I’m Back From the Hospital Hotel

Hello friends, family, and strangers! I’M BACK! It’s such a blessing to be writing to you all from my blog again. It’s one step closer to full recovery, and it also means I’m feeling better at this moment. As you’ll soon learn, these moments are few and far between lately.

However, God is good. Always. He’s never-failing, never-ceasing, and never-disappointing. As my incredible husband mentioned in his previous posts, surgery went successfully. And while my stay at the “hospital hotel” is now over, I’d love to fill you in on my visit. And oh boy, was it a visit…

I awoke in recovery and was groggier than I have ever been in my life. Thank you Lord, for medicine! Apparently, I was in recovery for a LOT longer than I should have been. Looking back from the other side, it doesn’t matter to me, for I now know the reason. My room took a while to clean. You may be thinking, a hospital room took long to clean? They aren’t even that big. Well, I shall inform you, they can be. Lead in to yet another gift God dropped down for me: one of our closest family friends works for the hospital. He is higher on the food chain, and was able to talk to his people and get me a suite rather than a room. Seriously, wow! Even when I was wheeled in the first time, while high in the clouds on meds, I was still able to tell it was an enormous and very nice hospital room. That, among my family and friends being there, was the greatest addition to my hospital experience. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You know who you are.

For those who have been in a hospital bed for a few days, you will understand when I say my days and times all blurred into one big mess. I couldn’t tell you if it was morning or night. I couldn’t tell you if it was Thursday or Saturday. Thankfully, I could remember my name and birthday, because they asked me that frequently. Not only was I not able to differentiate times, the first couple days I really didn’t feel very lucid at all. I had just received a very invasive surgery, and required extensive doses of Dilaudid to keep me comfortable. The day after my surgery, which I now know to be Thursday, I could barely keep both of my eyes viewing the same thing! I knew I was feeling weird, but I didn’t comprehend how “weird” I was acting until my husband showed me videos of me trying to do simple things, like eat a popsicle, or apply chapstick. No, my husband is not cruel. He just knows me very well. I learn this more and more each day. These “home videos” showed me even more how well he gets what’s going on in my head. Had I been able to step away from my body, I would have recorded myself. I love knowing every step of the process, and I’m very thankful that my husband understands and accepts this. I still enjoy watching those 3 videos that are only a few minutes long of me doing “simple” tasks. Trust me, they are hilarious! And, man, was I in a Dilaudid dream!

My days in the hospital were hard. Let’s be real. You all know by now that I’m authentic. I lay it all out there. Here I go again. My days in the hospital were the hardest and most painful days I’ve had thus far. For you to comprehend my pain level, I’ll need to explain what Dilaudid is. This specific pain management medication can be most easily compared to the well-known drug, Morphine. Morphine is strong, folks… Dilaudid is as well. It’s ranked right up there with the “gold standards” of pain medication. Point is, even the constant flow of Dilaudid through my IV didn’t cut through the pain. It was hard to move. When I say move, I mean, move anything. Turning my head was painful. Readjusting in my bed, which needed to happen frequently, was excruciating. And once I got to the point where I was able to sit up, the pain really kicked in. Like I’ve said before, I’ve never experienced more than the removal of my wisdom teeth, so this was not only new, but on a completely different level for me.

My incision is right above my pubic hairline, which is very low. Once fully healed, I’ll still be able to wear “low-rise” jeans without my scar showing. It is, however, still in my abdominal region. A region we use for everything. Bending over. Twisting. Coughing. Blowing our noses. Walking. Crying. Laughing. Drinking. Eating. Using the bathroom. Getting dressed. Brushing our teeth. And more. I now know exactly why our abdomen is called our “core”. It definitely is the core of all movement in our bodies. And that sucks when it’s been cut open and is vulnerable and sore. It makes everything difficult. There were a couple of mornings when I needed to clear my throat and blow my nose, and those typically simple (and very taken for granted) tasks became hour-long excursions. Whenever I moved, I had to put pressure on the pillow on my belly. This helped- how shall I say it?- things stay in place.

