The Fight Continues- Looking Back

I am re-reading these posts from 4 years ago, much like you. It is still so hard to believe Shannon went through this and emerged with a great spirit, continued faith, and Joie d’ Vivre : ). Little did we know she was going to be having another fight some 3 years later. What I do remember of this time is that this journey was mostly alone for Shannon, some by choice, and some not. We shared with those folks that loved her and cared for her. We were (and are) truly blessed. Shannon received meals, she received encouraging cards, gift cards, gifts of luxury to make her feel good, all this love and support, yet she felt alone. She was alone because she was not yet 40 and felt like she aged 30 years in a matter of weeks.. the lymphedema had not yet been diagnosed at this point. She longed for a connection with someone that was ahead of her, and yet there were none provided. her experience with breast cancer has been much different, better if it is possible.. but more about that later as I work to share our journey from beginning, middle, and catch up to today. Stay tuned….

2nd Full Week

Journal entry by Kevin Beasley —

It is Friday morning 10:00 am we are at the Infusion Center at Henrico Doctors Hospital. Shannon is getting 1 liter of Saline to help her with Hydration. Her doctor prescribed a daily hydration treatment as needed to stave off dehydration.  I wanted to catch everyone up on treatment this week.

Let me start by following up on my last post.  Part of the reason the chemo treatment took so long is due to having the IV run through Shannon’s vein. Shannon has very small veins so the nurses had to run the IV at half speed.. so what would normally take 1 hour took 2 hours. We let her oncologist know and she recommended a Picc Line which basically inserts a tube deeper into her vein. Shannon had the Picc Line put in on Tuesday morning at 8:00 am in an outpatient procedure which took about an hour.  We then took her downtown for her radiation treatment at 10:00 am.

This was a busy day as she had an appointment with a Nutritionist with oncology training. We all agreed we needed some help with keeping Shannon nourished with the right foods during her treatment. Her thoughts at first was to go all organic and low fat. We were wrong. The biggest takeaway from the meeting was during treatment calories and protein are what she needs to focus on. She is to eat sensibly but what she likes.. whenever she eats she should have protein, meats, cheese, dairy, nuts. The longer the treatment goes the more important it is for her to be eating. If she wants to go to Chick Fil A.. go to Chick Fil a. Potatoes, Pasta, anything to help her keep food in her body. This was a very good meeting and we are glad we sought out the help.

Shannons chemo this week was at 9:00 am on Wednesday. It went much smoother than the first one as we had expected. We knew how to get checked in and got to the hospital early to make her appointment. The infusion nurse was happy to see she had a Picc Line because they could run the IV at full speed to speed up the treatment.  We were done with the treatment at 1:00 pm compared to 3:00 pm last week.. The whole process was much better.

She continues to have radiation daily that vary times. We will go to MCV downtown until June 12th at that time she will be able to go 5 minutes from home rather than going downtown which is about 15-20 minutes down I-95 which depending on the day traffic can be bad going and coming. Every week is a new adventure.

Shannon is done with her Saline treatment and we are headed to MCV. Her appointment for radiation is at 10:20.. as I am typing this it is 10:35.. we are late.. but I called at 10:00 am to let radiation know we are on the way.. they will just work her in.. more adventure.. I will check back in early next week to let everyone know how the weekend went.  Weekends are good because she gets a break.. no radiation and no chemo.

I hope everyone has a nice weekend. Thanks again for the messages and prayers. Shannon reads them each day.. It is great to know we have all the support from friends and family during this time.

Love,

Kevin

The Race begins

It is very interesting to me…looking back on these posts so many years later. I have not looked at them, nor really wanted to be reminded of them since the day I wrote it. We had so many people to update and were interested in how Shannon was doing. In my mind this was the best way to accomplish this. Little did I know it would provide me a place of reflection and healing.. You see as the healthy caregiver, I was riddled with grief, angst, and fear. I had my Faith, which provided comfort but the reality is cancer is scary, really scary. If you have been the patient or the family dealing with it you can nod in agreement. There was no support for me, now I am sure there were resources available, but I was not aware of them. As I have said before, we were living day by day, doctor appointment to doctor appointment, with little else to do or reflect. Looking back I can now sit in reflection and could offer help and advise because we ran the race and crossed the finish line. When you are running for your life, you really don’t look up accept where the next step is coming, and then the next. For Shannon her race started on this day in June of 2013.

