Sunday, October 16, 2016

Today is the day!




Today I hit the three year cancer free mark. I feel like this day is the beginning of my "hump" year headed towards the 5 year mark which increases my survival rate. Survival rate.......I like to call it the Living rate. I had cancer, I live with the fact it could return any day. That is not always a comfortable place to live. But truly, it's not much different than living after losing a spouse or a child. You continue on, but every day there are reminders that sock you in the gut.

I've been trying to embrace my cancer-ness. To reach out. To be available. To be a shoulder or a phone call. To guide. And then to step back and watch that warrior race forward on their own. But then, I've had good roll models in this journey who have done the same for me. A sister/brotherhood that we find ourselves in. Thankfully, never alone.

This year for my anniversary, Alexes, Dave and I are walking in the Making Strides American Cancer Society walk next weekend. I'm looking more at the fundraiser CURE which is focused more on finding a cure for metastic cancer. Something I never want to have.

The biggest difference I feel this year is just that, the ability to feel. I had cancer. I have fake boobs. I take medication that makes me gain weight. But I feel. I'm alive. I've had three more years with my family and friends. It is part of my life, but not my entire life. At times, thoughts rear their ugly head but for the most part, I live. And for that movement, I'm grateful.

For years I felt like I was drowning in cancer. I felt I would never be the same. I felt disappointed that my body was not what it used to be. That my mind was off. That I had to take medications that felt like poison to my body. Today, I feel more at peace. Yes, I had breast cancer, but it never had me. And that feels amazing!

Today I look at my almost 17 year old, my 14 year old, my newly 10 year old, and my 4  year old and I think of the ways cancer has changed them. They know I had cancer. But the littles were not effected. They were too, well, little. But my big boys, they get it. They understand that cancer kills people. They have watched their grandfather go through colon cancer recently. They have stared cancer in the face of a loved one. Their compassion has no end. I like to think my cancer journey taught them a little about the focus of life. But then again, they are teens and their focus is mostly self centered. :)

I'm grateful God wasn't finished with me yet. I'm grateful that He was there to help me walk in grace. I'm grateful for my friends and family who never left my side. I'm grateful for the new friends Cancer has brought into my life. I'm grateful to bring awareness to self exams and mammograms. I'm grateful to be strength when others need it. I'm.just.grateful. For one more year with my kids. More time with my husband. Memories with my family. More wrinkles, more laughs, more days running kids here and there.....

Yes, this is my hump year. Not because things will go downhill from this day forward, but because they will go upward. As I hear my friends say they are 17 years, 10 years, 6 years, 5 years cancer free, I want that to be me. Moving on! Upward!!!




Friday, August 12, 2016

Miracles

Do you believe in miracles? I mean the huge, God given ones that are only allowed every once in a while but are so life altering that you can't help but pay attention? I do. I believe in them. I believe that God still performs miracles today. I believe that our lives are still important to Him. I believe he still walks with us on Earth and guides us to his heavenly home. Why? Because I have seen them. Repetitively. I see God's work in my life almost daily. Not in the little mundane things, but in huge, life altering things. Let me explain.

I prayed to God for a man who would love me unconditionally. A man who would see my potential, help me grow, and always be there when I fall. I met Dave. Our lives have been like a wave upon the sea. Sometimes powerful, sometimes weak. Sometimes out of control in the storm, other times, predictable.  But he is the man for me. He completes me. I cannot live without him. Ok, so I could if I had to. But I don't WANT to. He is the ying to my yang. We have walked many paths through our relationship to get us to where we are. I do not want to be without him. Ever.

Our boys....my pregnancies you have heard about. horrible. Scary. Early births, stuck babies......I'm a disgrace to the human population in giving birth. If I had lived in the early years, my babies would have all died, and me with them. What a wonderful thought (NOT!). But every day, my children are walking miracles.

Our daughter. I don't even need to explain the multiple ways this little girl is a miracle. From the way she came into our lives, to the little girl she is growing to be. She is my dream come true. And she knows it.

Finding my cancer was a miracle. For the years I had put off having a mammogram. And then to have one, finding this minuscule cancer that was removed two weeks later. Lord, continue  to help me walk in your Grace with this journey. I still meet people almost weekly, if not daily, that I can connect to. Look at me. I had cancer. i'm here. I'm present. I'm still living. And by the grace of God, I'm seeing my children meet milestones I was fearful I wouldn't see almost three years ago.

But my true miracle story comes from eight and a half weeks ago. What happens in two and a half months? A lot. Let me tell you. Oh, wait, I am. :) Two and a half months ago I thought my husband had pancreatic cancer. For those of you who don't know what pancreatic cancer is, think of the most horrible thoughts of your mind, and that is it. It's a death sentence. Most people do not survive for long. When pancreatic cancer is found, it is usually too late. Within months, that person is gone. Forever. Dead. I looked at my husband and our hopes and dreams and saw them slowly be ripped from me.

But never fear! I've been here before. I've had an abruption. I've almost lost three children. I almost lost an adopted child. I could have lost my life. I would.not.lose.my.husband.

What do you do when things in your life get hairy? I pray. A lot. For everyone, for myself, for those hurting.......so I prayed. I prayed that my husband was spared this journey. That there was another explanation. That he would be healthy to continue to do his gift from God......

