Chemotherapy in my Birthday Suit

What was your last birthday like?  Let me tell you about mine.  It was incredible.

Birthdays have never really been that important to me.  Mainly because I never really felt that important to other people.  There have been many attempts to make me happy on my birthday.  One year we went bowling.  One year the whole theme was aliens (90s right?).  I have a VHS video of my 2nd birthday.  We would watch it just to see me burst into tears during the prayer before we eat.  I also got Cinderella for my birthday that year (guess that explains alot…..mainly the Disney obsession).  There were many sleep overs with lots of Pizza, cake, and Nintendo 64 (Goldeneye people….Goldeneye).  Then there were the years where everyone was determined to give me a surprise birthday party…..yeah only worked once.  I caught you all every other time!  But that one time scared me real bad, so kudos I suppose.  To me my birthday was never about the presents.  It was always about the people.  I really feel loved when people tell me what I mean to them.  Also I really enjoy just spending time with people whom I love and who love me.  It is a good thing that birthdays are never really about the presents, because I am the worst at hiding how I really feel about my gift that I receive.  So naturally I turn red anytime I open gifts from people.  Having wedding showers was the worst for this.  One year for Christmas my grandmother got me a statue of an Indian princess sitting on a rock with two wolves on either side (“Nanny, I LOVE it, I can’t wait to put this on display and impress my friends.  Nothing says greatness like this Indian princess with wolves.”).  My grandmother loved figurines so we got our fair share.  I digress.  Birthdays are a time where people treat you like they treat you at Disney World.  They are kind to you, they praise your accomplishments, they celebrate that you are in their lives, and they genuinely care for you.  Birthdays have always been great for my ego.  Like I said, I feel loved when people tell me how much they love me and appreciate me.  This is typically known as today as giving words of affirmation or encouragement.  I need this daily.  Birthdays give this to me in steroid form.  Then Facebook was created.

I remember those first years when Facebook was up and running.  I remember getting tons more messages and posts on my wall during my birthday than any other time.  Every year it got better.  One friend posted right before their birthday, “let the birthday messages commence.”  Boy were they right.  It really goes to show that a little two word phrase can make a person feel so much better than they were the few seconds ago.  It is the little things that build up and give us strength to make it through our day.  The little messages.  Today so many  people wished me happy birthday.  I almost never return the favor, but that is not why people take the time.  They simply pay love forward.

Thanks to skipping one week of chemo therapy, I had a chemo treatment today….on my birthday.  I honestly was dreading it.  I am over halfway through with chemo and I am ready for it to be over.  But you see, there was much more in store for me this day that I would ever imagine.  At school, the teachers on my hall had a big breakfast pitch in for me.  They knew I wouldn’t eat lunch at school so they had breakfast.  I ate 5 doughnuts.  And some other goods too.  Then I entered my room just to find it completely decked out with balloons and streamers that my first period students set up for me.  Then as they came in one by one after the bell, each student had something different: cupcakes, drinks, rotel, more doughnuts, candy, etc.  Such a kind gesture for their teacher.  It meant the world to me.  I sounded so corny asking the students to take a group picture with me, but you know I need that memory.  Next period, three students arrive at my door with party hats and t-shirts that said, “Happy Birthday, Yelverton!” on them.  Again such a kind gesture just to make me feel special.  I even got a few dollars. It’s the small stuff people.  The little things.  Those are the ones that really count.  Hug a teacher tomorrow.

12:00 – game time – chick fil a – poly sauce – numbing cream – blood work – extremely low white blood count – fear that we would skip treatment – treatment goes forward – and then: enter my sister with a cake and again party hats.

Last time I had treatment, Becca thought it would be cool if we brought a cake up to the chemo dock to share since it was my birthday.  So after I got my piece, Carly and Becca brought cake to all the nurses at the Cancer Center.  Celebrate always.  Celebrate the small things.  Life is short….eat cake first.

My day was not over.  After the Facebook messages, the phone calls, the texts, the cake, the doughnuts, the poisonous liquids, the benadryl coma, and the drive home, Carly and I saw our house and huge banners covering the front door.  In the mailbox was more mail than I have ever received in my life in one day.  I can’t tell you how encouraging the words were in those letters.  Tears of blessing have followed.

