Cynthia Hanevy

Jan 062015
Tired woman drinking coffee

Chemotherapy makes me tired!

Chemotherapy round 1 is now complete-only 7  more to go!  I am so lucky, I think the most common treatment for people with this condition is 12 rounds.   I am hoping to miss the worst of the side effects given since they are cumulative and I have fewer rounds scheduled.

My chemotherapy takes place locally in the Grinnell Regional Medical Center.  I have been working with Alisha.  She is a blessing-very nice with a soothing personality, professional, organized, and unruffled no matter how busy she gets.

My chemotherapy sessions will be two weeks apart and I will finish in April.  I go in in the morning for labs, visit with my doctor and then return to the Chemotherapy Suite.  It is a really pleasant place.   There are cubbies for your outdoor items, reading material, and reclining heated chairs (ah!)  I have pre-meds to help with the nausea that can be a side-effect of chemotherapy, then the chemotherapy drugs.  After those drugs are infused, I get a “push” of another drug and I am sent home with a pump to infuse that last drug into my system for 46 hours.   It takes about 3 hours on Monday and I go back on Wednesday to have the pump removed.

That’s how it goes in theory, anyway.   The pump did not work so well this week.  My port (what’s that?) is deeper than most, possibly due to inflammation at the site.  The needle worked loose and they will need to order longer needles to effectively utilize my port.

Yesterday I was pretty tired from the chemo.  I am feeling a bit better today, but still not at 100%.  I hate to wish my life away, but I am really looking forward to finishing the chemotherapy treatments.

Jan 052015
Be thankful

Be thankful

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
Colossians 3:15 ESV

Sure, it has been a struggle dealing with cancer, but there is still much in my life that is good. I promised myself when this journey started that I would remain more than a cancer patient, more than a cancer survivor. I am still a whole, complete person. I have moments when I forget that – lots of them – and I think that’s when I most need to remember the many blessings I have in life and be thankful. Sometimes it’s not easy, but it always leads back to the peace of Christ. Here is my top five:

1) I am grateful that in all things I can have peace and confidence through God, who loves me.
2) I am grateful for the friends, family, church family and coworkers that have given selflessly of their time, encouragement, and money to help me through this time. The gifts are important, but even more important is the feeling of being loved and cared for, a lesson I will carry with me when this is over.
3) I am grateful for my two dogs. If you’re not a pet lover, that may sound silly, but they have given me comfort and laughter in abundance and I am thankful!
4) I am grateful for my home. I have a place to live where I feel at peace. My friends have even said my home “looks like me” and they are right. It’s a wonderful home for me in a delightful neighborhood and I enjoy living here.
5) I am grateful for my employment, which provides health insurance to cover most of my expenses. I am also grateful to have a job that will be there for me when I get back.

That’s my list for now. If I get to complaining, moaning and griping, feel free to send me back to this post!

For what are you thankful?

Jan 022015

Sometimes courage comes in small packages, more of a whisper than a roar.  It can be the simple things, facing another day of radiation, getting out of bed to get the exercise you need to recover from an operation, continuing with chemo treatments in spite of the side effects, that take the most courage.   I’ve found that I face difficult challenges better if they are sudden and over quickly, but things don’t always go according to my preferences!

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”
Mary Anne Radmacher

We all face struggles of one sort or another.   Where do you find the courage to quietly say “I’ll try again tomorrow?”   Here are some things that have worked for me.

1)  I have a great group of relatives, friends, and church family that have offered overwhelming support when I need it.   Sometimes, when I run out of courage, I borrow theirs.   I would be lost without these people and I thank them from the bottom of my heart.

2) I have found courage by reading scripture and other inspirational readings.   I try to read something positive every day to build my courage.

3)  I have calmed my mind and held onto my whisper of courage using recording meditations nightly to help me sleep and to build positive energy.

What are your tips for holding onto your courage in the face of obstacles?

Dec 262014
1/2 through rectal cancer treatment

At the 1/2 way point

I am about halfway through treatment for rectal cancer.  I went in today to have an IV port inserted to help with chemotherapy injections.  If you’d like to know more about how these ports work, there is a nice blog, written by a cancer patient, here.   The insertion was painless  and only took a couple hours 🙂  I can’t say that I am looking forward to chemo, but my oncologist tells me that most people tolerate my regimen fairly well.  I will have 8 rounds of treatment with two weeks between rounds, so I will finish chemo sometime in April if all goes as planned.  The infusions will be done in Grinnell and will take about two hours per treatment.  I talked to the surgeon that did my colonoscopy and the port insertion.  He says that the bowel resection I had done in November is the worst part of the treatment for this cancer.  woo-hoo!  After chemotherapy is completed, we will allow some time for my body to heal, then put my intestines back together and remove the port. The pain from the resection is starting to improve, and I have a prescription for Vicodin for the pain from the port insertion, which I barely feel anyway.

