Tag Archives: family

Joyce’s Journey: Knee Replacement + Cancer Update

Joyce's Journey Update at pamelapetrus.comWe’ve had a few developments in Joyce’s Journey lately, so I thought I’d share a quick update. Over the summer, Mom had a full knee replacement on her left knee. The surgery was done in July and within no time she was doing way better than average. The physical therapists were very impressed with how quickly she was able to really use the knee and released her from therapy earlier than usual. We had a follow up with the doctor a week ago, and he insisted that her x-rays could be used in a text book, showing exactly how the process is intended to go. She is using the knee wonderfully!

We also switched her cancer care to Louisiana Oncology this month. (This is the clinic where Matthew works and it’s much more convenient for Mom.) She was very pleased with the new doctor, Dr. Gallagher, and is excited to feel at home in the new clinic. It’s been right at two years since her cancer diagnosis and one year and six months since the surgery. Her blood work came back wonderfully this week and the doctor said he sees nothing of concern right now in terms of recurrent cancer. Of course, we’ll always have to monitor things closely. However, her tumor marker was a glorious 2.5 this month. (It was 4.5 in May and anything under 5 is considered “normal.”) Seeing how far the tumor marker has dropped was a reason to celebrate in itself!

As of right now, Mom’s biggest obstacle to overcome is her back pain. We’ve recently discovered that the pain stems from scoliosis, arthritis in her back, and probably osteoporosis. There’s not really much that can be done about the condition of her back. However, we’re hoping to find some ways to manage the pain within the next few weeks.

All in all, things are looking wonderful! It’s quite amazing to think about everything that’s happened in just two short years, and I’m happy that we’re mainly fighting your average battles these days, not those hefty ones. If you’re new to Mom’s story, you can click the “Joyce’s Journey” tag below to follow a bit of the story. Thank you to everyone who has followed along and continually sent prayers and thoughts our way. It’s been most encouraging and my entire family appreciates your support!

This photo was taken as she zoomed through Wal-Mart shortly after the knee surgery. Hide your babies.

18 Years Later

My DaddyIt’s been 18 years today since I lost my father to cancer.

Eighteen years later I:

  • am a much stronger woman than I would have been otherwise.
  • have a better grip on my emotions.
  • am no longer as sad or resentful as I once was.
  • still miss him terribly.
  • still hate that he’ll never meet my children.
  • miss his gigantic hands.
  • think of him often.
  • see SO much of him in myself.
  • have learned to control the temper I got from him. (for the most part..ha!)
  • am thankful for the legacy he left behind.
  • can still remember his infectious laugh.
  • miss his stories.
  • will forever cherish the memories that I have.
  • and am thankful for the person I became because of this experience, even though it hurts.

I started several posts for today, some celebrating his memory, some telling the story and what it’s meant for me. I wrote and re-wrote, but ultimately decided to share this list instead. The topic is painful. Writing about it stirs emotions that I typically try to keep tucked away. Some stories I’m not ready to tell yet, and some leave the biggest smile on my face. Either way, I’m thankful for how I’ve grown and what I’ve learned over the last 18 years. I’m thankful for the people who stick by me and for what this day will forever mean to me. I’m thankful for the time that I had, the memories I’ll keep, and the years that lie ahead. Hug the people that you love and do something nice for yourself today. Life is too short not to.

It’s My Birthday!

Bread PuddingLast week (January 9), I turned a whopping 29 years old. This post is somewhat of a recap of my birthday festivities. I’m a huuuuge birthday person. I proudly celebrate birthday weeks (sometimes months), and I take them very seriously.

Funny story: Once upon a time, my best friend gave an ex boyfriend a copy of The Breakup for Christmas. Attached was a note that read, “This is Pamela’s favorite movie. Also, here’s a tip…her birthday is a huge deal. Don’t forget that or you’ll most certainly ‘break up.'” I thought it was so clever and simply hilarious. He didn’t….which is probably why we broke up.

Birthday Eve Ice CreamThis year, however, was different. I wasn’t as excited as usual about my birthday, and it took quite a bit to get me in the mood. I attribute some of this to not feeling well and being incredibly tired. I also think that I’m so pumped about my 30th birthday, that this one feels a little blah. (I’m totally expecting my 30s to rock…not dreading that birthday at all!) Nonetheless, I finally got excited as the day rolled around. On Thursday, Matthew and I finished up work a little early, so we got ice cream, ran a few errands, and did a bit of shopping. I counted this as my birthday eve celebration, and it definitely helped me get in the mood.

