Hearing His Voice in The Storm

Welcome to one of my more raw entries. My heart is heavy. And, dammit, my latest news really sucks.

Yesterday (2/3) my mom came with my husband and I to my radiology appointment. We arrived and, because the nurses were a little backed up, we had to wait for a while before getting taken back to a room. This gave me time to catch up on the latest “Cancer Today” magazine. I never knew these existed…now I do. Maybe I should subscribe? Maybe not. This extra time also allowed me to really take a closer look at who was walking in and out of the office. It wasn’t very comforting. All of the patients were older, and extremely skinny with sunken in faces. I felt so bad for them, but soon realized, that I was in their position now.

Eventually we were taken back to a small exam room, and after my nurse received my vitals and medical history, we were instructed to watch a video. I don’t think I’ve seen a more depressing film. Apparently, Mom and Matt didn’t think it was too bad, but when you have cancer, movies on the technicalities of radiation aren’t uplifting. This particular film was only 8 minutes long and explained what radiation is and what it does. It informed us about how long each procedure is, and some of the side effects that may follow treatment. Can’t I just get this crap cut out of me and move on?! Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

Following another pelvic exam (I’ve had 3 or 4 in the last 12 days), my mom and husband came back into the room joined by the Radiologist. He immediately confirmed that after looking at my PET scan results, my cancer has indeed spread. Yes Doc, so I’ve heard. Because it has spread, I have been restaged. This will happen a lot during this process. Currently, my cancer is stage 3. That means, it has jumped up 2 levels. That’s not good. Keep in mind, you only get 5 stages.

He continued on to inform me that the specific lymph node the cancer has attacked is on my left side, and contains a pea-sized tumor. Pea-sized doesn’t seem so big does it? It doesn’t matter the size, it matters the location. Lymph node. The lymphatic system. Lymph nodes are small filters all over the body. They are about the size of a grain of rice, but can not be seen by the naked eye. Lymphatic vessels connect each and every lymph together, therefore making the system a transportation route. I view it as a shuttle service. It transports white blood cells to fight off infection in other areas of the body. Ever wonder why the sides of your neck swell up and you can feel large knots when you get sick? Those are your lymph nodes working overload to get rid of your sickness. The lymphatic system is a huge part of the immune system. Apparently, these lymph nodes don’t recognize cancer cells, so they just store them in their pockets. This allows the cancer to grow, and have the potential to hop on the lymph-train to other areas of the body. In other words, because my cancer is in one lymph node, there is a now a higher chance for it to spread and attack the rest of me.

Obviously, although there’s a chance, it’s not an option for me. I’m killing this thing before it gets a free ride. This leads me to treatment. My surgery will continue on, no strings attached. My Oncologist will still remove my uterus, cervix, uterine wall, surrounding ligaments, and the inside of the top part of my vagina.  She will also remove the affected lymph node, and strip the others in the area. The item that has been added to the schedule has been radiation. The purpose in receiving this type of treatment is to make sure there are no more remnants of cancer in my pelvic/abdominal region. My schedule for this treatment will begin about 3 weeks after surgery. This will entail me going in every day, 5 days a week, for 5 1/2 weeks of radiation. In addition, I will be getting an injection of chemo once a week during this process. When radiation and chemo are combined, the success of annihilating the cancer is far greater. I asked if I would lose my hair. He said no, but that it would thin out. Sounds like the same thing to me, Doc. In addition, in the area of radiation, my skin will get very red and burnt- essentially, a really bad sun burn. I will get extremely fatigued, lose weight, and have the risk of getting sick. But if we are going to kill this cancer, bring it on. And, I won’t even have to work out to drop a few pounds! Keeping the positives in mind, folks.

Remember how you need your ovaries to produce eggs? And how I’ve previously mentioned that with my eggs we can have biological children through the freezing process? This option has essentially been wiped out. My Oncologist will move my ovaries higher in my body to try to get them out of the way of the future radiation. However, there’s no guarantee they will survive surgery, let alone radiation beams coursing through my body. My cancer is aggressive. It’s proven that it can and is willing to spread. After questioning my Radiologist about the possibility of stimulating and harvesting my eggs before surgery and radiation, he said it was okay. His words were, “It’ll take about 4 weeks for the eggs to be stimulated and harvested, and if that’s what you want to do, you’ll have to start right away. By right away, I mean tomorrow morning. You’ll have to go in first thing to start that process. I really wouldn’t wait more than a month to get your surgery and treatment.” What we heard in that was, “If you want your eggs, you need to GO, GO, GO. We don’t have much time to fight this before it spreads.” Comforting, Doc.