Today was a great day.  Today was a terrible day.  Today was just another day in this Cancer journey.  Today I realized that, “Wow, I am loved” by the people around me.  It is one thing for God to love you and another to have Him provide others around me to distribute that love in a new way. I can’t put into words how humbling that is.  You reading this is humbling.  You taking time to respond to my words is humbling.  It truly amazes me.  Thank you.  Thank you for loving me through this.  Thank you for reading my journey.  God has surrounded me with such a great cloud of witnesses and friends and family.  Thank you.  

This has been the greatest birthday.  Because today, not only did I celebrate one more year alive, but I also actively pursued living until my next.  I had chemotherapy on my birthday, so that I could have another birthday.  And I will.  Next year though, I’ll skip the chemo.  I love you all.

“Thank you for being a friend.” – Golden Girls

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art… It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.” – C. S. Lewis

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, the other can pick them up, but pity the one who falls and has no one to help them up!” – Ecc. 4:9-10

“A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity.”  Proverbs 17:17

Journey Strong Dear Readers – Thanks for being a friend.

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Humble Pie

To eat humble pie – to act very humble when one is shown to be wrong

First off, it was a great week.  No migraine.  No nausea.  Of course there was the complete numbness in my fingers and hands for a few days.   And there was you know that complete weird feeling that something is wrong.  But really in the grand scheme of the week, it was a great one.  When I was beginning my journey as a blogger, I was really just trying to give people an easy way to get an update on my progress and to ease their minds.  I truly never thought that many people would take a look at this site.

Wrong.

Recently I have really been questioning my career as a teacher.  I am sure we all do this no matter the profession.  I made it over the hump of 5 years as a teacher and education has not run me off yet.  But still I question is this really what I am made for.  I teach Geometry and Trig/Advanced Algebra.  Some days I truly wonder why I am teaching some of this stuff.  Honestly people I adore Mathematics and I respect it.  I just cannot make learning the Fundamental Theorem of Algebra sexy or most other topics for that matter. (Although I do have a pretty incredible ratio and proportions lesson that revolves around Disney (see previous posts)).  That being said, many days I wonder if I am even making an impact.  I think do these kids even hear me?  Surely they don’t.

Wrong.

A big thought in the world today is that God doesn’t care about the details.  He doesn’t care about the minute things that we care about.  Like if we wake up to see the sunrise or feel a cool breeze or eat a favorite piece of candy.  The thought goes something like, “yeah God CARES about the BIG things like, you know, MAJOR struggles and fears and doubts, but he could care LESS about the other stuff.”

Wrong.

When I look back at my life, I see mistakes.  I see decisions I have made that hurt people.  I see the downfalls, the failures, the embarrassment.  Others see it too.  They tell me about them to my face and behind my back.  I feel worthless.  I feel guilty.  I feel shame.  Surely that is what God sees, because He sees everything.  He knows more secrets than anyone.  He sees me as the scum that I am.

Wrong.

I actually feared this week.  I was afraid on Monday, when I felt down all day.  Not ill just down and weak.  I truly trembled all day on Wednesday, worried about another migraine.  Yet all week, I have slowly realized that God loves me.  No this is not a new sensation, yet it feels new again.  Here is how it went.  First there was no illness.  No Migraine.  No nausea.  No pain.  Then the most incredible things began happening.
Monday afternoon, while my students were taking a test, a former student came into my room with a poster.  She brought it to my desk and there in front of me was a picture of Timon and Pumbaa with the words Hakuna Matata written in big letters across it (that means no worries).  No only that, but the poster was signed by people…Lots of people.  To say I was touched is an understatement.  I barely kept it together.  The next morning though, I walked into my room to find my walls covered with student artwork, depicting different characters from the world of Disney.  Many of those too filled with signatures and notes from students and teachers.  I was floored.  God says, “hey Mr. Yelverton, you are loved.”  Thank goodness noone was in the room to see the waterworks.  That moment might have been the greatest moment of my career as an educator.  It had nothing to do with math.

