Thursday, August 13, 2009

8/13/09 Updates - Lots of good news!

Make sure you read the whole post because I have updates about my cancer, job, and a PARTY!!!

First of all, I am officially FINISHED with my chemotherapy treatments!!! Monday, the 10th was my last treatment, and it went well. Tuesday I went for my last shot. I'm feeling great! I'll have another PET Scan in mid September just for a check-up and an appointment with my oncologist. After that, I'll have check-ups about every three months for a couple years, then the time between check-ups will increase. My hair is still coming back in. It is probably about an inch long now and its very soft. It started out really light blond, but now its looking more brown. That might be because the brown hair shows up better, or maybe my hair's just going to be brown. I'll just have to wait and see! So far it isn't curly, but that could still change too.

I'm very excited about my job, and now know for sure what I'm teaching. I will have the 8th grade homeroom (with some help from the teacher who used to do it) so I will have some field trips later in the year. We'll go to Jefferson City, a Cardinals game, a retreat, and I'll be in charge of 8th grade graduation. I will be teaching both Social Studies and Religion for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade. The plan right now is to have Social Studies 3 days a week, and Religion 2 days a week. I will also be teaching Algebra 1 every day to some of the 8th graders. Matthew and my cousin Taylor (who is about to start high school) have been helping me so much in my classroom. I think its almost finished! I've also had help from mom and dad. Mom made curtains for me, the two of them put my computer chair and bar stools together, and Dad is building a podium for me! I start school on Monday, with an Open House that night, and my students start Wednesday. I'm excited and nervous both at the same time. I'm still waiting on class lists and some of my teacher manuals. I think once I have all of that, I'll feel a lot better. Immaculate Conception is a great school with a lot of technology and resources. I really think I'm going to love it there!

Now on to news about the party...

You are invited to an

Open House

Remission Accomplished Party!

Renee Essner has finished her chemotherapy treatments so it is time to celebrate!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

1:00 to 5:00 p.m.

St. Augustine School Gymnasium

Kelso, Missouri

Snacks and drinks will be provided. No gifts please. Your love, support, and prayers are the best gift I could have ever received!

Questions? Directions?

Call Renee’s parents at (573)264-4493

Feel free to bring family members! You can also e-mail me at for questions or directions.

In mid February when I was diagnosed, I never thought this day would come, but at the same time I wasn't scared. I knew that God had a plan for me and even though I didn't know what that plan was, I knew things would work out the way they were supposed to. This has been a journey full of ups and downs, and I don't know how I would have made it through all of this without my friends and especially my family. God has blessed me with the best parents in the world. I know at times it was really hard for them (and Matt) to see me in pain and not be able to do anything about it, but they stayed strong for me and I appreciate them more than I could ever put into words. I also want to mention how amazing Matt has been. As some of my family members have mentioned, if we didn't know before that he was the one for me, we definitely know now. He has stuck by side and put up with my crankiness and bald head and I think this whole experience has brought us even closer together.

I cannot thank everyone enough for all the prayers. God sure is amazing! I hope I can see many of you Labor Day weekend to thank you in person, but if you can't make it I understand. That's usually a busy weekend for a lot of people. Much love, and God bless!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

7/22/09 Updates

I know its been awhile since my last update. It seemed like I kept getting good news and I wanted to wait a little longer and update about all of it at once.

I am now 5/6 of the way through my treatments. That means 10 of my 12 treatments are finished. Treatment number 11 is on the 28th (less than a week away). I've been doing much better since I started getting my shot the day after chemo. I don't have to worry as much about what I eat because my white counts don't get/stay so low.

On to more good news...I GOT A JOB!!! I will be teaching 6th, 7th, and 8th grade at Immaculate Conception in Jackson. They didn't have a teacher leave, but the classes are pretty big so they decided to add another Jr. High teacher. So, I don't know for sure yet what I will be teaching because they're deciding what they want to take from the other teachers and give to me. Originally, the position was for Social Studies and Religion, but because I have extra certification in Math they're talking about giving me some Math. Although I don't know my classes, I do have keys and a classroom. Thanks to my friends and former coworkers at SEMO (who gave me a gift card when I left), I was able to get some general decoration type stuff already! Matthew, two of my cousins, and I got some decorations and started working on my room. It looks so much better with some color! I'm very excited about my job and I think I'm really going to love it there!

