The two best kept secrets about surgery

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy joy down in my heart. Where? Down in my heart. Where? Down in my heart, I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. Down in my heart to stay!

Surgery went great. I am tired but can’t sleep. Not much pain. He was able to do it laparascopically and saw nothing scary in there. The biopsy results should be in Wednesday or so. Because he didn’t have to switch over to the normal cutting type of procedure it was outpatient. I have been home for a few hours.

I have had many surgeries now, so I’m a bit of a pro. Or, the angels have been ministering to me a lot (Heb 1:14). I have two huge secrets I have to share. I’m so excited I can’t even type fast enough. This was the best surgery ever, I think it’s quite possible that I’ve never been this happy before. Seriously. And it doesn’t have to do with the surgery going well or the pain meds, as they haven’t affected my mentally before.

Secret 1: Of course, God. God has given me peace and joy like no other, and I know it’s because I’ve been really disciplined about getting a lot of good time with Him lately. The more I seek Him, the more He shows Himself. Sometimes it is not easy to get myself motivated to really focus on Him, but I push through that and then it gets easier and easier. No matter what your current walk is (or isn’t) like with God, you can always do more. If you’re feeling crummy, focus on praising Him about the good things and reading uplifting scriptures. I think reading straight from the Bible instead of just topically searching for helpful verses enhances the experience more. “But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 4:29)

Secret 2: Beg for a seasick patch. They are only by prescription so the anasthesiologist gives it to you. I never have bad nausea except when getting anasthesia, so it’s not like I just have a sensitive stomach. I normally can’t eat for at least a day because of it, and that makes the recovery much more miserable. Anyway, in Gainesville the anasthesiologist put a patch behind my ear and I was skeptical. But after that 8-hour surgery I didn’t have any nausea at all. None. I mentioned it to the one today and he wasn’t impressed, but my mom pushed for him to give me one. What do you know? No sickness at all. Not even for a second. It makes such a HUGE difference. I want to make sure everyone knows about it so it becomes more standard in Tallahassee. It is completely night and day compared to my other local surgeries. I imagine that you could ask for it during your pre-op appointment and then be more likely to get it, because the anasthesiologist really wasn’t eager to give it today.

Those are my tips. Don’t forget them. They are very important. I want everyone to feel this happy after surgery. And all the time! I love you all for praying and reading!
Remember, Deut 6:5, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” and John 15:11, “These things I have spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”

Ready for Surgery

The part of Christianity that makes our message urgent involves the afterlife–we will all live forever, but whether it is with God in heaven, or an eternity separated from Him in hell remains to be seen. Jesus will stand there on judgment day and say, “I didn’t know you” or He will defend you because He already paid for your sins on the cross.

Some people stop there. They think they have the basics down (“if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”, Romans 10:9) and can live however they want. But they miss out on the part that matters here on earth. Generally, devoted believers aren’t spending their time focusing on getting into heaven or fear of hell, they are nurturing their daily relationship with God through the Holy Spirit. The closer I am to God, the more I am aware of my helper, the Spirit of God. He whispers to us, intercedes for us, and guides us. But the more steeped in sin we are, the less we discern His voice. And the more I am aware of Him, the more I obey and do what He wants. My desires transform to match His.

I first learned about the mass on my ovary over a month ago. I tried hard not to think about. The last time I had a cancer scare (when I was waiting for my primary tumor diagnosis), I indulged the fear. It was sinful, but not in an obvious way. Doubts would creep in, and little by little they would chip away at me. Soon I lost all focus on God and other important things, and was consumed by fears, what-ifs, and imagining the worst. There were times it took over my life, and the more it did, the harder it was to crawl out. It seemed like there was no helpful truth to hold onto or believe. 

