Lasts and Firsts

I am done with cancer treatments!! I officially finished my last chemotherapy session about eight days ago, and I can’t begin to express my thankfulness that it’s finally over. As I was sitting in the recliner receiving chemo for the very last time, I realized it was six months (to the day) since my hysterectomy. Six months typically doesn’t seem like that much time, but I can tell you, these past six months have been the longest in my life. It’s amazing what a journey this truly has been and will continue to be. I can now proudly say that I went through a total of 26 chemotherapy treatments, 24 radiation procedures, and 1 radical hysterectomy. All that in half a year. Yes, I’m a badass.

I have found myself with such a variety of emotions since treatment has ended. Of course, the biggest being happiness and gratitude that treatment is complete. However, there are several other feelings that I wasn’t ready to experience. I guess I just wasn’t sure what to expect from myself. Although I was extremely excited to be done having poison invade my body, the fear of not having poison in my body plagued me, and still sometimes does. Truth is, in the midst of chemotherapy and radiation, I settled in the fact that doctors had prescribed me one of the most aggressive treatment regimens out there. In fact, chemotherapy has been constantly coursing through my body since March. And for about six weeks, laser beams were shattering my insides, as well. Oh, and not to mention, most of my internal lady parts were removed. I’ve been able to trust that even if there were microscopic cancer cells anywhere inside of me, that all of the hours of treatment I’ve received have most likely decimated them. Cancer hasn’t had a chance. My body has been undergoing a physical war for a long time, and for a while it’s job was to just make it through. Now that it has, my body’s only requirement is to recover. And, oddly enough, recovery is turning out to be a bigger battle than treatment. It’s now more of a mental game. I can allow my body to rest, but it’s increasingly difficult to turn my mind off.

People often ask, how do you do it? Besides the obvious answer being, I don’t have a choice, the prevailing response is, my faith. My faith in doctors can only go so far, and when it ends, my faith in God takes over. Yet, in some moments, my faith is small and my fear and doubts are big. Sometimes I find myself worrying about my future scans. If I have an unusual pain somewhere, I fear that the cancer has spread. What if it comes back? What if chemotherapy and radiation didn’t take care of it? What if August 8th wasn’t my very last day of treatment? These are common questions inhabiting a portion of my brain. These are thoughts that the devil is trying to convince me of. Now that I’ve battled this disease, I have to battle these thoughts. And, wow… it’s hard. I constantly remind myself of how strong I have become and that I have a shield of armor protecting me. His name is Jesus. I did my part, and He has promised to do His. He tells me to have faith, even as small as a mustard seed, and nothing will be impossible for me. Truthfully, some days all I have is the size of a mustard seed. And do you really know how small that is? A mustard seed is only one to two millimeters in diameter. That’s tiny! Yet, when that’s all I have, it’s enough.

Faith doesn’t just exist. Faith is a verb. Faith is an action. Faith is a choice. Faith is a requirement to stand up and believe in something that seems impossible. I believe that God has healed me. I have faith that He will not let cancer invade my body any longer. But, my story isn’t over. This adventure isn’t complete. Although I can rejoice that I no longer have to endure cancer treatment, I still have a battle every day.

My body hasn’t recovered as quickly as it has before. This last cycle of chemo was, by far, the hardest. My skin hurts to touch and my body aches from the inside out. I’m extremely weak, and most of my musculature has atrophied. I constantly feel dehydrated, but my stomach is always bloated. I have an ongoing dull headache. On Tuesday, I went in for a followup blood draw. Remember how my red blood cell count was extremely low last time? It’s even lower now. Although I stealthily avoided a blood transfusion these past few weeks, my body just can’t function at this point without one. So, tomorrow morning I will head to the hospital to receive the gift of someone else’s red blood cells. I feel a lot more confident about receiving a transfusion now because my doctor answered many of my questions, yet I am still nervous. Firsts are always nerve-wracking right? I will be receiving two units of red blood cells and the transfusion should take from four to six hours. Most patients who receive blood notice an immediate change and feel much better; I’m hoping for the same. Today I went in for a “type and screen” blood draw. This will ensure that the blood I receive will be compatible to my own. Please pray that I receive perfect blood tomorrow and that it will allow and promote my body to begin producing more of its own red cells. I am more than ready to start feeling better.

