her and her kids less than 2 weeks ago - but I am really scared to do so. Please pray with us about this.

Well as for my next treatment, I have been approved for the next clinical trial and was randomized to the experimental chemotherapy (NKTR 102). I will receive my first treatment on Thursday of next week. The infusion time is listed as 90 minutes, so with the blood work on the day of treatment as well as meeting with doc and researcher and then treatment it will probably be about a 2 1/2 to 3 hour day at the center.

As of yesterday I have not had chemo in 7 weeks (last chemo treatment was May 10) so since having a scan on Monday, I have been curious about the potential growth of tumors in that time. According to the researcher, the results state that things remain stable in the chest - which is still a very good sign. As for the liver, the radiologist's report did not give actual measurements this time. It states that they have "progressed and that they are coalescing and difficult to measure". Now the researcher didn't know exactly what that means and my doc is out this week. Even though I teach medical terminology I was not familiar with that term so I looked it up. Sure enough it means "to grow together, to unite into a whole". That is what the researcher suspected. We don't know to what degree and will hopefully find out more from the doc. So you all can be praying about that progression. Hopefully the trial will prove some success in decreasing liver tumors while providing limited side effects for me.

Well, that pretty much covers things for now. Thanks for your prayers and encouragement.

August 8. 2012. Since being on this new clinical trial, I have never really felt like myself. The title above pretty well sums up how I have felt physically and emotionally over the last 6 weeks. I get a little stronger and then the next day I feel like crawling in a hole again.

On Saturday I had the blessing of going to a women's bible study and fellowship with my mom and ladies from my church. It lasted about half the day. When I returned home I slept. It was wonderful to be in the presence of my sisters in Christ - the conversations were very good for my soul (I need to have them more often!).

Sunday I slowly got ready for church but was only able to stay about 30 minutes as I began to feel sucked of energy and if the world was closing in. Later that afternoon I got sick and continued to sleep the day away. That evening my 3 boys were able to enjoy an evening with good friends and I was saddened that I just could not go.

Monday, the joy of my day was having an all out tickle fight with Jackson while in the recliner. I realized that it has been 1 year and 5 months since I last picked him up (that was just before my mastectomy). I HAVE NOT PICKED UP MY CHILD IN ALMOST A YEAR AN A HALF... Mothers out there be grateful.... pick up your child now, if you can, and give them a big hug. Well I tried to help lift Jackson a little to get him up in the recliner and realized either he has become a sack of sand or I am very very weak (I think it is a little of both). Either way he joined me in the recliner and we tickled and giggled and such until neither of us could breathe!!

Tuesday I felt pretty strong so I spent several hours at the office preparing for fall semester (it is coming soon). After a good day at the office, I took the boys to the dentist and helped mom prepare a delicious dinner. I still can't eat very much at times, but I tried!

Today was another day of no energy. To go out for Zaxby's chicken at lunch completely wiped me out!

Today I am meditating on Psalm 23. It is one we almost know so well that we tend to gloss over the depth of it.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever."
Y'all that is my comfort, that is my strength in this! He is WITH ME! And I will dwell with Him FOREVER!!! Thanks for your continued prayers. Mom is here for just short of one more week and it will be hard when she leaves. We have been blessed... Surely the Lord is with us! Next treatment is Thursday Aug 16 and then scans on Thursday Aug 23.

August 10, 2012. I type this update while hiding behind tears. Josh is upstairs, Jackson playing the Wii, Mom gone to Kroger so I feel like at least I am not being directly watched as I cry. I am so very tired of being inside and having not enough energy.

I was excited earlier my shower (taxing), put on some makeup (had to sit down), Put on my red dress and heels (then stretched out on the bed). Calvin came home early from work to get changed too. We were heading up to Staunton, VA (about an hour plus up the interstate) to a celebration and even a night away. At one time the night away was going to be a weekend away, maybe Baltimore, but we quickly realized on this chemo that would not be reality... so maybe just a quiet night away would do.
But when it came down to it, I just could not go. I can't even sit through church these days, much less drive an hour for a reception. There was no guarantee I could survive it so we said "NO" to me going. He pulled off my heels and I walked him downstairs and out the door, then as he drove north I crawled in bed :(
Oh how I wanted to be there. To be with him. I wanted to celebrate with the Judge and his family. You see, they are very dear to us. I wanted to see Calvin and others honor him and his service. And I wanted a night with my husband...just my husband.

