I’ve had quite a week this past week and my life is literally hanging in the balance, yet I am feeling peace and a renewed hope.
Let me back up a minute and give you an update.
I had previously talked about the expectation of feeling like I was at the top of the roller coaster ride as I was headed to surgery for a double mastectomy and I felt positive and optimistic. Surgery went great and I was recovering nicely.
A few days later I got a phone call that did not hold good news. I had just started my roller coaster ride, and suddenly I plummeted in a helpless free fall to where my life felt completely out of balance and I could not find my footing.
During surgery they removed 21 lymph nodes only to discover every single one of them was cancerous. In addition to that, my large breast tumor was even larger and measured at 12 cm., and I also learned that my other breast had 5 small cancerous tumors.
We’re talking a cancer diagnosis of Stage 3C – just one little sneaky cell away from a Stage 4 diagnosis. What the heck??? I was scared and so was my entire family.
The tricky part about lobular cancer is that it doesn’t tend to respond to chemotherapy, yet once cancer hits Stage 3 the doctors tend to throw chemo at it along with everything but the kitchen sink – just in case. I was not wild about torturing myself with chemo and having a less than 1 out of 5 chance it would do one little bit of good.
But then what? Was there a plan B? I couldn’t make sense of this whole mess and I could not find my equilibrium.
My daughter, Tay, reminded me of a Bible verse I have read at least 1,000 times and brought up something I had not quite keyed on before.
”Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-7
Tay keyed in on the fact that we will never understand cancer and we should not try to understand it. We don’t know what causes it and there are no simple cures.
We are not meant to understand everything, we are simply meant to let God be God.
But you see, I like difficult things to have happy endings where things can get fixed and all tied up in a nice neat little bow. It’s simply not going to be nice or neat or tied up. The hard truth is that with Stage 3C cancer – even if you beat it, there is a strong recurrence rate.
…But the Lord whispers to me, “Lean NOT on your own understanding.”
My only hope is to lean on the Lord.
While Tay and I were talking, something else occurred to me. The verse also says that if I trust Him, He will direct my path. And it dawned on me that God had already done that for me on the first leg of this journey.
God led us to the right treatment plan for my first step of treatment. Two of the three oncologists had suggested chemo first. It makes me sick to think I could have been walking around for 6 more months with all of that cancer inside of me giving it more time to grow and spread.
On a brighter note – the margins were clear (no cancer around the areas where surgery was done) and not one cancer cell had escaped the nodes. As my oncologist said, “Your nodes did their job.”
It also occurred to us that had we liked “Monica Lewinsky”, we very well might have followed her treatment plan. But since we didn’t have a good experience with her it led us to the right doctor and the right plan. So, for that – thank you Monica Lewinsky! (Maybe God allows a few Monica Lewinsky’s in our life for His good purposes?)
On Wednesday when we got my treatment plan I almost fell off my chair. God paved a way for me and I am overwhelmed.
We met with our oncologist (seriously I love this guy) and these were his words to me,
”The standard protocol for Stage 3C cancer is chemo…but given the nature of this cancer, I cannot morally recommend chemo for you. The biology of this cancer responds excellent to hormone therapies – so my recommendation is radiation and hormone therapy. I have every reason to believe you can live a long and healthy life.”
I am totally doing the happy dance.
He also consulted two of his colleagues within his system and two outside of it who agreed that most doctors today would check the chemo box, but that would not be the right treatment for me.
At the same time, he was careful to tell me that this diagnosis is “sobering” and that there is a moderate possibility that I already have Stage 4 cancer but the cells are not yet visible to the eye. The good news is that even if that should happen, with all the advancements in medicine there are thousands of women walking around diagnosed with metastic cancer who have managed it for 10-20 years.
Not only did my doctor talk about the biology and treatment for this cancer, but he gave me words of wisdom about the things I can do that will help me to be successful.
He cited a study done with thousands of German women who had all been diagnosed with breast cancer. Each woman was given a pill and told that this pill would cure their cancer and save their lives.
The women were divided into 3 groups and the first group was told their pill cost about $5 , the second group was told that their’s cost a few hundred dollars, and the third group was told their pill cost $100,000. My oncologist said that the third group with the “expensive” pill had overwhelming success in their battle against cancer compared to the other groups. He asked us why we would thought that would be?
I didn’t have a clue, but my CPA husband figured it out immediately. It’s because of the VALUE they assigned to the pill. If a pill cost that much it must do a miraculous work. And the doctor said to me, “I’m going to give you the $100,000 pill.”
I love that.
He said that my belief in the pill, my attitude, and the way I approach my diet and exercise will have as much to do with my success as the magical pill.
There are all kinds of women who do everything “right” and are still diagnosed with cancer, but he told me that women who live healthy lives, have healthy relationships, and have a healthy attidude are overwhelmingly more successful with beating cancer.
My life is certainly hanging in the balance…but aren’t we all really? I just happen to know it. But now instead of of feeling like I am teetering back and forth trying to find my balance, I feel like I have found my equilibrium and am inspired to live my life to the very best of my ability for the next 20 years….(hands clapping). Instead of battling for my life…I am starting a new life.
Last night I began my hormone therapy and radiation will begin in about 3-5 weeks depending how I heal from surgery.
I am leaning on the Lord and putting my trust in HIM, rather than the ugly diagnosis. I have no fear. I seriously don’t. How can that possibly be? Only God.
I’ve got my “$100,000 pill”, I’ve got my family and my friends, I’ve got my new eating and exercise program, and I have the Lord to strengthen me, support me, and hold me steady. I will be just fine.