Today

This is my first bad day since the surgery. I had successfullly stayed in a daze of denial until now. To give you an idea, it is 9:30 am and I am still in bed. Remember, I have children so staying here until 7:30 would have been a luxury. So, the sun was streaming in on me more than usual, and I gingerly stretched and opened my eyes, as if I was to see a beautiful ocean view. Instead, I saw my femininely-painted pink nails, resting on the special mastectomy camisole I slept in. When zipped, the camisole hides my drains and pads my chest, so I almost feel human. But I suppose I unzipped myself for comfort during the night, as my hand was resting comfortably on the zipper, between two enormous sets of hideous scars and staples. The scars look very much like those on Frankenstein’s head, to give you an idea. But they’re bloody and brown, with a rainbow of bruising surrounding them, instead of a pleasant green that he had.

I’m so down today and don’t know how to get through it. I suppose there’s no real way to “give up” now anyway. Even if I opted to kill myself I couldn’t, because I would look like this in my casket.

Alas, I will get through this too. Something good will come of it, right? I must outlive this cancer to know for certain that the generational mutation I have has been broken and my girls will not suffer from it. I can’t tell you how desperately I don’t want them to go through this. The testing is supposed to be a good thing, because there are things they can do to decrease their chances of the cancer. But, don’t you know, the recommendations are that they have prophylactic mastectomies and their ovaries removed as soon as they are done having children. I understand that as the best-case scenario there are worse things, but right now those are the very difficult realities that are nearly breaking me.

By the way, no pathology report yet but last week I don’t think I updated that my tumor markers came back great. A score of 0-40 is for normal people, and mine was 26.5. Amazing!

Romans 5:3-4, “Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perserverance; perserverance character; and character, hope.”

Excuse me while I go rejoice…

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Less of me to love…

Well, it’s done. I’m home. I will go into some detail for the sake of others in this situation for the future.

First of all, the physical pain from the surgery and recovery is nothing. I had heard that but didn’t understand the extent to which it was true. I had a morphine pump at first and used it whenever I was awake, because I was sure the pain would come in and knock me down. It never did. The other procedures I had done hurt much worse than the mastectomy, and I’ve been off pain meds for two days now.

I thought that being at the hospital would be the one time I didn’t have to “look out for me”, but I was wrong, and I believe anyone having surgery (especially in Tallahassee) should remember that. For example, now that I’ve had lymphnodes removed I should never get needle pricks or blood pressure taken from that side. But for days they took blood pressure on the wrong side, and I didn’t even think about it until a nurse noticed and told me. She put a big sign up, but after that someone still tried to take it from the wrong side TWICE.

On my last day a lot of things went wrong and they came in and took my blood. I assumed it was because of all the other problems so asked what they were looking for. It turned out they were supposed to have been taking my labs every day, but “forgot” the first two times. And no one noticed, of course.

There were a few more issues like that, but they all worked out so I hesitate to just destroy TMH. The lesson has been learned that I can never let my guard down, though. “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

Dr. Crooms did the surgery, and as I’ve mentioned, I love him and trust him entirely. He took more lymphnodes than planned (wasn’t sure how many), but not because they looked suspicious, just because they had previously been cancerous. That was cool, because I’d been praying about that but never actually asked him to take more, so I consider it another awesomely answered prayer. And, God put that desire in my heart to pray about in the first place. I’m not going to question why because that opens up doors to let Satan scare me about the answer. The reason doesn’t matter. The fact that God put it in my heart to want it, I prayed about it, and it was done for me is enough. Mark 11: 22-24, “And Jesus answered them, ‘Have faith in God. Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea’, and does not doubt in his heart, but believes what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

I started recovering fine, and on Sunday Dr. Crooms said I could either go home then or if I wanted to rest more I could leave Monday morning. Wild horses were not going to get me out of that hospital. I felt the only way to recover was to have people take care of me at the hospital, instead of turning back into a mommy at home. A few hours passed, and a nurse began hinting loudly that I should just go home. Still, I would not be moved or shaken. It was a really good thing I didn’t go. All the sudden, we discovered a pool of blood, then my fever spiked and blood pressure dropped. I was lonely and it was scary, but God didn’t leave me. I was really low on blood so couldn’t stay awake to pray, but He doesn’t require that we always stand at attention. Sometimes He provides rest and takes care of the drama. In this case I am convinced it was spiritual warfare, and I was on the right side. The winning side.

