November 2012 archive
(guest post by Matt)
Right now I’m at Stephanie’s bedside, watching her navigate the ins and outs of popsicle consumption while under the influence of numerous intravenous drugs. We’re nestled in her hospital room after a long, yet incredible day. Today has God’s fingerprints all over it. I left off the last post in a second waiting room while Stephanie was getting a PET scan, which is the head-to-toe scan to detect any further traces of cancer post-surgery.
God has once again answered our prayers: the PET scan showed no signs of cancer anywhere in her body.
This is a HUGE praise, and a wonderful way to close the day. God has answered prayer after prayer in this process, and each and every one of your prayers had an incredible part in this. God wasn’t done performing His miracles just yet.
While we praise God for this clear PET scan, we know that we still have a significant journey in front of us. This fight isn’t over just yet, but we have the upper hand. God is on our side, and He is bigger than the enemy will ever be. I’m a sports guy, so I’m going to use a sports analogy. In boxing, some think that a larger boxer is at a disadvantage when fighting a smaller boxer. “He’s too fast, he’s too strong, he keeps getting inside.”
However, the larger, taller boxer has the upper hand. Here’s why. The taller boxer has greater reach. The taller boxer has easier shots at the head, while the smaller boxer has a terrible time trying to get in that knockout punch. The smaller boxer’s “advantages” become weaknesses because the energy will fade. The speed will diminish, the strength will subside, and fatigue will set in. The larger boxer will never run out of reach, never run out of height, never run out of what is permanently his. This is the moment when the larger boxer can deliver the knockout punch.
Often times during this journey, I have felt like the enemy kept getting the upper hand. I’d get discouraged and I’d get downright pissed. “He’s too fast, too strong… he’s getting inside and doin’ work on us.” Then when I’m at the lowest points, I look in our corner. Where does our help come from? It comes from the Lord. He strengthens us, bolsters us up, makes us larger than we are so that together in faith, we can triumph and be the last ones standing.
By now, Stephanie is fast asleep having successfully triumphed over the popsicle as she has triumphed over and over again today. I can’t begin to explain how proud I am of her, for her unwavering faith and dependence on God. I’m proud of how she’s used this circumstance to glorify Him. Like she mentioned in an earlier post, we aren’t really afraid. We know who wins this fight.
Again, thank you for your prayers and support and for being in our corner with us. Today was full of blessings and miracles from the moment we woke up to now. Oh, and for those who kept up with the blog for Stephanie’s first surgery, you’ll remember that she received an angel pin on her hospital gown from her surgeon. Well, she got another one. Angels were definitely on our side today.
Malachi 4:1-3 (The Message)
“‘Count on it: The day is coming, raging like a forest fire. All the arrogant people who do evil things will be burned up like stove wood, burned to a crisp, nothing left but scorched earth and ash — a black day. But for you, sunrise! The sun of righteousness will dawn on those who honor my name, healing radiating from its wings. You will be bursting with energy, like colts frisky and frolicking. And you’ll tromp on the wicked. They’ll be nothing but ashes under your feet on that Day.’ God-of-the-Angel-Armies says so.”
(guest post by Matt)
I was about 30 minutes removed from publishing the last post when MJ, Stephanie’s surgeon, showed up in the waiting room to talk to me. It took me a second to process it because she had shown up so soon. She told me that Stephanie was all done with the surgery. MJ was able to remove a large (and I mean large. Like, massive) tumor from Stephanie. Here’s the praise for answered prayer: this beast of a tumor was NOT attached to Stephanie’s colon! God has heard and answered our prayers and it bears repeating, God is GOOD!
The tumor, however, was attached to one of Stephanie’s ovaries, so that one had to go. A small price to pay in comparison to the battle we find ourselves in. As an artist, I’m about as far away from a medical mind as one can be. However, through this journey, if I’ve learned anything about this type of cancer, it’s this: this type of cancer plays dirty. It has no moral code, it has no manners, it doesn’t care about your circumstance or how you feel. It is evil. It grows and it grows relentlessly. But this is no match for the greatness of our God. No matter the circumstance, no matter how backed up on the wall you are, if you have breath in your lungs you keep fighting, you keep swinging and you never give up.
