Do You Want to Help?

Many of you have been letting me know that you want to help out in some way. Whether you want to create a delicious concoction, send us care packages, or offer your services elsewhere, we would love it! My mom is coordinating a schedule for meals to be dropped off. She is also in charge of any other help you’d like to send our way. The best way to figure out how to lend a hand would be to contact her.

Get ahold of her via email:
Denise –>  denise_gee@msn.com

Side note… Today my husband and I were incredibly blessed by a wonderful couple. My biggest wish before this recovery adventure has been to get professional pictures taken of us. Because the future is so uncertain in regards to if I will lose my hair, become very sick, and/or lose weight, I wanted to capture where we are at now. I wanted to capture my outward image of “health”. Some may not understand. And, I too, understand that beauty comes from within. However, I want to document my story. The ups and the downs. The good hair days, and the possible no hair days. The smiles and the tears. The “health” and the sickness. After all, what’s a story, when there’s only one side? It’s incomplete, and I refuse to share an incomplete journey.

Today was an impeccably great day. Today I didn’t have to think about my cancer. Today I was able to enjoy my husband and our blooming friendship with 2 amazingly genuine people. Today we have been blessed. We all shared stories and laughter, and my heart was truly filled. I love how God always knows just what we need. In addition, this insanely talented photographer and his lovely wife have understood my ideal portrayal of this expedition. More so, he understands the illustration we need to add to this book. What’s a book without pictures?! Friends, this story will have pictures. Some days, photographs will better illustrate the current circumstance than words could ever do. Thank you for being an abundant blessing to us, M & B.

Philippians 4:19-20 (Message Version)

“You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus. Our God and Father abounds in glory that just pours out into eternity.”

Surgery 411

Good evening friends! Just wanted to let y’all know more about my surgery this coming week.

My radical hysterectomy is scheduled for Wednesday 2/8 at 12:30pm. I will be checking in at the hospital around 10:30am. You are welcome to come by and pray with us beforehand. The more prayer, encouragement, love, and support we can get would be wonderful! I spoke with my Anesthesiologist yesterday, and he informed me that surgery should take 2-3 hours, and then I’ll be in recovery for 2 more hours. Most likely, due to the invasive nature of this type of procedure, I’ll probably be pretty out of it once I’m settled into my room. I’ll be on high doses of pain meds (hallelujah!), so I know I won’t be up for much conversation. I will however, be staying at the hospital for about 3 days, so there might be more time to visit with me then. Matt will keep you updated through my blog regarding how surgery goes and how I’m doing. I know many of you want to help in some way, and  I need you to know that that is so meaningful to both Matt and I. My mom is setting up a schedule for those who want to make us meals or help out in other ways once I’m back home. If you’d like to send cards, letters, care packages, etc, please feel free! The kind words and comments that you all have shared on this blog, have been extremely uplifting. It makes me full of joy when I read your encouraging thoughts and prayers. Keep them coming!

I must say, the closer it gets, the more nervous I become. After all, I’ve only had my wisdom teeth removed. I’ve never even had braces! No broken bones. No stitches. This experience is going to be brand new to me. In just a matter of days, I’ll be knocked out, cut open, organs removed, and put back together. I’ll wake up with a nice incision on my lower belly. I’m praying it’s not very large. I can guarantee that I’ll be very thankful for the pain meds, because I know I’ll be very sore.

Do any of you ever think how weird this whole thing is? I have that thought every single day. This entire situation is so weird. I have cancer. Not only that, but I have stage 3 cancer. I have to receive all 3 types of treatment: surgery, radiation, and chemo. My Radiologist just informed me the other day that if the treatments don’t work, this will be a fatal disease. Thanks, Doc…I figured as much. Weird! Crazy! Unexpected! All of the above. Never would I have imagined that I would go through something like this. In fact, my husband and I have had conversations about rewinding back to our wedding day. Who would’ve thought that not even 2 years later, I would be diagnosed with cancer. Surely not us.