One more awesome thing...I also got a new car! The cars I have been driving since turning 16 have been hand-me-downs and have belonged to my parents. They've been good cars, but in our family when you graduate from college you either get your own car, or buy the car you've been driving from mom and dad. I hadn't done this yet because I was unable to work full-time. I'm very grateful to mom and dad for letting me wait a little longer, but after getting a job I decided it was time to get a car. I ended up getting a 2010 Mazda 3 i Touring. It has a moonroof (which I have always wanted) and built in bluetooth. Its a pretty cool car and I absolutely love it. Matt loves it too and has probably already driven it as much as I have.

Other than that, things have been okay. The past couple of days have been kind of hard. The arm that I got my last treatment in has been hurting a lot and my stomach hasn't been feeling the greatest. I have been feeling so good for so long that it makes it much harder when I don't feel well. Luckily, I'm almost finished and my veins will soon get a rest. As of right now August 10 is my last treatment!

As always, thank you for all the love, support, and prayers. God sure is great!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

6/24/09 Updates

I'm sorry it has been so long since I last updated. Life has been pretty busy. Wedding season has started. Matt and I were invited to eight weddings this summer and we're trying to make it to as many of them as possible.

Lately I've been doing much better with the chemo. I don't get sick like I did in the earlier months of my treatment. I'm back to doing most of the stuff I did before, I just have to rest a little more often. I was even able to spend a week in Orange Beach, Alabama with Matt and his dad's family. I rested a lot, but felt great the whole time. After we got back I ended up in the hospital again. We're not really sure why. On a Monday night I started getting chills so we took my temp and it was 101 which means its ER time. By the time we got to the hospital my temp had already gone down on its own, but my white counts were low so again I couldn't go home until they came back up. I felt fine and didn't want to be in the hospital, but I knew I had to to be safe. By Thursday my counts were finally (and just barely) up enough for me to go home.

Being in the hospital pushed my treatments back again. It stinks, but hopefully it won't happen again. Right now my last treatment is set for August 12. They still have me on antibiotics to try to keep me from getting infections, and now they also have me on a shot to help with the white counts. The day after chemo I go back to get my shot and it tricks my body into thinking I have an infection so it will produce extra healthy white blood cells. This should help to keep me out of the hospital. The only other problem I'm having is the heat. I get over heated really easy these days so I have to be extra careful.

That's probably most of the news I have. Other than all of this, I'm just trying to find a job. The hunt hasn't been going so well so any prayers would be greatly appreciated.

As always, thank you for your love, support, and prayers. In one week I will have treatment number 9 of 12. We're almost there!

Monday, May 11, 2009

5/11/09 Updates

Last week I spent a few days in the hospital. The doctor had told us all along that if I had a fever of 100.5 or higher, I should go to the ER. Last Sunday (the 3rd) I felt fine, but right before bed we checked my temp and it was about 99.8. All day Monday I felt pretty crummy, but my temp was always 99.something. At about 10:00 Monday night my temp got to 100.6 so we went to the ER. When we got there they gave me antibiotics through an IV and decided I needed to stay because my white blood cell counts were too low (which is caused by the chemo). Finally Wednesday morning my counts were back up and I had been over 24 hours without a fever so I got to go home.

While in the hospital and at the doctor's office when I was leaving the hospital, I got some good news. MY CANCER IS PRETTY MUCH GONE!!!!! My last scan was clear! This doesn't mean the battle is over. I still have chemo (which sometimes makes me sick) because we have to make sure every single cell is gone and we have to prevent the cancer from coming back. Also, because of my time spent in the hospital, my chemo treatments have all been pushed back a little bit. As of right now, my last treatment is scheduled for August 5!