As God’s children, we’re often oblivious to how He’s working in us or if He’s even working in us at all. God is relentless in the pursuit of His children. He knew each and every one of us before we even knew ourselves. We, as small and minuscule as we are in comparison to the universe, were on His mind from the very start. He knew that Stephanie and I would be here on this day, and He knew that by having us here, He would be glorified.
God is working and He is making miracles happen. That’s what He does. He’s in the miracle business. When someone needs a miracle, there’s no one else to turn to. He’s the Great Physician, Healer, everything. As for Stephanie, she is off to get a PET scan (NOT a CT scan) to make sure there are no other visible traces of cancer, and so I find myself in a different waiting room. I got to see her in between surgery and the scan, and she was still smiling, full of spirit (and morphine), yet she was glowing as if Jesus physically performed the surgery Himself. God’s at work in this girl and for that I’m forever thankful to Him, and also to all of you for your prayers, thoughts, and words of support and encouragement. Even the smallest Facebook “like” doesn’t go unnoticed. We value each and every one of you.
I’ll likely blog again today, but be encouraged, friends. God has heard our prayers and will continue to do so. To close, since it’s Jimmy V week, I leave you with this:
“Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up!” — Jim Valvano
Colossians 1:11-12 (ESV)
“May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.”
(Guest post by Matt)
Chillin’ like a couple OG’s before surgery
So this crazy, hectic week has come down to this. This morning was a whirlwind. Stephanie and I set our alarms for 4:15, as we had to be at the hospital at 5:30. Naturally, we hit the snooze button on our phones. Finally, we decided we couldn’t wait around anymore and we had to leave the comfort of our bed to face what today has to offer. My wife was in incredible spirits this morning. I think it was more knowing the softball-sized tumor in her stomach would not be there at the end of the day. She was humming and singing worship songs far better than I ever could. For those who know my wife, she is a ridiculously talented singer and I am not. At my request, I asked her to sing a song we’ve been singing in church for a little bit. It’s called “Your Great Name.” One reason I love this song so much is that there are lyrics in it that sing: “Redeemer, my Healer, Lord Almighty. My Savior, Defender, You are my King.”
Once we got in the car on our way to the hospital, we listened to the “Jesus Is _____. Music Project” from the City Church in Seattle. That trip to the hospital, just focusing on who Jesus is, put us in the best of moods no matter our circumstance. While I was back with Stephanie before they wheeled her away for the second time, we prayed. We prayed for healing. We prayed for strength. We prayed for endurance and perseverance for what we know is to come. We also prayed that God be glorified through our experience, not only to ourselves, but to other people. God is good. He uses situations and allows things to happen so that He may ultimately be glorified. While we have faith in Stephanie’s surgical team, nurses, and doctors, we know that God is orchestrating a beautiful story and He is using them to help craft it.
Our faith is in God. We don’t put all our eggs in the basket of this world and just hope that nothing comes along to break them. Our faith is in a Higher Power. God does not operate according to the laws of this world. We continue to believe in the supernatural healing power of God. When Jesus walked the earth, He never denied anyone healing. He was never too busy or didn’t care enough about people to not help them. He never told someone, “I just really can’t help you. You’re beyond help.” No! That’s not our God. Our God is a God of love, mercy and healing. Our God can heal and there be no medical explanation for the healing. These are called miracles. And we believe in miracles.
So, here I sit. I’m in the waiting room, blogging away per my bride’s request. She has been in surgery for almost an hour at this point, and the surgeon said that the surgery should take about two hours. According to my calculations, that puts us at roughly the halfway point. Our faith is strong and God hears our prayers just as much as He’s hearing yours. We thank each and every one of you for petitioning the Father on our behalf. Though it may be silent as you pray, God listens. He hears our calls, He knows our worries and our concerns, and He wants each and every one of us to be healed. Leaning into Him is the best place to be, and that’s where we are right now.
I will post at least one more update today if not more, depending on how things go. Thank you for lifting up my wife in prayer. We appreciate and love each and every one of you. God bless, and keep the faith.
Matthew 1:8-4 (The Message)
“Jesus came down the mountain with the cheers of the crowd still ringing in his ears. Then a leper appeared and went to his knees before Jesus, praying, ‘Master, if you want to, you can heal my body.’