I’ve had some ups and downs in this journey thus far, and I know there will be many more to come. My faith, fortunately, has not wavered. God is the great physician, and for that I’m immensely blessed. He’s here with me now, will be with me during surgery and the many radiation and chemo treatments, and will cross the finish line of remission right beside me.

If you need further information, such as our address, or the hospital information, feel free to contact me!

Deuteronomy 31:6 (Message Version)

“Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; He won’t leave you.”

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.”

PET Scan Results

Yesterday (2/1), I was invited to a wonderful luncheon that my husband’s company hosts. They are a missions organization, and send missionaries all over the world. Once a year, all of the missionaries come back to Colorado and have a week-long conference. I was lucky enough to be invited to enjoy a wonderful lunch, and hear incredible testimonies and stories from people who work all over the world.

I arrived at about noon, and within 10 minutes my phone began ringing. I used to never answer calls in which I didn’t recognize the number, however, that’s just one more thing that has changed. I’ve gotten pretty acclimated to stopping whatever I’m doing and answering my phone for any and everyone at this point, because I never know if it’s one of my doctors calling. Well this time it was.

My Oncologist was on the other end, and told me that my PET scan results were back. Remember I had to ingest all of those fun liquids prior to my test? Well, the scan was taken to determine if there were any more cancer cells in my body. They scanned me from head to toe. Results showed that my cancer has indeed spread. Not very far, but still. It has started to attack one of my lymph nodes.

This means, I will be visiting my Radiologist today to get further explanation as to what needs to happen now. My Oncologist and Radiologist need to determine if I’ll need radiation before or after surgery. She didn’t explain too much over the phone, so I’ll have to wait and find out what this all means in a couple of hours. I did learn from the receptionist who made my appointment, that first I’ll meet with the nurse to go over medical history, and then I’ll watch a movie about radiation. Great, a movie date for the man and me. Once we have been knowledged on radiation, we will then meet with the Radiologist. I suppose he’ll fill me in on what we have to do now.

I did mention to ask, if indeed I would need radiation, if I would lose my hair. She said that the type of radiation they would be using will not cause hair loss. Another gift!

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (Message Version)

“So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.”

Finding Fertility

Matt and I never imagined having to involve someone else in the process of conceiving a baby. We’ve always dreamed it would be an act of our love for one another…just the two of us. Cancer changes a lot of things, doesn’t it? Even the most intimate parts of your life are affected.

Truth is, we were going to start trying to get pregnant in about a year. A month ago, I openly admitted to having “baby fever”. I’d been denying it too long. Matt has the bug also, he’s just better at controlling the urge than I am! Although, we frequently talk about having babies soon, we know that we want to wait for a little while. However, this could change as we get further and further into this battle. I do enjoy seeing my husband swoon over the infant converse shoes, which our children will most definitely be rockin’. That, and seeing him with kids, are two of the most wonderful sights for me.

It’s amazing the things you take for granted. It’s amazing the things that YOU want to happen in your life. Sometimes we forget that God’s got bigger plans. While, we do have free will and the incredible privilege of choice, He is the ultimate author. My husband and I had a pretty traditional plan… Be married for a few years, buy a house, get pregnant (when you’re healthy, you don’t often think that you’ll have to “try”), have 2-3 kids, and live a happy and fulfilling life. Even now, reality is we still will be able to do all of those “traditional” things, just in a “non-traditional” way. There will be several people involved in our process. Luckily, we will be able to preserve some  intimacy when we try to conceive. Because we have been stripped of the true intimacy of conception and fertility, the nitty-gritty details are going to remain sacred for us. Although, we may share a lot of the fertility process with some of you, in regards to posting all details for everyone to see, we would rather not. We want to hold onto as much as we can for just the two of us. After all, this will ultimately be a child or children we are talking about. And, you wouldn’t be there if we were conceiving the traditional way, now would ya?!