It's My Birthday!

Social Bites CupcakeOn Friday, I woke up to tons of messages and facebook posts and that made me so excited! (Seriously, if you took time to message me, I totally appreciate it!) I headed over to Ruston and had lunch at one of my favorites, Beau Vines. That lemon cake is amazing! Amanda surprised me with my first Social Bites cupcake! After lunch I went for a quick massage, and then met a few folks for dinner at Cascio’s Tavern.  (The parmesan chicken and blackened chicken pasta are my favs there.)

Possibly the highlight of my birthday weekend is that my long term best friend, Naomi, got to come for a visit. I most definitely don’t get to see her enough and was thrilled that she got to come spend a few days with me for my birthday. Saturday, I had to work for a bit and then Naomi and I did some shopping. (I bought some Minnetokas from Salt & Pepper that I’m soooo excited about.)

Birthday CakePajama Party CrewBirthday Cake Saturday night, a few friends came over for a pajama party at my house. I had a million plans for this pajama party but didn’t really get to implement many. Instead, I decided that my birthday reward to myself would be to invite people over to a less-than-perfectly-clean home that still has Christmas decor up and not stress over that. I didn’t get to do many of the cutesy things I had planned, but I did get to take a breather and spend some time catching up with friends and watching girly movies. For the record, adult pajama parties are the way to go. We’ll be doing this again soon!

I’ll tell the next portion of my birthday story, solelyto make you feel good about yourself. Seriously, if you’re feeling a little down today, you should read on. It’s bound to lift your spirits. I’d like to say that we wrapped up my birthday weekend by arriving on time and perfectly dressed to my family birthday dinner on Sunday. Not quite. Instead, we arrived to family birthday dinner (hosted for me by Matthew’s parents) 40 minutes late with me rocking greasy hair and no makeup. Why is that, you ask? I put it on my calendar for the following Sunday. If I were being completely honest, I’d tell you that Matthew and I considered wrecking our car on the way over, just so the family might feel sorry for us and forget about the fact that we totally screwed up. I tell this story in a joking manner, but I felt absolutely horrible. I guess if there’s any party that it’s ok to show up late to, it would be your own birthday party. Lesson learned. I’ll be keeping a closer eye on my schedule from now on.

The celebrating even stretched into Monday, as I had lunch with my real estate team at Waterfront Grill (and ate that amazing bread pudding shown above). Speaking of my real estate team, I stopped by the office to find 20+ of these “Happy Birthday Pam” signs spread throughout the office. On the front door…the coke machine…strategically placed on the top of the trash can…you name it.  However, my name isn’t Pam. It’s Pamela – all day, every day. I enjoyed searching for the signs, but if anyone starts calling me Pam from these signs, I might have to murder a coworker. (Thanks for thinking of me, Shane.)

All in all, I had a good weekend. I enjoyed time with friends and family and felt so thankful to have so many show that they cared. I didn’t do this birthday in my usual birthday style, but it’ll still go down on the books as a success. Thanks to everyone who contributed!

Nashville in November

Nashville in November (21)Matthew and I try to make it to Nashville to visit his family there at least a couple of times year. We’ve already made lots of great memories there, and this trip was no different. It just so happened that my friend Amanda was going to Nashville for a work event the same week as us, so we decided to carpool. I promise that Amanda was with us even if this photo looks like she was photo-shopped in!

Nashville in November (18)

As you’ve probably noticed, one of our main focuses during our travels is food. (Don’t judge.) This trip was no exception. We recently learned that Nashville is known for what they call “hot chicken,” sort of like Memphis is known for BBQ. We’d never had hot chicken before, so we made it a point to try some! After doing some research, we settled on a location called Pepperfire. We were told to order down two levels of spice from what we normally do, and I’m glad we heeded their advice. This was a very cool to-go style environment, and I loved that they text you when your order is ready. Also, the potato salad was phenomenal!