Treatment Starts

Journal entry by Kevin Beasley —

Shannon wanted everyone to know that I wrote the first 2 journal entries for her in her voice, I will continue to update the journal but in my own voice for her. Sorry for the delay in updating, I will make sure to do a better job moving forward.

Shannon’s first Chemo Treatment was on Tuesday. My mom, Shannon, and I arrived to the Infusion Center at 9:00 as instructed. The nurse asked if she had her papers.. puzzled she said “No”. We quickly learned that we needed to register in admissions prior to the treatment. We asked for a nurse to take us where we needed to go. Every procedure performed at Henrico Doctors Hospital has to go through registration… Every time we have to give the same information, insurance card.. the works. Every time… very frustrating for 2013 with the age of computer records, high speed internet,etc. We ended up being taken to outpatient registration.. we should have been taken to admissions “to make it easier”. The nurse did not even know where to take us.. Needless to say the day started out stressful and more was to come.
We finally got registered and we were back up in Infusion Center for Treatment.. Let me start by saying the nurses are WONDERFUL and they really made a stressful time much easier. 
We let the nurse know that Shannon had a Radiation Treatment downtown at MCV at 12:00 and we knew we started late.. The nurse looked puzzled and said, “you will not make that appointment because it is going to take at least 3 hours for the treatment” Shannon had 1 Liter of Saline which takes about 1 hr to 1.5 hr. She takes a steroid which cannot be administered with saline which takes a 1/2 hour and the Chemo takes 1-2 hours… This is if everything goes as planned.  For the first time it did not..  A little backstory..We decided to have the Radiation Oncologist nurse at Bon Secours Memorial Regional Hospital/Massey Cancer Center take her blood (her blood has to be drawn 24 hours prior to the chemo treatment). Massey Cancer (Radiation) and Henrico Doctors(Chemo) are separate hospital systems.. so the blood work had to be faxed over from Massey to Henrico Doctors. When we arrived they did not have the fax.. they ended up finding it but realized that magnesium was not listed.. so they had to redraw blood to send to the lab. Needless to say it was a long day that hopefully will improve next week.. we certainly have learned alot.
 I called MCV Radiation and moved her appt to 3:00pm. Shannon remained positive and we ended up staying until 3:00.. I called MCV to let them know we would be late.. they said come when you can. Radiation is a breeze and Shannon ended up coming home and rested the rest of the day.
Thank you for your continued prayers for Shannon and our family. Your comments are encouraging.. Shannon enjoys reading them. I will make sure to update on a regular basis.
Kevin

Faith and Joy

Encouragement comes in many forms… people, events, circumstances, quotes, and for us Faith. Many people have asked us over the years.. I don’t know how you did it, do it.. must be very hard having your wife going through this. My mind could not perceive anything but a positive result, and I feel it is directly related to my faith and the faith Shannon and I both share that our heavenly father is with us and will lead us through these challenging times. I had to be strong for the both of us and there were many days where we needed it, but it did not come until later, you see for Shannon the cancer treatment- Chemo and Radiation she described later as a race.. We had a timeline… 6 weeks… She was going to feel crappy….understood… for 6 weeks… She could run hard for 6 weeks. We had no comprehension otherwise, we trusted her medical team to outline the best treatment plan and she would take all the medication needed, to prevent nausea, to combat sleepless nights, to help with anxiety, everything she was asked to do we did. I created a medication chart to follow because it was too complex to keep up with otherwise, these were all things WE COULD CONTROL… and we cancer strikes the family, you feel powerless, but one thing we had in our toolbox was Faith.

I know for a fact Shannon often asked… Why me? but I also know she was never angry with God…and 4 years later she still does not know why she had to face these storms, but she can honestly say it changed her positively. Shannon and I and our family attend Church regularly, and last Sunday was no different. During the sermon, titled “Joy” our Pastor Brad Hoffman, started the sermon in the middle of the congregation and asked everyone to name something they are grateful for…I heard Shannon yell out “HOPE” which I have to say, is a theme we have been talking about recently for those on her RIPPLES Facebook page. In the sermon which was related to relaying that during this Advent Season, it is important for us to know that we seek Joy, but true joe comes from the abiding of God, and this is where Joy is found. Pastor Brad referenced a verse from the Bible….John 15 1-8