Having friends and family visit was a true gift. Although, for those who visited me the night and day after surgery, it might have been sad and entertaining all at once. You special ones, were able to see me in my Dilaudid dream! I now understand what it takes for people to visit others in the hospital. You’ve got to be able and willing to see it all. You can’t be deeply irritated by sounds of moaning, sights of writhing or silent tears. And you definitely can’t be offended if the patient falls asleep in the middle of a conversation. I was privy to all of the above. And to those who stood by me, prayed for me, brushed my tears away, gave soft hugs, and encouraging words, I will always be grateful for you. Among my visitors, I had some surprises. My Nanny and Papa (maternal grandparents), and my 2 younger brothers all flew in from around the country to be with me. I am very close with my family, so the sights of these 3 had me in tears. What a gift it is to receive time with loved ones we don’t see often enough. In addition, my husband worked it out where I could FaceTime with my dad while in the hospital. For most of us, our parents voices are very comforting, and my dad’s gave me deep comfort during this time. Not only was he able to see me lying motionless in bed, but he was able to view me walking for the first time! Technology is amazing these days. For those who resist the change, rethink your reasoning.

Among my friends and family, I also received visits from my other doctors. Remember my Gynecologist who diagnosed me with cancer? The one I refer to as my personal detective? She stopped by to see how I was doing. I adore seeing her face and hearing her voice. She is the one person God blessed me with to discover my disease. She truly saved my life. I will forever be thankful for her. My Oncologist’s assistant also dropped in, and like Matt stated in previous entries, she brought with her a guardian angel pin for me to wear. These simple acts of kindness mean the world to me. They show me that people really do care. That I’m not just a patient. For those of us affected by disease, who visit doctors and hospitals frequently now, we deeply appreciate when we aren’t just another patient. When we are seen as someone other than a walking hospital gown.

Overall, my stay at the hospital hotel was a rough one filled with blessings. An excruciating one with many smiles. A sad one filled with laughter. A defeating one triumphed by victory. And God continued to be there through it all. Some times people may wonder, where is God? Why is He is making me go through this? Can’t He understand this is hurting me? But the truth is, God is always there with you. He doesn’t make you go through certain trials, He allows you to go through them. He allows us to experience pain, suffering, hurt, loss, and grief in order for us to learn something. After all, what would our lives be if they were easy all the time? Would we learn anything? Would we grow? No. We, as human beings, need to be challenged. And, as for me, I’m thankful for a God who challenges me. Even though the midst of these trials may royally suck, I look forward to the knowledge I will gain because of this. The story I will have.

You know, all of our journeys are unique ones. God gives each of us different stories to tell. Different chapters, different words, different characters, different plots. I believe He does this so we can personally learn and grow, and so that we can share them with others, so that they too, can grow. Be reminded that God also allows us personal victories, good days, and happiness. He is not only the author of the crap, but He also writes our greatest times as well. We gain knowledge through these victories, but as for me, I gain a hellofalot more knowledge through my trials. I am thankful for my journey. Don’t get me wrong, just because I’m thankful, doesn’t mean I always like it. However, my thankfulness is rooted in the fact that God will bless me for being faithful. He will bless me with things I can’t even imagine yet. These trials he puts us through will always result in reward. It’s the truth. God guarantees it.

As I have grown and gone through many trials in my life (this being by far the biggest and most difficult), I choose to view these shitty circumstances not as “Why?” moments, but rather as “What are You teaching me?” adventures. God is working in me. He is teaching me something that will benefit my future. He is honing my character. I look forward to the person I will become due to this diagnosis and the immense blessings He will pour out to me.

1 Peter 5:8-10 (Message Version)

“Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ -eternal and glorious plans they are!- will have you put together and on your feet for good.”

Homecoming: Update #4

I am happy to say that today is the day that Stephanie gets to come home! That means I need to get in what I want to say, because soon, Stephanie will start writing again.

Yesterday was (overall) a good day. Stephanie was up, alert, and active. She was taking a lot of walks through her hallway and she was doing so well, in fact, that they took her off of her IV and pain pump. It was great to see her with nothing attached to her. No tubes going every which way and no more entanglements whenever she wanted to move. Stephanie also was able to change into a custom hospital gown (guardian angel pin included) that was made especially for her. Those who know Stephanie know that she isn’t one to blend in with the crowd. Yesterday was such a turning point, she even asked (actually, told) me to go out and have a guy’s night with her stepdad and grandpa. She said I deserved to go out and have some fun, so I did, and we had a great time, celebrating a successful surgery and the defeat of the cancer (surgically, at least). But what a fantastic, remarkable woman. There she was, laying in a hospital bed, and still thinking of other people. That girl of mine has one huge heart.