Wednesday night I was feeling great and I got to teach bible study at the church to the youth group.  We are studying Romans and man does Paul remind us we are guilty.  But the thing is, I love teaching. It doesn’t matter if it is math, the bible, Disney, I love to teach.  God says, “hey Bryce, go teach, you are good at it.”

Thursday and I am feeling like my old self again.  My “non chemo” self.  Lunch is great, but see I just introduced Theta to my Geometry students and Theta is kind of spelled like Feta and that makes me really just want to eat Keifer’s (greek restaurant in Jackson).  Saturday is my father in law’s birthday so Carly and I called and asked him if we could take him to dinner.  His pick.  We call him on the way and say, “where you want to eat?”  He says, “I just had this crazy thought to go to Keifer’s, what do you think?”  God says, “hey Bryce, go eat a Gryo.”

Wednesday night after church I pretended like I needed to go to Kroger to get some few essentials like deodorant and toothpaste, but really I knew that the Easter candy was being put out now that Valentine’s is over.  I got to Kroger just to see boxes blocking the now Easter candy aisle.  My beloved Sweettart Jelly Beans were not yet ready to be sold to the public. (I did buy deodorant don’t worry)  While at dinner, my mom calls me and asks if we are at home.  I say no, why?  She says, “oh I have some bags of Sweettart Jelly Beans for you.”  She places them in my mailbox.  I am eating them while I type.  God says, “Bryce, I know you.”

Now bare with me.  I know some of this can truly be blown way out of proportion.  You might be thinking, “God does not care about you getting Jelly Beans.”  But you see to me it is all too clear.  God is in the details.  He is there when you look for Him.  It wasn’t because I challenged him.  God give me Jelly Beans so I know you are out there.  No it was the still, small voice.  It was quiet.  But I heard him loud and clear.  “Son, you are loved.”

Sometimes I just have to sit down and admit I am wrong.  Eat a big piece of humble pie.  Because God does not see me as a pile of mistakes and failures.  He does care about what I care about.  He wants to hear about it and experience it with me.  He came for me even in my sin.  He does care about the details.  He cares about your details too.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

You have searched me,<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(A)”> Lordand you know<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(B)”> me.

 You know when I sit and when I rise;    you perceive my thoughts<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(D)”> from afar.
 You discern my going out<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(E)”> and my lying down;    you are familiar with all my ways.

For you created my inmost being;  you knit me together<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(R)”> in my mother’s womb.

 I praise you<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(T)”> because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;    your works are wonderful,    I know that full well.  – Psalm 139: 1-3, 13-14

And Because these were just too amazing to not share.  Here is the artwork that my incredible students did.


Chemolympics

The olympics are one of the most fascinating, exciting, enthralling events that occur in life.  They swoop in every two years and capture our hearts, time, and energy for two glorious weeks and then they are gone just like that.  When they come around I often analyze just why these are so fun to watch and why do I just love every bit of it?  I think I have come to know why.  First off there are the opening ceremonies.  Arguably these are the highlight of the games every time.  But the worst part of the show is the reason why I love them so much.  You know the part I am talking about.  The parade of nations.  This is where all the countries competing enter the stadium under the cheers and yells of the onlookers. Of course this takes the better part of forever, but what a picture of heaven.  The nations joining together, cheering each other on as they enter.  That’s what heaven is going to be like.  Walking into the thunderous cheers and celebration of everlasting life and never ending joy.  I can’t wait.  Of course we probably won’t walk in alphabetically, but if we do that’s ok too I don’t mind waiting.  After the opening ceremonies there are the competitions.  There are my favorites, the silly ones, and the just plain bizarre and yes most of those overlap.  I love hearing the back stories of the athletes and the road to the olympics.  Just to be there is an accomplishment, but to get there and win is beyond amazing.  So much talent and specialty in one place.  The athletes look so distant from us and then we get to see their back story and they are sitting there in our living room just like us.  I love it.  Another perfect view of the body of Christ.  So much talent, so much uniqueness, and yet we are all the same, beautifully and wonderfully made.