Jesus reached out and touched him, saying, ‘I want to. Be clean.’ Then and there, all signs of the leprosy were gone. Jesus said, ‘Don’t talk about this all over town. Just quietly present your healed body to the priest, along with the appropriate expressions of thanks to God. Your cleansed and grateful life, not your words, will bear witness to what I have done.’”
Let me begin by saying that I am completely and utterly overwhelmed at the amount of support I have on my team. Thank you to those who have sent encouraging messages, comments, phone calls, and texts. Thank you to my loyal readers who have followed me from my initial diagnosis and continue to stand by me through this next journey by uplifting me in prayer. Also, a big thanks to my new followers who found me through an internet search or word of mouth. I have a whole army of prayer warriors, and I am humbled that you each care so deeply about my victory. In fact, from yesterday’s posts until now, I have had well over 2,000 views on my blog. Thank you for sharing my story and spreading the hope!
My sweet husband and I went to bed last night with a huge prayer request on our hearts. We desperately wanted to hear back from this doctor at MD Anderson, and fervently asked God that we would hear from him personally in the morning. Bright and early, my phone rang. It was a Houston number. In fact, it was the physician. I immediately answered and was able to speak directly to the doctor I so desperately needed. Long story short, he completely agreed that I need immediate surgery to remove the mass. Chemotherapy before surgery just won’t cut it. We’ve got to get this beast out of me as soon as possible. In addition, he encouraged me to remain positive and believe that with this surgery, there will be no more signs of cancer in my body, and that I will beat this. I told him, “Doc, I’ve got this…I’m very confident that I’ll beat cancer!” Not only did he confirm our beliefs for immediate action, he doesn’t find it necessary for us to travel to Houston just yet. He believes that everything my doctors are doing here, is what he himself would do there. Praise God! Now we don’t have to worry about traveling and all of the insurance hoopla! With all that being said, it’s true…God answers prayer. Not that we have ever doubted that for a second, however, while we’ve known that for most of our lives, we can’t recall such a big prayer being answered so quickly. Right when I’m not sure, God shows up. He’s right here, and while I can’t see Him, I know His hand is all over this situation.
Now that that prayer has been answered, we would like to share another one. After further speaking with my Gynecologic Oncologist, who happens to be my previous surgeon and will be this time as well, she informed me of the exact location of my tumor. It is hanging out right next to my sigmoid colon. In easier terms, it’s partying right around my lower colon/bowels. Because of its location, she won’t be able to know for a fact if it’s actually connected to that organ or not until she opens me up. There are three possibilities we are facing. One: She begins surgery and sees that the mass is not connected to my colon, and can therefore, easily remove the tumor without anything else. Two: My tumor appears to be slightly attached or embedded in my colon, in which case she would need to remove part of my colon, and perform a temporary colostomy. Temporary meaning, I would receive a colostomy until my chemotherapy was finished and as long as there is not another recurrence, she will later repair my colon. Three: The monster is too deeply attached or embedded in the colon, and she will need to remove the organ and perform a permanent colostomy. For those who are unaware of the medical procedure I’m referring to, feel free to look it up here. To be frank, while I know that a colostomy is not the end of the world, and will allow me to live a fairly normal life, I’d really prefer not to have to go down this path. Please pray and believe with us that the tumor is not attached to my colon and that my surgeon will easily be able to remove it without having to remove the organ as well. We know that God answers prayer, and are standing firm in our faith.
As I have mentioned, surgery is a priority. It needs to happen immediately, and now that all of my doctors are on the same page, we can proceed. Buckle up friends…My procedure has been scheduled for tomorrow morning. Yes…tomorrow, Friday the 29th, as in less than fifteen hours from now. We are more than okay with this, and in fact, are welcoming it. We understand that in order to ensure the best possible outcome, this mass needs to be removed. I’m ready to have this thing out of me. While we know and appreciate that many of you will want to stop by beforehand to pray with us, we politely ask that you pray from where you’re at in order to ensure that the waiting room does not overflow. Plus, if I didn’t have to be up and around before 6am, I wouldn’t. Therefore, you shouldn’t have to! Surgery will begin around 7:30am. For those out-of-state, we are on mountain time. Matt will be taking the reins and doing guest posts to update everyone on my progress. The surgery should take two hours, and I will be in recovery for a couple of hours as well. By noon, I should be in my room highly medicated for the expected pain that I will be experiencing. Is it wrong to say that I’m looking forward to that part? No, not the pain…the medicine! By Saturday I am sure I will be comfortably settled in and more than willing to have visitors. For those wanting to visit, please text myself or Matt.