PepperfirePepperfirePepperfirePepperfireWe also met Amanda for dinner at our favorite, Puckett’s Grocery. I think it’s safe to say that we’ll stop by Puckett’s every time we’re in Nashville. Unfortunately, the scheduled artist didn’t show up, so “Zach the Server” stepped in to provide a show. I was very impressed!

Puckett's Grocery Puckett's GroceryDowntown NashvilleIn other food news, we stumbled upon a quaint little chocolate shop while walking around the Gulch. After chatting with the clerk at Colt’s Chocolates, we realized the shop was owned by a former Hee Haw cast member, which quickly gained my interest! I have the fondest memories of watching that show as a little girl. (The clerk had also worked in Monroe for a bit, which was cool.) The best part about this shop was that they had little tasting bowls in front of each item. After tasting them, we started filling a basket! FYI: The salted caramel butter bites are to. die. for. Also, you can order online…so dangerous.

Colt's ChocolateColt's ChocolateWe did quite a bit of shopping this trip, (Thank you, Matthew!) and one of my favorite stops was the Nashville Flea Market. I literally could have loaded up two truckloads of stuff! I made some tough decisions and only purchased smaller items that I couldn’t live without, including these stars. This resulted in me leaving behind several amazing finds, including two doors that I think would have made great sliding doors in our dining room and master bath. Sad face.

Nashville Flea MarketAnother favorite from this trip was a visit to the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. We weren’t allowed to take any photos inside the center, but it was beautiful! The building was the old post office and was filled with art deco architecture and the original wood floors (which were cut ends of 2x4s). It was so pretty! We also thoroughly enjoyed the make-your-own-art section of the center and left with lots of new masterpieces. If you’re ever in Nashville, I definitely recommend stopping here for a bit!

FRISC Art Center

Before heading home, we made a quick stop in Downtown Franklin, which is always lovely. It was especially nice to see things decorated for Christmas and feel the holiday vibe there. We grabbed brunch at 55 South and did a bit of shopping before hitting the road. I could spend hours downtown!

Downtown FranklinFor the first part of the journey home, we drove down the Natchez Trace. We hadn’t been on this end of the trace before, and it was nice to see some new scenery. Eventually, we hope to travel the entire route. We made a few stops along the way to see a waterfall and the burial site of Meriwether Lewis (Lewis & Clark). The history along this route is rather interesting. Before we hopped on the Natchez Trace, we stopped for gas (and a bathroom break…I’m a joy to travel with) at another cute little general store. This one had raw woods floors and a very homey vibe. You can read my post about the gem of a general store we found on the begging of the trip here. It looks as if my new goal might be to find all of the cool general stores, and I’m totally ok with that.General Storegeneral store floorsNatchez TraceNatchez TraceNatchez TraceWe had a great time on this trip and can’t wait for the next one. If you’d like to see more from our travels, check out the travel category. You can see more of our trips to Nashville here. And if you still haven’t had enough of reading about my thrilling life, the posts from our trip to Memphis are good ones. Hopefully you’re planning some good trips for 2015. We certainly are. There’s an entire world out there waiting to be seen and explored!


On Starting a Family

smiling babyI was sitting in the Starbucks drive through one morning and watched a pregnant lady stroll by in front of my car. She was probably 6 or 7 months pregnant.  She was as cute as can be and looked so happy, laughing as her and her friend walked by. I’m sure her feet were probably swollen and she might not have slept well the night before, but she looked genuinely happy.

As I sat there waiting for my coffee, I realized that I don’t really have that overwhelming desire to be that woman. Don’t get me wrong, I do want kids. (As a matter of a fact, I want 5!) However, I realized that I don’t long to be pregnant. I don’t get that empty feeling in my stomach when I see a mom holding a new baby. I don’t lay awake at night thinking about starting a family. I do want a family, and I do look forward to being a mom someday, but I just don’t long for it.

On the other hand, when I see a woman in a suit speaking at a conference or leading an important meeting, I do get excited. There’s something about having a successful career that wakes me up inside. I have big goals and even bigger dreams, and I could talk business all day! When I look at myself in a futuristic way, business is what I see. As a matter of a fact, I can’t ever remember seeing myself at home with adorable children tugging on my apron. When I think back to my childhood thoughts on my future, I remember seeing myself standing before a projector in a Fortune 500 company, explaining some revolutionary breakthrough I discovered. Since I can remember, my idea of success has always centered around a predominant career.