I still don’t know exactly what happened. The nurse kept saying it was so great that I hadn’t gone home. I’m on antibiotics but don’t know if the blood culture came back as infected. Dr. Crooms said I could have a transfusion, but it wasn’t required (my “count” was 25, not sure what unit of measurement that is). I was about to do it but asked and he suggested avoiding the risk (risk is low, but still there). So, supposedly my blood will build back up in 2-4 weeks. Until then I’m tired, but I expected that after surgery, regardless.

I think I’m doing really well, considering. If I hadn’t see pictures beforehand, I wouldn’t be able to handle the way I look. But, I did and as it is now I just get nauseas looking at it. But Yaacov and I are viewing it as a temporary thing, and that makes a big difference. I was always a hideous pregnant person too, not like one of those cute women. So, I’m not unaccustomed to being a bit grossed out by the sight of myself in the mirror. And, unlike my bald head, it’s easy enough to hide the scars and pretend they don’t exist. I realize that might not be the healthiest approach, but guess what? I don’t care!!!

The pathology report should be in today or tomorrow. I will see Dr. Crooms at the end of the week so I figure he’ll give me the results then if not before. He’s been the one to tell me I had cancer, then that it spread. Please pray that this time the results show no cancer!!!!

I have to beg again that you will pray for my friend from church who I mentioned the other day. It sounds like her breast cancer is being diagnosed as Stage 4, with the metastasis in her liver, but I haven’t heard that final part from her. She prayed for my during my journey, with no idea that she had cancer that was growing and spreading at the time. I can’t help but feel this is a direct attack from Satan. We’ve been praying against his attacks throughout this, but not as much expecting them to be physical issues. Anyway, please pray with us that God will be glorified, magnified, and will reign supreme in this situation.

1 Peter 5:6-11
“Humble yourselves, therefore; under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties onhim, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, wh has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To HIM be the DOMINION forever and ever. Amen.”

Surgery Results

Hi Everyone – This is Yaacov with an update on Erin. The surgery went well yesterday and the doctors said things went according to plan. Erin’s had a good deal of nausea thus far, but her spirits are high regardless. She’ll likely be there through tomorrow at the very earliest, so prayers would still be appreciated that she regains her strength and mobility soon.

Throughout this process, I’ve been consistently drawn to John 15:1-2, which states, “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.” This simple gardening truth rings as true today as it did when Jesus said these words. The illustration was a concrete reminder to His audience that those who are to grow in Him need pain, trials, and pruning in order. Given the choice, a branch would not ask to be cut, and would likely be content with its production. It’s the gardener that knows what each branch needs in order to be most effective for the master. In the same way, we would certainly not ask for our daily struggles, and we often ask for them to be taken away; but it is He that knows what we need to bear our fruit for Him.

Though Erin’s trials have tugged at my heart, as yours, and it’s painful to see a loved one go through such incredibly hard circumstances, I have seen first hand the fruit she has born. The ministry and testimony that is now hers would not have otherwise been possible, and I consider myself blessed to be a supporter of my wife.

I’m reminded that Jesus’ words in this passage paint a picture of duality such that the Father prunes and allows us pain, but also that He is near. A garderner is never as close to its branches as when it’s carefully pruning.

Going in..

I’m about to go in for surgery. I need to be there at 5:30 am, sugery should start at 7:30. Yaacov will be responsible for blogging and updating people that I am perfectly fine.

I have been completely calm and fearless about this procedure. I was feeling like it was a routine thing, like getting shots. I got in late last night from picking my mom up at the airport though, and got worked up about my girls. Not the “girls” they’re about to remove, my actual daughters. I realized I’ve been so focused on giving back to other people and my own recovery that I haven’t given them the time or attention they deserve. I’m not just putting myself down, I have really been a bad mother lately. I would say it’s ironic, because they are the very reason I was fighting to survive, and now because of surviving my priorities changed and not entirely for the best. However, that’s not irony or coincidence. That is the enemy, and he won some battles. His cancer may not have taken my life but it briefly took my parenting skills.

Not anymore, I’m back. Or, almost back. I spent a lot of time cuddling with each of them in the middle of the night. They won’t remember, but I will. And if something does happen to me in surgery, their last experience of me will have been perfect–quiet, intentional, prayerful, and overflowing my heart with peace, joy, and love.