Thank you again for all your prayers and support! Please keep them coming. God bless!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Treatment number four was harder than number three. I had more bad days than good days, but it got better.

Last week we got good news. I had another PET scan Tuesday and a doctors appointment Wednesday. My doctor was VERY happy with the PET scan results. He said there's no new cancer, and what was there is going away. He also said that as well as looking good for current progress, the scan also looked good for long term treatment. We talked about which treatment plan we would use. We're planning on sticking to the 12 chemo treatments and no radiation. The only reason we'd stop chemo and do radiation would be if the chemo started to make me too sick.

Last week was also fun because I got to get out of the house and have some fun. While in college I was on Exec Board for Student Activities Council and last week they had their big Spring Fling events. I was feeling good so I went to the events, got to see people, and had a great time!

I also had a lot of fun over the weekend. The third graders where I coach cheerleading did a project this year to raise money for the Relay for Life. They cooked in class, had mystery chefs teach them to cook things, and made cookbooks that they sold. When I got my cookbook I was very touched to see that they included a picture of me in their dedication. I was also very touched because they asked me to walk with them at the Relay. It was a great experience and I will definitely go back next year. I even got third in the frozen t-shirt contest! (They soaked shirts, folded them, put them in big ziplock bags, and stuck them in a freezer until they were solid. Then we had to race to see who could get their shirt on first.)

I had treatment number five Friday. So far its been going okay. Right now I've got sinus junk, but hopefully that will get better soon. I'm still working on trying to get a job. Its a little frustrating, but I know God has a plan for me and I just have to be patient.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Updates 4/6/09

I'm sorry it has been so long since my last update. I had some days when I didn't feel well, then on some of my good days I substitute taught, and I've been busy lately. Here's an overview of what's been going on.

Three weeks ago I got rid of the hair. I wasn't feeling good and it had already been coming out in big clumps. I couldn't stand it anymore and my scalp hurt so badly. At about 10 pm I decided I wanted to cut it so I called Matt, he came out to my house, and Dad used a beard trimmer to buz my head. I felt so much better after that and it really wasn't as hard for me as I thought it would be. Since then most of the little hairs have fallen out (partially because I lint rolled my head to get them out), but some are still hanging on. I do have two wigs, but I don't wear them as much as I thought I would. I'm much more comfortable in a hat, and when I'm at home I usually don't wear anything on my head at all.

My second chemo treatment was worse then the first. I had a lot of chest pain with my first treatment, so they gave me pain meds to help with that for my second treatment. The pain meds had side effects that caused other problems for me and I felt pretty bad.

My third treatment was so much better than the first two. I didn't have any pain in my mouth at all! I did have a couple bad days, but overall I've felt a lot better. Matt and I were even able to make a trip to St. Louis to see his mom for her birthday. We had a lot of fun and I can't wait to go back again!

Lately, I've been working on applying for jobs for next school year. I've had one interview already and I have more applications almost ready to turn in. My next treatment is this Friday. I hope it goes as well as the third one. After Friday I will be one-third of the way finished with my treatments!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

2/12/09 Updates

I have a shorter update this time. Yesterday I went back to the oncologist and then got my second chemo treatment. There is a chance that my treatments to get rid of this lymphoma might change. The original plan was to have 4 cycles (8 treatments) of chemo, then a month off, then a month (20 treatments) of radiation. This plan would increase my risk of breast cancer, heart problems, and thyroid problems because of where they would have to aim the radiation. I’d have to start getting mammograms at age 30, and have regular heart and thyroid tests.

After doing more research and talking with his other lymphoma colleagues, my oncologist is considering a plan 2. This plan would involve 6 cycles (12 treatments) of chemo and no radiation. He said that with plan one my chance of being cured and having no more lymphoma problems would be just decimals better, but it would bring with it the other risks. My chance of no more lymphoma problems with plan 2 would be just decimals worse, but I would have no other risks.