We left the radiology office, and I was in a bigger haze than I’ve ever been in in my life. My brain was about to explode with the abundance of the information just poured in. My heart was going to drop out with the overwhelming decision we were going to have to make. We only had the rest of the night to make this life-changing decision. My husband and I were fearful, overwhelmed, stressed out, and devastated. We were instructed to head over to my Oncologists’ office to speak with her about either canceling surgery or going forth with it right away. We arrived and she had already left. Not only that, but she wouldn’t be in the following day (today), because she was going out of town. Great news. Now, we had to make this decision without even consulting my Oncologist? She’s my main doctor, and her advice means a lot to me.

We headed home. Silence. No words. Just one million thoughts fighting for my attention. Do we go ahead with surgery and beat cancer first? Do we try to harvest my eggs and allow the cancer time to spread? Do I give the gift of biological children to my husband at the risk of my life? Do I fight for my life and consider adoption? These were the 2 choices. The only 2. For a lot of you, the answer is simple. Save your life. But for those who know the deep desire of having biological children, you may understand. Matt and I have always talked about and imagined what our children would look like. Would they have his wonderful thick hair? Would they have my blue/green eyes? Would they be tall like him? Would they have tiny toes like me? We arrived home and I collapsed into my adoring husband’s arms. The emotion and degree of the situation completely pushed me down. Tears of anger, sadness, fear, and doubt flooded from our eyes.

Soon, we were interrupted with a call from our fertility doctor. She had just gotten off the phone with my Oncologist and began to explain the imperativeness in beginning egg stimulation right away. She requested that I come in first thing in the morning. She informed me that my Oncologist, just like my Radiologist, said we have to get this show on the road now. We don’t have time to wait. If we want to retrieve my eggs before they are wiped out, we must act right away. This news nearly floored me. She was essentially telling me that I needed to make my decision now. I couldn’t do that. I will never make a decision, let alone one this enormous, without my husband. I told her I would have to call her back. She said she needed to get home before the snow hit, and would call me then. We were given the amount of time it took her to get home, to decide if we wanted biological children or not. Shit.

Here are our brainstorms during this time:

  1. All 3 of my doctors are saying if we are wanting to harvest eggs, we would have to do it immediately. And not immediately, as in Monday, immediately as in 8am the following day (today).
  2. Even if we were to successfully harvest eggs, that means we would have given the cancer 2 weeks to travel freely through my body.
  3. Also, we would have to freeze the eggs, find a surrogate, write up paperwork, fertilize the eggs, successfully implant the eggs, and have a successful pregnancy. That’s a lot.
  4. In order for any result to be positive, it is necessary that I live. My life is priority number one.
  5. Secondly to my life, we don’t want to bring children into the world to have a sick, dying mother. Our children need a healthy mom, and we must think of them regardless of who they are, where they come from, and if they are here yet or not.

Immediately we held each other and began to pray. “Lord, give us peace. Give us an answer. Let us know in our hearts what to do. Speak clearly to us.” We prayed and prayed and prayed, and pretty soon we were not crying out anymore. We were calm. God had given us peace. And, he had given us both the answer… My life. We must save my life, because without me, we don’t have any options. The first priority since diagnosis has been fighting this thing. Getting this beast out of me. Surviving cancer and moving on with our lives. Why should that change now? I have to be alive if I want children, regardless of if they share our DNA or not. Adopted children will still be our own. There will be no difference. We both felt such relief that God spoke directly to us in this storm. He calmed the seas just enough for us to hear His voice. I’m thankful for a God which with whom I can have a direct relationship with. Not many people understand that it’s that simple. God has led us down this path for His purpose. And, although its gut-wrenching at times, His purpose is ultimately for our good. Who knows what children He is going to place in our life? Who knows what children we will be saving from a horrible situation? We will still be able to tell our kids how hard we truly fought for them, and I so look forward to that moment.

