Archive Page 2


4 years cancer-free

I had a good 6-month oncology checkup a few weeks ago, now celebrating 4 years cancer-free! Dr. Bajaj congratulated me, although I hadn’t really given it much thought. The only abnormality remaining on my blood work was a touch of anemia, red blood cell count just below the normal level. That has gradually improved over the years, as expected.


The McLeod Cancer Center is now in their beautiful new facility, in front of and adjacent to the original McLeod Tower, connected to the parking garage by an elevated glass-walled walkway. (Look at the far left edge of the image.)

Doctors, labs, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and research center, all are now located in the same building. Very attractive and very convenient, considering the ailment they are designed to treat is quite inconvenient, to say the least.

I’m still spending a great deal of my time reading online news from around the world, doing Bible study, writing, corresponding with various other bloggers and prayer partners, and interceding. Always interceding. Whenever I have a doctor’s appointment, I spend some time glancing at all the other people and praying specifically for each other patient I see, then praying for the people I don’t see: doctors, staff, tradespeople, visitors, relatives of patients.

It’s amazing how fast time goes by in the waiting room when I do that. Actually, it’s a good practice any time waiting is involved.


Going about doing good

I am doing very, very well these days. Staying busy with several things, mostly keeping up with international news and praying. Reading about a number of revivals happening around the world, many signs, wonders, miracles, and hundreds of thousands of people being born again in recent months / years. The fire of God has ignited in multiple locations on every continent. Amazing. Fascinating. Exciting. Of course, the enemy doesn’t like it. He is throwing a major temper tantrum — just read the headlines. And check out my Esther’s Petition blog.


Side effects, side effects —

10March2013Great-granddaughter Madalyn turned 14 months old yesterday. She’s such a happy baby, always in a good mood, always learning something new, laughing, giggling, “smooching,” chattering, toddling, clapping, and eating anything offered to her, even green vegetables. Remarkable, if I do say so myself!

After doing really well for a long time, about 8 weeks ago I began to have fatigue again. Plus muscle aches, sleepiness, constant hunger (accompanied by overeating), thinning hair after getting nearly all of it back, and a few other mild but annoying symptoms. Slight hoarseness. Trouble swallowing large vitamin pills. Skin dryer than usual. Hmmm.

A trip to Dr. Burnett for routine blood work showed a TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) level higher than normal, pretty much like what happened a year ago. This time she put me on a low dose of Synthroid and said come back for a re-check in 6 weeks. So I took the little pill, and after a few days the left side of my face was very swollen and red. A side effect of the pill. It went away in a few more days, thankfully, and I started feeling better overall within a week or so.

The 6-week recheck showed the level had not come down much, so the doctor stopped the thyroid medicine and this week I had several thyroid tests at McLeod. An ultrasound was normal. No tumors or other abnormalities. However, a thyroid uptake scan (with radioactive iodine and Technicium, glow-in-the-dark stuff), was apparently abnormal. When asked, the kind technician said with a twinkle in his eye and a smile, “I’m not allowed to tell you what it shows, but I can tell you, it’s good that you came to be tested.”

Both of the techs told me they see a lot of former chemo/radiation therapy patients with thyroid dysfunction. Oh well.

I haven’t yet gotten the official results, but even before these tests Dr. Burnett had gone ahead and referred me to Dr. Culleton (endocrinologist, I’ll see him in May) and Dr. McKay (ENT, I’ll see him next week). Since she is a Family Practice physician, Dr. Burnett wanted specialists to take care of this for me. Of course, I appreciate her thoroughness. But — more doctors?

So, dealing again with side effects. Trusting that’s all it is, praying still that any stray cancer cell in my body must shrink, shrivel, die and disappear. Adding, that every other cell in my body is overcoming bad side effects and functions exactly as designed by Creator and Healer God!


Good reports

Portrait done last month for church directory -- hair all back!I recently had 6-month checkups with all my doctors and got good reports from all of them. The one remaining blood level (WBC’s) that is below normal will continue to come up, Dr. Burnett assured me, so in the meantime stay out of crowds and wash my hands often, as I have been doing. I am playing piano for church services but I go early and stay late with the music team, thus avoiding any coughs or sneezes from the congregation.