A lot of people have reached out to me lately, and I haven’t had a chance to get back to everyone. I’m sorry but do appreciate it very much. Talk to y’all soon!

Deut 31:8, “The Lord is the One who will go before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.”

Josh 1:9, “Have I not commanded you: be strong and courageous? Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

I don’t have time to type all these, but while waiting I will be praying and meditating on those along with Psalm 23 and Philippians 4:4-8.

Prayer Requests

I will have my breasts removed on Friday.

I recently heard mention of how in biblical times people would tear their clothes at the chest as a physical sign to others that their hearts were broken. When I would read that someone did it in the Bible it seemed more like an outward sign than a passionate cry for help. But now I get it. If my mutilated chest wasn’t the exact thing I was trying to hide, I would tear my clothes too.
As it is, I will have tons of gauze and bandages compressing me tightly, as if to hold the pieces of my heart from flowing out. The bad news is that it will take me one more (hopefully, final) step away from the person I was just a year ago. Mentally and physically. If you hadn’t seen me since before cancer you would not recognize me at all, and I will not grasp at straws to claim there is a silver lining to the loss of my physical beauty. The good news is that, after a few tears I have gotten it all back in perspective and I hope to keep it that way. I will (try to) wear my fuzzy head, scars, wrinkles, and drawn-on eyebrows with pride because my God upheld my inner self despite the outer turmoil.

 For “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever”. Ps 73:26. I would much rather lose my outsides than my insides, and I believe God has done that for me.

Gracious God, Lord of all, I don’t understand all the reasons why I must go through this. But I don’t need to. I recognize you in it, and am covered in your peace. Your love. I feel you. I trust you. I thank you. Psalm 16:5 says, “Lord, YOU have assigned me my portion and my cup; YOU have made my lot secure”. You do these things for me. I will do what you ask of me. For your glory. Your fame. Your honor.

I would appreciate prayer for my upcoming surgery, as well as for the biopsies, tumor markers, and PET/CT scan that I have over the next two weeks. Please pray that everything will accurately show that I have absolutely no cancer anywhere in my body. I am taking it a step further and praying that reports will say there is no evidence of disease, and no evidence that there ever WAS a disease. And pray that Dr. Crooms and the other workers will be well-rested and every single cut and decision they make will be correct and perfect. Also, please pray for a friend from church who is the second woman who prayed for my healing that has since been diagnosed with breast cancer. The first has already been deemed cancer-free since the diagnosis. Many thanks, I love you all!

Cancer AND Chemo Free!!!! (written 5/3/12)

When I published yesterday’s blog I noticed that this one was never published. I wrote it 5/3 and somehow saved it as a draft instead. The reference to a school play was before the ballet recital you might have seen on Facebook.

From 5/3/2012:

This was such an amazing day AND week, I hate to just do a quick blog about it. I don’t have time to do it justice but felt an update was in order.

I snapped out of my funk when I was last blogging, and it hasn’t come back. I feel SO much better about everything. I don’t know if God had mercy on me and pulled me out or if my attitude just improved the way I perceive everything. Maybe both.

I saw Dr. Crooms for my bilateral mastectomy consultation on Tuesday. I had this weird anxiety beforehand because I wanted to have him take care of a few other issues that were causing me enormous amounts of pain. So, I got it in my head that he wouldn’t have time to let me really explain it and was praying nonstop for the consultation. I have no idea why I thought he wouldn’t give me the time–he’s never made me feel like he even has other patients than me–but I was very concerned. The meeting not only went perfectly, but everything he told me about the recovery was better than expected.

He did an exam and was the THIRD doctor now to deem me “cancer-free”!!!!! All of them felt the original tumor early on and continue to shake their heads when they declare “there’s nothing there”. I haven’t had a PET scan lately, although I expect to soon, but I have no reason to believe that I am anything but cured. Perfectly healed and cured by my perfect creator. Dr. Crooms is going to take only one node during the surgery because it’s gone from all my nodes. As long as it comes back clear (in the quick frozen section they do while I’m cut open), he won’t take any others. Remember the frozen section biopsy is the one that came back as non-cancerous with my tumor but it was really cancer. I’m not worried because I am so confident that God healed me entirely. But, I’ll be happier to see the results of the full biopsy in the pathology report from the full removal.