I can end this entry by saying, this is good news. Sounds weird, huh? Remember, I am the one who said I was blessed to have cancer; You can’t be too shocked by what I say. The reason this is good news, is because God has given us clear direction on where to go next. I can’t imagine going through this without having Christ to pave my way. There would be no hope. With Him, there’s an abundance of it. He continues to give me strength during this process, and to Him be the glory. My view has not changed. I will fight this thing with an iron fist. I will kick cancer’s ass. Although it fights dirty, I will fight dirtier. I will live a long and fulfilling life, with a loving husband and children surrounding me. That’s not to say, this journey will be perfect. It undoubtedly won’t be. I will have good days and horrendous days. But, regardless of good or bad news, I will get through this. I know it.

James 1:2-8 (Message Version)

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who ‘worry their prayers’ are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think that you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.”

17 Comments on Hearing His Voice in The Storm

  1. Denise Gary Shaw Paswaters
    February 3, 2012 at 10:41 AM (7 years ago)

    This is an experience the three of us will never forget. Ever. But it’s one moment in a long line of good things that God has stored up for you, just waiting to be released.

    Praise God for His faithful communication! I’ll never forget walking into the house last night and hearing you say you’ve made a decision, the same decision God directed me toward. There is no confusion with God, and last night was yet another confirmation.

    Dear daughter, I’d say your faith is shining.

    Reply
    • KC Dierenfield
      February 3, 2012 at 11:17 AM (7 years ago)

      Oh dear Steph…I was choked up through this whole entry….you write in such a beautiful vivid way, that it’s like watching a video, seeing what was taking place with the hearing of your words. I am soooo amazed by your strong faith at such a young age. God has gifted you with the gift of faith to fight the battle before you. Gifted you with a wonderful husband, parents, family and friends to support you in this fight. No matter what, you are a victor, not a victim. God has gone before you before every decision and step you make. You are such an encouragement to me as you “cast your cares upon Him”.
      I look for an update from you every morning and throughout the day. It helps me to pray more specifically for you.
      Love and prayers sent your way today and days to come, KC

      Reply
  2. Amber Chardavoyne
    February 3, 2012 at 10:53 AM (7 years ago)

    Gosh Steph- My heart breaks for the magnitude of the storm you are facing. Thank you for openly sharing this painful journey- and boldly expressing your faith. My mom is going through some very similar things in her battle against cancer. It is a vicious beast indeed- but your attitude and your trust in the Lord is SO much more powerful!!
    I will continue to pray and will be following your posts.
    You have been so heavy on my heart- I know you know, but you are not in this alone. I am here any time for any thing girl!! I’m rejoicing in the fact that you have such an incredibly loving supportive husband to be your physical rock through this season of your life- I love how God is always preparing us for what only He knows is to come.

    Sending my love and prayers,
    Amber

    Reply
  3. Dani Sims Yardley
    February 3, 2012 at 11:00 AM (7 years ago)

    Stephanie…we haven’t talked in soo long, but I want you to know I’m thinking of you. Your faith astounds me and lifts me and makes me wants to forever strengthen my relationship with God and Jesus Christ so I can always have peace, even through the hard times. You are beautiful inside and out, and you are in my prayers! I know too, that God has a plan for us. Thank you for being brave and sharing yours!

    With love, Dani

    Reply
  4. Bekah Snider
    February 3, 2012 at 11:43 AM (7 years ago)

    I’m so sorry. It’s amazing how things can change in a blink of an eye, but how awesome is it to know that God already knows these things and is able to give you both peace about the decisions that need to be made even in the midst of feelings of fear, anxiousness and sadness. You were still able to hear His voice and feel His peace! That is AWESOME!! I’m continually praying for you both. I look forward to hearing your updates. Remember if you need ANYTHING there is a whole army of people beside you and behind you to help you through! Your children will be yours no matter where they came from and God is already preparing the perfect kids for you guys! Just like you prayed for the surrogate, you can pray for the children that will be yours. Love you Steph!!
    Bekah

    Reply
  5. Laura
    February 3, 2012 at 11:53 AM (7 years ago)

    You are a brave and precious girl….we will be praying for you and cheering you on as you fight! Keep writing…you have an amazing heart and I know God will continue to carry you as you bravely walk this journey.