To recap: Tomorrow morning I’m getting cut open. Pray that the tumor is not attached to my colon, or any other organs for that matter. Pray for wisdom and guidance for my surgical team. Pray for a smooth surgery and a speedy recovery. Pray for my dear husband, that he will feel the supernatural hand of God and that he will experience peace, calm, and assurance. And please pray for me, that God will give me strength, peace, and confidence. Neither of us are very nervous now, but it might be a different story in the morning.
For those who might be anxious about this procedure and the trial we face… know that we are confident in a complete healing. We rely on our Savior to direct our steps. He has gone before us and has prepared the way.
I’ve beat cancer once, and I’ll beat it again.
Psalm 18:32-42 (The Message)
“Is there any god like God? Are we not at bedrock? Is not this the God who armed me, then aimed me in the right direction? Now I run like a deer; I’m king of the mountain. He shows me how to fight; I can bend a bronze bow! You protect me with salvation-armor; you hold me up with a firm hand, caress me with your gentle ways. You cleared the ground under me so my footing was firm. When I chased my enemies I caught them; I didn’t let go till they were dead men. I nailed them; they were down for good; then I walked all over them. You armed me well for this fight, you smashed the upstarts. You made my enemies turn tail, and I wiped out the haters. They cried “uncle” but Uncle didn’t come; They yelled for God and got no for an answer. I ground them to dust; they gusted in the wind. I threw them out, like garbage in the gutter.”
Last Tuesday, November 20th, I received a regular three-month follow-up scan. Typically I would have received a PET (full body) scan, however, our insurance is not cancer-patient friendly. Apparently, because my last PET scan in August came back clear of cancer, they deemed it unnecessary to cover any further PET scans unless a CT (localized) scan came back showing anything. Ridiculous, I know. Don’t get me started…frankly that’s beside the point.
I got a call from my Gynecologic Oncologist just two days ago, on the 26th. She immediately asked where I was, which in my heart, I knew was a bad sign. I was right. She informed me that my cancer has recurred. Dammit.
While we aren’t sure of the exact blueprints of this next treatment journey, I will give you as much information as we currently know. The mass that appeared in the CT scan is exactly the size of a softball. Yes, you read that correctly…a softball. Honestly, it’s one centimeter bigger than an adult softball. But that’s semantics. At it’s widest, it’s nearly four inches (9.8cm) in diameter. Shocking, I know. Clearly, this type of cancer is proving to be as aggressive as we were initially told. In August there were no signs of cancer, and only three months later, there is a beastly tumor the size of a softball growing inside my body. This circular mass has been located in the same general vicinity as my original golf-ball sized tumor. It is near my pelvic region, and close to my mid abdomen around my belly button. It’s closer to my left side, and I can actually feel it.
About one month ago, I began experiencing pain in this exact location of my lower abdomen. Because the doctors usually push around my stomach when I get any check-ups, I thought I’d give it a go. I definitely didn’t expect to feel anything. But I did. I felt a hard mass. Because having already battled cancer often tends to making us survivors paranoid and hyper sensitive to any changes in our bodies, I tried to brush it off as nothing. Three weeks ago, I had a regular three-month follow-up with my doctor and informed her about this sudden change in my body. She explained that based on how our intestinal tract works, it most likely was just a back up of stool and that she couldn’t feel anything during her internal exam. In fact, my pap smear results were normal. However, the pain continued and progressed. Days went by and the mass remained. I chalked it up to being constipated. Maybe I was just more backed up than I thought.
Now that the CT results are in, we can most definitely connect the pain and hardness to this mass that has been discovered. My constipation is also a symptom. While, we don’t know exactly where this monster is thriving, my doctors believe it’s getting it’s blood supply from my bowels. That means lower intestinal tract. Hence the constipation. This beast is sucking the life out of my lower organs. And, have I mentioned how huge it is? I’m still shocked.