September 20, 2012. "Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved." Psalm 55:22

Yeah we are burdened here! But He is sustaining us! I believe that Calvin mentioned in his last post that he has been having some stomach pains and not feeling well. That has worsened over the last few days. Yesterday he went in to see his doctor and had an dray and blood work done. This morning, after I dropped off the boys at school, I had to report for my Brain MRI (Calvin had said Friday but it was today). While waiting to be called back Calvin called to let me know that his doc had called and told him to go to the Emergency Room b/c his lipase enzyme (pancreas) was very high. Thankfully a friend of ours was able to get him to the hospital while I had my mri. He was still in the ER when I got there. Around 3:20 he was finally transferred to a room. The plan is that he will be there a few days to control the pain and try to stabilize his pancreas. At this point they are uncertain of the cause. Some of you may remember this enzyme was high about a year ago as it was much higher.

As you can imagine this news was extremely hard for the boys to hear. "Daddy isn't supposed to be sick, mom that's you." They want daddy home and some sense of normalcy. They were not able to see him but begged to go to the hospital. Tomorrow after school they will get to visit him.
We are tired and burdened from the journey we have been on. But we are well aware that God will sustain us and carry us through this current trial.
Thank you for your prayers. Pray for Calvin's healing, my strength, and for they boys as they try to deal with this.
Friends it has been a rough road for the Smith's. I know that while I desire to spend every moment with Calvin, I MUST take care of me (or else we end up with two patients at Memorial.

October 12, 2012.

Pink, Green, and Blue - Colorful Musings from a Woman with Stage IV Breast Cancer
Part 1 - Pink

You have to know where I am starting here... It is October and everywhere we go there is Pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Last night, I was extremely saddened when I read an article on about a woman who, like me, has stage IV breast cancer. She was putting down the pink and stating it was like a slap in the face to those of us fighting in incurable stage of breast cancer. She doesn't feel included in the activities of the month because she believes the focus is mostly on new breast cancer diagnoses, prevention, and early detection. To quote her, "I was beyond prevention, beyond cure, beyond survivorship, beyond pink." Yet another woman (with stage III) in the article stated that she too "can not celebrate because she is not a survivor".

Oh y'all this hurt me deep down as I read it. I understand the pain, fear, anger and such of this incurable diagnosis. It is true that I am beyond prevention and beyond a cure just like this woman. But oh this is not just about ME. Sure we all wish I didn't have to go through this. I wish this woman didn't have to go through this either. But it is the portion we have been handed. And as I spoke about at our Roanoke race for the Cure last April, survivorship doesn't have to mean being cancer free and done with it... Survive is what we do at stage IV.

What if, just what if, because of all of the pink... if this awareness leads to action? Some stats say there are 155,000 women in the US living with Stage IV breast cancer. Y'all what if I could be the end of it? What if what I am going through, what others are going through, what research is being done, what awareness and early detection and treatment that is going on could lead to NO MORE STAGE IV? I am ok with that!!! The early stages are treatable - even curable! So let's be stuck there!

Pink is for National Breast Cancer Awareness this month. Yes, we have been seeing pink in October since Marilyn Quayle's work during the Bush-Quayle Administration. Folks that's a lot of awareness! But at some point, there must be more than just awareness. Somewhere along the way there has to be a change of heart for action too! Just like as I walk in faith, I often become "aware" of sinful words and actions on my part. But once God has changed my heart on the matter, then I can take action. Sometimes I get hit time and time again with the awareness piece before the action starts! Well, even with the pink representing awareness, know that there is action out there! I get so excited during October when I am reminded of the various organizations out there that are in action against breast cancer. Not just detection but treatment for me too! Remember I am in my second clinical research trial for treatment. So friends be aware and if you are led then follow through with action - whatever that action might be (for yourself or for others). I want to be the end of Stage IV Breast Cancer!

Thanks again for your continued prayers and encouragement for my family. times are tough, but God is good to us!

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