I also had a few recent PT visits for lymphedema, where at my request I was instructed in massage and exercise therapy that doesn’t include wrapping the arm. I’d had to stop the wrapping months ago because it was preventing the seroma from shrinking and healing. That has completely resolved now and I sure didn’t want it to recur. I also pointed out to the therapist that I can’t practice the piano, rehearse or play at church with my arm and hand wrapped, which was another reason for an alternate plan. So I asked for non-wrapping therapies that I can use at home.

I was the first patient of hers to need such things, she said, so they were designed just for me but maybe they can help someone else along the way. Thirty minutes or so twice a day isn’t bad; I can sit in my armchair and watch TV while doing the routine. The therapist measured the arm at the beginning of the PT visits and again at the end to be sure the suggested therapies were actually working, and they were.

All in all I am doing very well, feeling well, with no more scheduled doctor appointments until December or January!


Portacath gone

Dr. Sonfield removed the portacath this morning, right there in his office. Shelby went with me to drive just in case I didn’t feel well enough afterward. Actually, I felt fine throughout and still do.

He just gave me a little shot of anesthetic, meticulously opened the same incision, then gently and slowly tugged the portacath out of my shoulder. I couldn’t feel it and kept my eyes closed, but he and Shelby and I chatted about babies the whole time which made it easier – I didn’t have to think about what he was doing.(He has twin boys, and Shelby and I told him about Madalyn.)

A few internal stitches plus a few external stitches, a neat bandage, some tape, and all was finished. I’ll go back to get the sutures out in a week.

That little gadget was very helpful for chemotherapy. Since I have such small veins, even the best lab techs have trouble drawing blood or inserting a line.

I’m doing quite well otherwise, except that my thyroid levels are a bit out of whack and I may need thyroid medication in the future. Apparently chemotherapy damages the thyroid gland in many patients. Just one more side effect!

All in all I’m feeling better every week, less and less fatigue, more and more energy. That’s a good thing since I went back to playing the piano for church. Three or four hours of rehearsal time a week, plus playing for the actual services, requires some extra rest the following days but nothing major.

My hair is getting back to normal too. It’s still really short but that’s okay with me. I’ve had one trim so far to even out the shaggy look and will need another one in a couple more weeks. But the mix of light and dark gray with a little white around the edges is pretty much the same as before.

I’m so very grateful for all the prayers and thoughts from Christian friends and family around the country. I may not post much to this Journal these days but have gone back to writing some in my other blogs, even added a chapter to The Simsville Inheritance (novel posted on my main website,

John 10:10! A verse still very dear to my heart.


Activity level much improved

Great-granddaughter Madalyn Grace Powell arrived 1-12-12! She weighed 7 lbs. 11 oz. and was 20-1/2 inches long. Just had to post some pictures here. Mother Brandi, baby Madalyn and dad Jonathan all doing well.

Since the last post before Christmas, I’ve seen Dr. Burnett (family doctor) and Dr. Denton (orthopedist). I discussed the bone density test results with Dr. Burnett who decided against my taking Fosamax. She says it has never been proven effective and risks outweigh any benefits. She did order a Vitamin D blood level, which was low. So I’m taking prescription Vitamin D once a week for several months. No side effects from that, thankfully, and it’s fairly inexpensive. My blood pressure had gradually increased to what it was a year ago so I’m back to taking both BP medications I used to take.

I saw Dr. Denton for a FU on the torn shoulder bursa. It’s a tiny bit sore still but much improved and he said I don’t need a repeat Cortisone shot.

I asked him about the one spot on my upper chest that still hurts. Right between the clavicle and the upper ribs, it’s not constant but feels like a small hot poker sticking in my muscles, followed by soreness. It’s not like the shingles pain so I don’t think it’s in the nerves, perhaps in a rib or chest wall muscles.

He took another careful look at the shoulder MRI and x-rays (all conveniently stored on his computer system) which included shoulder, clavicle and upper ribs. No fractures, no cracks, nothing abnormal at all showed up.