The more I thought about my focus on career goals instead of family goals, the more guilty I felt. After all, I do want a family. I do want to bake cupcakes for school parties and go to every soccer game. The fact that I want to make a name for myself in the workforce doesn’t at all mean that I don’t also want to be a wonderful mommy some day.

As I thought more about this struggle between work and family, I realized that thousands of other women probably battle this same thing. I realized that each and every one of us have different goals or timelines for our lives and that none of them are “wrong.” Some women want lavish careers. Some want to be at home everyday raising beautiful babies. Some want both. Some do one or the other and some do both. Some moms bake after-school snacks from scratch and some pick up snacks from the drive through.

It was in that moment that I realized that it’s ok to want both. It’s ok to focus more heavily on one or the other, or it’s ok to fight for a balance between the two.

The fact that I’m not longing to have children right now doesn’t mean that I’ll make a bad mother someday. It doesn’t mean that I’m less of a woman than the lady standing next to me with a sweet two year old looking up at her. It just means that I’m different. And you’re different. We’re all different, but we’re all still amazing in our own ways. There’s nothing that we can’t accomplish, regardless of what those goals are. Whether you’re a stay at home mom or a successful business woman, it doesn’t matter. You’re still a wonderful, amazing woman who has the opportunity to make a difference in the world. The difference that you make may come through in cupcakes and kissed bruises, or it may be through a successful marketing campaign. Either way, you will make a difference to someone.

Deep down I know that I’m writing my own story and that I’ll always be thankful for sticking to my guns and following my own timeline. However, sometimes it’s hard to not be discouraged when people question your plans. It’s hard to not feel inferior when people ask, “when are y’all going to have kids?” Yes, having children is the next apparent step in our story, but it’s not a step that we have to take now. If you’re curious, I don’t plan to have kids until I just can’t stand not having them any more. (Obviously, I know that we can’t plan everything in our lives. Actually, I’ve always said that my first child will most likely have to be unplanned.)

I mentioned starting a category here on the blog for things that I’ve learned, and I think this is a big one. I’m slowly learning that it’s ok to not follow the norm. People will likely talk and ask inappropriate questions. And inevitably, someone will unintentionally make you feel bad about yourself at one point or another. It’s ok. I’d rather live my life in a way that I feel passionately about than succumb to tradition.

If you want to have lots a babies right away, please do! If you want to travel the world, do it. If your dreams revolve around finding the next big thing, keep searching. If anything, this post is about celebrating, and more importantly, respecting the differences in our dreams. We don’t have to all look and act the same. We don’t have to want the same things, and we don’t have to follow the same path. We each have a purpose in this world and the paths to get there will most definitely be different. That’s what makes this ole life so interesting!

Today I charge you to not judge people for being different. Instead, make time to celebrate the difference among us. If at all possible, try to encourage the women around you, even if their dreams might be a little different than yours. They most likely need it.

Thank you, Naomi, for letting me borrow a photo of your sweet Adley.

Joyce’s Journey: Six Month Checkup

Joyce's JourneyIt’s time for a #JoycesJourney update! This past week Mom went for her six month oncology checkup. It’s been almost nine months since her surgery and six months since she was cleared by the doctors. I’m happy to say that we have good news to report today!

Last week, we had an appointment with the surgeon, Dr. Werner, in Shreveport. He said that her incisions are healing very nicely and everything seems to be just fine…better than most actually. She’ll return to him in three months for another check.

On Monday, we visited her oncologist, Dr. Weinberger, for the biggest of the tests. He said that all of her blood work looked good. Her white and red blood cell and platelet counts are all good. Her kidneys and liver are both functioning properly. He didn’t hear any issues with her lungs and didn’t feel any trouble with her lymph nodes. All of the signs say that we are healing perfectly and cancer free!!

Of course, Mom was a little nervous about these appointments, but we’re thrilled to have gotten a good, clean report. We’ll see the oncologist again in February and have another colonoscopy then. If everything looks good in February, she won’t have to be checked again for another 3-5 years!