The Vine and the Branches

15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes[a] so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

This verse was shown up on the big screen, projected for easy reading during the sermon.. Shannon whispered to me.. “Remind me about this verse after church.”  In the car on the ride home she proceeded to tell me this verse offered her comfort and an explanation for her illness… she likened the cancer and lymphedema as God pruning her Health, so that other facets of her life would bear more fruit.  I mentioned earlier her personal mission of her Ripple Effect – by helping others she helps herself, this belief came as a direct result of her illness. Perception is reality and to answer the unanswerable, of why me.. I feel this is as good a reason, and a great belief to have.  Whether you have cancer, lost a job, have no money, whatever your “thing” is… in order to keep moving, you need encouragement.. and their is no better place than through the Word. You see that even on the worse days, the belief that God was with us offered us Joy and Hope. Neither of us believe God, gave Shannon cancer and lymphedema.. but what he did give us was a choice to follow him and through that offered the joy that is promised, and although the days are long and the road makes her weary, her loving spirit of God empowers Shannon. Our prayer for you reading this, whether you are going through it, or the caregiver offering encouragement, that you will find some comfort and seek your answers to the unanswerable, through the living word, and perhaps to find a little Joy.

A Family Affair

Cancer entered our little family back in 2013, much like.. very much like a house guest that never leaves. I still to this day do not know how the diagnosis and subsequent treatment effected our kids. I do know they are resilient, and know that this is the only normal that they know. I can’t remember a day that has gone by where they have shown it has effected them, but I know it has. This post from back in 2013 was painful to re-read, but also shows how far we have all come.  As a reminder I am going back to my first posts on Caring Bridge.com since Shannon was diagnosed with cancer in 2013. I was writing in Shannon’s voice, which I later switched to my own.

We told the kids

Journal entry by Shannon Beasley — 

Thank you everyone for the prayers as Kevin and I gathered ourselves to tell Jack and Sydney. I thought it best to do it on Friday because Kevin and I had agreed when we knew the treatment plan was when we would tell them. There is no good time to tell your children you have cancer. 

The kids got home from school on Friday excited for a long memorial day holiday. I felt we really needed to tell them so I grabbed Kevin and told him I thought we should do it right then.  We had material sent to us by the Social Worker at the hospital that gave us insight on the best way…don’t overwhelm them but let them know what you feel they can understand.  I was not able to do it, so I asked Kevin to start the conversation. He told them that I was sick and was going to have treatments every day for 5-6 weeks.. We let them know it was like having an X-Ray every day.. because that is what they understand. He told them she would feel tired and sometimes sick to her stomach but it was to help get the cancer out of her. Sydney asked what kind of cancer.. she had heard of breast cancer. She also asked if mommy was going to die.. A hard question to ask your parents at 9. We described what cancer is.. bad cells that grow and make you sick. We told them that the hope is with this treatment I will not be sick anymore.  I think she was overwhelmed as she crawled in my lap and put her head on my shoulder..no tears but just a hug that lasted. Jack based on his age did not grasp what we were telling him but we know he heard us because he has told his grandmother later that afternoon that mommy has cancer.
I go for my first Radiation treatment on Wednesday 5/29 with my first Chemo Treatment on 5/30.  I will continue to ask for prayers during my treatment. Prayers of wisdom for my doctors and to let the radiation and chemo do its work to rid the cancer from my body forever.  With Love,  Shannon
By this point Shannon and I were both scared but decided together we would battle, follow the plan, ask for prayers, and also pray daily.  For Shannon this was a private battle as she only told a few of her closest friends. We were in survival mode and she was coming to terms with the fact she was… the patient… She never wanted to be the one that was sick.. who does… this was the first battle she really had to overcome, which was to know she needed help from others, and she was very uncomfortable with this, because she usually was the one giving help.  I remember during this time, my mother Rachel Beasley, uprooted her life in NC to come and stay with us to help keep the house running, food in the cupboards, clothes washed, kids fed… all things you take for granted of doing yourself… You see my mother is a cancer survivor too, having survived breast cancer not once but 2 times. She was so helpful and wonderful, and provided much needed encouragement to us all through this challenging time.

Our fight begins….

Day 1

Journal entry by Shannon Beasley — 

This morning at 9:00 am I had an appointment with my Radiation Oncologist at VCU Medical Center – Massey Cancer Center. This appointment was to have a CT scan and receive my treatment plan for radiation and chemotherapy.