His thought was that the mastectomy with underarm lymph node removal, shoulder bursa injury exacerbated by radiation therapy positioning, radiation burns with skin blistering, all combined to create a pocket of inflammation in that area. He recommended using Voltaren gel (antiinflammatory) on the area to quiet down any inflammation. I finally got the prescription filled and used it for the first time last night. It smells really nice, sort of flowery. Just have to wait and see how well it works.

Otherwise I’m feeling better and better, able to do more every week. In fact, I’m back to playing piano for church worship services. I played Sunday’s service including special music and did okay, just needed a little nap after lunch. Matt even announced to the congregation that I had been absent from church due to health problems but that I was now healed and able to use my gifts in music again. I didn’t know he was going to do that but it was okay.

So all in all I’m doing well. The arm lymphedema can be addressed at my next FU with Dr. Sonfield, may need to return to therapy for that. I’m in no hurry.

Praise God for his wonderful words and his wonderful people! I’m very thankful for the prayers!


Opinions, opinions… and decisions

I saw Dr. Sonfield last week and told him I’d stopped radiation therapy. He said he thought it was perfectly reasonable that I had stopped. He’d actually seen my radiation burns while they were pretty bad. He commented that there’s no accurate way to tell whether the additional few treatments would have added much more benefit and not to worry about it.

He’s giving me a couple more months to heal up before removing the porta-cath, which was fine with me! He also didn’t want to drain the seroma again, saying it was stable and would gradually resolve on its own. I did remember to tell him about the torn bursa in my shoulder so he could add that to my medical records. (It’s feeling very well these days.)

Friday I saw Dr. Bajaj who didn’t comment much about my stopping radiation. He outlined pros and cons of my taking hormone therapy (Femara) for the next 5 years. On the pathology report after surgery, the sensitivity of the cancer cells (in the excised lymph nodes) to hormone therapy was 2, the very bottom of the range just over the none level. The pathology report from the needle biopsy had showed no sensitivity at all.

Considering this, the likelihood of the hormone therapy actually offering me any benefit in preventing recurrence is questionable. Dr. Bajaj recommended I do it anyway, saying the possibility of benefit is better than no possibility. I said okay.

He then ordered a bone density study, done immediately down the hall at Carolina Health Care. The reason for this test was that Femara lessens bone density and thus that will need to be monitored regularly. The test showed osteopenia bordering on osteoporosis. That’s not a new finding, basically the same as 5-6 years ago.

Since Femara would make it even worse, Dr. Bajaj said I needed to talk to my family doctor (Dr. Burnett) about starting Fosamax. I will be seeing her next week and will ask her about that.

I don’t know why I was surprised, but even the generic Femara was extremely expensive – $400 for 30 pills. My Medicare drug insurance paid $340, leaving me $60 to pay. Next month the deductible will be in force again, however, so the refill would no doubt cost me the entire $400. I simply can’t afford that, especially considering its questionable benefit to me in the first place.

After coming home from the drug store I went online to do some research about this medication, which I should have done beforehand. Decreased bone density is not the only bad side effect, by any means. They are about the same as for the chemotherapy drugs I took. I wish I had not gotten the prescription filled.

Dr. Bajaj’s office does blood work every visit, and this month my numbers were worse than last time. Radiation therapy had lowered WBC, platelet count and other things, just as chemotherapy had done. RBC’s are back to normal though and I have less overall fatigue and more energy. I’ll be glad when all this returns to normal.

As far as the radiation burns – the redness is nearly gone and the peeling stopped. The one spot that was so bad still burns and itches like crazy. I just slather anti-itch cream on it a couple of times a day to prevent myself from scratching. My hair is growing and I finally gave up wearing the little hat.

All in all things are looking much better and I feel much better. Christmas is almost here and I look forward to spending time with my family. I so appreciate all the prayers of faith and thankfulness my friends and family have offered for me this year – please don’t stop now!

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Bette’s Journal

Bette Cox 2010

Christ is the "Big C" in my life!

That was told to me by a good friend recently, and it's so very true.

Jesus says in John 10:10, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

I believe Jesus. I hope you do too.

I have one request of other believers reading this journal:

Agree with me that the invader will shrink, shrivel, die and disappear from my body, whatever method the Lord uses to accomplish that.

Thanks in advance.