    Love,
    Laura

    Reply
  6. Stephanie Oleson
    February 3, 2012 at 12:36 PM (7 years ago)

    I and my family stand firmly in your corner and will do battles in the Heavenly realms through ardent prayers lifted up on your behalf.
    God knows the plans He has for you – plans to prosper you and not harm you – plans to protect you from evil – plans for a hope and a future
    Stephanie/Ken & Tom Oleson

    Reply
  7. Ginger
    February 3, 2012 at 12:58 PM (7 years ago)

    Dear Stephanie and Matt,

    As I was sitting here reading your post, my heart was saying “No, this is not what I want to hear.” Nevertheless, thankfully your doctors ordered the PET scan so you can know just what the battle is; it is good to know just what your enemy is. You not only have a great team of doctors, but you are surrounded by an incredible loving, strong, supporting husband, also family, and many friends who love you and are continually lifting you up in prayer before the throne of God.
    As I was reading, I was hoping that the end result would be that you would fight for your life first; what a very very difficult decision to have to make. You are a young couple and your faith is SHINING like a lighthouse. I am glad that God gave you and Matt the peace and calm that you needed to make this decision, what a demonstration of loGod’s loving kindness that you both got the same answer. You kick that bad-ass cancer, girl!! God has made you a fighter, and that is good. The next 5+ weeks will be a trial, but you will be strong and come out on the other side. We have an amazing God and He has given us his very own Holy Spirit to guide, comfort and lead. I look ahead in faith to the amazing way God will care for you. Nothing is to hard for Him, He is an awesome God!
    “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea.” Ps 46:1-2
    “For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” Is 41:13

    Your prayer warrior,
    Ginger

    Reply
  8. Sarah
    February 3, 2012 at 1:54 PM (7 years ago)

    I am sobbing as I type this. I am so so so sorry that the storm continues. PRAISE the Lord for giving you an answer and peace both in your heart and mind. I am praying for supernatural healing. Kick ass and beat the hell outta cancer! Thank you for sharing your journey. I can only hope I’d have such faith if ever faced with a similar situation.
    Love to you!

    Reply
  9. Donna Lasit
    February 3, 2012 at 4:47 PM (7 years ago)

    Steph.

    Tears are flowing… I can feel your heart & your spirit in your words… You are truly a beautiful woman! Truly! Your Scriptures are being so beautifully lived out in your life! I love you with all my heart. We are standing with you! Can’t wait to pray over you Sunday … God is ABLE!

    Donna xoxo

    Reply
  10. Amy Anderson
    February 3, 2012 at 5:37 PM (7 years ago)

    Thinking about you constantly, I have no doubt you’re about to kick cancer’s ass — you’re so strong and loved by so many! Sending you endless amounts of love, Steph!

    Reply
  11. Donna Carlson
    February 3, 2012 at 6:31 PM (7 years ago)

    I have been thinking of you and praying for you all day. I keep seeing your sweet smile…you are amazing and thank you for your honest testimony. PLEASE let me know if I can do anything for you or Matt or your Mom – Love you!

    Reply
  12. Sherry
    February 4, 2012 at 12:13 AM (7 years ago)

    “I can end this entry by saying, this is good news.” I understand that reasoning, Steph… I am comforted by the words of Corrie ten Boom: “Never be afraid of trusting an unknown future to an all-knowing God.” What a GIFT He’s given you… PEACE. Thanks LORD!!!

    Reply
    • Cindy Kosanovic
      February 4, 2012 at 9:46 AM (7 years ago)

      Stephanie and Matt,
      Your peace about your decision is confirmation that it is God’s plan for your futures…and I can tell you from my own experience that adopting a child is definitely a part of God’s plan…I knew that the day they placed my adopted son in my arms. We are all adopted into His family, and it is an incredible miracle when He chooses to deisgn your family that way, too! I have no doubt, you will be a wonderful mother, and have an incredible story to share. We are praying for you every day.

      Reply
  13. Susie Goodew
    February 4, 2012 at 9:44 PM (7 years ago)

    Oh Matt and Steph,

    I sure feel for you as you walk this new road. The pressure of having to make all these big decisions and comprehend all the doctors are saying is intense. I am so thankful you are leaning on the Lord. He is ever faithful and He is with you. We praise Him in the good days and we praise Him in the days where it is more difficult to see the good. Things like this really help us look to Him and see Him better – even really the whole “life” picture. We get so stuck on the here and now and how we assume life will go, and often fail to see the big picture of what God wants to do in and through our lives. He does have good plans for us without a doubt.

