Thursday, January 28, 2010


So far, I think I have held up pretty well during the month and 1/2 since my diagnosis. It is hard for me to even contemplate how a whole life can change in just that short amount of time. In one instance, nothing has changed. I am still me, same kids, same house, same job, same duties to do. On the other hand, so much has changed for me.

I have not allowed myself to really read the materials I was given, or research breast cancer in general. I have enjoyed just living in the moment, with just the basic facts necessary to make some decisions. However, last night I did finally pull out some materials and read them. I wanted to be as informed as possible heading into my visit with my oncologist on Tuesday. To put it simply, it was a little scary. I suddenly got the feeling of how easy it would be to become overwhelmed with the information, the emotions, and the unanswered questions. I felt like it would not take much and if I gave in just a little bit to those feelings, I would quickly be drowning in sorrow and the loss of security that I am starting to sense. Suddenly every pain, or ache, or feeling becomes a question. Is there more cancer somewhere else? Is it inside me growing and how long will it take me to find it? I thought of 3 women, my age, with young children, who died last year from cancer here in my community. I started to cry, quickly called a friend, and we talked it through. I was able to calm down and fall asleep.

I will mourn and grieve my loss so that I don't carry around all the negative inside. However, I have so, so much to be thankful for and have been blessed so much. Those things are my lifesavers and what I choose to cherish each day. I plan to take each day as it comes and not worry about the tomorrows. I think of the words to the Kutless song, "I'm Still Yours," another new favorite song sent to me by a friend...and I am choosing for "my hands to stay lifted" in praise to my Heavenly Father whom I know loves me with an "everlasting love!" Jeremiah 31:3

If You washed away my vanity
If You took away my words
If all my world was swept away
Would You be enough for me?
Would my beating heart still sing?

If I lost it all
Would my hands stay lifted
To the God who gives and takes away

If You take it all
This life You've given
Still my heart will sing to You

When my life is not what I expected
The plans I made have failed
When there's nothing left to steal me away
Will You be enough for me?
Will my broken heart still sing?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Laughter is the best medicine!

One of the cancer books I just read, talked about laughter being great medicine for the body. Those who know me, know that I am more melancholy in personality, so I don't get "tickled" as easily as some people, like, say, my husband who is very sanguine. The author of the book suggested several movies that she would watch over and over again, laughing till she cried. My mom looked up the movies online to see if we could order them and she was appalled at the choices. They were nothing that I would watch or even think was funny. So, I will put the question out there. Do any of you have a favorite movie (one that does not contain questionable content or language) that makes you laugh silly? I would love to hear your suggestions.

On a side note, there are a few little things that have happened that might not be funny to anyone else, but since my diagnosis they have made me smile inside or even laugh out loud!
  • A card from Steven, one of my husband's high school students. Steven said something sweet on one side, then on the other side put, "This was going to be my witty/funny page, but I don't do well under pressure. Here's a muffin!" Underneath he drew a muffin. The he put, "P.S. Muffins are ugly cupcakes. So that's really a cupcake."
  • Having a friend, Jenny, who went through this before me, that I can call at anytime and ask her personal questions about her reconstruction and implants!
  • Trying to work with my friend, Angela, whose New Balance business works closely with the Susan G. Komen Foundation to order me a sports bra with a zipper in the front that fits. I don't think the sizing works exactly right when you only have a breast on 1 side. :) It was hilarious to me trying to explain to her the struggle my mom and I had trying to get one to fit.
  • Shopping with my husband for a recliner to sleep in during the reconstruction phase. Do we buy leather because it's on sale and will stay stylish and last longer or go granny fabric with lots of poofs because it's comfy cozy?
Funny the things that make you smile when you are looking at things with new eyes!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Things Known and Unknown

Each day I am getting a little stronger. I'm off the pain meds and just using tylonal p.m. It's still a little swollen and painful where they took the lymph nodes, but hopefully that will get better soon. I still get a little tired, but am finding it hard to try to pamper myself. I feel like I should be getting back to business as usual. :) David says I have been acting like I just had a tooth pulled. It will be nice to go out Monday, even if it is just to have the stitches removed!

