Thursday, January 31, 2013

My Cancer Journey - Part 7: The “What if...” Trail

For the next 5 days, we WAITED to hear the results of the Radiology tests. It all became so surreal to us – just so hard to believe all this was happening. On most days, I was at peace, knowing the Lord is in control of my life, and praying that HE be glorified through all of this. After all, this life is not really about ME, its about what I can and should be doing for HIM. I believed this journey could have been allowed so that I could help make a difference in someone else’s life, and I was often drawn to remember Ephesians 2:10, which says:

For we are HIS workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (NASB) 
But... I am human and do have my moments when my thought processes take a negative turn. I  have gone down the "What if…" trail and asked things like:
  • What will it be like if I have to lose both of my breasts?
  • What will happen if the cancer has spread to other organs?
  • What will my husband and kids do if I don’t live through this?

In those moments, I was trying to process some difficult emotions, not wanting my family or myself  to go down this difficult road. This can't be the road you have chosen for us, Lord. But, as I searched my soul and prayed for peace, I realized those thoughts came from a lack of trust for our future. It all boiled down to the fact that I wanted to be the one in control of this situation. I wanted the choice for our future to be mine and not the Lord’s. Could I really trust God to be in control and to take care of me and my family - no matter what the outcome was to be? Quite honestly, I still struggle with that one. I often have to remind myself not to dwell on the negative thoughts that come alongside the "What if..." trail; but to, instead, think only on what is true and lovely, and pure.

Philippians 4:8 - Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.
On my "good" days of conquering these fears, there's no way I can take the credit. I believe, whole-heartedly, in the prayers of family and friends. I know I could not have made it through even this far without their love, prayers, encouragement, and support. If there is one thing I want to reinterate on this blog, it is to please remember to ENCOURAGE one another. We are all going through so much, and encouraging one another is VITAL to our survial in this darkening world...
1 Thessalonians 5:11 - Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing.

...But, to get back to the "Journey," the Oncologist finally called on Wednesday, December 5th and said ALL of the Radiology tests came back GOOD. Praise the Lord the cancer had not spread to bones or other organs, AND I would only need to lose the right side! We still did not know whether or not the lymph nodes were affected, and would not know that until after the mastectomy; but the tests did not show them to be enlarged, so that was a good sign.

Things happened quickly from there, as we went to see the surgeon again that following Friday, and the surgery was scheduled for Tuesday, December 11th.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My Cancer Journey - Part 6: The Oncology Consultation & A Day of Tests

We saw the Oncologist on November 21st. It was a LONG wait in the waiting room and exam room before he finally saw us. But, he took his time with us, looking over the pathology reports and explaining that there were two types of cancer. First, there was the extensive DCIS (which is non-invasive cancer, but was aggressive; and, if not taken care of, would turn into invasive cancer), and the already invasive tumor (which was a Grade 3 out of 3 - highly aggressive). He said, because of the threatening conditions of this cancer, he felt there was no other option than to recommend at least a single-sided mastectomy. Wow... not what we wanted to hear, but we knew he was right.

The idea of losing a breast comes with a wide array of emotions, thoughts, and opinions - not just from ME, but from others as well. The only opinion that really mattered to me was that of myself and my husband and, in the end, our main concern was to just get the cancer OUT so it doesn't spread any further. My family is more important to me than any part of my body. I was still hoping and praying I would not need to lose BOTH sides but, if that was the solution, then so be it.

The doctor ordered an MRI, CT, and Bone Scan to be done on November 30th. These tests were to give us more information before the mastectomy took place. He said, they would show if the cancer had spread to any other organs or bones, or to the other breast. We were told that, as long as the cancer had not spread, there was a good chance I would not need to have any other treatments. So, that is what we were hoping for! 

November 30th was the long day of testing, but everything went fairly well. Here’s a brief rundown of the day:

  • Was injected with radioactive stuff at 7:30 a.m. to get ready for the Bone Scan 4 hours later. Also had to drink a cup of nasty grape juice, then wait an hour to have the CT.
  • CT was the first test done. Had to drink more juice junk, and was also injected with a contrast. The CT itself was painless.
  • Went shopping for 2 hours, then came back to do the Bone Scan at 11:30. Seeing images of the bones made me nervous and made me wonder why some spots were brighter than others.
  • After Bone Scan came the MRI. That one took the longest. This one also had a contrast they injected me with. I had to lay face down for 40 minutes in a noisy tube.
  • Went to lunch at Arby’s, then picked up the kids at a friend’s house. Got home around 3:30.
  • The drink they gave me caused loose stools, but that was the only side effect, other than fatigue the next day.
  • More waiting for test results.
  • More clinging tightly to God’s hand.
  • The "What if..." questions were beginning to surface.
Check back tomorrow to read about the
"What if..." Trail.