As far as blessings go. Holy crap, we’ve had SO many already in this process. When we hear “God goes before us”, it might not fully sink in, but for me it more than definitely has. He knew my whole story. He knew this would happen before I was even born. And although, He knew we would have a lot of mountains to climb over, He has continued to provide resting areas for us. With every day, and every appointment, and every test, I am discovering gifts along the way.

Here are some, just to name a few:

  1. I firmly believe that He was holding my cancer in one spot this whole past year. His hands were covering it for no one to see. He was testing me. He was making sure I would continue to press in and not give up. And frankly, He knew it would take me a year of fighting this unknown battle, to be trained and ready to withstand the truth. Praise God.
  2. Every single one of my doctors was hand-picked. From my Gynecologist to our fertility doctor. He has assembled the best team out there.
  3. Not only do I have the best team of doctors, but I am receiving treatment at one of the nations top facilities, Swedish Hospital.
  4. Though most may not know, the fertility center we are going to is one of the best in the world. Their patients include several celebrities and famous athletes. The main doctor can be seen on The Today Show and Good Morning America, among many others. 60% of their patients come from out of state, and 20% of those patients are international. God didn’t just move me here with my family 10 years ago, He moved me to the place where I could get the best treatment and care 10 years later!
  5. He has preserved my ovaries. They are unscathed. Which means, I am still fertile. I am producing healthy eggs. Matt is producing healthy sperm. This, in turn, means we are able to have biological children. Again, in a non-traditional way, but nevertheless.
  6. My cancer has been staged at 1b. Out of the 5 stages, this is the best. We caught this early enough that my chances for survival and full recovery are wonderful.
  7. Fertile Hope (The Lance Armstrong Foundation) knows about our situation, and will (most likely) cover all of my fertility meds. The medications are the most expensive part of the fertility process. And if, for whatever reason, they don’t, our fertility center has personally put aside medications for me. In fact, my nurse said they already have $1800 worth of meds, specifically for ME! I will never have to pay for any fertility medications, ever. Sometimes, having cancer pays off…

When people say, “Count your blessings”, you should. It doesn’t even have to be Thanksgiving for you to remember what you have been given! We are deeply blessed and have SO much to be grateful for. And, most of all, we are thankful for a God that’s got it all under control.

Our fertility process will be a long and extremely expensive one. However, at the end of this, our children will know how hard we fought for them, and that puts a huge smile on my face. In addition, we have tremendous faith that God is going to provide. As far as our process of fertility goes, we will have to freeze my eggs until we are ready to begin trying for children. Then, we will “fertilize” the eggs and store them, until we are ready to be pregnant. When I say, “we” and “pregnant”, it does not mean I will be carrying our baby(ies). God’s preparing a woman out there, specifically for us. He is preparing her heart, mind, and womb for this. And I am praying for her already! Maybe she’s a friend or family member? Only God knows. We were a little hesitant about the IVF process and what it all entailed, because of our strong belief that life starts at conception. However, in gaining knowledge about the procedures, God placed another gift in our path. We feared what might happen to embryos that aren’t used in this process. The good news is, they will notbe discarded, EVER. Hallelujah! What a sense of relief poured down on us, at hearing that news.Please pray that God provides for us financially, spiritually, physically, and emotionally. Also pray for our surrogate, who we believe might be closer than we could imagine. Pray that God prepares her heart, mind, body, and womb for this journey. Surrogacy is one of the deepest gifts a woman can give someone. I never knew or understood that, until now.

John 14:1-4 (Message Version)

“Don’t let this throw you. You trust God, don’t you? Trust me. There is plenty of room for you in my Father’s home. If that weren’t so, would I have told you that I’m on my way to get a room ready for you? And if I’m on my way to get your room ready, I’ll come back and get you so you can live where I live. And you already know the road I’m taking.”