The olympics are about halfway done.  My chemo treatments are halfway done.  I started this chemo journey with hopes of chemotherapy gold.  I just knew I would hit every treatment in stride and react to the meds perfectly.  But just as I have watched dreams dashed this week with the likes of Shaun White, Hannah Kearney, and the latest tonight with Evgeni Plushenko, I have watched these chemo treatments take a toll on me.  Maybe I was not ready for competition.  Maybe I did not psych myself up enough before each treatment.  Maybe I am just in the wrong event (I really feel I would kill it in curling).  I truly think the way that these three competitors have taken loss has been breathtaking.  Shaun White hugs and congratulates the winner and gives a hug to his interviewer.  True human spirit there.  Hannah Kearney braves the camera interview before breaking into tears right after from the truly heartbreaking mogul hit for her.  And my favorite moment, Evgeni Plushenko bows out of the competition from major back pain that would reduce his jumps to nothing.  This is not a favorite because he was out, it was a favorite moment because when they interviewed him at the end, he showed his true colors.  It was humbling to see someone be completely open and honest on camera and show such sincerity.  He told the interviewer that he was just like her, not a super human.  He said he fought to the very end and gave it his best.  I want to be able to say that.

I am not in the finals.  I am in the qualifying rounds.  I see the next jump, the next mogul, the next move in my routine.  I cannot imagine doing what these athletes do to train and compete.  I can’t do it.  That’s the beauty of this chemotherapy is that I can’t do that either.  Really it is only happening because of Christ living in me.

Another great thing about the olympics this year is that their is a big emphasis on the Matryoshka Doll that you seem prominently on the slopestyle course.  These are the Russian nesting dolls that get smaller as you open them.  There is a great place that we take our youth to in Macon, MS called Lake Forest Ranch.  It is a christian camp for students that we spend a week at every summer with the youth from my church, Calvary Baptist.  Last summer the camp director, Rich, gave the youth leaders something to think about when we see these Matryoshka Dolls.  He said Christ has God in Him and then we have Christ in us and then we are in Christ and Christ is in God.  We are those nesting dolls.  Christ in us and us in Christ.  It is a beautiful picture.  And it is truly the only reason I believe I am making it through chemo.  Every time I see that doll on the slope at Sochi, how can I not remember that?

I had so much anxiety heading into the treatment today.  I am just tired of them.  It was the first time I had to sit in the main room for treatment.  All the side rooms were taken.  The process bothered me, the constant beeping from the drip machines bothered me, and most of all TV Land bothered me.  But I have to sit back and remember, “Hey, God’s got this.”

There was no triple cork flip, triple lutz jump, or record time on my treatment.  There was no national anthem for my country played.  There was no crowd cheering for the excellent way that the nurse pushed the Red Devil in me for the fourth time.  But something more amazing is going on than me  catching great air and landing tricks, I am being cured of a cruel and nasty disease that is trying to kill me.  And I am taking it one run at a time.  Half way there.  I can almost taste the gold or is that the chicken mcnugget?  Apparently they are comparable.

“I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and delivered Himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

Cause when I’m weak, You make me strong
When I’m blind, You shine Your light on me
Cause I’ll never get by living on my own ability
How refreshing to know You don’t need me
How amazing to find that you want me
So I’ll stand on Your truth, and I’ll fight with Your strength
Until You bring the victory, by the power of Christ in me  – MercyMe