Where we go from here is a little up in the air right now. Surgery, radiation, and chemo are all on the table again. It’s a matter of the sequence of these treatments in determining the effectiveness. Late yesterday afternoon we met with a General Oncologist that my Gyn Oncologist recommended we see. Once we met this doctor, we immediately adored him. God has sent us another key player for our team. He is a genius when it comes to chemotherapy. He knows all the different types of drugs and their side effects. His knowledge immediately put us at ease. In addition, he treats a lot of lung cancer patients. Most lung carcinomas are similar to my Neuroendrocrine cancer. He knows his stuff. All of my doctors do, and we are so grateful for that. After explaining to us what we were dealing with, he began to talk about treatment options. Surgery first, then chemo? Chemo to shrink it and then surgery to remove it? While my current three Oncologists (Radiation Onc, Gynecologic Onc, and General Onc) are well versed, they really want the opinion of another expert.
As most know, MD Anderson is the biggest and best cancer center in America. Through word of mouth and recommendations, we have learned of a special doctor in Houston who is the lead researcher for my exact type of cancer. He is continually studying how my carcinoma works and what the most effective treatments are. Therefore, we need to get to Houston to see this expert immediately. My Oncologists here agree that I need to get out there as soon as possible… Like yesterday. However, remember the hoopla with our insurance? Again, they deem it unnecessary for me to travel outside of our basic providers to receive a consultation or treatment out-of-state. Completely asinine. Essentially, they require that my doctors here call the authorization department of our insurance company and explain the urgency and necessity of this MD Anderson visit. Being fed up, I asked what it would cost to get an appointment without using our insurance and the receptionist answered, “$27,000.” Needless to say, we need insurance to agree to cover this out-of-state doctor’s visit. That’s a huge prayer request of ours right now.
Long story short, we need to get this ball rolling. This cancer is fast-growing and more aggressive than I ever imagined. I’m desperate to get this monster out of me. I want it gone, and I will do whatever it takes. I’ll go to Zimbabwe to receive a shot made from monkey saliva if I need to. Whatever it takes. And not to mention, this sucker hurts. We knew cancer was mean, but this is at a whole different level. My stomach throbs, and any time I touch it, it fires back… Umm, no sir. You will not win. We are going to poke, prod, cut, poison, and demolish you. Get the hell out of me.
It is imperative that I receive a PET scan in the next few days. Our team and I want to make sure it hasn’t grown anywhere else. They definitely want to check my lungs and my brain for any traces of malignancy. My team of doctors is having my case meeting today to discuss my situation and what the best course of action they believe will be. They are also going to conference call the doctor in Houston to try and see if any strings can be pulled for us to get in to see him. We could be going to Houston as early as tonight or the beginning of next week. I could also be in surgery as early as next week. And chemo might or might not start before then. Everything is dependent on my local doctors communicating with this Oncologist in Houston and getting on the same page. They understand the urgency of my situation, and are willing to do whatever it takes as well. We are all in agreement as far as getting this ball rolling as quickly and effectively as we can. We will continue to keep you updated as soon as we have a more solid plan.
Initially the news rocked us. I was deeply saddened and frustrated that we would have to go through all of this again. My husband was pissed. His anger was directed at God. “How could you allow this to happen again!?” But after a night of grieving, we woke up yesterday with a fire under our asses. My strong guardian of a husband, wrapped his arms around me and said, “It may sound weird, but I’m not scared at all.” And I feel the same. We aren’t scared because we are confident that with God on our side, we can beat this. We will beat this. I will be cancer-free again. And for more than a few weeks this time. I am determined to fight this battle and stomp on the enemy’s intentions. The enemy wants to defeat me, and there is no way we are going to let that happen. I’ve already told God that he’s going to have to drag me kicking and screaming out of this world. As incredible as Heaven sounds, I’m definitely not ready to make it my home yet. I’ve got way too many things to do on Earth. We’ve got babies to be had, memories to be made, and many more years to experience. Our faith is strong and our fire is burning. We know we are about to endure another intense and difficult battle, but there is nothing to fear. After all, “God has overcome the world.” Our victory is in Him.
Cancer will not win, because I will not lose.
