Tuesday, April 2, 2013
And then I think about how easy I have it compared to so many others. I still have my hair. I can get out of bed every day. Enter that lovely emotion of guilt. Yep, then I feel guilty for not being all "Everything's rosy, cancer is great!" because do I really have anything to complain about?
Honestly, I do try to keep a positive attitude and my sense of humor and not complain and be all whiny. I know I am blessed beyond measure. I know that God is good. But just to keep it real, I do have my moments.
It's a vicious cycle. Welcome to my messed-up psyche. It's loads of fun inside my head.
Anyhoo, that's why there's been no updates for a while. Aren't you glad you asked? On to the update...
I am just past the halfway point in my treatment. I'm in week 13 of 24, to be exact. A few weeks back, we met with the genetics department to discuss family history and what-not and do the genetic testing to see if I carry the BRCA gene.
Sidenote: Clearly, I have lived in a bubble for many years because I had no idea how absurdly expensive healthcare is. When you are relatively healthy, you can complain about having to pay $100 for a prescription. But then you have one vial of blood tested and it costs $8000 (!!!), and your MIND IS BLOWN. Thank you, God, for health insurance, no matter how crummy it might be.
And don't even get me started on the actual medical billing. Like it's not bad enough that I have cancer, but then I have to try to decipher all the medical bills. And y'all, I didn't used to be stupid. I mean, I was valedictorian of my high school class. I have a college degree. In math, no less. But I think they go out of their way to make medical bills impossible to comprehend. Whew! Glad to get that off my chest. No pun intended. :) End of sidenote.
So, the results were that I don't carry the BRCA gene, which means my cancer is caused by environmental factors. Which yay! because that means Abby doesn't have the BRCA gene and my chances of recurrence are reduced. But on the flip side, now we'll never really know what caused it. Which would be nice to know, so I could, you know, NOT DO THAT ANYMORE.
But certainly, that is an answered prayer. If I carried the gene, it would have been an automatic mastectomy and hysterectomy for me, and genetic testing for everyone else in the family. God moved another mountain for us!
This past week, at the 12 week mark, I had another mammogram and ultrasound, as well as another biopsy. Biopsies are not fun. Well, I wouldn't really classify any of this as fun, but biopsies are the least fun. The ultrasound tech did some scans while waiting on the radiologist to come in for the biopsy and showed me a side by side comparison with the scans from December. There was a big decrease in the size! Which we kinda knew just from the physical exams, but it was nice to get confirmation of it. And very encouraging, considering chemotherapy is deemed successful when there is no growth in the tumor. And mine has shrunk! Another mountain down.
So, we keep on keeping on. Stay the course for another 12 weeks. See what mountain God moves next. And try to stay positive and not whine.
Friday, February 1, 2013
So, I am way late on posting this. But, no news is good news! I have been BUSY the past few weeks, which means I am TIRED! Just to keep it real, I can tell that I don’t have quite the energy that I used to have. But nothing that I can’t deal with. It’s just irritating to me to see stuff that needs to be done and not really feel like doing it.
Anyway, I had my second infusion of Herceptin last week, and my second shot of Zoladex this week. Both of those went really well. While I wouldn’t classify either of those as fun, the infusion, at least, is not horrible. I sit in a recliner with a pillow and a heated blanket. It’s actually pretty relaxing. If I wasn’t so worried about snoring and drooling, it would be a great time to take a nap. Alas, I do worry about snoring and drooling, so no naps for me.
I had an appointment with my doctor and the research coordinator for the study before the infusion, like I will at every appointment. This is to keep any side effects in check and also to do a physical exam to look for any changes. Well, this time there were changes to be found.
My doctor checked my right side and stopped. Then she checked my left side and stopped. She looked at me and verified that the mass was in the right side. I told her yes, but I couldn’t find it either. :) The original mass that I found had shrunk so much in three weeks that it was almost unnoticeable! That, my friends, is God moving more mountains!
There is still the “thickness”, as the doctor referred to it, behind the mass where the tumor had branched out, but we are headed in the right direction! The doctor and the research coordinator were both shocked that it had shrunk so much in such a short amount of time. But we weren’t! God is so, so faithful! And we just stand in awe of His power and grace!
So, I’ll take a little bit of fatigue and whatever other side effects I have to deal with to keep getting results like that.