We, along with the doctor have decided to wait a little longer to see how well the chemo is doing and to make sure the chemo is working as well as we think. We won’t be able to tell how well it’s working until I do my next PET Scan in about a month. We have until about May or June to decide for sure. My doctor’s going to do more research and talk to more doctors so they can make sure they’re doing what’s best for me.

I think I can stand another 2 months of chemo and 2 months with now hair if it means I don’t increase my risks for all that other stuff.

P.S. If you don’t have a blogspot account but want to respond, you can e-mail me at

Friday, March 6, 2009

Facebook Note Posted 3/6/09

So this update isn't as happy a I hoped it would be, but it seems like everything is going to work out fine.
Matt and I made it to Ash Grove/Springfield last weekend to visit his family and get our engagement pictures taken. I was very happy with how our pictures turned out and it was great to see his family, but the weekend was hard. Friday afternoon I started to have pain and kind of a tingle in my mouth, jaw, and tongue. At first it was just kind of annoying, but by Saturday night it was very painful. It took a lot of phone calls, but Matt and his family eventually got a hold of a doctor who called in a prescription. The pharmacist in Ash Grove actually took the call at home and opened the store so we could get the medicine I needed to help with the problem in my mouth. I don't know what I would have done without Matthew's family. They were so helpful and kept running to get things to try to help me. I'm really lucky to have such awesome future in-laws! Sunday my mouth wasn't great, but it was starting to get better.

Matt and I got home Sunday night and I had planned on going to work Monday, but that didn't happen. Sunday night and most of the day Monday I had really severe pain in the areas where my swollen lymph glands (the cancer) are. Although it wasn't any fun, I agree with my brother-in-law that its kind of cool that the chemo is working and that I can actually feel it attacking the bad cells. Anyways, after the pain came the vomiting. For a few days I wasn't able to keep anything down.

Tuesday I went back to work. I talked to the principal and assistant principal and gave up my job. I had hoped I'd be able to only miss one day every other week and that the weekend would be enough time for me to recover, but it looks like the chemo's going to be harder on me than that. I thought it would be better for my students to have a teacher who could be there all the time. Also, its a lot more work for me to miss school than to be there. I'm sad about having to leave Jackson, but its cutting out a lot of stress and I still plan on subbing some on my good days. The principal and assistant principal were so nice and understanding. They said they know my heart is in the right place and I have 110%. They made me feel a lot better about leaving.

Anyways, Tuesday was a hard day at school. I was pretty weak and still unable to keep food down, but I made it through the day. Wednesday I also went to school, but only for half a day. Again I was just really weak. I could teach, but I couldn't stand long and I was really tired. Wednesday evening I got a call from the school. They wanted to check on me and let me know that they found someone to replace me so I could stay home and focus on getting better.

Since then, things have been better. I've been able to keep food down for a couple days now. I've had some sinus junk and a headache, but that's because of the change in weather and all the wind. Yesterday I went to my sister's for awhile and played with my niece and nephews to keep myself from getting too inactive. Today I'm going to start filling out job applications (I've already turned in one job application for a job that I REALLY want, so wish me luck!) and I'm going to Jackson to take some papers back and pick up my stuff that's still there. I really am feeling much better now! Hopefully we'll have the medicine figured out better for my next chemo treatment so I don't get so sick. My next treatment is on the 11th.

When I have time and feel well I'll give more updates. As always, thank you for your love, support, and prayers!

Facebook Note Posted on 2/26/09

I have some good updates this time!
First of all, on Friday (Feb 20) I decided that I didn't want to deal with trying on dresses in a wig. I talked to my mom and sister, and Matt called his mom and everyone cleared their schedules to come dress shopping on Saturday. At first I wasn't sure I'd find the right one, but after trying on many dresses, the owner brought out a dress that I would have never picked on my own. I wasn't even sure I liked it on the hanger, but I put it on fell in love with it!

