The C-word I'm referring to is cancer. It's a small word filled with so much. Uncertainty. Fear. Sickness. Hope. Freedom. This word isn't completely foreign to me. My first encounter with it was in 1987ish when my mom was diagnosed with Melanoma skin cancer. It wasn't until years later that I learned how serious the disease was. Fortunately for her (well, from my kid perspective) it was a short fight that she won. Ten years later she would be diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Once again the fight was short and she was victorious. Cancer 0, Nancy 2. In 2008 my dad was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. His treatment was aggressive and he is now cancer free as well. Cancer 0, Charles 1. Needless to say cancer has touched my life.
In the past week it's impacted my life even more. On Friday, June 4th I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I noticed a large mass in my right breast. Since I'm nursing I figured it had to do with that and most people thought the same. "It's a clogged duct, massage it." "Maybe it's a breast infection." So, I massaged. I applied hot compresses. I even got an antibiotic. There were also moments of tenderness under my arm. After a few months of this and no changes I figured it was time to get it checked out. The NP I saw was immediately concerned. She wanted me to get an ultrasound and see a breast specialist. I went in for the ultrasound on a Friday and I knew. It could have been the response of the ultrasound tech or the news from the radiologist that it could be one of two things: a lactating adenoma or cancer. Apparently they look just alike in an ultrasound, so they would need to do a biopsy to really know. I got this scheduled for the following Wednesday. In those few days Adam and I talked a lot about the possibilities. I asked some friends to pray for the appointment. I was feeling okay going into the biopsy, but during the procedure I was totally struck by the scariness of it. I was having a breast biopsy. I felt small and scared. I told God the Friday before as I waited for the ultrasound that I trusted Him. And I do. He has a tight grip on us and is carrying us through this trial. Right away Isaiah 43 came to mind:
But now, this is what the Lord says--he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."
I have clung to these words since that day and I have felt His presence in each moment. I'm okay with the trials (the flood, rivers, or fire), they exist because we live in a fallen world. What comforts me is that He promises (promises) to be with me in and through them. Oh, I love that.
Okay, so I would say I did have a "gut feeling" that this was cancer, but I wasn't going to worry. We had to wait 2 days for the results. Holy Moly. The first day was okay, but the second, Friday was torture. I felt nervous and anxious. I just wanted to know. At 3pm I talked to nurse Ruth who told me that it was indeed cancer and all they knew was that it was the invasive type. Next step: see a surgeon. Fortunately, I already had this appointment b/c the NP referred me to see him (the breast specialist) 2 weeks prior. More waiting. I would say for the most part, the weekend was good. I got my nails done in RED, my new favorite thing. We went to church, and although it was scary and overwhelming, it was good to be there for sure. And the song we sang when we got there...Isaiah 43. Seriously. Once Tuesday got here I was feeling more nervous. This was the day we'd learn more about my cancer. Our meeting with the surgeon/breast specialist was great. I'm not sure if it's because we were both semi-expecting to hear bad news or what. But the Lord lifted our spirits and allowed for some humor in the midst of the meeting. My sister came with us to take notes and help translate. But he was great. Very thorough. So, I did learn that the biopsy of the lymph nodes came back inconclusive. Good news except by exam and ultrasound they are still enlarged so he wants to do another biopsy. My tumor is pretty significant, around 10-12 cm. He says I'll need all chemo, radiation, and surgery; starting with chemo first. (I am a little excited about losing my hair. weird, I know.) We'll talk more with the oncologist about chemo. His hope with chemo is to a) kill the cancer and b) shrink the tumor. But, we won't know how my body responds to it until we do it. He wants me to get genetic testing to see if I have the breast cancer gene (BRCA 1 or 2) b/c this will most likely determine some of the treatment (there is a 50% chance of recurrence in the other breast if I am positive for the gene, then there are implications for ovarian cancer...he started talking about freezing eggs. but that was too much for me). The really great thing is that we left with a plan:
1) Have MRI and Mammogram
2) meet with Oncologist
3) Genetic testing
4) Follow up with him to discuss results of #1 and do another biopsy on lymph nodes
As an administrator, I like lists. So, I like to see that I have a list of things "to do." I mean, there is still waiting that has to be done and more tests. But right now it doesn't feel so scary. I am just so thankful they can treat this. I have been gathering an army for the past few days. I do feel like I'm going into battle. Not only am I vulnerable physically, I'm vulnerable spiritually. I could not and cannot do this without the Lord. He sustains me. He surrounds me with His people who are lifting up my name to Him daily. He gives me peace and comforts me. He is with us in this. I am so thankful.
Ways to pray for us:
- pray for Adam and I to make time for each other that isn't all about me having cancer. pray he would have outlets like I do
- pray for me as I have to wean and I'm so sad about that. I'm sad this could possibly be the last time I ever nurse.
- pray for peace in the waiting. i'm not the most patient of people.
- pray that we would graciously receive from others; whether it's food, babysitting, resources, or whatever. that we would not be too proud
- pray for wisdom as we nail down treatments. for the doctors.
- pray for the tests happening this week that the results won't show anything new (ie more cancer)
- praise God for already preparing the way...I was about to go part-time with YL and lose my benefits. this all literally happened days before and I am able to keep my benefits. pray that God will provide the money to help YL sustain me through this.
- and of course, pray for healing.
Thank you for walking in and through this with us. We are humbled that God wants to use us to bring Him glory. I'd be lying if I didn't wish it was another way. But, this is the way for now and my hope is that He will strength our marriage, our relationships with him, our family, and our community. And now, "fight like a girl" with me!