(Previously published August 12, 2010)
for many answered prayers this week. As we have stood before the treatment door for the last two weeks, my prayer has been that God would bring clarity and direction with our next step. That as we sat before 3 different Medical Oncologists, at the end of the day, they would all say the same thing, making the decision quite clear cut for us: Chemo or no chemo and if so, what protocol?
I am thankful for unity from all the medical oncologists.
I am thankful for answers and decisions.
It is not easy sitting in that patient chair three times. The chair where you hear....
"Stacy, you are 38 years old, you had two positive lymph nodes with macro sized cancerous cells or deep tissue as they like to say, and you had a .3mm cancerous spot found close to your chest wall."
For the medical oncologists, no chemo isn't even on the table.
But the first time sitting in that chair is the hardest. The first time you hear the words chemotherapy thinking that word would never be a part of your vocabulary, let alone your life. The first time you hear the definition of your particular cancer components and then the statistics for recurrences with chemo only treatment and then chemo with 5 year hormone therapy (Tamoxifen).
By the third, (which was Fox Chase Cancer Center yesterday), I just wanted to say to the medical oncologist, "Please let's just cut to the chase....what protocol do you recommend?" Mind you, this was after two hours of "sitting in the patient chair" and listening to more data and statistics, more clinical trials more numbers than I could handle. Thankfully, God restrained me and I kept my mouth shut. At one point (about 1 1/2 into the consultation), she looked at me and said,
"are you still with me?"
I was holding on by a thread. I think my eyes had begun to glaze over and I just wanted to get out of there and be done. I know she was just doing her job, and giving us a thorough picture of her recommendations, but I was so tired and tired of talking about me and cancer.
So, at the end of the day, I've had three medical oncologists all say they would give me "dose dense ACT" over 16 weeks, 8 infusions. Same infusion schedules. Same formulas. And then I had an integrative doctor echo their protocols saying "we need to get the elephant out of the room first through chemo and then go in and do a massive clean up job."
He's the only one interested in the massive clean up job. So, I am thankful for whole body medicine. That he will look at my body, address the estrogen issue at the root of my cancer and prepare my body to heal and rebuild while the chemo is destroying my immune system and killing any microscopic cancer cells that may still be present in my body. As thankful as I am for conventional medicine, no one in conventional medicine wants to look at the root of my cancer which is estrogen. No one wants to talk about diet and nutrition. And for me, this is frustrating. I'll leave it at that.
I am thankful that my husband is in agreement and for the unity God has brought us on this decision.
I am thankful to get through this next door, heart and head together, accepting chemo as the next step in treatment, for healing to begin.
I am thankful for the release from the radiation decision for now. The Fox Chase radiation oncologist recommended a month of radiation following chemo, but told us to get through the chemo and then make that decision.
That lifted such a burden. As again I was reminded to take just one day at a time. 4 months of chemo, a month off and radiation wouldn't start until early January. That decision could be made in December. We have time and time is good.
I am thankful for the dinner that arrived Wednesday afternoon. I had forgotten that someone had offered to bring us a dinner that evening, knowing we were going to be in the city for half the day at Fox Chase. I came home and crawled into bed, feeling so tired from all the information presented that day and for having to be out the door by 6:30AM. Knowing that I would have many bellies needing some dinner, I laid there thinking about what I could quickly throw together and cereal was sounding really good.
There was a knock on the door and in walked Sharon with a hot, delicious meal. Thank you Sharon. You truly were a beacon of God's love in action and our bellies were filled with a yummy meal.
I am thankful that I am driving again. I did a trial run over the weekend with Barclay and whereas you take for granted how many pec muscles come in to play to turn the steering wheel, I felt confident that I could do it. It feels good to be behind the wheel again. My absence has given me a much deeper sensitivity toward my mother, who no longer is able to drive. My heart aches for her and all those who are disabled.
I am thankful that I am off of all my pain meds and Valium.
I am thankful for friends who were willing to take our children overnight from Tuesday through Wednesday. You truly blessed us more than words can express. Thank you.
I am thankful that this busy week is almost over. One more appointment tomorrow with another integrative physician. I am praying that he is in agreement with Monday's physician, as he works with insurance for some things and Monday's doctor does not. Praying God will give clarity on this end of my treatment.
I am thankful for the rain we received today. This morning as I sat on the porch, the rain gently fell upon the grass and leaves. It created a symphony around me and I thought of God. How he sends forth the rain.
As it is said in Hosea 6....
"He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth."
God sends the former rain to prepare the soil for the seed and the latter rain to bring forth the harvest. How true this is in our lives. The soil of my heart always needs to be prepared for the truths that He wants to instill deep inside of me. The latter rain takes those seeds planted in my heart and hopefully brings forth His fruit.
We need rain in our lives. Without rain, the ground gets dry. The land becomes parched. The grass grows brown. The plants wither and the flowers die.
So I am thankful for the rain that God has sent. My umbrella is down and I stand in the rain and say, Jesus, reign in me! Pour down. May this be so meaningful. May the harvest be bountiful. Oh, I wish it didn't have to be this way. And I pray that this cancer is just a stepping stone on my journey and God will heal me; whether through His mighty hand or through the hands of many doctors. But I am thankful for how God is using this rain to take my faith and press in deeper into my heart. I am thankful that He has counted me worthy to carry this cross. I am thankful that He is holding me ever so tightly and tells me He will never leave me or forsake me. I am thankful that I am His child and that as I cast my cares on Him, He will care for me. I am thankful for the refining and purifying that is taking place within me. I am thankful for how He continues to open my eyes to see Him.
I am waiting to hear back from my new Medical Oncologist, Dr. Johnson. We chose to stay at the hospital where all my treatment began. It is our local hospital, and all the doctors there have taken such good care of me along the way. I am trying to have my chemo treatments take place on Thursday afternoons, which seems to work in my doctor's schedule. I have to have a Muga scan done before chemo can begin. The muga scan will look at how the blood is pumping through my heart. The Adriamycin part of chemo can cause heart damage in a very small percentage of people, so the Muga gives a baseline for my heart pumping function. I am waiting to see when this test will be done.
On Wednesday of next week, I go back to the operating room to have a port put in for chemo. This should be an in and out surgery. Chemo may start the next day, August 19th, but most likely the following week, Thursday, August 26th, as there is a lot to get done in the next couple of days. In many ways, now that the door is defined more clearly, I just want to fully get to the other side, so I am anxious to begin. The sooner I start, the sooner I will be done.
At dinner tonight, Faith and Jed started talking about Christmas. I told them it was a long way away and then paused thinking, Christmas will mark the end of my chemo. As much as I want to look ahead to that point, it seems too far. All I can do is look to today. But oh, how I will be rejoicing when December finally arrives.
And so with a thankful heart I close out tonight. Another day, another breath, another step on the journey.