While awaiting this biopsy I have been much more aware of those doubts and tendencies. Satan is clever but relatively consistent. He always starts with trying to pull me away from others. Just like he approached Eve when she was alone (Gen 3). He knows we are weaker when we’re away from other believers, so he makes me try and pull away. When I would tell myself that many people have benign masses, he would remind me that my breast cancer journey was not like anyone else’s. No one can relate. He picks at my faith by causing me to doubt whether I really heard from God about not removing my ovaries last year. Just like he asked Eve, “Did God really say…” He does this to get me to doubt whether I can hear God. When He gets me to doubt that, I lose confidence in future decisions that I need to trust God in. He also uses memories I have about other people’s problems to make me doubt that God will take care of me. A few of these are, “You were never healed and this will show that”, “The naysayers will think they were right”, and “You will never be healthy again. You will always be going through some health problems. By  the time you die everyone will just be relieved.” Satan is the father of lies and this is his fruit (John 8:44). But he disguises his words as common sense and gives evidence to back them up. If you aren’t on guard, you will buy into them.

This time around I have been much more aware of the damage it does to everyone around me when I fall for this nonsense. It keeps me from being the best wife, mother, and friend I can be because I’m distracted by fear. So early on, I started rejecting those fears instead of letting myself consider them. The more I refused to indulge them, the less they came. Now I sit here, just one full day before surgery, with no anxiety at all. I am filled with peace and faith. I know God will take care of me and I completely trust that this is not cancer, and that He has a great plan for this. I am actually excited to get this surgery under my belt and see what amazing things He brings out of it. 

Romans 8:9, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. “

1 Peter 5:10, “But may the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a little while, perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you.”

Surgery Scheduled!

Great things have been going on since my last post. I got test results from the bloodwork Dr. Rassam took on Thursday. Both tumor marker tests came back lower than last time (they’ve stayed in normal ranges for a year now but had increased a bit within that range), and he also checked my thyroid. It came back high, as hypothyroidism. I read that chemo can cause this, and I’m just so glad to have a reason for some of my symptoms that it is a big relief.

I saw Dr. McAlpine yesterday and scheduled the ovary plus fallopian tube removal for April 29. He is going to start laproscopically, and if that works it will be an outpatient procedure with 3-7 day recovery. If he has to switch to normal surgery he’s going to take my uterus too. Then it will be a longer recovery and short hospital stay. Dr. Rassam told me in the past that I would never be able to have hormone replacement therapy, but Dr. McAlpine said today that if things go well for the next decade or so I might be able to take some then. He also told me about some anti-depressants that can decrease hot flashes and such from the menopause I’ll be going through. 
Dr. McAlpine felt around and said there’s no palpable lump on my ovary, which is a good thing. He also said  that is not causing my abdominal pain, but he will poke around there during surgery and fix anything he finds. All in all, I’m happy with the news I’ve received lately and the treatment plan. I wish surgery was a little sooner but trust God, His timing is perfect. Yaacov had to cancel a business trip so he can be there that day, and I’m really grateful for his unconditional support. 
The Lord has really been there for me during this. I am not anxious and trust that I don’t have cancer. I think the Tamoxifen caused the mass and after the surgery get to try a new medication. In the meantime I am praying for and expecting further protection from all the side effects of these drugs and procedures.

Last year I struggled so much with fear that I sometimes had trouble voicing my confidence in the Lord. This time He is very present and I trust Him regardless. This is a great chance to be bold about my God. I am really feeling good, mentally and physically and am praying that I will be a faithful example for my doctors and the other people who will follow my case.

1 Peter 2:15, “For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.”

This peace that surpasses understanding

For anyone who doesn’t have a lot of experience with cancer, you need to understand a bit. When you ask us how we feel, the answer is complicated. Compared to you, I bet we feel awful. But, it’s been a really long time since we went felt truly healthy, so we’re accustomed to feeling junky. And in my case, I’m happy to be alive and cancer-free, so I respond based on my feelings that moment, not with how I feel compared to a year ago.

