I'm feeling pretty blue and beat up tonight. Tomorrow I'm heading to Medford for treatment at the Cancer Center, and I still feel really crummy from my chemo last Thursday. And my mom's absence seems like an ever-deepening hole gaping in my center. I want to go to sleep for a long long long long LONG time. I know, pretty dark for me. So in order to lift my spirits and make sure you all know what's going on, I'm going to recap what's happened the last ten days and point out all the many blessings that have happened along the way. I do this not to try to pretend that everything is ok, but because finding joy, blessings and God's provision in my life truly is what gives me strength.
On Monday, August 27th, Ryan and I packed the boys up and headed to Medford to stay for four days with my parents' friends Tom and Fredna. They have this amazing house with an entire basement floor for us to have to ourselves. Talk about a Godsend! We set up camp and set out on our endeavor to turn a week of doctor's appointments into a mini-vacation. First we met with Dr. Faught (the phenomenal surgeon who did my mastectomy) to discuss the surgery to place my portacath (port). He said I was healing beautifully and reassured me that this surgery would be much simpler than the last. He is one of the biggest blessings in all of this. He looks at me like he's looking at his own daughter, and he goes above and beyond to show me he cares. I fully believe God led me to him.
After that, we met up with my little brother Caleb and his girlfriend, Audrey, for a fun afternoon at the Wild Life Safari in Winston, OR. It was such a joy-filled day, and I truly felt carefree for a few hours. We saw lions and tigers and bears, oh my!, my big boys faught over who got to sit by the lovely Audrey, we road a camel, we pigged out on pizza and Ryan and I got to visit with Caleb and his girl for hours in the car. It was the bright spot of my week:-)
On Tuesday morning, we took the boys to the wonderful Christi Cooper's house for the day. Let me explain that big blessing really quick. Christi worked at Triad way back when and then moved away. She recently moved to Medford, literally blocks away from the hospital and through Facebook heard of my cancer adventure. She very generously offered to keep my boys WHENEVER we needed it, and we gratefully took her up on it. We set off to Rogue Valley Medical Center for my port surgery. I had a pretty awful waking up from surgery experience after my mastectomy, so my lifelong friend (and sister and protector and advocate and guide through the medical maze), Denise, met Ryan and I there for moral support. It was such a comfort to see her, and such a weight off of our minds to have the boys' at Christi's that once again I was reminded that many of the blessings this past month have come from the truly fabulous people in my life!
Denise, Ryan and I laughed a lot as we waited for me to be wheeled away. The anesthesiologist was really funny and he kept me laughing all the way into the waiting room. But then, right before he sent me to dreamland, he put both hands on my shoulders and said, "I love you. I have a daughter your age. You have to get better." And I fell asleep. God just continues to pave my path with wonderful people.
The surgery went well, but I was in quite a bit of pain the rest of the day and through the night. When we got back to Tom and Fredna's, I went into my bedroom to lay down and Liam came with me. He snuggled next to me as I carefully laid on the pillows. He looked up and said, "I want to hold you, but I don't want to hurt you. Tell me where to put my head." Through tears of gratitude, I placed his little arms around my waist and his head against my stronger shoulder and he stayed there awake next to me for 2 AND A HALF HOURS! He was literally Jesus' hands and sweet breath against my skin as I struggled with pain and fear. Oh, the endless joy my boys bring!
Wednesday brought a brief check-up with my plastic surgeon and a day of school uniform shopping. We started in Ashland where I got to lounge with Everett in the grass while Ryan romped with the boys on the playground and through the creek. A thai lunch topped off a wonderful morning and the clothes shopping was a welcomed distraction. I cannot describe how adorable my two little men look in the Triad uniform. (Don't worry...I've posted some pics!)
Wednesday night turned out to be one of the hardest of my life. Right after dinner, Dr. Savage (my oncologist) called to tell me that the spot on my liver is cancer, which means I have stage 4 metastatic cancer. All I heard, even though she didn't say this, was "You're terminal." I set down my phone and turned to my boys, and Sawyer asked, "Are you going to die, Mommy?" Phew! Let's just say that was a rough night. The only thing harder than telling Ryan was talking to my poor, devasted Daddy on the phone. Ryan and I talked and prayed, put the boys to bed and then clung to each other and prayed some more. We decided that we needed to know everything, even if it was hard to hear...we had to ask Dr. Savage what stage 4 metastatic cancer really meant.
The next morning we once again dropped the boys off at the lovely Christi's and set off to my first chemo treatment. After a blood draw and some agonizing waiting, we sat down in front of Dr. Savage. I said, "I need to know. I always thought stage 4 meant a death sentence. Are we just buying me time with this treatment or do you think we can cure this?" She took a deep breath and said (and I remember this pretty much word for word), "technically, stage 4 metastatic cancer is incurable, but because you just have this one spot on your liver--and it's even in a good spot on your liver--I think we can cure you." Phew! Halleuia! I felt light-headed with relief as she went on to explain that usually stage four breast cancer patients have cancer in their bones, lungs, liver and brain. She said that although she had NEVER had a 28 year-old breast cancer patient with stage four cancer, she had a lot of hope since it had not spread beyond my liver and since I was going to start taking this miracle herceptin drug. Then she said, "I need to order an MRI of your brain, because that usually is the next place it goes. If it is in your brain, then it is incurable." Then Ryan let everyone know to pray for my brain...and pray you did!!!
I made it through my first 6 hours of chemo with Ryan, my dad and Denise by my side. They were my angels as I went in and out of sleep and giggles (the benadryl really gets me laughing!) The next day I went in for an MRI I should never have had. Turns out the chest expanders my plastic surgeon put in during my mastectomy are not MRI safe. So when they put me in the tube, some strange and uncomfortable things began to happen to my chest. When they pulled me out to inject the contrast dye, I told them what was happening and everyone went into emergency mode. They took me out of the machine room, called the ER docs to come look at me and kept apologizing frantically as they called my doctors. Fortunately, beside a little discomfort, I really was fine, and even more amazingly, they had gotten enough pictures for a comprehensive look at my brain! Praise the Lord, my brain is free of cancer!!! I'm still in this fight people! If lots of doctors had not dropped the ball and they had all known that I couldn't get an MRI, I would have had to have gotten a CT scan, which would not have given as conclusive of a result. Thank the Lord for mistakes:-)
So this week has been one of LOTS of nausea, bone pain and fatigue. But it's also been one of laughter, watching my husband be super-daddy, taking my big boys to their first day of school, spending time with family, snuggling Everett and visiting with my lovely friends. People have been loving us so very thoroughly! I could never thank all of you who have been so amazing to me this month by name, but you know who you are. I've never felt so loved by the body of Christ!
I will leave you with a song that has been playing in my head. It comes from 2 Corinthians 4: "I am pressed but not crushed , persecuted not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed. I am blessed beyond the curse, for his promise will endure that his joy is going to be my strength. Though the sorrow may last through the night, his joy comes in the morning."
My boys joined me on one of my sleepiest mornings after chemo
Hand in hand on their way into Triad! Be still my heart!
Me and Sawyer boy on a camel...no big deal