Today, I was shocked to wake up and find her walking around by herself. She had a bit of a painful night due to gas buildup in her stomach, but you’d never be able to tell. She brushed her hair and even put on a little bit of makeup. It got to the point where she was tidying up her room. “Everything has its place,” she always says, and she’s right. Needless to say, I now sit in a room that is much cleaner.

Not long after I woke up, we got a visit from Stephanie’s surgeon. She came in and checked up, then the discussion turned to filling scripts and following up with the radiologist and herself in a couple weeks to check on healing and talk about radiation and chemo. Filling scripts and following up? It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the good news: Stephanie was going to be home soon.

Sure enough, as I type this, we are free to go as soon as we get discharge instructions. However, Stephanie wanted a nap beforehand, so once again, I type from her bedside and she is fast asleep, free of cords and tubes and beeping machines. Awesome.

In a nutshell, that is the latest. God is good all the time and He always provides. He is “Jehovah Jireh, my provider,” indeed. He’s seen us through this surgery. Although this operation was the first hurdle, it is a victory. There is victory in Jesus, Stephanie is living proof of that! Thank you everyone for praying, and thank you to those who have visited and have sent cards and flowers. Flowers are in abundance in this room (and needless to say, it smells awesome)!

Thank you everyone for everything.

Matthew 6:31-34 (Message Version)
“What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. ‘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.'”

The Day After: Update #3

Hello everyone,

Today was an eventful day for my lovely lady. Stephanie is on a diet of clear liquids right now, so she has been putting down the water and ice chips like it’s no one’s business. And, although I wouldn’t classify it as any type of “clear liquid” (actually, it’s neither of those), Stephanie has been able to have popsicles. Those, too, have been put down like it’s no one’s business.

Pain-wise, Stephanie is doing pretty good. Standing, of course, hurts like no other. Apparently, she stood up with a nurse early this morning while I was still asleep. Sneaky, sneaky. Stephanie is finding out that being in a hospital (I guess) is one of the best ways to feel itchy like crazy. Her mother and I have been her honorary scratchers.

I suppose the biggest news of the day came when I wasn’t even in the room. Stephanie insisted that I go home, get a shower and clean clothes, and relax. Of course, once home, I found myself getting anxious because I wasn’t with her, so I returned to find out that while I was gone, Stephanie walked. With the help of her mother and a nurse, she got out of her bed, walked to the door of her room, and walked back. Her bed is roughly 15 feet from her door, so this is super impressive. While this event proved to be painful, it was good that she did it.

Also, this afternoon, Stephanie was ecstatic to see her brother and his girlfriend walk into her room. They both attend Oklahoma State (Go Pokes!), so this was a big deal. It means so much to Stephanie to have family around her, and it will just get better when her other brother gets in tomorrow!

Needless to say, all this activity made my gal a bit tired. After her grandparents, brother and his girlfriend left, Stephanie got to FaceTime with her dad (if only for three minutes). The call had to be cut short because she was falling asleep as they talked.

That left Stephanie’s mom, stepdad, and myself in the far side of the room as she slept. As we were eating (and as Stephanie was in her drug-induced la-la-land), we had a visitor. It was the nurse from Stephanie’s oncologist/surgeon’s office. She wanted to check up on her and see how she was doing, but also came with a gift in tow: a guardian angel pin. Stephanie’s surgeon wears a guardian angel pin; she wore one on her jacket during our family consultation just a mere two weeks ago, and she had it on her jacket yesterday when she came out to visit with us following the surgery.

Now, Stephanie sports her own guardian angel pin as a gift from her surgeon. It is pinned to her hospital gown. What a sweet surprise that was! We definitely know that God has sent His angels to watch over and care for my wife, and this was a confirmation of that truth.