Dr. Crooms said the first week of my recovery will be the hardest, and he won’t put restrictions on how many pounds I can lift. I had read I might not be able to lift more than 5 lbs for several weeks, so that is a huge blessing. I usually can’t go more than a few minutes without lifting Naomi. He said I’ll be similarly fatigued to chemo, so considering what I’ve been through I should be fine. Fortunately I have a high pain threshold too, it’s more of the emotional aspect that I’m gearing up for.

Today was my last chemo. Things changed a tad but it was still a great experience. A few of my old buddies couldn’t come today so I didn’t get to chat with them, but Yaacov surprised me and showed up! That was really nice, a really big surprise. Have I mentioned I am extremely blessed? I thought I would see Dr. Rassam today but it’ll actually be in two weeks. It was supposed to be next week but I already scheduled something else because I thought I was done today. The chemo nurse also mentioned I’ll have to get a shot (Xgeva, sp?) every month, for either 2 years or forever, and that was a surprise. But who cares?!?! That shot is a substitute for another I used to get (I think Neulasta but don’t remember for sure), and is much better than it. There are no side effects that I’ve ever noticed.

I can’t stop remembering everything. It has been a long road, and I’ve been carried along the way by God and all my loved ones. Just a few months ago the doctors were all telling me there was no hope for me, and now I rarely hear that. And, even in my darkest hours I don’t believe it at all. When we were praying for these miracles before I wanted to believe but always had the gut level of pain in my heart that maybe God only heals Stage 4 cancer after we die. Maybe part of taking up my cross each day would mean living with cancer and just trying to keep it at bay. But now I breathe deeply and freely. I don’t even have the nagging voice of the enemy whispering lies to me. This experience is far from over, but I’m going through surgery and whatnot because God is asking it of me, not because it’s a lifeline.

Abigail was in a school play yesterday. The last time she had one was the day I was diagnosed. We didn’t know how bad it actually was yet, but had an inkling that this would be a long road. I barely kept it together that time. I know a lot more now, and everything is changed in every way. Every cell in my body is different than it was that day. But the pride and joy I felt watching my daughter on that stage has only deepened since then. I can’t tell you what a honor it was and is to sit in that audience watching my 4 year old cover her ears throughout the whole play. We could only see part of her face because she kept turning to watch the actors. She was a little disappointed in herself afterward, but I wouldn’t have changed even a second of it. She was perfect. Is perfect. The ultimate gift, and as I cried like a baby while I watched that play I didn’t have to wonder if it was the last one I would see. God decides on the timing of everything so I’m not promised another play, but none of that nonsense matters anymore. What matters is I got to see her be herself on that stage, making memories. And her biggest concern can continue to be that the music is too loud, because there is no disease eating away at her mommy.

Praise, praise, praise that God! He is good in the bad times, and that helps me appreciate the good times. He has carried me through 32 years of life, and 6 months of cancer treatments. This is not the end of the story. It is “to be continued”, and I’m excited and honored to be a part of it until He sees fit.

Joy, joy, joy. Joy to the King. To the Master. Creator. Father. Healer.

Ps 113, “Praise the Lord. Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord. Let the name of the Lord be praised, both now and forevermore. From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised. The Lord is exalted over all the nations, His glory above the heavens. Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap; he seats them with princes, with the princes of their people. He settles the barren women in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord.”

Generational Stuff and Alternative Medicine

As an update, I’ve been done with chemo for 10 days or so. Feel the same as always but I don’t know if that’s because I was doing well with chemo in the first place or I haven’t started recovering yet. I can’t figure out a tangible measurement to compare the way I felt pre-chemo to now. When you live with stuff long enough, it becomes “normal” anyway. I see Rassam Thursday and believe he will schedule me for another PET scan. After that one comes back as cancer-free I plan to ask him to cut back on those to decrease my exposure to radiation. I’m also praying more about whether to definitely have the mastectomy and radiation treatment. Common sense says yes to both, I just need to make sure that’s what God says too.
If you’ve followed this from the start you’ve noticed that I went from 100% backing medical science and shunning alternative medicine to dabbling in alternative stuff. Everyone I speak to has an opinion on it and I thought clarifying my current thought process here would decrease a bit of the need to discuss it so frequently. I’ve done more “research” lately (remember what I do is not scientific, I really only read reviews of articles, and someone forming life-altering opinions with more time should read the original articles). Over the past few months I really developed an interest in and pursued alternative medicine. For the most part, what I’m talking about is looking at the studies and theories on eating natural stuff to specifically control or reduce cancer. Everyone I talk to has a bias toward either that, or regular medicine, or just following the Holy Spirit. Obviously my goal is to just follow Him, but I still have to look into things sometimes.

