Posts Tagged ‘scan results’

Alive and Pinching Myself


I still wake up pinching myself. I cannot believe that I am done with treatment yet again. I have four major fights against cancer under my belt now, and I feel like a champion. I cannot begin to express how marvelous it feels to not dread each coming week. I’m alive and I feel like it. There are many times during the course of chemotherapy that I didn’t even feel like I was existing. I knew my blood was pulsing through my veins and that my organs were functioning. I knew that my lungs were breathing in air, and that my mind was cognitive. I knew that I was alive, but it was hard to feel life with poison enveloping every cell of my being.

I’ve made it. I have survived once more. And I’m alive. It’s always incredible to me how quickly my body recognizes the absence of chemotherapy. Though my muscles have atrophied significantly over these last six months of treatment, my insides are rejoicing. My mind is coming out of the dark haze and seeing with clarity. Because chemo is a depressant, choosing joy is a purposeful decision to be made, and now that the toxins are no longer attacking my psyche, I am overflowing with happiness. I’m alive and pinching myself.

As if surviving another season of treatment isn’t enough, the results from my PET/CT scan this week are the proverbial cherry on top. On Monday, rather than going to the hospital for chemo cocktails, I made the trek in order to receive my follow up scan. Though much easier physically, these scans are tremendously more harsh on my mental state. I’ve spoken about scanxiety several times before, and the pressure that it entails is incomparable. My whole body winces at the unavoidable anxiety that follows a scan. The waiting period is always the worst. I am vulnerable and out of control. There is nothing I can do but hope and pray… and practice patience, which God knows I need. My faith is put to the test.

With every scan that comes, God whispers into my spirit, “Do you trust me?” And, as strange as it sounds, I trust Him regardless of the results. I allow myself to play the what-if game for a moment. If results show that the cancer is nowhere to be seen in my body, I trust Him. And even if cancer peeks it’s ugly head out once more, I still trust Jesus. He is faithful, and has proven Himself ten times over in these last three years of my life. I owe it to Him to trust His intentions, for He is always good.

I’ve shared about the process of a scan before. If you follow me on Instagram, this week you got a sneak peek at what it looks like. I shared, “Today I’ll receive another PET/CT scan to confirm that chemo did its job and that my body is free from cancer cells. This is my current view and will be for the next forty-five minutes. I’ve checked in and filled out the same paperwork I have hundreds of times before. My name has been called and I have been escorted into a private waiting room — one all too familiar. My blood has been drawn and I have been injected with radioactive contrast. I’ve ingested the same ‘vanilla’ flavored barium as usual and have chased it down with water. I wait as ‘I’m The Only One’ by Melissa Etheridge is quietly playing over the speakers. I wait for forty-five minutes as the contrast courses through me. And soon I’ll be laying completely still for another twenty minutes as the scanning machine captures vivid pictures of my entire internal body. Later this week I’ll receive a call from my doctor’s office…”

That call came less than twenty hours later. It was Tuesday morning, the day after my PET/CT, and Matt and I were just barely waking up. For some odd reason my phone was turned to vibrate, so I didn’t hear the incoming call. When I looked at my phone, the first thing I saw was the missed call and a voicemail from my doctor. Though I didn’t think it possible, my heart both dropped to the bottom of my stomach in fear and leapt out of my chest in excited anticipation. This voicemail turned out to be one of the very best I have ever heard. As I quietly listened, I began to hear the voices of my doctor and head nurse. Soon I was smiling from ear to ear, and put my phone on speaker so that I could wake Matt up with the great news.

My doctor and nurse were rejoicing over the phone as they shared that my scan was negative and that there were no signs of disease anywhere in my body! I am officially cancer free, and something about this time feels different. I still don’t know God’s plan, and won’t even begin to presume or guess. But my faith is mighty, and I know that He is able to do anything. In fact, my faith and perspective have been strengthened recently as I have come to really understand how infinite His power really is. Our God who can move mountains, part the ocean, and make blind men see also heals the sick. I am declaring that He has healed me. And I am expecting more than I can even fathom for the future.

Psalm 28:7 (MSG)

“Blessed be God— he heard me praying. He proved he’s on my side; I’ve thrown my lot in with him. Now I’m jumping for joy, and shouting and singing my thanks to him.”

Comfort in Unfamiliarity

(Guest post by Matt)

I write this blog post at Stephanie’s request while sitting in a vast expanse of a waiting room. This is not the usual waiting room I write from on surgery days. In fact, this isn’t even the usual hospital that I write from. Today’s surgery is taking place at a different location than the others, because today’s surgery is in a different part of Stephanie’s body.

To catch up those who may not know, Stephanie’s most recent CT scan revealed something on or near her left adrenal gland. This comes after months of thinking we were out of the woods with surgeries. After getting the results, Stephanie and I consulted a friend from our church who is a pediatric urologist. This led us to a referral to another doctor, who is regarded as the top adrenal surgeon in the state of Colorado. After meeting with him, the decision was made to get into the operating room soon to remove whatever this mass is. As I write, Stephanie’s patient number is still green on the board in the waiting room, which means that she is currently in the operating room having it removed.