PET Scan

Monday (1/30) at 6:15 am, I had my first experience with the PET scan. First of all, the contraption you have to lay on during a PET scan is TINY. And, not only that, but you are put into an awkward position and told to remain completely still for as long as it takes them to scan you. For me, it was about 30 minutes to an hour. I, of course, did not have a clock in my range of sight, so I couldn’t tell you for sure. Oh, but I did have a lovely false sky scene on the ceiling. I actually felt like I was laying down in a field of flowers looking up at beautiful clouds in the afternoon sky. NOT.

Rewind. Before jumping into the PET bed, I was secluded in an itsy-bitsy room. Luckily I did have a very comfortable recliner to relax in. <–No sarcasm there, folks. I was injected with “radioactive fluid” (Yes, that’s what my technician told me), and was told to relax for 45 minutes while it spread to all of my cells. In addition, I was given a very large cup full of Barium. If you don’t know what that is, google it. It’s disgusting. Very thick, white liquid, similar to Maalox. I was instructed to drink the entire thing. That was no small feat, my friends. I gagged with every swig. I asked my technician if I could read while I “relaxed”. He said no, to which, I began laughing at. I soon found out, he was not joking. So, not only did I have to ingest liquid chalk, and be injected with radioactive fluid, I had to remain completely still for 45 minutes. At least I had that comfortable recliner… and someone to talk to.

Matthew 6:6 (Message Version)

“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense His grace.”

Charred Cauliflower

The day after D-day we had my first appointment with my Oncologist. She. Is. The. Greatest. Her reputation is outstanding. And I am so blessed to have her as not only my cancer doctor, but also my surgeon. My appointment started as all others do, with paperwork. Filling out my personal history section was a little different this time around. I was actually a little stunned when I saw the check yes or no for cancer option. Wow. I actually have to fill this in as yes now. I have cancer. And, forever, I will have to mark that tiny little cancer box as yes. Although I will kick cancer’s ass, I’ll still have to tell my doctors that I once had it. Surreal.

My paperwork was complete, the cancer box checked, and before I knew it, I was heading in to the exam room. Another exam. I guess everyone needs to see what’s going on in there! This time around, a thought perked my interest, so I asked my husband what he thought. He said yes. We entered the exam room, and pretty soon, I was introduced to my Oncologist. I loved her from the start. She seems fun. Having a fun surgeon never seemed like a good thing. But believe me, any positive traits your surgeon has, the better. Eventually, the exam started. My husband was able to see what all of us women go through when we get our “annuals”! He, of course, was thrilled. <–Sarcasm, folks. Once my Oncologist found my cancer, which apparently, is not that hard to do, I asked the question Matt said “yes” to, as stated previously. “Would you mind if you pointed out the cancer to my husband?” Surprisingly, she laughed and told us that our request was far from the more weirder ones she’s had. Matt joined her, and she soon started telling him what he was looking at.

After my exam, the doctors left, and Matt and I were left alone while I changed back into my clothes. Perfect opportunity to get the “human” as opposed to “doctor” perspective on what my cancer looked like. His description exactly was, “It looks like manifest sin. It looks evil. It looks like charred cauliflower with black veins running through it. It looks mean; like it might growl at me.” There ya go, “human” perspective. As descriptive as this is, I am so thankful that my husband was able to see what has been trying to take me down this past year. Now I know not only what it is, but what it looks like.

With this new knowledge, we then met my doctor in her office. What a breath of fresh air. She had Christian sayings, bible verses, and angels populating her space. She could be a believer! My mom and step-dad joined us for this part of the appointment, so all 5 of us sat in chairs in a circle. My Oncologist started describing my cancer. Essentially the same things that my Gynecologist had explained. However, she restaged me at 1b1. Even better than 1b2! So, for now my cancer is stage 1, and that’s awesome.

During this meeting, she explained that I have a 10-20% chance that my cervical cancer could spread to my lymph nodes. Therefore, just to be sure, while I’m in surgery, she will biopsy them. Speaking of surgery, it is currently scheduled for a week from today. Wednesday 2/8, at 12:30pm. I’ll have to check in at 10:30am. I would love for as many people who want to pray with us to be there! All encouragement, support, and prayers are going to be deeply appreciated. The procedure will take about 2-3 hours. She will make an incision similar to a c-section, and remove everything that way.