Mark 4:35-40 (The Message)
“Late that day he said to them, ‘Let’s go across to the other side.’ They took him in the boat as he was. Other boats came along. A huge storm came up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. And Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping! They roused him, saying, ‘Teacher, is it nothing to you that we’re going down?’ Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, ‘Quiet! Settle down!’ The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass. Jesus reprimanded the disciples: ‘Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?’”
November has been an emotional roller coaster. In fact, the week after hearing about our fertility results was the hardest week since my initial diagnosis. A couple of weeks ago I fought a battle so strong that I was left with emotional gashes so deep, I wasn’t sure I would recover. This battle was fear. Debilitating fear.
Have you ever been afraid? I don’t mean afraid that you might fail a test. Or scared that you might not get the job. I’m referring to the fear of dying and leaving the ones you love so deeply. Fear that pulls you into the trenches and twists your mind into wandering around wondering if it’s God’s plan for you to go. In the big picture, yes we will all die at some point, but I’m learning, in no way does God want to inflict us with fear. Let me add something else to the equation. Spiritual warfare…ever heard of it? Better yet, have you ever experienced it? The enemy can have such a stronghold on our minds and will convince us of the wrong thing. He is stronger than we want to admit. A couple of weeks ago, I was convinced. A couple of weeks ago, the devil had such a powerful grip on my mind, that I myself could not release his clutch. He had led my mind down the path of believing it was my time to go. He had escorted me to a place where I nearly lost hope. The enemy was leading me into thoughts of, “Are you sure you’re cancer-free?”, “What if it comes back…your life will be over.” And the hardest, “What is your husband going to do when you’re gone?”
Satan is powerful, and he takes advantage of us when we are vulnerable; Therefore, we must be active in strengthening our spiritual weapons. No matter how hard I prayed, I could not shake the doubt and fear. Sometimes, you must rally up your prayer warriors alongside you and allow them to call out to God on your behalf. The following Sunday after that brutal week, a few of my dear friends, mentors, and prayer soldiers gathered by my side and did just that. They prayed for me. They rebuked the enemy and his stronghold. They prayed to Jesus that His mighty hand would wipe away any doubt and fear. They prayed blessings over my life. And you know what? God showed up. He did His part. He answered our prayers. The following week was drastically different. My spiritual weapons had been sharpened and I was ready, willing, able, and strong enough to fight. That next week through this very moment, I am strong and will not allow the enemy to win. I have also discovered a book that has been life-changing for me. I highly recommend it to anyone, including cancer patients, those afflicted with depression, or chronic downers. It’s called “Battlefield of the Mind” by Joyce Meyer. It’s seriously amazing. Believe it.
Here’s some truth: I am not afraid. I am not alone. And, with God, I am victorious.
Ephesians 6:10-18 (The Message)
“And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels. Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.”
Joyce Meyer accompanying me at a CT scan. She joins me everywhere nowadays. (November 2012)
Matt and Stephanie. (May 2010)
We’ve been waiting for nearly a year to hear the news. Are biological children a part of our story?
You can read about when we first had to make 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. Because my Oncologist understood our desire for biological children, and because my ovaries had not been touched by this disease, she decided to transpose them to a higher location in my abdomen; she moved them with hopes that they could be protected from the harmful radiation procedures. Three months after my last cancer treatment, we were told I could take a blood test that would determine if my ovaries were still in working condition. I took the FSH/LH/Estrogen test last week and we received the results a couple of days ago.
“Your current FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) is at a 48.8. A normal FSH is less than 10, and an FSH greater than 20 is generally not recommended to use your own eggs to try to get pregnant. At a 48, it’s unfortunately pretty bad news. It looks like your cancer treatments had a very bad effect on your ovaries, which is pretty common. It looks like that is probably not an option now.”
For those who have been close to us through this journey, you know that we just wanted an answer. Is it a yes or a no for “bio-kids?” Regardless of the outcome, we wanted to know what path we needed to further investigate. Although it’s bittersweet, we are very thankful to finally have an answer. And God is still good. We now can focus more on the process of finding our children, and not on the process of personally conceiving our own. Adoption is a life-changing journey for all involved, and we have spoken about this option before we even got married. Adoption has always been on the table. To be honest, we thought it would be just that… an option. However, we have now discovered that God has intentionally called us to this form of parenting. Although our fertility nurse has told us that it’s bad news, we are choosing to see it as a blessing. Our story continues to have chapters that few people experience, and for that not only are we grateful, but we think it’s pretty cool, too.