    Just want to send you my love. We are praying for you two.
    Aunt Susie

    Reply
  14. Marie Foote
    February 7, 2012 at 2:35 PM (7 years ago)

    Dear Stephanie & Matt,

    Wow – what a journey God is taking you on as He walks with you! Thank you for making the time to share your hearts with us. I know all too well the joys and challenges of writing about life’s trials and God’s goodness in the midst of it all. You are so precious in His sight – and are, now, in mine!

    Stephanie, my heart is aching for you both … our journey has not been cancer, but has been one of multiple miscarriages (we have 5 children in heaven!) while many of our friends were having healthy babies here on earth. I remember so clearly the frustration you wrote of – being told everything’s “normal” but obviously, it’s not. My babies kept dying and yet all our tests came back normal. According to the medical world, I should have been able to have healthy twins and four other children over the next two years. We began to joke whenever I’d get pregnant that as a doctor would give us stats about the “health” of this pregnancy that statistics are just numbers and they don’t mean a thing because God is God and we are not. We learned to rely on His leading and not just what the books and articles told us were our chances. It is a delight, although a teary one, to see that you are learning the same kinds of life lessons. We learned to call these moments & life lessons “emotional burritos.” Everything is mixed up all at the same time. The positive with the negative. The joyful with the painful. The good with the bad. The Bible verses with the cuss words (you should see my private journal from that time – I cry AND laugh at the things I wrote to God in my sweetest and darkest times). Suffering serves us all a super-sized plate of emotional burritos. You are wise to process your feelings through writing, among many things. I wouldn’t have survived that time if I couldn’t have written during it all.

    As I read your entry about having to choose in just a few hours about your parenting future, my heart flew back to that time in our marriage when we were making choices about our family and it was the strangest feeling in the world, especially without knowing the future, but knowing only He who holds it. Looking back through the last 10 years, I am blessed to be able to say that I am thankful for the painful road God had us walk, or we wouldn’t have the amazing children we now have. Just last night, Jordan told me, “Can you believe we get to be their parents?!” Megan (almost 8) and Micah (almost 5) are OUR children and there is no denying it, although neither one of them shares our blood. As much as I am a supporter of adoption, even I struggled emotionally when it was time for us to decide if we wanted to try for a third child or not. For Jordan, it was an easy decision. He was an only child. We had two, he was happy. We had a girl and a boy. He felt “done.” But he left it up to me because I still hadn’t had the life experience of birthing a biological child. It took a few weeks of prayer and searching my heart before God, but I experienced the same peace you are talking about. As painful a decision as it was, God made my heart to be ok with never giving birth – ever. I still feel pangs once in a while when I wonder what our 5 other children look like, but I will meet them one day – I know that is true! (And it is uncanny how much our children DO look like our family – crazy!). This will be my life until Heaven. BUT – God had a long view of our family before the beginning of time. While I grieve the cancerous effects of sin in this world, I am so blessed to know that you are choosing to shine a bright light of love and hope in a very dark world.

    Here is my prayer for you and Matt:
    “All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. We have plenty of hard times that come from following the Messiah, but no more so than the good times of his healing comfort—we get a full measure of that, too.”
    2 Corinthians 1:3-5 MSG

    One day, when the time is right, I would love to sit down and pray with you and share our stories in greater detail. I know we can encourage one another. 2 Corinthians 1 was so true for me when we were having our miscarriages, as people who had suffered in similar ways came alongside us with understanding hearts. In the last 8 years, we’ve had many opportunities to live out the “coming alongside someone else who is going through hard times.” Your hearts will soar one day when God reveals to you some of His greater plans through all this hardship. As the sign in my kitchen says, “Faith doesn’t make things easy, just possible.” Matt, Stephanie, you and your family are being raised up in faith. We pray you through the difficult moments, as well as the precious ones. Let it all flow out of you – the tears, the words, the hugs, the pleas for prayer, the hope, the fear, the groanings that only the Holy Spirit of God can translate into God’s perfect will for you, and most of all … those toxins which are fighting the breath of Life in you. You are God’s child. You are never alone.

    We are praying for you in earnest. God is with you, no matter the steps.
    With love,

    Marie Foote (for Jordan, Megan & Micah, too)
    WorldVenture missionaries to Costa Rica
    footetraffic@worldventure.net

    Reply

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  1. […] the difficult decision to either proceed with my hysterectomy, or to hold off and harvest my eggs here . Thankfully, we proceeded with the surgery and I am still alive today. Cancer-free, mind you. […]

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