Next steps from here are:

  1. PET scan
  2. Appointment with fertility doctor
  3. Surgery

My oncologist also filled me in on what my future will look like. As far as scans and testing for cancer go, here’s the schedule: Every 3 months for the first 2 years after treatment, I’ll have to get Paps and scans. Once I reach the 2 year mark cancer-free, I’ll then be checked every 6 months until I reach the 5 year point. If I have reached the 5 year marker with no cancer, I will officially be in remission. I can’t wait to get to 5 years!

Proverbs 1:7 (ESV)

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

D-Day

D-Day for us means Diagnosis Day. When I woke up that morning, my first thought was, “Today is the 25th, and I just turned 25 this month.” It may not seem important to you, but those two “25’s” will forever help me remember this date.

To say this Wednesday began like any other is a lie. I was beyond nervous! My husband was with me, per my doctor’s request. Luckily, I’m blessed to have a partner who is the calm in my storms. He was holding my hand and encouraging me throughout our entire 17 hour (not really) wait in the waiting room. My nurse then came in and directed us to an exam room. After another seemingly 10 hours, my gynecologist finally arrived. Thank goodness she has the perfect combination of emotion and reality in her demeanor. If she hadn’t this meeting could have gone far different.

After sitting down, she gave it to me straight. With sadness in her eyes, she announced that I have cervical cancer. Although, I had imagined that idea in my head, I never could have been fully prepared to hear those words. Once it set in, my initial reaction was, “Well, now we finally have an answer!” Needless to say, my doctor was a little shocked at my response to this life-altering news. I asked if I could give her a hug. She said, “Of course! I wanted to right when I came in, but didn’t want to freak you out!”. Oh, Doc… a hug won’t freak me out! I dramatically thanked her for being such a blessing in our lives and for being the one and only doctor willing to go a little further and investigate something suspicious. She was and is my personal detective.

I then began to explain why my reaction was relief in hearing this news. Never thought you’d hear someone who just got diagnosed with cancer be relieved, did you?! Well, my relief stems from this ongoing unknown battle. I finally found out what I was fighting! When you know everything about your opponent, its weaknesses, strengths, favorite hang-outs, morals, and fighting tactics, you can better defeat it. Oh wait, did I say morals? Cancer doesn’t have any. It fights dirty. Which means, I have to fight dirtier. Now I finally know what to do. Now I am able to pick up my armor and weapons. I felt like I had been fighting a war with only my hands.

Once our hugging session was complete, my doctor further went on to explain to me the technicalities of the situation. I was staged at 1b2 originally. That’s right in between 1 and 2. There are 5 stages, so being in between the lowest was another relief. From what she could tell, the cancer is only on my cervix. My tumor is 4cm…about the size of a golf ball.

There are 3 options for treatment.

  1. Surgery
  2. Radiation
  3. Chemotherapy

She highly recommended surgery. After asking what that would entail, I almost immediately regretted the question. I will have to have what’s called a “radical hysterectomy”. For those who don’t know what that is (I wish I still didn’t know), it’s a procedure in which the surgeon removes the entire uterus, cervix included, the surrounding walls, and the top part of the inside of my vagina. Luckily, the cancer hasn’t affected my ovaries, so we can keep those. Hooray. However, you kinda need a uterus to carry a baby. So, without one, I will never be able to be pregnant. For those who know me, this is a HUGE blow. I’ve spent my whole life desperately wanting children. Not only am I a stylist, but I’m also a nanny, and therefore my adoration of kids is obvious. Never in a million years, would I think me being pregnant would be compromised. We’ve imagined having children with disabilities, miscarriages, twins, but never the deleted option of pregnancy. Oh, well. Like I said, seemingly sarcastic above, hooray that we get to keep my ovaries. Seriously, HOORAY! Ovaries are what produce eggs. Eggs combined with sperm create babies. Babies only need A womb to live in for the first 9 months. Add this all together, and you get the option of surrogacy. Praise God for women out there who give their wombs as a gift to those of us who can’t carry our own.