Stephanie sleeps now, as she will be needing her strength tomorrow. She is resting comfortably and we continue to praise the Lord for His provision in our lives. Thank you for remembering us in your prayers. Goodnight all.

Psalm 91:11-16 (Message Version)
“He ordered his angels to guard you wherever you go. If you stumble, they’ll catch you; their job is to keep you from falling. You’ll walk unharmed among lions and snakes, and kick young lions and serpents from the path. ‘If you’ll hold on to me for dear life,’ says God, ‘I’ll get you out of any trouble. I’ll give you the best of care if you’ll only get to know and trust me. Call me and I’ll answer, be at your side in bad times; I’ll rescue you, then throw you a party. I’ll give you a long life, give you a long drink of salvation!'”

Surgery Day: Update #2

Blessings abound!

What a whirlwind of a day. About two hours after Stephanie went back, her surgeon (regarded to be one of the best surgeons in the country for these kinds of procedures) came out to meet with us to let us know that surgery was complete. She said Stephanie did VERY well during the operation and that she was able to get a good “margin” around what she needed to get. This means that she was able to safely remove the bad tissue. It’s kind of like removing a bruised part of an apple. No one wants the bruise, but you remove some of the good stuff around the bad stuff so that all that is left is good stuff (if that makes any sense).

That troublesome pest of a lymph node has also been removed, and surrounding areas were taken and will be biopsied to determine if the cancer has spread further. Overall, Stephanie did great and our prayers for a successful surgery were answered. A side note: Stephanie’s surgeon told us that she said a prayer for Stephanie before the operation. How awesome is that?!

Right now, I am blogging from her bedside. I will be with Stephanie every night until we can come home together. The main thing right now is Stephanie’s pain level. Our main prayer request now would be that the pain management would be handled well. We would also appreciate prayers for healthy rest!

My mom always played a Tom Petty song when I was growing up, and it’s called, “The Waiting.” The chorus includes the line, “The waiting is the hardest part.” That’s not a flippin joke. Waiting sucks. While my lovely wife and I were separated, I was anxious. The only thing I wanted to do and the only place I wanted to be was with her. But I took comfort in the knowledge that God was, is, and always will be with her. Like He was with her, He was also with me, and that gave me the peace and endurance to be patient. Like Stephanie said in an earlier post, God is the ultimate physician. For that, we give thanks.

All in all, it was a big day. A turning point in our lives, a turning point in the path God has set for us. What a remarkable story He is crafting! We’re blessed to have our faith tested and to be instruments of His goodness. His love and mercy abound. We have an awesome God.

As always, thank you for your prayers. Update to come tomorrow. Bless you all and keep the faith.

John 16:33 (Message Version)
“I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.”

Surgery Day: Update #1

Hello everyone,

This is Matt, Stephanie’s husband, and as I type this, Stephanie is in the operating room. I must start by saying that we are so encouraged and thankful for the support and prayers that we have received. To know that we have such a strong group of prayer warriors is such a comfort and from the bottom of our hearts, we thank each and every one of you.

Stephanie and I arrived here at the hospital around 10:00 this morning, leading a caravan of her parents and her grandparents. It seemed to take no time at all before they called her back to get her all prepped. Half an hour later, I found myself at her bedside in pre-op, and she was as beautiful as ever, even in her hospital gown. I prayed for her and left to the waiting area to find a group of friends and family gathered together. Space in pre-op was limited, so everyone went back in pairs to see her. I was the first and the last to see her, and although I was anxious, it was the best relief to see her in good spirits, glowing, and full of faith.

Before they kicked me out of the pre-op area, we were joined briefly by Stephanie’s oncologist, who would be performing the operation. It was a comfort to see her too because she displayed great confidence and assured me that she’d “take care of my girl.” She took the time to have her picture taken with Steph beforehand and soon Stephanie was entrusted to the care of the doctors.

After returning to the waiting area, those of us who were staying prayed. A good half hour was taken to lift my wife in prayer. Prayers of thanksgiving, healing, faith, hope and love were abundant and the Spirit of God filled the air. It was powerful.

So now, we wait. We wait for a little white phone to ring. I will post another update once we hear more news. Thank you again for your faith and prayers, it means the world to us.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (Message Version)
“Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.”

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.”

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