I am sick of the rectal cancer.   I  know that this will be a life changing event for me and I am curious about the person I will become.  I have a feeling that chasing my dreams in life will mean more and financial security will mean much less than it does now.   After all, what good is financial security if you are not living a life that reflects who you are and who you want to be?

The way I see people is also changing.  I am an introvert and a “transplant” to this small town in the Midwest.  Before I was diagnosed, I struggled with depression and fatigue.  Although this frequently kept me in bed resting instead of church on Sunday mornings, my church family has faithfully supported me and prayed for me throughout this ordeal.   Although I rarely see the best of people in my job as a claims adjuster (because I talk to them when they are stressed and out of sorts) my coworkers have humbled me with all the help that they have offered.   Of course, my friends and family have also been great–but I always knew they were wonderful.

I view medical care differently too.  I plan to take more responsibility for my own health and rely less on medical care providers for referrals to screenings I may need.   Nobody has more at stake in maintaining my health than I do, and I plan to step up and take care of it!  I encourage you to do the same.  Find out what screenings are appropriate for your age, gender and health status and get them.   While a colonoscopy is not anyone’s idea of a fun time, an early diagnosis with effective treatment of pre-cancerous polyps is a much better alternative than waiting and going through treatment for advanced rectal cancer.

Resources from

Dec 202014
Patient and doctor

Patient and doctor

First off, let me thank all the medical care providers helping me beat cancer!   My treatment plan is about 1/2-way done and at every step I am getting the best results possible.   I’m giving a shout out to GOD and the power of PRAYER, too.   Thank you to all the friends, family, church family and others that have stood by me with all kinds of help.   That said, I have a couple of pet peeves I’m going to throw out there.

1) I totally understand that my doctors have to ask about my symptoms.   They need to know do I feel light-headed, nauseous, or otherwise unwell.   They also need to monitor me for anemia and I appreciate that they let me know how my blood work and other tests come out.   However, it’s not necessary to ask if I have this or that symptom “yet.”   To me, that implies it is just a matter of time before I experience that symptom and I have to speak out and say: “No, and I don’t plan to invite that symptom into my life….please don’t add “yet” to that question. This probably sounds like nitpicking to many people, but I believe strongly in the power of our language and the words we use.

2)  Here means different things to different people.  Please don’t leave an answering machine message saying you are with so and so’s office and I have an appointment “here” with the date and time.  Does here mean the town?  The hospital?  The medical center?  The doctor may have more than one office and visit several towns.   Please take an extra minute or two and give me the name and address of the exact location so I will arrive where I am expected.

3)   Be kind.   It makes a huge difference when someone is chronically ill.  The wonderful news is, everyone that I have spoken with has been kind.   They take the time to treat me like a person,  not just a patient or a cancer survivor.  For that I am grateful and I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

To patients everywhere that struggle with chronic illness-hang in there!   Speak up respectfully but firmly to get the care and treatment you need.  I have found most medical professionals to be very responsive, but they aren’t mind readers and they don’t know what bothers you if you don’t communicate.

I’ll end with a story that illustrates a bit of miscommunication, but has a very happy ending.

I was told to come in for an evening MRI with contrast “here,” which I took to mean part of John Stoddard Cancer Center of Unity Point, located at the Iowa Methodist Medical Center.   I drove an hour to get to the appointment, arriving just a few minutes early.   The Cancer Center was locked.  I called the answering service and they found out that the appointment was actually at the Iowa Methodist Hospital, at the other side of the center.   I made my way to the correct location and was told that they couldn’t do the MRI I needed because there was nobody with access to the contrast chemicals and nobody authorized to do them.  These MRIs are not done at night.

The old me would probably have stewed and gone home, calling the next day to set up another appointment.  If it were a bad day, the old me might have exploded.  Instead, I took a deep breath and explained my situation.   I had traveled an hour one way for the appointment and needed this done to proceed with my radiation treatments.  If I didn’t get the MRI that night, it would delay my cancer treatment.

And that’s where the story gets good.   The woman I was talking to not only understood, but took it on her self to make it right.  I had to wait a few minutes, but she made the effort to organize the personnel and resources needed to make the MRI happen.   She took it on herself to go beyond her job description and make things right.   I appreciate that kind of care, and I find that as I work on my communication skills people are willing to work with me so I can get the care I need.  A big thank you to medical people everywhere that “get it.”  The world needs you and I appreciate you!