Thank you all so much for all your prayers! We have no doubt that God hears them and is answering them! With that in mind, keep them up! Please help us pray that God will continue to knock out the cancer, and the doctors will continue to be shocked. :) Pray for our endurance… we are 4 weeks into a 24 week process, and then we deal with surgery and radiation, so the road is still long. God is walking before us, preparing the way, and we are thankful for the evidence of that. We just have to keep our eyes focused above, and let Him handle the rest!
Monday, January 7, 2013
To give a (brief) breakdown, here’s how this treatment plan works. I have two medications that I have to take everyday by mouth… 4 HUGE pills and a little bitty pill. I have to take these on an empty stomach, so I take them at night before I go to bed. Goodbye, bedtime snack! So, that’s a win-win situation. :) I have one medication that has to be given by IV, and I go to Birmingham every three weeks for that infusion. I also see my doctor every time I go for this, to check for weird side effects and also for her to physically check the size of the tumor. We are praying for no growth for sure, but for there to be obvious evidence that it’s shrinking! The fourth medicine I am taking is a shot that I have to have every four weeks. I use the term shot very loosely. It is a very large needle, or so I’m told. I didn’t actually see it, because I know me, and it’s just better that my eyes stay averted. I do, however, know that when you have to have a shot to deaden the area where you are getting the shot, it’s no joke. This is, BY FAR, the worst part of the treatment plan. And it’s not that bad at all!
As far as side effects go, my stomach has been a little upset, but that is completely controlled by over the counter meds. I felt a little out of sorts the first few days. And I have a little dry skin. That’s it! I know that things could get worse as time goes on, especially when the hormone blockers really get to doing their job. But I am praising God that I feel good right now! I almost feel “too good”. Like, this medication can’t be effective if it’s not making me feel really crummy. How’s that for looking for things to worry about? :) I just try to remind myself that God led me to this study, so He has a plan for it!
God is so good! I know I harp on this a lot, but when I sit and think about how things are working out , I get so overwhelmed! I have complained a lot about how bad our insurance has gotten over the years. But compared to a lot of others and especially compared to having NONE, it’s pretty awesome, and I am SO THANKFUL that we have it! Because of it, I’m able to go to UAB and have this particular set of doctors. Because I have these particulars doctors at this hospital, I’m able to be a part of this study and get these medications. Because I’m able to take these medications, I’m able to keep my normal routine and feel good, with minimal side effects. Who could orchestrate all that to work out but our amazing God?!? I am so blessed to have Him walking before me, working out all the details! Makes me want to shout a little. :)
I will be on this drug regimen for 24 weeks, so your prayers are still greatly appreciated. The number one prayer being that these drugs work and that the tumor not only stops growing, but starts shrinking!
Friday, December 28, 2012
One day, God led me to pick up this devotion book at the store. I had seen several people in different social media outlets quote from it throughout the year, and I had even looked at it earlier this fall at the dotmom conference. But I didn’t need it then. I needed it now.
I cannot even begin to tell you how much God has used this book to minister to me and my family during the past few months. This is a dated devotional book that was copyrighted back in 2004 that is written as if Jesus were speaking directly to you.
This is from the day I found out the mass in my breast was most likely cancer:
“As you look at the day before you, you see a twisted, complicated path, with branches going off in all directions. You wonder how you can possibly find your way through that maze. Then you remember the One who is with you always, holding you by your right hand. You recall My promise to guide you with My counsel, and you begin to relax. As you look again at the path ahead, you notice that a peaceful fog has settled over it, obscuring your view. You can only see a few steps ahead of you, so you turn your attention more fully to Me and begin to enjoy My Presence.
The fog is a protection for you, calling you back into the present moment. Although I inhabit all of space and time, you can communicate with Me only here and now. Someday the fog will no longer be necessary, for you will have learned to keep your focus on Me and on the path just ahead of you. Psalm 72:23-24; 1 Corinthians 13:12”
-November 16, Sarah Young, Jesus CallingWow. Exactly what I needed to hear, exactly when I needed it.
Here’s the entry for the day we met with the doctors to decide treatment, the day I dreaded so bad:
“When you are plagued by a persistent problem – one that goes on and on – view it as a rich opportunity. An ongoing problem is like a tutor who is always by your side. The learning possibilities are limited only by your willingness to be teachable. In faith, thank Me for your problem. Ask Me to open your eyes and your heart to all that I am accomplishing through this difficulty. Once you have become grateful for a problem, it loses its power to drag you down. On the contrary, your thankful attitude will lift you up into heavenly places with Me. From this perspective, your difficulty can be seen as a slight, temporary distress that is producing for you a transcendent Glory never to cease!