Another surgery is not what we wanted. It’s not what we expected. Nerves get heightened with each surgery that happens. We are both over it, and we never want to have to step foot in a hospital again. But at the same time, we know that God is still good. We are still believing in miracles. We’re believing that whatever this thing is that is on or around her adrenal is benign. As scary as it is, we still have faith.

One of our friends from church told us something a couple weeks ago that still resonates with me. She said that God has provided a stage through Stephanie’s story and, because of that, people are watching. It’s one thing for the miraculous to happen when no one is paying attention, but it’s quite another for God to show off when people are paying attention. That’s what we are believing. We believe that no matter what happens, God will show up and show off to proclaim His name to people who may not know who He is.

Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement. Keep them coming, because there is power in prayer. We’re believing.

Mark 5:36 (ESV)

“Do not fear, only believe.”

Being Still Amidst Scanxiety

Yesterday I made the familiar walk into my second home. The hospital. I hadn’t been through those doors in over three months, and the typically all familiar halls were strangely foreign this time. For nearly two years, the hospital environment had been a weekly sight, yet since my latest cancer-free results, I haven’t needed to visit until my most recent follow-up CT scan. I strolled confidently to the floor of high-tech machines and qualified nurses and technicians, checked in, and began the wait with my most favorite oral iodinated “tropical fruit” flavored beverage in hand… Side note: Whoever markets these oral contrast drinks lies. Perhaps they have lost their taste buds due to the amount of taste tests they’ve had to endure. Perhaps they’ve never experienced the true flavor of fresh tropical fruits. Or, perhaps they slap that description on the bottle in hopes that patients will believe them, knowing full well we won’t. Have you smelled antifreeze? Have you smelled something and immediately been able to imagine it’s taste? “Tropical fruit” flavored oral iodinated contrast tastes like what antifreeze smells like. Now imagine drinking 16 ounces of that. Makes your mouth water similar to the way it does right before you vomit, right? I digress…

Scanxiety will forever exist in my life. No matter how far I get away from treatment and the closer I get to remission, scanxiety, to some degree, will persist. It’s the anxiety experienced before an impending scan. The feeling encountered when the “what if’s” begin. When the unknown has the potential to excite, relieve, and overwhelm, as much as it has the potential to disappoint, stress, and underwhelm. In the beginning of my battle against this beast called cancer (I don’t capitalize it for a reason), scanxiety was at an utmost high. The unknown was so unchartered that my weak physical and mental body could barely defend itself against the “what if” bandits. As I have grown and gathered more armor for this battle, I have been better able to fight off these fearful thoughts. Yet, no matter how strong and confident I am in my Healer, the bandits lurk in the shadows, continuously peeking around corners to make sure I know they have not left. The degree of persistence is varied, and as I get closer to fully annihilating this disease, the scanxiety wanes.

Yesterday, I couldn’t identify what I was feeling. The “what if” bandits were as quiet as a whisper, yet I didn’t feel entirely confident. To clarify, I was neither diffident nor afraid. But there was such an internal battle waging inside my spirit that I couldn’t focus on my feelings. Was I fearful that the monster had taken residency in my body again? No. Was I sure that the results would show no evidence of disease? No. My senses were clouded, as I could not differentiate if I was feeling good or bad about the possible results. Yet, no matter how thick the fog on my prediction was, my spirit was focused on the One bigger than any result.

There are many in-between moments in life. Times when we must wait between our dreams and fruition. I’ve spoken about the gap before. In these moments, our patience is tested. Our faith is tested. During the in-betweens, our character is revealed. Do we make the choice to be impatient and allow the floodgates of worry to envelop us? Or, do we stand firmly, confident that He who has been beside us through it all, will be faithful to carry us to victory? Being still isn’t easy. Being still doesn’t mean not moving. Being still means allowing yourself to fall into the arms of the One who saves. For in His arms, we cannot be influenced. We are safe, un-touched, and protected.

Between the scan and the results, I have choices. I can allow the “what if” bandits to turn up their volume and spread fear, doubt, and worry. I can turn off the volume of negativity, and replace it with a confidence in my ability to beat cancer; confident, sure, and self-reliant that did it. Or, I can turn off all of the noise around me and be still, awaiting His voice, for my God, my Sovereign Healer, already knows the results. These three choices all have differing outcomes. If I choose to listen to the lurking fear and doubt, I will be catapulted into a pit of despair and worry, completely losing sight on He who holds me in His hands. If I choose to quiet the fear, and inflate my own abilities, I will become self-reliant, independently destructive, and will see no need for God. If I choose to be still, press into Him, and allow Jesus to comfort me in the waiting period, I will find peace, assurance, and rest.

Sometimes these three choices are difficult to decide upon, for we don’t see the outcomes of each. But if we are aware of the outcome, the choice should be simple. Peace, assurance, and rest are what I seek, so I must quiet the noise around me and focus on Him, and Him alone. The “what if” bandits and self-reliance will soon become muddled. Resting in God’s hands blocks all noise.

And so I wait. Being still. Patient. Until I receive the news, I will focus my eyes on He who is greater than any scan result.

Psalm 91:1 (ESV)

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”

CT Scan (September 2013)

CT Scan (September 2013)