We know a lot more now that the surgery is over and the pathology report is back. There are, however, still a few unknowns for us.

1. The genetic testing - The surgeon is pretty sure that she is going to have me do the test to see if I am a carrier of the genetically mutated cancer gene. There is only a 7% likelyhood that I would be positive, but if so, that would change a lot of things. If positive, I would have an 85% chance of having cancer again, and my kids would have a 50% chance of being carriers as well. This would also mean more preventive type surgeries for me. So, our prayer is that my test will be negative!

2. Treatment - I visit with my oncologist for the first time on February 2nd. That meeting should determine exactly which medications I will be taking and for how long. I do know that I will have to take Herceptin which will be an infusion every 3 weeks for 1 year. Since my veins would not hold up to an I.V. every 3 weeks, I will have to have another day surgery when my treatments begin. This will allow them to insert a porta cath into my chest and all the infusions will be done that way. Although it means another surgery, my friend who has gone through breast cancer before me says that treatment is much less painful when done that way! I am all for whatever is less painful! Our prayer here is that I don't get sick on the chemo. The doc says it could go either way. :)

3. Reconstructive surgery - People keep asking me about the reconstructive surgery part. That will all come later and I guess will be totally up to me. I'm sure I will have it done, but will have to decide if I will have the other side removed and do reconstruction there at the same time. My initial thinking is "yes." I think it would be better to just not have to worry about the cancer ever coming back. I may change my mind, we'll see. I won't have to make that decision till my chemo is over and right now I don't know when that will be. The positive is that the reconstruction is an option!

So, we wait till the unknowns are revealed, one day at a time!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What Cancer Cannot Do

It seems like each day I am getting a little stronger. Although very, very sore, I am not taking as many pain meds and I am moving my arm more. I am still not supposed to really lift till the stitches come out on Monday. This has been made easier with my husband and mother at home with me, but it's been a little confusing for Micah. I don't think he understands why I can't pick him up like I did just a week ago, or why I flinch when he comes running toward me. :) I'm trying to love on him all I can while he sits next to me on someone else's lap.

Now is a short waiting game while I heal and before treatment begins. My appointment with an oncologist has been made for the first week of February, so I have a brief respite before beginning my chemo and other drugs. My husband gave me a small book in my stocking at Christmas that is called "What Cancer Cannot Do," by Phyllis Ten Elshof. I guess this is a great time for me to meditate on the scriptures, quotes, and encouraging stories of survivors that are found in this book.

Cancer is so limited...
  • It cannot cripple God's love
  • It cannot shatter hope
  • It cannot corrode faith
  • It cannot destroy peace
  • It cannot kill friendship
  • It cannot shut out memories
  • It cannot silence courage
  • It cannot invade the soul
  • It cannot steal eternal life
  • It cannot conquer the spirit

Monday, January 18, 2010

Pathology Report

Today I got my pathology report back. As my surgeon said, "No breast cancer is good, but my results have a positive outlook." My report shows NO cancer spreading in the lymph glands, lungs, or blood vessels! Praise be to God! They have labeled it a Stage 1. There was cancer in the ducts, but only 1 area of invasive cancer and it was about 1 1/2 cm in size. The mixed news was bad in that it was a particularly aggressive kind with more potential to spread or grow elsewhere, but the good news was that there is a highly effective drug that can be given in combination with chemo to fight it. I will be meeting with an oncologist hopefully sometime this week to find out all the particulars as to what drugs I will be taking, when, how much, for how long, etc. Also on a positive note, my drains came out today! I can sleep tonight without worrying about the drains which has been the most painful part of this process so far.

I have been overwhelmed with peoples responses and how many people have said they are praying for me. How humbling to know that my name is being lifted daily before the throne of God. My mom said the Lord gave her a passage that she has claimed since the day she found out that I had cancer. The verses she has been praying for me are Psalms 41:1-3.