Isaiah 30:20-21; 2 Corinthians 4:17”
- December 18, Sarah Young, Jesus CallingEvery day, it has been so spot on, it really feels like Jesus is sitting beside me, reassuring me, strengthening me, calming me. Growing my faith. Again, this book was written in 2004. Back in 2004, God knew I would sit here empty in 2012 and need to hear these words, so He gave them to this lady to write down. For me. THAT is how good God is. Amazing.
I’ll give you just one more. Today, as I watched the Today show, I was struck by how most of the “year in review” moments were of really bad things. Yes, they included the Olympics, but the majority was all the tragedy that the nation has seen this year (I may or may not be including the election in that :)). Then I read the devotion for today:
“I am your refuge and strength, an ever-present Help in trouble. Therefore, you don’t need to be afraid of anything – not even cataclysmic circumstances. The media are increasingly devoted to fear-inducing subject matter: terrorism, serial killers, environmental catastrophes. If you focus on such dangers and forget that I am your Refuge in all circumstances, you will become increasingly fearful. Every day I manifest My grace in countless places and situations, but the media take no notice. I shower not only blessings but outright miracles on your planet.
As you grow closer to Me, I open your eyes to see more and more of My Presence all around you. Things that most people hardly notice, like shifting shades of sunlight, fill you with heart-bursting Joy. You have eyes that see and ears that hear, so proclaim My abiding Presence in the world.
Psalm 46:1-3; Psalm 89:15”
- December 28, Sarah Young, Jesus CallingCan I get an AMEN?? Our God is awesome!
She has also written Jesus Calling for Kids, which is the same daily devotion format, but for kids. Obviously. We will be starting it January 1 as our family devotion each night. I cannot wait to see how God uses it in our family!
All this to say, if you are looking for a devotional book to read through in 2013, I cannot recommend this one enough. If I could buy you all a copy, I would. Really, if I could just call you every day and read it to you (like I do Burge) to be sure that you hear it every day, I would do that. That is how much I love this book!
Friday, December 21, 2012
And I will make my mountains into level paths for them. The highways will be raised above the valleys. – Isaiah 49:11Y’all. God is so good! All the time.
Let me start back at Monday. I went for a whole battery of tests: bone scan, several CT scans, MRI. It was a LONG and draining day, both physically and mentally. Probably more mental than physical. These tests would tell us where else the cancer had spread to.
On Tuesday, we were to meet with the doctors to map out a treatment plan. I dreaded this day. I felt like this was when it was going to become really real. I didn’t want to hear a prognosis or survival rates or any of that. I didn’t want to hear them tell me spots had been found anywhere else. I just didn’t want to go. But we went. Burge, my dad and myself.
Well, God leveled some mountains that day. First off, the cancer has not spread! Hallelujah! One mountain down. We were almost giddy just hearing that! Then we met the “team” of doctors, and their recommendation is to treat the tumor first, then do surgery and end with radiation. Treatment plan in place, another mountain down! But then, my chemotherapy oncologist mentioned a clinical trial that I qualified for. Would I be interested in hearing about it? Sure! Why not? This trial uses drugs that are proven to treat my specific type of cancer, but they are not the traditional "chemo” drugs. Without the traditional “chemo” side effects. As in, no hair loss! We didn’t give an answer right away, but here was a mountain that I was prepared and willing to climb, and God was offering to level it for me anyway!
Y’all. All three of us left that appointment so encouraged! I can’t even describe it. Or explain it. The peace that passes all understanding. Yes, I still have cancer. It’s still very serious, and we still have a long, hard road. But it was almost as if God had given us just a little glimpse of His plan. All we could handle right now. And it is SO GOOD!
So I went yesterday and had a port placed where I will receive my treatments. I also signed the consent forms for the clinical trial. We knew that to be part of the trial, I would have to have another biopsy before we could start, and as much as I dreaded it, I was prepared for it. The research coordinator had scheduled the biopsy for the next available date, which was January 9. A little disappointing, but at this point, I realize that God can work things out so much better than my finite mind can, so I accepted it. We started praying that God would open another appointment sooner.
And God was prepared to knock another mountain down on our behalf. The coordinator called yesterday afternoon and said that they could do the biopsy Monday morning. On Christmas Eve! I could also have the required EKG that day, and my first treatment is scheduled for December 31! Over a week ahead of the original schedule! God is SO GOOD!