Many of you have asked what my life will look like from here on out. After this transfusion is out of the way, next Monday I will get my blood drawn again to check that my levels have gone up. After that, I will see my Oncologist for a physical exam every three months. In addition, I will get my blood drawn every six to eight weeks to make sure my levels are in healthy range. The nurses will also use that time to flush my port. My doctor has told me that I can have my port removed whenever I’d like, but for personal reasons, I have chosen to keep it in for at least the next six months. For the next couple years, I will receive a PET scan every three to six months. And once I reach two years free of cancer, I will then go to having a scan every six months. When I reach five years cancer-free, my doctors will then declare me in remission. Because the type of cancer that invaded my body was so aggressive and rare, my doctors say that if I can make it to two years without any recurrences, it most likely will not ever come back. As we all know, there are no guarantees in life, but oh man, I can’t wait for 2014!

Don’t fret, I will continue to write and update my blog. Hopefully, you’ll start seeing cancer fade and my life start spicing up again! Thank you all for your continued prayers and support. Like Coach George Karl says, “It takes a team!”

Matthew 17:20 (ESV)

“…For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

7 Comments on Lasts and Firsts

  1. SherryJ
    August 16, 2012 at 5:39 PM (12 years ago)

    So happy that you are done with THIS part of the fight, and are on to the battle to FULL RECOVERY, Steph!

    All Murrow’s are covering you, especially for “perfect blood” in the morning!



  2. Stephanie
    August 16, 2012 at 5:55 PM (12 years ago)

    My heart just simply overflows with admiration and respect and love for you and for your absolute trust and dependence upon God through it all! Psalm 77:14 states “You are the God who performs miracles; You display Your power among the peoles.” He has done so marvelously through YOU dear Stephanie!
    For those of us who have prayed for you during this grueling journey – it’s reminded us all of our own frailty, of our absolute need for the Lord and for God’s faithfulness. I know I am not alone in standing with you in continued prayer as you begin the recuperation phase and this “healing up from it all” time…Don’t listen to the lies of the devil (I know you won’t!)
    because he’s lost ALL the battles and YOU are filled with the Living Word and with the Truth! Thank you for your honesty – it allows us to pray (as your Mom always used to say to me) ‘Specifically”!!!
    God Bless you sweetheart!
    Stephanie Oleson.

  3. Faith Prest
    August 16, 2012 at 9:11 PM (12 years ago)

    Amazing!! You seriously inspire my heart not only in reading your blogs,but overtime I think of you:) I’m praying from NY and excited for the years to come for you. “He who started,will be faithful to complete it”…keeps coming to mind. The doctors may have completed their treatment,but God will e faithful to complete His healing touch.Love you so much!!!:)

  4. His Handmaiden
    August 16, 2012 at 11:07 PM (12 years ago)

    WOW!!! Amazing journey… YOU GO GIRL!!! May you continue strong in your journey with Jesus, what an inspiration you are to many. Will continue to think of you and check in to see what you are up to next! Keep glorifing our mighty God in all you do. Blessings to you. Love & Smiles from Thousand Palms, CA

  5. Grandpa Shaw
    August 17, 2012 at 12:13 AM (12 years ago)

    Well, Steph, it seems you really have derailed the cancer with your strong will and some help from God

  6. NotDownOrOut
    August 18, 2012 at 8:44 AM (12 years ago)

    I am praying today that the transfusion will mean physical strength for you to match the spiritual and mental strength you obviously have in good measure!

  7. Ryan Lloyd Sorrells
    August 18, 2012 at 5:48 PM (12 years ago)

    I’m very happy for you Stephanie…hang in there and know that we are all praying for you


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