Nov 032014

Cancer “I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar!  (Katy Perry)

And cancer did hear me roar!   When I checked in with my surgeon, I found out that the chemo-radiation treatments reduced my tumor to invisibility!  I was pretty excited!   Although they can’t see the tumor, they still have to remove that area so the cancer won’t come back.   What’s that mean?  I have surgery coming up on November 12.   The surgery I am having is a low interior resection and I will be hospitalized in Des Moines at Methodist Hospital for 7 days.  The surgery itself will take about 3 hours and I will need to be off work for 3-4 weeks.  I will have a loop ileostomy to allow everything to heal.  Then, depending on the results of the biopsy, I will start chemo 4 weeks after the surgery.  After chemo is complete, I will wait 4 weeks and then hopefully have the ileostomy removed and everything put back together.

I can’t say enough in gratitude for all my supporters for the prayers, the meals, books, a cuddly quilt and a “Be Brave” bracelet that I wear often, especially on the rougher days.  I know I have withdrawn from many of you and I miss you, but I am gathering strength and facing fatigue.  Thank you so very much for your understanding and support!  Let’s keep roaring on!

“1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
  91 Psalm 1-2 New International Version (NIV).

Beating cancer

Joy beats cancer!

Sep 262014

Ooops- lost it

Treatment was tough, but at least it was the last week of combined chemotherapy and radiation treatment.  I had so much I wanted to blog about-but I was just too run down to get to it.  Between chemotherapy fog and radiation fatigue, I ran out of antidepressants for a few days, creating a perfect storm of emotional crisis just waiting to happen.  The odd thing is there are probably 100 people or more that would have been happy to pick up that script for me, but I didn’t think to ask.  I am getting a little better about asking for help.  I have had a couple excellent meals supplied by the local United Methodist congregation and they will be helping out with some meals over the next week or two as I try to transition back to my normal work schedule.

Up until Thursday or so of last week, I thought I had this treatment thing down.  Yeah, of course, it stank and it wasn’t much fun.  But I was going to stay positive, no matter what, with only occasional backsliding.   Until Thursday.   That was the day that I blew up at my imaginary best  friend over some minor billing foo-foo.   I yelled, I screamed, I used some very nasty language.   I think I scared the dogs.   I apologized to my imaginary friend.  If he were a real friend, I would have begged forgiveness.  Fortunately, that wasn’t necessary since I can always imagine a more tolerant friend if needed.  The dogs forgave me, as they always do.

Then it was Monday, and I was driving home from my penultimate treatment.  I had praise music going in the car.  I had noticed that the “211 highway deaths so far this year” had been increased to 217.    I mused that, if all us Christians drove like Christians all the time, there would probably be fewer deaths.  I’m prone to musing on these drives.  Traffic slowed to a crawl for road construction ahead.   I shut off the AC and opened the front windows.  I reminded myself that I should drive like a Christian, especially since my Christian music was now floating out the windows and onto the highway air waves.  I passed a sign saying “Right lane closed 4 miles ahead.”  Most of us were already in the left lane, proceeding in a slow but orderly fashion down the highway.   A number of people started to pass on the right, one of my pet peeves.   The semi behind me pulled up close, so close I could only see his grill in my rear view mirror.  Another pet peeve.   On top of that, his brakes were squeaking because he needed new brake pads.  I took a couple deep breaths.   I tried to concentrate on my inspirational Christian music.  “Right lane closed 2 miles ahead.”  More people passing on the right.  We are now in stop and go traffic.   Mostly stop.   The semi seems to be getting closer and closer to riding up my tail pipe.  I start singing my Christian music, somewhat mumbling under my breath.  I feel the urge to brake check the semi, but I don’t.   Then he pulls up a bit too close and I snap.   I yell some very un-Christian things and gesticulate wildly.   No….not that gesture.  One of those “Do you not see the cars ahead of me and where do you think you are going to get by crowding my rear bumper?” gestures.  I imagine he missed the whole show, since he could probably only see the roof of my vehicle.   OK, this whole Christian driving idea-it was so not working at that moment.  I took the coward’s way out-rolled up the windows, turned the station to some pumping rock music that better fit my mood and sang at the top of my lungs.   I resisted the urge to flag down all the people passing on the right and tell them how stupid they were.  I did not explain that a big part of the reason traffic is stop and go instead of slow steady is because of them crowding their way into the left lane at the last possible moment.  I resist the urge to brake check the semi, mostly because his vehicle is so much bigger than mine.  I get home in one piece and declare it a victory! I take my antidepressants.

Things are looking better now as the effects of treatment are wearing off.  I will be meeting with my surgeon in early October and I expect that the surgery will take place by mid-November.  I will share more details as I have them.