I have nerve damage all over my core. Some of it hurts, some is numb. My stomach hurts when I cough, laugh, reach or sometimes breathe. I have frequent headaches, a small amount of lymphadema, hot flashes, am winded from jogging to the mailbox, seem to be retaining weight big time, have difficulty breathing, and if you take my shirt off I look like…a cancer patient.

I don’t want to focus on these things. I can’t focus on them and focus on God too. I can’t focus on them and enjoy the moments with my children. So I could go through the rest of my life fearful of each ache and pain, losing sleep and getting weepy every time, or I can trust God. He has shown me He cares about me. He has shown me that love conquers all. I know that His grace is sufficient for me. That His power is made perfect in my weakness (2 Cor 12:9). In short, if you ask me how I’m doing, I’ll tell you I’m great. I am not lying. I am great because I am yoked with the Lord God Almighty, who bears my burdens.

I started having stomach pains a month ago. I had an ultrasound and learned I have one enlarged ovary and one with a mass. The mass is not a cyst. It was hard to learn this, and the more I thought about it the more anxious I got. Yaacov and I prayed about it and felt like this was our chance to respond to trials differently–better. So we used self-control. We shifted focus from the potential bad things to other things. We recognized how much the enemy would want to destroy us right now, emotionally and physically. God has had so many great things arise through this journey with cancer. So many things that shed light on the prince of this world, that destroy the hopelessness that the enemy causes.

I was selected to be the honoree for this year’s Card for a Cure campaign. That means a lot of press and opportunities to share what the Lord has done for me. What perfect timing for Satan to make it look like lies! Too bad for Satan, God gave me the peace that surpasses all understanding. I just saw Dr. Rassam and he told me it could be breast cancer (not very likely to have spread directly to there without a trail), ovarian cancer (statistically possible due to the BRCA 1 test, but not related to breast cancer, so the timing seems crazy to me), or nothing. I vote for nothing. We are in the process of scheduling my ovary removal and technically should know more then. However, I already am filled with all the knowledge I need: “In all things God works for the good of those who love Him, for those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

We wait in peace. This time we’re not thinking about the worst case scenario. This time we’re not doubting that God knows best, or loves each member of my family. This will not be the last health challenge I run into, but gone are the days that my health ruins family vacations or hinders relationships. We choose Christ, because He chose us.

In the Moment

Before Jesus came, people were expecting the Messiah to come and become a literal king of Israel, to free them from the physical powers and harm that were inflicted upon them. Then he came along and some people rejected him as a fraud, or because he threatened their way of living. For others he filled in the blanks, changed everything they thought they knew. For those people, there were lots of great moments that reinforced their new beliefs. There was some confusing talk about the future. Then he was killed. His body lay dead, like any other mortal–much ado about nothing.

I imagine the letdown and confusion they felt. It must have been the ultimate slap in the face to his followers. His body was in the tomb for three days. I wonder how many hours or days it took them to re-frame their understanding of the Messiah into the fact that he had died. We know that on the third day, when those ladies went to prepare his body, they weren’t expecting the tomb to be empty. But I imagine that they still had that tiny bit of hope that the story wasn’t really over.

Believer or not, I expect that everyone who has brushed up with mortality can relate to how the followers felt during those three days that Jesus’ dead body lay in the tomb. They had been flying high with the clarity and freedom He brought. He took away the laws they hadn’t even realized they were chained to and opened their eyes to the spirit behind the law. And suddenly overnight he had been killed. His enemies seemed to have won. Their worlds crashed in around them and everything they thought they knew was wrong. It didn’t make any sense and there was no one left on earth who could clarify it for them. Haven’t we all been there? Don’t we all dream of being able to rewind time to the way it was before that moment? Then finally, we think we get some resolution. We stop dreaming of things like that, but He surprises us in better ways. We go to do the hardest thing ever, like anointing his body, and instead find an empty grave.

He is risen!
Luke 24:1-49