Being grateful is a powerful thing. When you can look beyond your circumstances and see the gifts you’ve been blessed with, your life will transform. My husband and I are thankful that I am still here on this earth. Because of that, I can continue to be a loving wife and will still have the chance to be a mother someday. We are thankful that God continues to reign over our story and direct our path. We are thankful that we have each other and are confident that our journey to adoption is going to be full of joy. We continue to look forward to uncovering God’s plan for our lives, and we will never cease our praise for the wonderful things He has done and will continue to do. Even though our hearts were set, God knows ultimately what is best for us. And frankly, how awesome is it that we get to go down the road less traveled?!
Alongside our grateful hearts, we are still grieving. Through marriage you learn the differences between men and women, and this adventure has continued to shine light on that. As a woman, I think we generally process things a lot quicker. I have been grieving since the day my reproductive organs were removed. It’s gotten easier as the days and months have gone by, but there are still moments where I am sad that I will never be able to feel my child from inside my womb. Men take a little longer to process change. Matt has held on and believed with great faith that my eggs would still be alive and well. With this news, it has brought a finality to the hope he carried. For him, it’s almost as if the grieving has just begun. We ask that you continue to pray for peace and understanding in this time. We are in this together, and continue to cling to each other on this roller coaster through life. The fact still remains: Matt will be a daddy, and I a mommy; We WILL be parents. No matter if our children come from our bodies or from someone else’s they will still be our own. It’ll be a momentous occasion when we can tell our children how truly hard we fought for them.
Now that we know how we will have children, many are probably wondering when we will begin “trying” for kids. We are blessed to have several friends who have chosen adoption, or who themselves are adopted; therefore, we have many close resources to turn to. We will begin researching, learning, and gathering as much information about adoption that we possibly can. However, we have decided that until I reach my two-year mark clean and clear of cancer, children are going to have to wait a little while. After all, we want to make sure that our children get a healthy mom and not a sick one. Until we decide to be open for placement, we will continue to fill our brains with as much knowledge that can fit. We will attend seminars, information meetings, and read as many articles on adoption that is available to us. We believe that the more knowledge we obtain, the better the journey will be.
We have been praying for our children for years, and look forward to when God chooses to place them into our life. For now, He’s got them…And I feel confident knowing, He’s the best babysitter out there.
Psalm 113:4-9 (The Message)
“God is higher than anything and anyone, outshining everything you can see in the skies. Who can compare with God, our God, so majestically enthroned, surveying his magnificent heavens and earth? He picks up the poor from out of the dirt, rescues the wretched who’ve been thrown out with the trash, seats them among the honored guests, a place of honor among the brightest and best. He gives childless couples a family, gives them joy as the parents of children. Hallelujah!”
Today’s Check-up! (November, 2012)
I don’t want to be a cancer survivor living my life from one scan to the next.
After a cancer diagnosis it’s hard not to want to rush through the treatment and get to the finish line. It’s difficult to live life for today and not for the three months or two years from now. I would be lying if I told you I had never prayed and asked God to quickly speed up time and allow me to wake up cancer-free and in remission in 2014. I even said, “I don’t care if I miss what happens in these next couple years, just get me to the finish line!” It’s the truth. Like it or not. Now, of course I don’t want to miss out on any part of my life, but there have been times where the future looks so much brighter than the present. But is it really? We have no way of knowing, and that’s what keeps my dependance and reliance on God burning still.
Whenever I get in these little “funks” of wanting to push the fast forward button through life, my husband reminds me that we shouldn’t be living life scan to scan. That if I continue to keep blinders on and only focus on the two-year mark, I’ll be missing out on everything that is happening now. I’ll admit it, he’s right. I don’t want to speed through these next few years, because they are equally a part of my story as my declaration of remission is. As an avid reader, I think of it this way: If a book was missing two of it’s chapters, the story wouldn’t be complete, would it? The middle is just as important as the beginning and the ending. The middle affects the rest of the story, and if I were to speed through these next two years, my ending wouldn’t be the same.