The traffic was bad on 95 going South due to and accident but we left in just enough time to get to a log jam at the Free Valet parking at the Massey Cancer Center.  We got our ticket and headed in. Radiation department is in the basement so we headed down and got checked in. The process was easy because I had already registered at the Hanover location near our house.  I only had to wait about 10 minutes and was called back. Kevin stayed int he lobby. I got my CT scan, and was given tattoos to aid the techs to line up the radiation. I also met with the radiation oncologist to get my schedule: The Hanover location which is 5 minutes from my house is booked until June 11th. I will have radiation treatment downtown starting 5/29 for the next 8 days. My chemo treatment will be at Henrico Doctors Hospital where my OBGYN/Oncologist – Dr. Cecelia Boardman will oversee this treatment. (Hanover does not offer Chemo treatment currently) I will give blood weekly – 24 hrs prior to Chemo Treatment so they can monitor my blood. I will have radiation treatment 5 days a week for 5 weeks. I will have chemo treatment 1 per week for 4-6 weeks. The use of both at the same time is a new treatment as they have found using Chemo with radiation helps the radiation work better. I will not lose my hair.. this has been repeated to me over and over. The side effects for radiation is tiredness and for chemo is naseau which I have medicine to combat.  
There are 2 things I can control.. what I eat and how much I exercise. I am eating Whole Foods, Organic, and avoiding junk. I walk everyday 2- 3 miles. My hope is if I can stay strong through Diet and Exercise I will avoid the side effects that accompany the toxins that will be introduced to my body to stop the growth of the cancer. 
After the appointment Kevin and I went to Whole Foods as we received a gift card from Raymond and Jamie Lindholm, (Kevin’s cousin and his wife) I grabbed the first worker I could find and told her my situation.. Her husband had cancer and she knew what I needed. I got some organic protein bars to help curb my appetite during the day, between meals as well as some liquid and mix protien shakes. She also recommended Coconut Oil to use as it provides energy. I restocked my supply of Organic Strawberries- these were beautiful and I can’t wait to eat them. I also grabbed 4 Organic Pink Lady apples… they are my favorite.
We have not told the kids the extent of my situation. They know I had surgery to fix my belly. Kevin and I have struggled with telling Jack and Sydney but it is something we will be doing in the next few days. We wanted to wait to find out my treatment schedule and now that we have it we feel like we are need to do it. Please pray for us to give us the strength to be strong for them and that the words we use to provide comfort to them and help them to understand. 
I will update with new information next week.. Thank you again for your prayers for me and my family during this time.  Shannon
In looking back I first starting writing in Shannon’s voice… with Shannon’s urging she had me switch to sharing in my own voice. I felt it would benefit her and those reading to hear from her, but later realized I needed to share my observations from my perspective.

An even farther look back

As I mentioned a coping mechanism of mine is living day to day, it is is a bit painful looking back to where we have come, but have found it an important exercise to see how far we have come. It seems like so long ago but a mere 4 years has past and it feels like a lifetime. I could not remember the site I first started writing to update everyone on our first journey with cancer.. It was on CaringBridge and this is the introduction for all those that were following and praying for Shannon.

Thank you for visiting my Caring Bridge site. I will do my best to update everyone on my treatment and how I am doing. I am grateful to have many friends and family that are interested in my journey and well being. With Kevin’s help we will make sure to update often so you know how we are doing.

Cancer became real to me in March 2013. I had abnormal pap smears since 2009. I would gave a clear pap then return 6 months later to have a abnormal pap. My doctor said that it may not be cancer but they would monitor. After 2 Colpopscopies over those years and then in March of this year a LEEP procedure / Cone Biopsy it was shown I had cervical cancer. I was shocked as most women are when they hear the news. I met with my oncologist 2 days later who accessed me at Stage 1. Treatment since it was found early was to have a Radical Hysterectomy which was sceduled for April 24, 2013.  The pathology report from this procedure shocked my doctor as she assumed all would be clear. It was not, I had cancer cells in 2 of the 7 lymph nodes with cancer found in the Lymph channel.  The cancer was listed as Type 3 – Aggressive. Treatment is going to be radiation and chemo therapy given together over 5 weeks. My treatment starts on Wednesday May 29th for Radiation and my first chemo treatment is May 30th. I will have Radiation treatment 5 days a week for 5 weeks. I will have Chemo treatment 1 day a week for 4-6 weeks. This blog will help to update everyone close to me with how I am doing, what I am thinking, and what me and my family are going through.