      Tuesday, January 29, 2013

      My Cancer Journey - Part 5: The Lumpectomy & Unexpected Results

      Things went well on the day of the Lumpectomy. I didn’t know what to expect, as the only other surgery in my lifetime had been a tonsilectomy at the age of 9. So, I was a bit nervous on the outset; but, the staff was very good at explaining the process and putting me more at ease.

      It all took a bit longer than expected, but still pretty smooth all-together. The hardest part for me was the first procedure I had to endure. Before the surgery, I had to go to Radiology and have my right breast compressed in a mammogram machine for about an hour while they inserted 2 guideline wires for the surgeon. The insertion of the wires themselves were not too bad because they numbed me for that. But, the compression part was extremely painful, and I was in tears. After a little while, I sort of adjusted to the pain. Then, the numbing for the wire insertion helped also. But, it was still a very uncomfortable procedure. I sure was glad when that was over!

      For the surgery, I was completely "knocked out" and don't remember a thing after being rolled down the hall. I woke up to some pain of about 4-5 on the scale of 10, but nothing that the pain meds didn't help. They made an incision around the areola, then went up under the skin to cut out the cysts and the surrounding tissue that had the calcifications. I was very sore and swollen, but not in major pain. I was told to wear a compression bra for at least a week, and was not allowed to lift more than 10 lbs.

      The WAITING began again as we then waited for more results and were told we would have them in a few days time (Remember, the day of the surgery was Tuesday, November 6th). However, the weekend came and went and we did not hear anything. We figured no news was good news, and was expecting they would wait to talk with us at the follow-up appointment on the 14th.

      But.... while I was at an Avon party on the evening of the 13th, the surgeon himself called and talked to my husband about the results. He wanted to sort of give us a "heads up" about what we would be discussing at the appointment the next day, and the news was not encouraging. When I arrived home from the party, David took me to our room to reveal the lump had a little bit of everything in it: fibrous tissue, cysts, extensive DCIS (the non-invasive cancer cells), as well as some INVASIVE cancer. It was a definite shock, to say the least, as we were only expecting maybe some mild-moderate DCIS. The reason it took so long to get the results is because the doctor was shocked by them also and had them sent out a couple more times for testing, just to be sure of what it was.

      The surgeon spent a good amount of time with us at the appointment the next day, explaining what we were looking at. The invasive cancer was about 2 cm in size, and it did not show up on mammograms, etc. That is why it was a surprise to him. He said (and here’s the Lord’s intervention I was talking about in PART 3 of this journey) he could have very easily missed the invasive cancer if he had done the needle biopsy, since he did not see it on the mammogram. The pathology report said the tumor was grade 3 out of 3 and was Estrogen Receptor Positive (ER+). He believed he got all of "the bad stuff" out, but that did not mean there wasn’t still cancer somewhere else in the body, including the lymph nodes. We also still had the DCIS interspersed throughout the tissue that he didn’t believe was all gone, due to the margins of the removed tissue not being clean and clear within a certain distance.

      So... we were referred to an Oncologist - one who works closely with our surgeon and is also very good and thorough. We would find out what the next step was to be while seeing him on November 21st.

      After this visit, we were shocked and somewhat in denial as we tried to process it all, but continued to trust in the Lord for guidance and strength. We knew He was still there holding our hands. We just weren't sure which direction he was taking us in yet.

      Monday, January 28, 2013

      My Cancer Diagnosis - Part 4: The Surgeon’s Consultation

      October 1st finally came and we consulted with the surgeon. He was a very nice man with a gentle spirit, and a lot of experience. We liked him immediately, and found out later he is a Christian, which was a super huge bonus! Thank you, Lord, for your intervention! He looked over the x-rays, then took his time with us explaining what he saw. He said there were two lesions connected to each other that he was pretty sure were just cysts. He was not concerned about those. But, what he was more concerned about was the calcifications surrounding the cysts. He said they could be something called DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ). Basically, it is a non-invasive type of cancer that remains only in the milk ducts. He said it was not something to leave alone, but not really life-threatening either.