Sep 162014

Cancer is a long, long, long race.   But the first lap is almost over, so it was bittersweet news when I got the call that the radiation machine was down today.   Yes; it is great not to have to trek to Des Moines for radiation and a blood check.  But I have only 5 treatments to go!  So, I feel like a kid with a snow day.   Awesome, I have an unanticipated day off.  Unfortunately, I still have to make that day up.   My last day of treatment is now expected to be Tuesday next week.   The doc says that it will take 3-5 days for my energy to come back up.  I am looking forward to that!  The hardest thing for me so far has been the fatigue.   There is so much I want to do, and it seems my body just wants to rest, sleep, couch potato-ize.  Do I dare play hooky from the blood check?   My blood work has been so good ….. I am so sick of being stuck with needles!

Next lap:  surgery, starting off with a visit to the surgeon on October 6.  I will keep you updated as soon as I know more.  I found out that I may not need an ostomy bag after all.   It will be a while before I know for sure, but it gives me something to hope for.

I lost most of this blog, but I am trying to rebuild it using Google cache and whatever other resources I can find.   I will date the redone blogs with their original dates.

Thank you to all my family and friends — you have been an awesome source of support and I appreciate each and every one of you.  <3

Jul 222014 would be easy to complain about having cancer right after I fought through depression. But helpful? Probably not. I don’t want to get back down in the depths of depression, so I am focusing as much as possible on the positive things, like the three things listed below. If you are facing a fight with cancer or another chronic and serious disease, I encourage you to do what you can to look on the bright side. Are we always going to be happy little Pollyanna’s as we battle our condition? No, that’s not realistic. But as long as I am alive, I will get the most enjoyment out of my life that I can.

1. I am rethinking my priorities. All of a sudden, being caught up at work does not seem like such a big deal and I could care less about pleasing people that don’t matter to me. I am spending more time with the people and things that open the door to joy: Family, friends, and my dogs. I am getting out in nature and basking in the serenity of the natural world. I am making time for joy and I find that joy is making time for me!

2. I am learning to let go. I don’t just pray the serenity pray, I live it. There are things life that I cannot change, including my cancer diagnosis. There are things in life I can change, my attitude, my diet and my activity level. This blessing goes hand in hand with rethinking priorities. I am realizing what a blessing physical activity is and how sad it would be to lose the ability to move.

3. I am finding peace and support in my faith and my community of friends and family. what a blessing people can be! This diagnosis has been a wake up call for my whole family and we are appreciating each other more and spending more time together. I am amazed to see what responsible, loving adults my children can be when the chips are down. I am so proud of them!

And, here is a freebie-I will add a number 4. In addition to the important blessing above, I have gained the comparatively trivial benefit of increasing my Scrabble vocabulary. Now, if I could just get the right letters to put some of these fancy words I am learning to good use!

Cancer comes with some blessings

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Jul 162014
Woman lying on grass with bright blue sky and fluffy white clouds


Cancer comes with some blessings!

I go through my second colonoscopy in 8 days.   It goes better than the first, they are able to see more of the colon.  I find out the cancer has not gotten into my bladder or other nearby organs-more good news.  The doc removes a polyp.  There are two more polyps by the tumor, but they will stay where they are for now.

I listen to my healing meditations and practice deep breathing.  I read Joel Olsteen, especially I Declare: 31 Promises to Speak Over Your Life I work hard to be positive.

I am amazed at the support I receive from friends and family.  I am very blessed to have these people in my life and in many ways I have taken them for granted.  I treasure the moments that I am able to spend with loved ones and cut down on outside responsibilities.  Yes, I am tired a lot, but I was fatigued before they found the cancer.   Nothing has really changed, but now I understand that there is a physical reason for the fatigue and I forgive myself and rest as needed.

I think a lot about the blessings I have in my life, all the reasons I have to beat this damn cancer.   I am ready to put on my boxing gloves, but I don’t have a specific battle plan yet.   Waiting is frustrating.  I have another doctor’s appointment in 8 days and I am hoping we will get our plan finalized then.  I know that I will need radiation and chemo, followed by rest and surgery, followed by just chemo.   It sounds like I will be able to do that final chemo at home!  YAY!  I am so thankful for the new cancer drugs, which I understand have fewer side effects.   I’ve got my eye on a rainbow hair wig, just in case.  I was wanting to dye my hair in the colors of the rainbow when I went all the way grey, anyway.

So, this is a wake up call for me.  For the next few months, I will fight the battle I need to fight.   When I win, I am going to start doing the things that really matter to me and stop putting them off for another day.  I have a feeling that will involve less work, more family time, and more active fun outdoors!  I am so looking forward to the coming victory!