After all my dabbling, the verdict is in: For me, I feel like being open to the guidance from the Holy Spirit is a lifelong pursuit, but for now He’s pulling me away from the alternative stuff. So until I hear differently I’m following traditional medicine and advice. I am still following certain dietary guidelines but believe that for my post-BRCA1 “stage 4” cancer, there isn’t a lot of alternative medicine that would help me. I’ve spoken to a dietician-type person, met with a naturopath, spoken to the workers at all the health food/herbal places, and read a ton of stuff. I feel like a lot of the information is theoretical instead of scientific, or makes enormous generalizations (e.g. colon cancer can be controlled with diet but that doesn’t mean lung cancer can be). I also read my grandmother’s medical records. They didn’t know about BRCA genes back then, but when she was diagnosed they knew it was aggressive, like mine. They estimated that she had 6-12 months to live without treatment. She was treated by Dr. Max Gerson (founder of Gerson therapy, a big alternative treatment that is still going strong), and died in just 3 months. He told my grandpa that he probably couldn’t help her, btw. The opinion I have formed from all this “research” is that his juicing treatment is sort of the ultimate alternative therapy for cancer. It’s all natural, all the healthy superfoods, no sugar, flour etc., and from the research that institute has done they have concluded that for genetically-based cancers it is ineffective. So, when people suggest less extreme alternatives to me I am even more skeptical that they would work. I do believe there are certain situations and types of cancers that alternative stuff can help, so don’t think I’m forming an opinion for other people. And I’m generally trying to continue some simple changes that I hope will decrease the chances of future cancers for my whole family.

As for the whole family, I have been praying that the girls do not get the genetic mutation. There is a 50/50 chance for each of them without God’s intervention. I believe He has already answered that prayer. We’ll see when they’re 18 and we’ll just keep petitioning Him on their behalf until then. Here’s where a weird part comes in: Someone who was praying for me and who seems to be very in touch with the Holy Spirit, did not know anything about my jewish ancestry. While praying for me she felt strongly that my cancer came from a generational curse brought down from my jewish ancestors. Now, false prophets exist, plus we’re all human so sometimes we can get messages wrong. But it doesn’t go against any scripture I know of so I’m not going to discard the idea. The thought she had was that my ancestors were those in the crowd who told Pilate Jesus’ blood would be on their hands and their children’s hands. I just read those verses and the 3 hairs on my neck stood up. I hate the idea of being related to them. Obviously in some way I am because of my jewish heritage, but like, directly related to some of the worst people ever is not a good thing. I think we all like to hope that if we had lived back then we would have been with the few standing up for Him. But I just realized it has taken 2000+years for anyone in my family to even believe in Christ, so I must come from a long line of stubborn, hard-hearted people. However, I am standing up for and believing in Him now! I’m the first female in our family (that I know of) to accept Christ, and it’s interesting that I’m the first one (again, that I know of) who has been miraculously healed of our genetically-based cancer! So, these are a lot of “ifs” that I won’t know until heaven, but I like the way it all goes together, and it gives me more hope that my precious girls, who already love Jesus, will not be cursed with the wretched BRCA1 mutation.

I think this pertains to everyone because even if you don’t believe Jesus is the Messiah it’s still clear that He was put to death under false pretenses. Ugh. Just thinking that might have been my great-great-great-great-great-great-great (and so on) -grandpa condemning Him is no good. You’d think it would be a grandmother but I don’t know if they got to scream at the leaders too. Maybe breast cancer is a curse for the men anyway because they have to live without their awesome wives.

Here it is: Matthew 27:19-31
“While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: ‘Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.’
But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. ‘Which of the two do you want me to release to you?’ asked the governor.
 ‘Barabbas’ they answered.
‘What shall I do, then, with Jesus, who is called Christ?’ Pilate asked.
They all answered, ‘Crucify him!’
‘Why? What crime has he committed?’ asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’
When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood,’ he said. ‘It is your responsibility!’
All the people answered, ‘Let his blood be on us and on our children!’
Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around hijm. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. ‘Hail, king of the jews!’ they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.”