Blessed is the one (me) who considers the poor (Micah)!
In the day of trouble the Lord delivers her;
The Lord protects her and keeps her alive;
She is called blessed in the land;
You do not give her up to the will of her enemies.
The Lord sustains her on her sickbed;
In her illness You restore her to full health.

How awesome to know that this is the prayer my mother is praying for me! Today I am thankful for answered prayers!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Fear vs. Love

For years I have struggled with being fearful of God. Not so much afraid of Him, but fearful that He might not answer in my hour of need. I have struggled with why He is there to answer some prayers when people are in trouble, and why He does not seem to answer the prayers of others. Of course that led me to be a little fearful in my heart...would He answer when I needed Him?

About 1 month before my cancer diagnosis the Lord seemed to be speaking to my heart about trusting him. I was reading a book called, "There's Gotta Be More," by Donna Gaines and I read that you cannot fear God and be in love with Him at the same time. I John 4:18, "There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear." Once we realize that God's love toward us is "furious and perfect," we can entrust ourselves totally and completely to Him. We can offer our lives to God as a living sacrifice, which is a spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1) I confessed my fragile faith and tearfully whispered to my heavenly Father that I did not want to live in fear of Him, but instead wanted to live my life trusting Him and falling more in love with Him.

I know now that God was preparing my heart for the cancer news that was to come 2 weeks later. It's hard to explain, but even while I feel I am falling, I have a peace that I am actually resting safely in the palms of His hands. I have been receiving songs from friends that have touched me in different ways. It's funny how you can hear a song a million times and it doesn't speak to you, and then something happens and it's like you are hearing something you've never heard before. This song, "Bring The Rain," by Mercy Me said perfectly how I was feeling that first week we got the news.

I can count a million times
People asking me how I
Can praise You with all that
I've gone through
The question just amazes me
Can circumstances possibly
Change who I forever am in You

Maybe since my life was changed
Long before these rainy days
It's never really ever crossed my mind
To turn my back on you, oh Lord
My only shelter from the storm
But instead I draw closer through these times
So I pray

Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings
You glory And I know there'll
be days When this life brings me pain
But if that's what it takes to
praise You Jesus, bring the rain

I am yours regardless of the clouds that may
loom above because you are much greater than
my pain you who made a way for me suffering
your destiny so tell me whats a little rain

Friday, January 15, 2010

That Dreaded Word...CANCER.

When I started this blog, I did not know that my first topic was going to be about my own breast cancer experience. Although I strongly admire the courageous women who are "survivors" and "fighters," breast cancer awareness was not one of my "passions." It's funny what a difference 1 month can make in your life. Now I am seeing the little pink ribbon everywhere I go and I'm wanting to buy pink everything. :)

What an overwhelming turn our lives have taken in just a few short weeks. Here is a brief timeline of my cancer story to date...

  • 1 year ago I found a lump during a self exam. My doctor sent me to an imaging place for a mammogram and ultrasound. They told me that it was nothing. I was just getting older and my tissue was getting harder.
  • 1 year later (November 09) I go in for my yearly and tell my doctor that the lump is still there, feels like it has changed a bit and has started bleeding a little bit. She sends me back to the same imaging place for another mammogram and they do 2 ultrasounds this time. Still, they tell me it is "nothing but a cyst." They say not to worry about it and to come back in 6 months to see if it has grown. My doctor says that is ridiculous and sets me an appointment with a surgical breast specialist.
  • December 10, 3 days after turning 38, I see the breast specialist. She does her own ultrasound and is immediately concerned. She does a biopsy on the spot that day.
  • December 14, I get a call that my biopsy is positive for cancer and I need an MRI to determine more clearly.
  • December 15, my husband and I meet with the surgeon to go over my options and have any questions answered.
  • December 17, I have an MRI which shows that I have invasive breast cancer.
  • We decide to wait till after the Christmas holidays to have my surgery for the sake of the kids and our family.
  • January 11, I have a pre-op x-ray and blood work.
  • January 13, I have a single mastectomy.

In one month, I have gone through a whirlwind of emotion. Although I have chosen to ignore my cancer till the end of the holidays, I am now going to try to write about my experience for my own therapy, so here we go.