Due to the option of surrogacy, my gynecologist further went on to explain that we will need to see a fertility doctor. I also need to meet with an oncologist- aka: cancer doctor. Thankfully, she knows a lot of great doctors in the area, and referred me to the best. And I mean, the best. You’ll find out in my upcoming entries, how great my team of doctors truly is. Not only will I be blessed with top-notch doctors, but God slipped another blessing into the mix. In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is extremely expensive. However, the most expensive part of the process are the meds they have to put you on. Guess what? The Lance Armstrong Foundation (Fertile Hope) will be covering the costs for ALL of my fertility meds. How in the world do I qualify for that?! Well apparently, Lance Armstrong, because he fought cancer, started Fertile Hope for people affected by cancer who are unable to have children the traditional way. Thank you, God, for healing Lance Armstrong of cancer, so he can help us have children! He definitely thinks ahead. God always covers all the bases. My next step from this point will be to meet with my oncologist. I look forward to finding out more about this defeatable beast inside of me.

I am reminded that God has gone before me. Hallelujah.

Deuteronomy 30:8

“God is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; He won’t leave you. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t worry.”

“Bring Your Husband”

On Tuesday 1/24, the day after my colposcopy, I received a call from my Gynecologist’s nurse. I’ll never forget that phone conversation. She simply stated that instead of having my follow-up appointment on Monday, at my doctor’s request I needed to come in tomorrow (Wednesday the 25th). If only she had said to just come in tomorrow… however, she added, “and why don’t you bring your husband with you, so we can talk about treatment.”

Wow.

Here were my thoughts:

  1. My doctor wants me to come in tomorrow instead of Monday? This is obviously urgent.
  2. I can’t go by myself, she wants Matt to come with me. Why? So he can pick me up off the ground, once I hear the news?
  3. This won’t be a fun conversation. Treatment is in my future.

I received that call at 4:30pm, and after informing Matt, we immediately went to my mom and step-dad’s house to process the news. I’m a “worst-case scenario” kind of girl. I let my mind quickly jump to the worst of cases in any and every situation. My thinking behind this is, it’s a way to protect myself from being shocked. And, once I know what the worst case could be, I can dream up a solution.

We soon began the discussion and brainstorms of what could possibly be the diagnosis. Cancer? Ectopic pregnancy? Ginormous fibroid? Although, I did let the idea of cancer enter my mind, I wasn’t ready to figure out a solution for that particular case. If it were to be a fibroid, that would be fine. Solution- surgery to remove it…no biggie.

I now believe that the reason I wasn’t ready to brainstorm solutions for a cancer diagnosis was because God only wanted me to see one thing at a time.

Matthew 6:34 (Message Version)

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

Rewind-The Past Year

To say that this journey began on the 23rd of January, would be incorrect. I’ve been on an unknown journey for the past year. Only on the 23rd did I begin to get an idea of what type of journey this was. I’ve been battling something in my body. I had no idea what was going on. I just knew that I didn’t feel right, and that my body was a little “off”. I was experiencing SEVERAL symptoms.

Throughout my entire life I have been an extremely healthy person. Very active and fit. No broken bones. No major surgeries. I’ve only earned a few points from getting my wisdom teeth removed! I’m a vegetarian, so I really don’t eat too much junk. The biggest thing I’ve fought has been something nearly every woman fights… weight. I’m not overweight. I’ve never been obese. But in my mind, there’s always room for improvement. Hence, why I often work out 3-4 times a week. Many people say we’re disciplined because my husband and I wake up at 5:30 in the mornings to get a workout in before the day. Discipline? I call that lack of any other available time in our busy schedule!!

