Saturday, June 16, 2012

Last Week My Oncologist Used the "C" Word...

... and I'm pleased and relieved and overjoyed to post that he said "Cured!," not cancer! 

It has been four years since my second diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer.  Being cancer free for that period of time allows my oncologist to say he considers me cured! 

I am thankful for my family and medical care, but I am also abundantly aware it is GOD's mercy and grace for which I should be most thankful.  My goal has been, and continues to be, to live a life that glorifies Him.  I fall short more days than not, but I am a work in progress.  I praise GOD for His love and healing in my life.

May He be glorified.

LORD my God, I cried out to You, And You healed me.
O LORD, You brought my soul up from the grave;
You have kept me alive,
that I should not go down to the pit. ~ Psalm 30:2-3

He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me: for there were many with
me. ~ Psalm 55:18

Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with loving kindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. ~ Psalm 103:2-5

Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten
by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our
iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. ~Isaiah 53:4-5

Behold, I will bring it health and healing; I will heal them and reveal to them the abundance of
peace and truth. ~ Jeremiah 33:6

Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, And
your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. ~ Isaiah 58:8

Then great multitudes came to Him, having with them the lame, blind, mute, maimed, and many
others; and they laid them down at Jesus' feet, and He healed them. ~ Matthew 15:30

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cancer Slam -- a novel by author Ansley M. Dauenhauer

Written by a mother and breast cancer survivor, 'Cancer Slam' is a novel for middle aged readers to help them understand hard facts about breast cancer and to help them navigate the many emotions the diagnosis brings with it.  The author does an excellent job of addressing some key issues related to a cancer diagnosis -- anger about having their life suddenly changed, concern that the parent might die, and self-consciousness about having a bald/sick parent.  She accomplishes this, and also includes factual explanations about how cancer forms, how and why chemotherapy works, etc.  Only once did the book feel "textbook-like" to me; otherwise, it is a very well organized, well written story.

The story is written from middle-grade Hannah's point of view, and begins at the start of a new school year.  Coincidentally, this is also when Hannah's mom learns of her cancer diagnosis.  Besides the reality of cancer, Hannah has to deal with finishing a group history project and with a manipulative, bossy "best friend" who begins to feel like no friend at all.  By the end of the school year -- with mom's treatments finished and the history project a pleasant memory -- Hannah has matured quite a bit, and has learned that the stereotypes we form about people are almost always inaccurate and incomplete.  Most significantly for Hannah, she realizes that cancer does not automatically equal dying.

This is a book that I wish I had read during (or ideally, before) my cancer diagnosis.  My husband and I worked hard to protect our boys from the stress of cancer, and years later I realize we alienated them a great deal.  It was not intentional on our part and I'm not "beating myself up" about it, but this book would have been helpful for me as a parent to help them through a difficult time. Although I probably would never offer to show my boys my surgical scars (a personal choice), I think the idea of letting the kids cut their mom's hair is a non-threatening way of including them in an inevitable part of the treatment.  Had I read this book during my treatment, this is one suggestion I would have definitely considered.

One change I would encourage about this book is to include a discussion guide for parents and children.  The author does an excellent job of touching upon emotions and fears that come  with a cancer diagnosis; she has an opportunity to intentionally facilitate the conversation between parent and child.  I personally would have benefited from a "road map" of questions to discuss with my kids.  Otherwise, it is an easy book to read and discuss together.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

A Birthday Card from God

Sunday was my 45th birthday.  I celebrated it in good health, and with Paul and our three boys along -- all things which I have learned to never again take for granted.  My health is obviously something that isn't to be taken for granted.  And, as the boys get older I anticipate they may not always be close by for family celebrations.

My birthday was on a sweltering hot day.  Paul and I spent the better part of it with Liam's all-star little league team -- they won their afternoon game, and the team had an impromptu pool party afterward.  That same evening, our family went to Genghi's Steakhouse for dinner, and despite the groans of my guys, we had the this picture taken.

At dinner I tried to share something special about my day.  My guys were skeptical and wrote it off as "concidence," but I am not deterred.  I think of it as my "birthday card from God."

Let me explain...

More than once, I have likened my cancer walk to Peter's journey in Matthew 14:29-30.  As Peter kept his eyes on Christ, he was able to literally walk on water.  Through Peter's faith and obedience, the LORD worked a miracle in his life.

By the same token, when Peter took his eyes off Christ and turned his attention to the the circumstances in his life (i.e. the wind), he became fearful and started to sink. In that moment, the LORD was immediately faithful.  Scripture tells us that Jesus "immediately reached out his hand and caught him (Peter)."

I realize from this story that God is not offended or limited by our fear.  He wants each of us to walk on our own lake of water.  And we can do this, secure in the knowledge that He stays close by and ready to reach out His hand if we falter.

But I digress.... the point of this story has been my "birthday card from God."

This summer  I've used the Reading Plan from my Life Application Study Bible to guide my morning quiet time.   The reading plan lists a different scripture each day, and right now the stories are switching back and forth between the four gospels.   They're all familiar stories, but I never know which one I'll read until I actually sit down in the morning for my QT.

On the morning of my birthday, before we left the house for church, I read Matthew 14:13-36.  This passage contains three separate stories, and it took me a few minutes to realize that the middle story was the one of Jesus Walking on the Water.

In that moment, I recalled -- for the first time in many months -- how signficant this passage has been in my life. Indeed, it was so important to me that it became part of this url/title of my blog.

And in that moment, I felt that God was saying, "I'm right here.  I've got the wind. You just keep your eyes on Me."