I have begun reciting statements to myself everyday. No, I’m not referring to talking to myself (although, that does happen); I simply mean that I make an internal declaration daily. “Today is going to be a great day. I’m alive. I’m thankful. I’m living life for today, and I am cancer-free.” In good moments these statements are easy to repeat, however when my mind wanders down the “what-if” path, sometimes I have to work hard to convince myself. Remaining positive and truly believing that I am healed takes work but makes a huge difference in how I live my life. I am a believer of many things. Top of the list is Jesus Christ, and right below is that through Him I have been healed. Believing in anything takes a large amount of trust. To declare that I believe my body is cancer-free equally means that I trust that treatment has done it’s job. That I trust in the knowledge my doctors possess. That I trust that the surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation has run it’s course effectively. And ultimately, I trust that God works everything together for my good.
Today I am reminded why I should follow my husband’s advice and live life in the now and not the future. I had my first three month check up since the end of treatment. Now that treatment and doctors visits aren’t a daily or even weekly deal, walking through the halls of the hospital to my doctor’s office brings back a rush of memories, thoughts, and emotions. Because I have a heightened sense of smell and often tie smells to memories, the aroma of the hospital hallway that leads to my oncologist stirs up an avalanche of feelings. Frankly, I don’t like being there. Simply because that’s where I endured my vast hours of cancer-fighting procedures. My brain immediately goes into unsure and anxious mode. Luckily those anxieties diminish once I step foot into the office and am greeted by my wonderful team of nurses. Today’s appointment could not have gone any smoother. I absolutely adore my medical team. They have become a part of my family. Because I don’t see them as often as I used to, every time that I do, it’s like a family reunion. After catching up on the latest in each of our lives, we get down to the nitty gritty. The gloves go on (quite literally) and the games begin.
My oncologist did a pelvic exam, pap smear, overall body check, and blood draw. The blood draw was almost invisible next to the laughter that we were sharing in the tiny exam room; Who says a trip to the gynecologic oncology office can’t be fun? Once the gloves were off, she shared the news… Everything looks and feels wonderful! Not only does my body look and feel healthy, I’ve officially lost twenty pounds since my visit three months ago! She continues to be amazed at my recovery and resilience. What a breath of fresh air, and news that I definitely needed to hear. Another weight was lifted off my shoulders, and I can breathe a little easier now. I think that’s how it’s going to be for the rest of my road to remission…With every good appointment and clear scan, a little more is going to be lifted off my shoulders.
More of what needs to be shared is the reason behind the blood draw. Typically at this stage in the game, blood draws aren’t necessary. For me, because I have chosen to keep my port for a little while, I will need to get it flushed every six to eight weeks to prevent clogging. However, because I am out of treatment and resuming my daily life with no “issues,” testing my blood levels is no longer high on the agenda. So why did they take my blood today? They will be testing my fertility. Some of your jaws may drop because you thought that wasn’t even a possibility. And while I still cannot and will never be able to carry my own child, there still is a chance that I might have eggs. During my hysterectomy, my oncologist transposed my ovaries to a higher location so they could be out of the way of radiation, and also with hopes that my eggs could be saved through the brutal treatment. I like to joke and say, “Who knows? They could be in my armpits!” Probably not.
My doctors have informed me that I would notice immediately if my ovaries died or were affected in any way. So far, only a couple months passed where I was having minuscule, dare I say, “hot flashes.” Frankly, they were nothing like what those of you in menopause have shared with me. I was not ripping the sheets off of myself at night, and my body wasn’t being engulfed in sweat. My face would just get slightly flush every now and then. Not every hour. Not every day. These bursts of heat, as I’ll refer to them, have completely disappeared over the last two months. When I shared that news with my oncologist, with a smile on her face she hugged me and shared her enthusiasm. Therefore, because I don’t show any signs of menopausal symptoms, my ovaries could still be alive and well. And if they are, the eggs that are nestled in them could have possibly survived the storm. You can do the math. Eggs+Sperm=Baby. If my eggs are good, Matt and I will then decide if we want to harvest them and go down the In Vitro Fertilization route. Because we don’t have the results yet, I won’t get ahead of myself. But keep checking back for updates on the baby makers! My team has informed me that I should receive the results by tomorrow. For now, please pray that my ovaries are alive and healthy, and that we will find peace in the test results. We put our hope not in a scan or a test, but in Him.
Romans 8:26-28 (The Message)
“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”