I know there has been a lot of discussion lately about God’s role in the bad things that happen in this world. I’m not going to get into a debate about that here, because I don’t have all the answers and I don’t claim to. I can only speak to my own experience. And that is that GOD IS GOOD. ALL THE TIME. Yes, bad things happen. We live in a fallen world, full of sin. Bad stuff happens. To everyone. We can thank Adam and Eve and our own sinful nature for that. But there is nothing that happens that can’t be used to bring glory to God. I know this because I have seen it. I am living it. God is faithful when everyone else has turned their back. He is everywhere, all the time. There is nothing that we can go through, no problem that we can face that He is not the answer to. Period. The end.
You are good, and what You do is good; teach me Your decrees. – Psalm 119:68
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
There are situations that we find ourselves in throughout life that totally throw our lives in a tailspin. Sometimes for good, sometimes for bad, sometimes both. But most of the time, we don’t see what’s headed our way.
The LORD replied, “Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days- You would not believe it if you were told.” – Habakkuk 1:5
I have breast cancer.
I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.
Even there Your hand will guide me, and Your strength will support me. – Psalm 139:10
No other word can adequately describe how that sentence makes me feel. Still, after dwelling on it for several weeks. I wish I could say that I saw it coming. That I was prepared for the diagnosis. But truthfully, while I knew it could be cancer, I never really thought it would be cancer. And yet, here I am, a 35 year old mom of 3 with breast cancer.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11
Of course, God is not stunned by this news. No, not only did He see it coming, He, in His infinite wisdom, orchestrated it. There is nothing that is without a purpose. I may not can see it clearly, but that’s not important. I only have to embrace it, embrace Him and pray that I don’t let my fear and anxiety squander this opportunity.
Know that the LORD is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise, give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the LORD is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations. – Psalm 100:3-5
Do I have fear and anxiety? Most definitely. It consumes me some days. I have moments when I ask, “Why me? Why now?”. I even have uttered those words that every parent hates to hear, “But it’s not fair!”. And I’m quickly hit with the fact that no, it’s not fair that I have cancer. I deserve so much worse. So, so much worse. My righteousness is nothing but filthy rags. Every day of my 35 years has been a gift straight out of the grace of God that I didn’t deserve. How can I complain about this?
Though You have made me see troubles, many and bitter, You will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth You will bring me up. – Psalm 71:20
Before you think I have arrived spiritually and have this all figured out, let me be the first to tell you otherwise. I spend a good portion of my waking hours fighting my flesh. Playing the “what if” game. Swimming in a sea of self-pity and doubt, rather than standing on the promises of God. But those moments when I really just let it go and immerse myself in the presence of a loving Father give me strength to fight the battle with myself. That and the overwhelming amount of prayers that are said on my behalf every day.
Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with My victorious right hand. – Isaiah 41:10
I am so weak. But in my weakness, I know that He is strong. I’m trying to learn to let Him be strong for me. All the time. Because I certainly can’t do this on my own. And He doesn’t expect me too. He doesn’t want me to. There are so many lessons to be learned through this. I pray that I’m receptive to them and grow closer to Him everyday.
So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. – 2 Corinthians 4:18
There have been so many times in the past several weeks that God has sent encouragement my way. Through His word, His people, His Spirit. Through mundane, everyday things. God is so good. So, so good. He provides just what I need, just when I need it. In such a real way, I could reach out and touch it.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. – James 1:2-3
I seriously doubt this diagnosis will be the worst news we hear through all this. I fully expect it to get worse before it gets better. I have thought since the beginning that God was going to pull all the “safety nets” out from under us. So that there is nothing for us to cling to but Him. So that there’s no way I can “plan” my way out of it. So He can get all the glory that should be all His anyway.
Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because GOD, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down, He won’t leave you. – Deuteronomy 31:6-8
I don’t know how often I’ll update this. I don’t want to document every little whine that I have, but I want this to be a journal of these life-changing circumstances. And I certainly don’t think it’s a coincidence that I have this little space here, just waiting for the words to be written. If you pray, I would definitely appreciate it if you would pray for me, my family, and the medical staff we will be dealing with in the coming months. If you don’t pray, my prayer for you is that you come to know My Savior, who gives me hope when I can’t find any, strength when I am at my weakest, and peace that is beyond all understanding.
I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. – Psalm 27:13-14