Both my mom and I appreciate everyone’s thoughtfulness through this process. This time last year, we were kicking off chemo and radiation treatments. It’s simply amazing how much can transpire in a year, and how much the encouragement of others can help during tough times like these. My family and I are so incredibly thankful that we can report good news just one year later. We can’t thank you enough for taking this journey with us. Feel free to leave a comment for Mom here. She loves to come and read them!

To read the full story, click here.

P.S. Mom still has a little trouble getting around sometimes because of her knees. (Surgery prep for knee replacements is actually how we found the cancer.) This photo was taken at Wal-Mart as she learned to drive the motorized scooter. This was her second attempt at driving a scooter, and let’s just say it went much better than the first! She’ll be a pro in no time!

Mom Update: Surgery & A New Apartment

Mom's New ApartmentThings are moving along nicely with Mom’s treatment plan, but I thought I’d give everyone a quick update of where we are.

As you know, she completed her chemo and radiation treatments right before Christmas. Our next plan of attack is surgery to remove the tumor, which is currently scheduled for February 25. In the meantime, she’s under strict instructions to take her medications regularly, eat well, and get lots of exercise. She needs to build lots of strength to be prepared for the surgery. We go back to Shreveport on February 12 for the pre-op appointments. As of right now, they’re expecting her to spend one week in the hospital there before returning home.

In other news, she got the keys to her new apartment this week! She’s pretty excited to get moved in and has really enjoyed preparing for and making plans to decorate the new place. We’ll spend most of the weekend getting her settled in, and I’m sure she’s looking forward to getting back into a routine.

As always, she thoroughly appreciates all of the sweet messages and comments. We still have a few hurdles to jump, but we’re making good progress. Feel free to leave her a note of encouragement here. She loves reading them!

Merry Christmas!

Christmas CardMerry Christmas from Matthew & I! We hope everyone has a splendid holiday season and thoroughly enjoys time with family. We love you all!

Follow along with some of our Christmas activities with #petruschristmas on Instagram!

This year’s card was designed by Christina over at Lacey Fields on Etsy. She did a fantastic and prompt job and was a pleasure to work with. You should look her up for next year’s cards, party invitations, etc!


Our Final Chemo/Radiation Treatment!

Mom's Last TreatmentYesterday marked Mom’s very last chemo and radiation treatment!! I’m going to let that sink in for a bit.. It’s a really big deal…

I haven’t been able to do a full update on Mom lately, but rest assured that we’ve been fighting hard over here in My Neck of the Woods.

Here’s the quick version:

  • We spent a week in the hospital – dehydration, low blood pressure, dropping potassium levels, mystery infection, and a host of other and much more harsh symptoms. She’s a trooper though. (She got out just in time for Matthew and I to leave for Thanksgiving in Nashville.)
  • She spent Thanksgiving week recovering from the long and tough hospital stay.
  • We had a really good week.
  • Insurance required her to try another version of her medicine, which made her treatment symptoms rush back in full force.
  • We had a really bad week.
  • We got the medicine switched back and are currently working on getting her leveled out again.

RadiationBasically, this whole experience has been a series of ups and downs – a roller coaster of feelings, symptoms, and emotions. Every single day was/is different. Some days she felt great…others were bad. The worst part for me has been watching. I suppose it’s sort of like having a sick child…you see that they’re hurting and there’s nothing you can do to fix it. This is particularly hard for me because I’m a “fix it” kind of gal.

As things got tougher and tougher on her, I’ve had to steadily remind myself that this is cancer. Cancer. It’s not a pretty thing. It’s not easy. As a matter of a fact, it’s hard. I can’t fix everything because this treatment plan is unavoidably hard.

RadiationNo matter how hard the last week has been, there is always a silver lining. Now, we can celebrate her being DONE with these treatments. This amazingly strong Mama of mine has knocked out 8 weeks of chemo and radiation! (It was six weeks of treatment, 1 week in the hospital, and 1 week of rest.) She’s still not feeling well, but they say she should start feeling more normal within the next 3 weeks or so. I’m optimistically hoping “normal” comes a lot more quickly than that. Honestly, I’m hoping that each passing day of not going to treatments brings with it a slight improvement for her.

What’s next? We will follow up with both her oncologist and radiation oncologist in 3 weeks. The current plan is to let her rest and recover for 6 weeks and then follow up with the surgery to remove the rest of the tumor after that. The surgery will take place in Shreveport and should have a week-long recovery in the hospital there. We will know more definite details once we follow up with the surgeon.