Like I said, my symptoms began about a year ago. It didn’t all just start at once, but was rather a slow progression. I was getting more and more tired. I never felt like I could get enough sleep. But, even if I slept for 10 hours, I would still be fatigued the next day. It truly didn’t matter how many hours I slept, or even if I took naps. Pretty soon, I noticed that no matter how hard I was working out and eating healthy, I could not lose any weight. In fact, I just slowly kept tacking it on. My hair, as you most know, matters a LOT to me, so when I started noticing that it too was changing, I became more and more concerned. I’m a hair stylist, so I am aware that it is completely normal to shed hair. Your hair is always going through growth stages, and one of them is a shedding phase. What’s not normal, is to be losing hair in chunks. For it to be coming out in the shower in handfuls. I’m not over exaggerating. In fact, there were days when I would ask my husband to come in and see the amount that was coming out. He, too, agreed that it didn’t seem normal. I was having weird cramping. For you women, I can describe it as period cramps. I’ve been on the birth control pill for the last 6 years, and only until the last year, did I realize it wasn’t “working”. I switched to 3 different birth controls in the last 12 months. By not “working”, I mean, there was no way to predict when I would start my period. It would start 4 days early, 5 days late; it would last anywhere from 3-7 days. No regularity.

Because I was having all of these symptoms, I needed to figure out what was happening to me. Thus began a separate adventure through numerous doctors. I’ve been to 2 separate family doctors (several times), an Endocrinologist, and Gynecologist. None of which could identify anything suspicious. In fact, I was told by one of them that I just needed to take more vitamin D. Another said that changing my diet would cure all of my symptoms. Are you kidding me?! Needless to say, I left all of those appointments discouraged, concerned, and confused. Appointment after appointment, I began rehearsing what they would tell me… “All of your tests came back completely normal!”…”It’s great news, nothing is wrong!”…”Maybe, if you don’t eat that bagel, you wouldn’t be feeling this way.”…”Perhaps you should do a handstand every morning for 45 minutes. I bet that’ll help!” Well, you get the point.

I was given multiple tests. Urine and blood tests became a routine at every appointment. In fact, there had been many moments where I wanted them to take 100 vials of my blood and pass them out to the best doctors in the area. I was willing to reward whichever doctor could identify something wrong, with our whole life’s savings! At one appointment, I had to practically beg the doctor to allow me to get an ultrasound. Because of all these seemingly “female” problems, I felt that maybe something would show up in an ultrasound. After much prodding, she relented and sent me to an imaging center, where I received an internal and external ultrasound. Want to guess what the results were? Yep, NORMAL! I grew to hate that word. I’ve also had my thyroid checked, my kidneys (because of 3 UTI’s in 3 months), and practically every other organ tested. All of my levels continued to come back normal.

Last month, I ended up in the emergency room. I went to bed one night with minor abdominal pain that worsened overnight. So much that I didn’t sleep more than an hour. Once the alarm clocks went off to alert my husband and I that we needed to go work out, I filled him in on the previous night. It became apparent that I needed to go to the hospital. During my 6 hour stay, I was hooked up to IV’s, and had multiple pain meds to keep the pain at bay. I received another external ultrasound. They examined all of my abdominal organs. Nothing was found, nothing was determined.

Until I discovered my current Gynecologist, I was trying to convince myself that I might just be making my symptoms up. Only problem with that is, I knew something was wrong. Those thoughts of, “am I just having a crisis?” and “are these things really happening?”, soon were shot down with the recurring gut feeling that something wasn’t right. They say to trust your gut. Seriously, do. You know when something is off. You know when something isn’t right.

My advice for the day- TRUST YOUR GUT! Keep hounding the doctors if they don’t know what’s going on with you. If one doctor doesn’t give you an answer, find one that will! My “gut” is the Holy Spirit. I truly believe that God kept the desire and urge inside of me to discover what was ailing me. He kept feeding me strength and hope even when I was weak and hopeless. Had it not been for the following bible verse, I may have lost hope, and who knows where I would be today.

Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV)

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

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