Monday and Tuesday I went back to work. Tuesday was horrible, I had to be at the hospital at 6:30 for a breathing test. It took forever. Then I went to school which was even worse, from catching girls stealing candy to catching boys cheating on a test, to having a parent start to accuse me for her son's problems with Math (luckily Mrs. Welker was there to stand up for me and prove the parent wrong). Parent teacher conferences lasted until 8, then I had more stuff to finish before being gone for 2 days, so I ended up not leaving until 9:30.

Wednesday was the good news day. I went back to my oncologist. He looked at my test results and staged my cancer at a 2A. 2 means that there are lumps in 2 locations (my chest and neck) and A means that I don't have any of the other symptoms that go along with the cancer. He also told us that I will only need 4 cycles (8 treatments) of chemo and then some radiation. He said that there are good patients who are easy to cure and do well with the treatments, and there are bad patients who have a much harder time. He told me that I was a really good patient and this should be no problem. I go back to him in 2 weeks.

After my appointment with the oncologist I got my first chemo treatment. It took a lot longer than normal because they had to talk to me and give me all the side effects of the drugs. They also had to give me test amounts of some of them to make sure I didn't have bad reactions. I did well with the chemo and slept through most of it. After I got home, I felt a little sick to my stomach, but they gave me medicine for that. Mostly, I just felt sleepy. I am off work today also because they wanted to make sure I reacted okay to everything. I slept in, but I feel fine.

Today I'm going to visit some of my former students, then I'm getting my nails done. Tomorrow we're off school because of parent teacher conferences, and I'm getting my hair cut. Friday I'm visiting some of my other former students, and then going to Ash Grove/Springfield for the weekend.

Again, thank you so much for your love, prayers, and support! I love you all!

Facebook Note Posted on 2/18/09

I know I promised updates, but I decided to wait until after my appointment with the oncologist today. So here are all the updates since my last note...
On Feb 11 (the day after surgery) I went back to the ENT to get the drain removed and a couple more stitches added. It hurt a little, but not too bad. I did well on the 11th and 12th. On the 13th I went back to work. My students were very happy to see me. I did pretty well most of the day. My head and neck hurt some and I was tired, but overall things were good. My wonderful husband-to-be met me at school after work and helped me get things ready for the following week and lug my piles of papers that needed to be graded to my car. During the day my stomach began to hurt a little, but I didn't think much of it. By the end of the night I was pretty sick.

We thought I was having a bad reaction to my antibiotic so we called the doctor and he told me to stop taking it. That didn't make things better so we realized that I just had a stomach virus. By late Monday night I was finally able to keep food down.

On Monday (the 16th) I went back to the ENT to get my stitches out and he gave us the results of the biopsy. I have a type of Hodgkin Disease (or Hodgkin lymphoma) called Nodular Sclerosis. I don't really know what it means, but I do know that its even easier to treat than non-Hodgkin lymphoma. I stayed home from school Tuesday because my body was still a little weak from the stomach virus and all that.

Today, Wednesday (the 18th) I had my appointment with the oncologist. First, however, I went to school for a few hours, got a note from yesterday's sub saying that my class was one of the worst she's ever had, chewed them out, and took away recess. (They weren't too happy with me, but the sub today said they were much better than they had been last week.) My oncologist is a very nice man. He works at Barnes in St. Louis and comes down to Cape one day a week. He is a lympoma specialist and that's pretty much all he deals with in St. Louis. He got things started right away. Today I had blood tests and a bone marrow test. For those of you with weak stomachs, I won't explain the process of that, let's just say its quite painful. I will be going back to the doctor this Friday and next Tuesday for more tests. Next Wednesday I will go back to talk to the oncologist and get my first round of chemo.

We don't know for sure yet what my treatment will consist of. We do know that I will have 4-6 months of chemo with two treatments each month (every two weeks). Hopefully that will be all, but we'll have to wait to know for sure. My doctor thinks I will be able to continue to work (which is great because I love my job) and is going to try to schedule the rest of my treatments on Friday afternoons so I will miss as little work as possible.