My hope in sharing our story will help those folks going through the initial shock, dismay, and grief of the first diagnosis that although it seems like there is no end in sight, Shannon made it through, we made it through and continue to fight, live, and love.

A look back

As I write this I have no idea who will stumble upon my little space on the internet superhighway. For those that have found me I thought a little background would be helpful, but also for me to see how far we have come. I set up a closed group on Facebook titled Shannon Beasley’s Ripples. As we are looking to find encouragement, the best place sometimes comes from those we are caring for. As mentioned previously Shannon is a two-time survivor of cancer… the enemy… cancer is known and was defeated so this time around she was stronger, and wiser. Rather than letting this recent diagnosis tear her down, she did the opposite and decided she would put her energies into being a spark for others… as she put in so succinctly “In helping others I help myself….one ripple at a time”.

January 7, 2017 – Shannon Beasley Ripples

This is the post from a few weeks ago letting folks know about Shannon….To my praying friends and family…. I have spent the last few days, weeks really…trying to find the right words and have come to find there is no great way to share that Shannon Grafton Beasley is battling cancer for the second time. Shannon was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma in her right breast after a MRI mammogram and ultra sound guided biopsy confirmed this on November 22nd. It is stage 1 and slow growing, which is a relief. She has opted for a bilateral masectomy with reconstruction which will be perfomed mid January. We are optimistic but concerned and I would like to ask anyone willing and able to add Shannon to your prayers as she battles again. At Shannon’s urging I am working on a blog to share the journey as I found last time around it was easier to update alot of folks at one time. She is upbeat but anxious to get this chapter over and move on.
2 Corinthians 4:16-19. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

It seems so long ago but was really 1 year since her diagnosis.. a testament to living one day at a time. If you are new to cancer this is a reminder that it is not the end but the beginning, and their is joy and encouragment to be found.

 

Encouragement

Road Sign

Encouragement – noun. the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope. Synonyms…heartening, cheering up, inspiration, motivation, stimulation, fortification.  I did not seek to be a caregiver, who really does… but God provided me the caring spirit needed and prepared me for the role. Caregiving comes in many forms as I have found out… I am a husband, father, son, son-in-law, brother, and most recently uncle.  I have a positive outlook on life, a glass more than half full view of the world. My faith helps with this, when you get knocked down, you don’t look around and ask why, you get up and keep going. My wife, Shannon, is a 2 time cancer survivor, having both cervical and most recently breast cancer. When she received her first cancer diagnosis for cervical cancer, I drew from what I knew….prayer, positive thinking, and encouragement for better days. I was (and am) her anchor, and her champion, her advocate, her encourager. What I discovered over the past few years…the caregiver needs encouragement too, but I found none. Now don’t get me wrong, we had dinners, we had support, and for this I am grateful. But what I did not have was a place where I could share what I was going through with someone that had been there before. A support group for the supporters. My wife felt alone in her cervical cancer diagnosis as there were no support groups. I was her support group.

I found a glimmer of encouragement through writing during my wife’s first cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery. We have a great support network of friends, and family. So when cancer touched us it was scary for us and for those that loved us and in the beginning we would update them. I quickly found updating a few hundred people well would be a daunting task so I started writing on the hospital recommended site for families. My wife was going through the unimaginable.. getting a cancer diagnosis- which for those that have not experienced this- is construed as a death sentence (it is not by the way and cancer is such an insidious word, but more on that later) We were both reeling after meeting with her doctor to find out what the steps will be. We both decided to take one day at a time.. which when faced with the news is about the only thing that can get you through…. the next appointment, the next treatment, the next test. Our family and friends were interested, wanted to pray, wanted to know what was going on.. so I wrote, and relayed, but in doing so found I was pretty good at it and people told me so. I found that through the writing I was healing a little bit. I too was scared but could not let my wife see this. I had to be strong for her, and for those that are the caregivers, you probably know exactly what I mean.

This blog is an extension to provide a place for caregivers of all kinds to congregate and to know you are not alone. I hope my words and stories help me but more importantly to help other that are in need to find encouragement.