      He originally said he wanted to do a core needle biopsy, as that is usually the standard protocol. But, after we voiced our concerns over it, he said my case, because of the way it was presenting itself, would qualify for a lumpectomy and he would not refuse to do it if that is what we wanted. We were very pleased and chose the lumpectomy.

      Since he said it was not truly a "life-threatening" situation, we chose to wait a few weeks to have the surgery done. October was such a busy month for us, so we chose Tuesday, November 6th - Election Day, which was over a month away. (We were able to vote early, so that worked out well for us!)

      Once again, we were WAITING... Just when you think your circumstances have already produced enough patience in you, something like this comes up to test that. How much patience do you really have? I had to continue trusting that it would all work out for the best.

      Sunday, January 27, 2013

      My Cancer Journey - Part 3: The Lord’s Intervention

      On Friday, September 21st, one week after the first initial mammogram, I got a call from the surgeon’s office and had an appointment set up to see her the following Wednesday.

      As I finally decided to share this information with all my friends on Facebook, MANY responded and said they would be praying. I really don’t like all the drama that Facebook can produce, and am not comfortable with sharing a lot of personal details on my page; but, I felt it was important to let others know what was going on. No one knows how to pray for you, or give you needed support (and maybe even some helplful advice from those who have gone before you) unless you let them know what is going on. I didn't want to go through this alone, so I chose to speak out and received blessed responses of prayers, well-wishes, and encouragement (which was something I had talked about in THIS POST last year about 10 ways to encourage others via Social Media.)

      Two of my friends recommended I NOT get a needle biopsy because they believed there was a risk of releasing cancer cells into the bloodstream. After doing my research and consulting with my husband, we decided to forego the needle (or core) biopsy, if possible, and ask instead for a lumpectomy (a complete removal of the lump and the surrounding tissues). I believe the Lord intervened through these two friends, for reasons of which you will find out in another post.

      Then, here’s the next part of the Lord’s intervention... On Tuesday morning, the day before I was supposed to go see the surgeon, I got a call from my husband while he was at work. He had been talking to one of the employees who used to work at the hospital, and she recommended I change surgeons. I was rather upset about this news coming to me on the day before my appointment. It was frustrating because, changing surgeons meant I had to WAIT even longer to be given the information I needed about this lump! But, on the other hand, I totally believed the Lord was looking out for me, and I HAD to trust that everything was going to happen in HIS timing.

      Ecc. 3:11 - He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.

      I changed surgeons and waited to be scheduled for an appointment with him. He came highly recommended and very experienced in his field. Finally, the call came and I was scheduled to see him on Monday, October 1st

      At this point, waiting for results and appointments had become a little easier as time had gone by. It all still sort of freaked me out a bit, thinking about what the final results could be, and I still wished things could have happened sooner than they did, but I knew the Lord was at work in me. I was learning more and more each day how to fully trust in Him.

      Proverbs 3:5-6 - Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.

      Saturday, January 26, 2013

      My Cancer Journey - Part 2: Waiting for Results

      At my more advanced mammogram session, they took at least 5 more pictures of the right side. Wow, that was uncomfortable! Then, they did the ultrasound - thankfully painless! During the ultrasound, the tech was quiet as she did her work. I occasionally took a peek at the screen, and noticed the black image where the lump was located. It was sort of round but maybe a bit lumpy, and also had sort of like a tail on it. I wasn’t sure what to think, but was just hoping it was only a cyst. "Please, God, just let it be a cyst!" My mother had a lump when she was in her 40's, and it turned out to be benign, so that was what I was hoping for in myself as well. They said the tests would be read that same day by the Radiologist, and the results would be sent to my doctors. I was told I would hear from them the next day. Time to wait...

      I did not receive that phone call on Wednesday. More waiting...

      I mentioned the tests on a "Moms Praying" page on Facebook, knowing that the ladies on there would be praying for me. One of the members (Lori) commented and said she was praying for good results. While writing the comment, she accidentally misspelled "good" and wrote the word "god." I know it wasn’t an intentional thing on her part, but believe it was intentional on God’s part. It came across as "Praying for [God] results!" Isn’t that so true... Whatever the results ended up being, I knew the Lord had control and that nothing would happen to me out of His perfect will for my life.