One downside of the chemo is that I will lose my hair, but its just hair. I can get a wig for now and my hair will grow back later. The doctor said I should have a full head of hair by our wedding! Matthew and I have had to change our plans a little bit. His uncle is a professional photographer in Springfield and was going to take our engagement pictures this summer, but now instead we get to push them up. I'm getting a cute (I hope) new haircut and we're getting fun pictures taken on the 28th. I'm actually REALLY excited about getting to make a trip to see his dad's family and take some cute pictures.

I think that's all of the updates I have for now. I want you all to know how much I appreciate the love, support, and prayers you have given me. The number of messages I've recieved has been unbelievable. I truly am blessed to have such amazing friends and family. I teach at a Vacation Bible School every summer and this past summer our bible verse of the week was "I can do all things through Christ because he gives me strength." This verse really means a lot to me. I know God will help me through all of this and before we know it I'll be cancer free!

Again, thank you so much for everything! I'll post more updates when I have them.

Facebook Note Posted 2/11/09

I figured I'd write a note to tell about what's been going on lately and how I found out I had cancer.

In about mid December I noticed that my lymp glad was swollen. I figured it was no big deal because I seem to get sick everytime the weather changes and after a little while the swelling went down. This time it was a little different because the swelling came back after a little while. It didn't cause me any pain, it just looked like there was a ping pong ball in my neck. I didn't really have time to go to the doctor because I was graduating from college on December 20, then there was Christmas, then traveling to St. Louis and Springfield to visit the best future in-laws in the world. After we got back from traveling I had one day off before I started teaching in Jackson.

I knew I needed to go to the doctor because the lump wasn't going away this time. I really didn't want to miss any school beacuse I had just started and I really love it there. I was off on Martin Luther King Jr day so that's when I first went to my family doctor. He couldn't figure out what was causing this (usually with lymphoma you have a lot of swollen lymph gland and I only had one that was visible). He sent me that day for blood tests and the next week for a ct scan.

The blood test showed that my iron was low (no surprise to me) so he put me on iron pills. The results of the ct scan made my doctor decide to sent me to an Ear Nose and Throat doctor beacuse he would know more about a case like this. My ENT noticed in the ct that I had a swollen lymph gland in my chest that and that same day did a needle biopsy. He had to tell me about all the possibilities of what it could be, but we were still hopeful.

The results for the needle biopsy showed that it was suspicious for malignancy, which meant it could be cancer. That's when he decided he needed to do surgery so they could do a full biopsy and get the lump out of my neck. I went to a preop a few days before the surgery and they drew more blood. (I was never really afraid of needles but its getting to the point where they REALLY don't bother me so much.)

So then came surgery time. I didn't tell too many people what was going on because I didn't want to scare anyone before we knew for sure what was wrong with me. Through all of this I was somehow able to stay pretty positive and I only missed the last hour of school a few days. When I told my students I would be gone for three days they thought I was going on a vacation because I was sick of them already.

On Tuesday 2/10 I went in for surgery. I really wasn't scared, just frustrated because while they were preping me and waiting for my doctor to finish the surgery they had before me, I could see people eating. I was starving but I wasn't allowed to eat. I guess the surgery went well. I feel asleep before they even moved my bed and barely woke up when they moved me into a big chair in the recovery room. During my surgery they took a cross section of the lump and found out it was lymphoma. They'll have to do more tests to find out what kind it is. When I woke up more in the recovery room I decided I just wanted to go home. They made me keep down a few ounces of sprite and then I was allowed to leave. Right now I haven't gotten a good look at my wound. They've got me wrapped like I have a broken neck and I have a drain (just a little tube) in my wound to get the nasty stuff to come out of the inside. Today I go back to ENT's office to get the drain removed and hopefully another bandage. Last night I wasn't able to keep food down but hopefully today will be better. I plan on going back to work Friday (it will be a very easy day).

I want to thank all of you for your love, prayers, and support. It makes me feel so much better to know that all of you are here for me. Lymphoma is a very curable form of cancer. I'm still young and strong. I know I'm going to beat this, so no worries! I love you all!