http://www.lakeforestranch.com/#summercamp

Alas…..Earwax

You know when you are riding the Hogwarts Express on your way to school and the witch with the treat cart comes by and you just have to buy a box of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Bean?  Yeah that is what it is like going through chemotherapy.  You never know just what flavor you are going to get.  Sometimes its a nice watermelon or kiwi and the next is grass or mud.  So far I have had three chemo treatments and so far I have had three different reactions to them.  My first flavor was anxiety and an onset migraine the day of the Liberty Bowl.  The next flavor was hair loss, which had it’s own unique spin on things.  Now I thought as I reached into the bag for my next flavor that I would use a little trickery to get around any bad tastes.  See you learn as you go.  You figure out the game that cancer is playing with you.  You can almost see the next move and you plan for it.  The second treatment had no serious ill effects on me physically.  I thought that was due to my diet and food intake regime.  So I tried to mimic that the best that I could.  First, I was told to always stay hydrated, drinking lots of water and or gatorade.  So starting the Monday after chemo (which was on Thursday), I took a water bottle every day to work.  Next, I was told that I should make sure to eat breakfast.  Every day this week I have had a bowl of good fiber cereal and low fat milk.  Third, I was told to eat protein.  So I employed my mother to make deviled eggs for me.  ( I know that eating a bunch of deviled eggs is probably not the best thing for me, but if you are thinking this it is obvious that you have not ever eaten my mom’s deviled eggs).  I take three deviled eggs with me to lunch.  Fourth, my wife makes an incredible salad.  Thus everyday I have had a great salad for lunch with my eggs and water.  So my diet this week has been exactly that of my diet during chemo round 2.  How naive of me to think that I could figure out the King of the Maladies.  How naive indeed.  Even in our best efforts to avoid negativity and hurt, the world sometimes finds a way to bring it anyway.  Well cancer found a way.  

Yesterday after my good morning and excellent lunch, I found that my vision was going on the fritz.  To be honest, I was playing candy crush as a post lunch relaxation device and I could not see the whole screen on my phone at one time.  There were spots in my vision.  When I stood, I felt like my world was tilting and going dim.  I began to lose all energy.  While teaching my next class I could not plot points on a coordinate plane correctly.  I began to sweat and get hot.  My stomach started churning.  I really honestly don’t know how I made it to the end of that class.  Really it was me pleading with God that He would let me get home before the worst happened.  This is the part of the story where I truly feel thankful.  At my job I work with teachers.  Teachers are some of the most caring people in our lives.  Yesterday they took my slack.  The kindness of another carrying a load for you can make or break you.  Yesterday, because of that kindness, I made it home.
That is of course when the worst happened.
I took meds and laid in bed between trips to the bathroom.  The hours ticked by with no relief.  I can’t imagine that feeling lasting any longer.  At moments I just wanted the pain and discomfort to stop.  Just stop.  I would do anything to make this stop.  And it didn’t stop.  The migraine set in.  The nausea never quit no matter how many trips I took.  I thought, “there is no way I can continue on like this.”  Then sleep came.  I awoke to a better feeling head and stomach, but I really couldn’t move.  The rest of the evening was spent in and out of sleep.  Oyster crackers and water was dinner.  And bed again before ten.  The next morning I woke up to a dull pain in my head from the migraine.  And I woke up to exhaustion.  Today has been a day of little movement from my podium at school.  Nap after school.
The third flavor of cancer was not good.
Now where do I go from here?  The good thing is that at my school there are alot of cancer survivors.  I talked to three of them today.  Each gave me more advice about dealing with these bad flavors.  See that’s the move that cancer is unaware that I am taking.  See while it plans all the nasty things to do in my body, it doesn’t know that I have a team behind me.  I have veterans to help guide me through the challenges and make the next move.  I have doctors who can monitor the nasty things that happen to me and prescribe other medicines to help take care of unwanted discomfort.  I have a support team of family and friends who pray for me, bring food, rake leaves, get me a glass of water, and ask how they can help daily.  And above all I have a leader who already knows cancer’s next move.  That is where I go from here.  The biggest thing that Christ is teaching me through all this is that nothing is certain but Him.  He knows the plans He has for me and they are more than I can ever ask for or imagine.  So I have to trust Him that He knows cancer’s next move.  He knows how to best handle it.  So I am going to rely on Him to move me through.
Another thing I have learned is that this is not a race, it is a marathon.  Also, I want to be a hare, but I really have to be a tortoise.  As is with life.  Don’t just run through it, crashing and clanging into obstacles.  That is what I was trying to do.  I was trying to actively beat cancer with all my energy and it was because of all that effort that I crashed.  Slow and steady wins this race.  Patience is not something that I am good at, but it is something that I am learning.  
I will be reaching into the bag of Every Flavor Beans again a week from today.  I don’t know what the flavor is that I will get, but I worship the one who does.  Here is to a nice toffee flavored one.