Because you see, my husband is a physician that uses his God given gift to help. He doesn't care about insurance. He doesn't care about politics or policies. He cares about patient care and the health of his patients. He is interested in their lives, their children. He is a physician like you hardly see in todays world. He bucks bureaucracy and their ways. He stands up for what is right, what is not right now. He makes enemies that will try to tie him down, change his principals and sway his belief of what is right. But he remains firm, even when others try to take him down. We cannot lose him. So many people would lose fabulous care if he were gone. Life altering care. Life saving care. Life giving care. This cannot be. It must be a mistake.

Two weeks after his probable diagnosis of 70-50% pancreatic cancer we have an endoscopic ultrasound with biopsy. The results are mixed. They are still not sure he has cancer, but there may be something else. What? Asymptomatic pancreatitis? IPMN? What is going on? We are scheduled for another MRI weeks later. We go. Inconclusive. What is this mass? What IS it? what does this mean to our family? To his patients? To my husband?

We are scheduled for another biopsy but decide at the prompting of a good friend and other doctors to go to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Let's find an answer. Because we can no longer live like part of us is dying every day. We have plans. We have things we want to do before we die. And cancer is no longer a part of our plan. I pray.

My friends pray.

My family prays.

A few select people are allowed into our inner circle. They pray.

This week we went to Mayo. People who are really sick go to the Mayo Clinic, right? People who can't find answers elsewhere?? Clasping hands like it was us against the world we maneuvered from appointment to appointment. My life line was in a group message to my family. My heart in my throat. But through it all, I hear God clearly. It is well.....with my soul. It is well.......

We go from appointment to appointment. Going through the motions. watching how a major medical operation runs and wanting to bring those ways back to our little town, to our clinic. Worrying about a mass that could mean death, but trusting God that all is well. It is well....with my soul...It is well...

Truly. Trusting. I remember being on the floor next to our dresser praying to God about my own cancer. Through the fear came the words... You will be fine. Trust me. Walk in Grace......And I tried. Now, I hear Him again. It is well....with my soul........I know that God has his hand on my husband and all I have to do is believe, trust, and pray. And so I do.

Seven appointments in two days. The Mayo Clinic runs like a well oiled machine. With super happy employees. Who are helpful and caring and smile with their eyes. I've spoken with patients in the hallway, I've talked with an Aunt who's niece was diagnosed with breast cancer. I talked with a man with Celiacs. I smile at everyone I pass. Because, well, it is well with my soul. God promised. I believe.

Dave has a 3x1cm mass in the head of his pancreas. If it is cancer or IPMN, we are looking at a whipple procedure. It is no joke. It is weeks, if not a month of recoup time. It is neither of us in the office. It is pain. It is watching our children go through their parents have a major medical issue once again. Money lost, family time lost, health lost. It will take him a year or longer to get back to where he is now. I know, it has taken me years to get back the strength I lost. And I'm still not where I was in 2013. I know this road. It's not good. But we will do it. We will walk it, run it, whatever. We will make it, together.

He gets his bloodwork. We meet with a PA. He has an MRI and more blood work. we are prepared for his procedure. One that will let us know what we are dealing with for sure. The dr walks in the room early the next morning.  Layered shirts and wrinkled khakis. Bright, squeaking running shoes. Short hair, glasses, and a hesitant smile. But he listens. He jokes. He asks if we know the results of the MRI from the day before. We do not. He breaks the news to us.

NOTHING. There is no mass. No bundle of anything. There is NO mass at all. It is GONE. GONE. Do you hear it?? It is well...with my soul...Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.

Gone. This mass that could have taken my husband's life. Is.Gone. Do you realize what this means?? Besides joking with him about sucking it up, my heart breaks in thanksgiving. My husband is healthy! He is not dying! I will be able to annoying him for decades to come! But wait...........

For real? I admit. I hesitated. I asked questions. I asked about contraindications. How does this happen? How does one come to rule out cancer and then be told the mass is GONE?? We agree to proceed with the procedure. Do another endoscopic ultra sound. Tell us what you see.

Hours go by. All I feel is peace. I text friends. Prayers have been answered. My husband has been healed. There is no cancer. I want to call the 7 year survivor of pancreatic cancer who purposefully pulled us to the side at last nights restaurant. A man who saw my survivor shirt and he wore a hat and we were instantly family. They leave a piece of themselves with us. He was not to survive a year at their 30th wedding anniversary. That night, they were celebrating their 37th anniversary. God sends people into our paths. We just have to be open to receive them.

The procedure is over. Before my husband comes out of anesthesia, he is helping our nurse who is having fertility issues. He's discussing a route and testing she and her husband should take. She is actively taking notes. Listening to his guidance. I am in awe. If I have ever doubted that he has a gift from God, it is put to rest. This man was made to be a physician. To help. To heal. To guide. Our nurse beams with hope renewed. My heart soars. Our doctor comes in to review Dave's case. There is no mass. He does not have cancer. There is no IPMN. This is, well, nothing. Anything that was there has been reabsorbed into his body. He has been healed by our greatest physician's hand. God has healed my husband.

Follow up in 3-6 months. Wow.......

So when people waver. Is there a God? Where are his miracles? I want them to see my family. To see me. To see my boys. To see my daughter. But mostly, now, to see my husband. Where there once could have been cancer, there was nothing.

NOTHING.

So for now, we sit with a hat that says Pancreatic Cancer Survivor, given to us from our new 7 year survivor friend. And we revel in the fact that God STILL preforms miracles. Look for them. They happen. And when in doubt, know all is well........