      On Thursday afternoon, the call finally came in from my doctor’s office. The radiology report said there was indeterminate calcifications around what looked to be a fluid-filled cyst. Further testing was recommended, so I was referred to a surgeon for an ultrasound needle biopsy. Once again, I had to WAIT for the surgeon’s office to call me to set up the appointment. But, since I at least received some information and knew the right steps were being taken, I was a little more at ease at this point. I was told the calcifications could possibly just be related to the cystic lesion and could be benign, so there was no need to panic. We were just moving forward, one step at a time, to determine what it was and make the best plan of action.

      I felt the Lord’s presence as he held my hand for comfort and peace, and I continued to serve him while I waited...


      Thursday, January 24, 2013

      My Cancer Journey - Part 1: Finding A Lump

      For quite some time now, the door to any truly "personal" blog writing, on my part, has been closed. I’m not exactly sure why, although I’m beginning to think it was partly due to my needing to focus my energies on the needs of my family, as well as refocusing my thoughts on growing closer to the Lord and learning a few things from Him.

      After praying about it, I feel the Lord is opening the door again to my writing, so that I can share with you about a journey my family and I have been on since September 2012 - My Cancer Journey. While my story may not be relevant to all of you reading this, my prayer is that it will be helpful to at least a few (including myself, because writing can be very therapeutic). But, please know that its not just a story about the Big C, but rather about my Lord and how HE has been there holding my hand the entire time. In that sense, it can be relevant to anyone who is undergoing any kind of personal struggle. So, feel free to follow along as I share this journey with you...

      Our newest life journey began in mid September. It was a Wednesday morning and, for whatever reason, I decided to do a lump check in my breast. I had not been doing regular self-checks, and the last time I remember it being done was by my gynecologist at least a year prior. I remember she had not felt anything unusual at that time, so I decided to forego the recommended yearly mammogram. As time went by, I received at least two reminders that it was time for my mammogram. I still ignored them. But, then, I found the lump. It was actually more like a thickened area on the upper portion on the right side. It didn’t feel right, whatever it was. So, I decided to go ahead and schedule my next mammogram. It took me two days to finally get the nerve to call, and they were able to get me in that same day.

      It was just a routine mammogram screening, although it was not fun to be squished in a machine. However, the hardest part came next with waiting for the results. Since it was done on a Friday, I had to wait over the weekend. They did not call on Monday either, but finally called on Tuesday. They said they wanted me to come back in for more pictures of the right side, as well as for an ultrasound. They didn’t want to alarm me, but just wanted to get a better look at the lump. They happened to have an opening for that same afternoon, so I took it. I dropped the kids off with friends and headed in for a 1:30 appointment. Honestly, that call freaked me out at first. It’s normal, I guess, to think the worst. But, it was really too soon to know anything. So, I chose to "cast" all my anxieties on the Lord...

      1Peter 5:6-7 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you. (NASB)

      Missional Women - Faith Filled Fridays

      Thursday, January 10, 2013

      BOOK REVIEW: What Your Husband Isn't Telling You

      I have had some health problems recently, so this book review of  What Your Husband Isn’t Telling You (by David Murrow) is actually 2 months overdue. But, I wanted to go ahead and follow through with my commitment to read it and review it...

      PART 1 of the the book gives a history of how men have been providers and protector since the beginning of time, and talks about how this has made them thrive. Then, it talks about how the world has become so gender equal that many men are no longer feeling needed. On page 46, the author says, "Our gender-blind society has left men no way to define themselves as uniquely male."

      PART 2-4 of the book covers things like:
      • how men’s brains work differently
      • the effects of Testosterone in men
      • what most men like from women
      • men’s needs
      FYI:  I read several parts from this section to my husband to get his "take" on it, and he DID agree with most of what the author discussed here.

      PART 5 is mainly about HOW A WOMAN CAN HELP her husband - physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Not everything in this section completely applied to me, but this was really the most helpful part of the entire book. For me personally, it gave good reminders that my husband is different than me, but that we ARE still a team; and treating my teammate (or, rather, my soulmate) with love, respect, kindness, and honor - appreciating him and his differences, and even smiling at him every once in awhile - can make a huge difference in how the "game" is played out.

      Wives, if your husband has not been communicating with you too well, or you just want some insight into what he may be thinking and why (even if just out of curiosity), this book could be a good one for you to consider picking up. It couldn't hurt, and it might even help.

      NOTE:  I received this book free for review from Bethany House Publishers, and I have expressed my own opinions.