RadiationAll in all, we’re making good progress. In my opinion, the hardest part is over. We knocked those treatments out! She’s not completely out of the woods yet, and she’s certainly not feeling herself. However, progress is progress and we’ve made a huge leap towards the finish line. Please keep lifting her up and sending well wishes and happy thoughts our way. She appreciates every comment, prayer, and message that you send. Feel free to leave a comment here. She is my most loyal reader, after all!

The above pictures are from the radiation treatment room. You can keep up with the process with the #JoycesJourney on twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. Also, read the most recent Mom updates here.

Thanksgiving in Nashville

Should I be making a Thanksgiving post just one week before Christmas? Probably not, but things have been busy over in my neck of the woods. It’s better late than never right??

Matthew and I were lucky enough to get to spend Thanksgiving with his Mom’s side of the family in Franklin, TN this year. (That’s just a bit outside of Nashville for those who aren’t sure.) His mom and step-dad just moved there this summer, so we were very happy for the chance to go visit them in their new home. My Mom spent the previous week in the hospital, so we weren’t 100% sure that we were going to be able to make the trip. (I haven’t had the chance to update you all on Mom lately, but she’s doing much better after her week-long adventure in the hospital. I’ll post a full update soon!) Thankfully (on many accounts), she was released the day before we were scheduled to leave, so we got to travel as planned.

The best part of this trip was the time we got to spend with family. We had almost everyone under one roof (We missed you, Jenna!), and that’s sometimes tough to do when we’re all scattered across the country right now.

Thanksgiving Food

The Thanksgiving dinner was superb (and beautiful), which means I will likely never cook for my mother-in-law. There’s just no way I can get close to her cooking skills…no way. It was DELICIOUS, and I’m not even just saying that to win points with the MIL! Unfortunately, I spent most of that morning in bed sick, but I was still able to get up in time to enjoy the dinner. What’s the positive side to being in bed sick while everyone else prepares for Thanksgiving? Online shopping.

Their home is in a new subdivision where you can see the mountains in the distance. Many of the homes there are still under construction, so we got to go take little peeks of some of the unfinished ones. Since I’m a realtor, this was right up my alley.

Aside from time with family, one of our favorite experiences from this trip was dinner at Puckett’s Grocery in Nashville. (More about that later.)  We also spent an afternoon at The Mill, which was such a darling place! If the name didn’t give it away, it’s an old mill that’s been converted into lots of cute, little shops. The Farmer’s Market is next to it, which I’m sure is lovely during the warmer months. I loved all of the old appliances and decor found throughout.

The Mill in NashvilleThe Mill in Nashville

The Mill in NashvilleThe Mill in NashvilleThe Mill in Nashville

We left for the trip home on Thanksgiving Day. I’m sure most people didn’t spend their holiday traveling, but Matthew and I enjoyed the chance to just chat and catch up. However, traveling on a major holiday presents one, tiny problem — most restaurants are closed. We don’t like to eat at places we can enjoy at home when we travel, but there certainly aren’t many (if any) local hot-spots open on Thanksgiving Day. We eventually agreed that we’d break the rules and eat Cracker Barrel, but every one that we passed was horrendously busy. Finally, we settled on IHOP, but we spotted a Steak ‘n Shake right next door that was open! We don’t have one here in Monroe, so it technically met the requirements. This doesn’t sound like a blog-worthy experience, except that this was our very first Thanksgiving meal to share, just the two of us. No, it wasn’t turkey and dressing, but it was still special to me. (You may remember that all of our “firsts” are immensely important to me.) We made most of our trip home via the Natchez Trace, which is always lovely. One day, we hope to travel the whole route.

Steak 'n Shake

Natchez Trace

Natchez Trace

The purpose of this quick trip was enjoying time with our family. We didn’t get to see many of the sites, but we are looking forward to our next trip there very soon. I am certain that Nashville will quickly become one of our favorite places! Since we’re hoping to go back soon, we’d appreciate any tips about what we should see and do. If you’ve been to Nashville or Franklin, leave us a comment with your favorite local places!

We went to Tennessee on a little mini-vacation last year. Read about it here!