It is a message I really needed.  I treasure that quiet time as one of the coolest birthday cards I've ever received...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What a Difference a Year Makes

So far, so good.... This time last year, I was in the hospital with low blood counts and an infection called Pseudomonas... I was on IV antibiotics for a month.... was taken off a chemotherapy (Carboplatin) because my blood counts were too low, only to find out later that it is THE drug that researchers believe really kicks my cancer's butt.... I hadn't had any scans or follow up tests, so the question of whether the cancer had spread was first and foremost in my mind.

That was a year ago.

Today, life has done a complete 360: all of my scans and tests this summer showed NED (No Evidence of Disease). My blood counts are on the low end of a normal scale, but they are holding their own and doctors aren't even suggesting transfusions anymore. And although I get tired, it is not the "cancer fatigue" that I remember from my days of pre-diagnosis. I suspect it is an after-affect of treatment kind of tired and even (dare I say it?) a tiredness related to simply getting older.

It could all change in a moment -- I know that. When I start to worry, I work hard to remind myself that everything is fine now and to enjoy the moment. Self-talk, as they call it. I have tests coming up (an MRI on 10/26 and mammogram on 11/3). That always increases the anxiety, but I honestly am hopeful for good news from both tests. The greatest health issues before me are how to lose weight... how to MAKE time for daily walks and quiet time. And, can I please find someone to come and SHOVEL OUT MY HOUSE. One thing people don't realize about cancer treatment is that your life stops, but the accumulation of stuff by your kids and spouse does not.... :-) (Yes, I'm guilty too.... )

My heart breaks for people and families who have a recent diagnosis. I try to listen and encourage and help all that I can. But I also accept that for whatever reason, this is God's best for them in the moment. It doesn't feel that way at the time, but as time passes and you look back, you are blessed if you can find His footprints in your walk. Cancer brings a new normal, and it brings constant challenges/decisions. But, it can also bring His blessing if you let Him know how you are hurting. God cannot comfort you if you will not open the door to Him.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Relay for Life 2009

Yesterday was Midland's Relay for Life -- what fun! I'm blessed with a friend in our church who puts her heart and soul into creating a booth for the event every year. She and her large circle of friends put together the BEST booth in the whole event -- quality food, attractive theme for the booth, and lots of warmth and love! I had planned to work a good part of the day, either selling food or walking laps. But, Sharon was gracious to let me just enjoy the day. Liam and I were there on our own, as this is the weekend that Paul and the older boys left for the scouting trip to Philmont. We spent too much money on cheap games, but also participated in the survivor's lap, the care giver's lap and the luminary ceremony. And, it was sweet of Rich to dedicate his walk as "Miss Relay" to me and another neighbor Sue who fought breast cancer this spring. He was a great Miss Relay, and took the prize again this year!

I've done three Komen walks already, but Relay is really a special event. It is very laid back with good music and a strong positive spirit through out the day. I enjoyed spending the day with friends, and just being together. The luminary ceremony at the end of the day is great. Presentations are given at the grand stand, luminaries are lit around the relay track, and then everyone walks around the track, silently, with candles lit. It is touching in a way very unique to Relay.

My birthday was on Friday.... a busy day since Paul and the boys were getting ready to go on their trip. And we could not go out as a family because Paul is still starving (I mean, dieting) himself into oblivion....

Dad's birthday is today.... I still need to call him.... (sheepish grin).

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Follow-Up With Oncologist -- Pretty Good News

Friday was a whirlwind day. Paul, Shane, Liam and I left the house around 8:30 a.m. to drive to Ann Arbor for a walking tour of University of Michigan. Tyler would have appreciated seeing UofM, but he stayed home to take care of our boston terrier. I think he also appreciated the quiet house all to himself! :-)

The walking tour was a good experience. Shane is not sure the college is for him -- perhaps it is too urban and too big? He said his original plan was to apply at UofM (as well as Michigan Tech and others), and to go to UofM if he was accepted -- no matter what. After seeing the campus, he is not so sure anymore. We suggested that he apply... if is he accepted, he can go through the engineering tour and then make a final decision.

Next we made a quick stop for lunch, an unplanned stop at the REI Camping/Outdoors store, and then finally to my oncologist's office. The nurses there were so nice -- talking about how good I look since they saw me in January... a real boost to my ego! :-)

My blood work was fine... My white blood counts are still low, but my overall "composite" number that is used to evaluate my "infection fighting ability" is within normal range. The doctor is happy, so I am happy.

Doc wants me to have the follow-up MRI, but he doesn't anticipate a problem; concurs with radiologist's opinion that differences/concerns are related to scar tissue and surgery.

He wants me to also have a mammogram in October. Said that he just had a tumor board meeting that morning, and a woman had breast cancer detected by her mammogram that was missed on the MRI. Message to all the women --> mammograms are important! Don't put them off, no matter what you read in the media!

And, doc wants me to have the pelvic ultrasound again. He suggests having my ovaries removed if they are still larger than the ultrasound a few weeks ago. He said this as quickly and as casually as one might suggest throwing out an old pair of shoes?

So, between now and Christmas, I have three medical exams, three doctors appointments, and potentially a surgery. Paul's sister has heard of a homeopathic doctor near Detroit -- I think it is time to see him, as well. The medical doctors have saved my life; maybe another doctor can help save what's left of my body?? It is worth a shot...

After the doctor's visit, we visited quickly with Paul's parents, stopped at Trader Joe's, and then finally came home. We were home about 10:00 p.m. -- it was a long day!

But, I am not complaining! I am full of joy to go on a college tour with my son AND to get good news from my oncologist.

Life is good!

I have felt better in the past few weeks then I have felt in years -- the overall feeling of fatigue is gone. Thursday night, Paul and I rode bikes for over an hour on the rail trail. I am bouncing back, and getting healthier. I am working on losing weight, and getting healthier.

There is life after cancer.

Amen and amen!