Update

We were supposed to get the pathology results from my biopsy on Wednesday or Thursday. I was unfazed that we still hadn’t heard by the weekend, but this morning was thrown for a loop. Dr. McAlpine left a voicemail first thing in the morning saying to call him. Then his nurse called my cell phone and hung up after one ring. I immediately called back and the receptionist said she couldn’t tell me the results. So I waited, anxiously, for a call back. Confidence dropped, the tears fell. I was sure it was bad news, my mind reeled and imagined how I would remember this day when my world changed for the worse. As the minutes ticked by I tried to pray and found no peace, so I just repeated, “I trust you. I trust you. This is part of your plan. I believe in your plan.” It was pretty hard to really believe during that time, though.

Finally, the phone rang. Lisa, Dr. McAlpine’s nurse and I exchanged the required pleasantries. Then she told me…”No cancer, the pathology was all clear.” Hooray!

God is awesome no matter what, but I sure appreciate getting good news like this. And as much as I hated the scary waiting, it made me even happier to hear that I am still cancer-free.

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it” 2 Timothy 3:14

I wish my faith was strong enough that I hadn’t gotten flustered by the ominous sounding message. That I hadn’t faltered when I thought the world was spinning out of control. Or that I hadn’t even noticed it start to spin backwards in the first place. But I’m a work in progress. I am being perfected to become more like Jesus and less like “me”. One day I’ll get there.

“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” Philippians 1:6

Sadly, we are surrounded by people who are going through massive pain and sorrow. Some of them face more difficulties in a day than the rest of us ever deal with. Please join us in praying for a few of these people. Each of them was created by our God, for His glory. Each of them has the potential to be rescued in a miraculous way. Every one has been going through a fear-filled time like the one I described above, and could use a break. Let us support them in prayer, that no matter how closely they are walking with God, they will get closer, believe more, hope more, and expect more. This is the time to see God do amazing work, and I can’t wait to see how He turns it all around.

“If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from your majesty’s hand…” Daniel 3:17

Cancer: One is a single mom diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. Her daughter lives in an entirely different country, which makes it extremely difficult for both of them. We believe she has already been healed but needs wisdom about future treatments and scans, is getting some of the run around from doctors, etc. Jaime is a young girl who was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer two years ago. It has been spreading and she needs wisdom about doctors and treatments. Let’s just pray for total, miraculous healing and for confidence and faith in the meantime. Jessica is the one who had lung cancer with clear results last time. Today she had a routine scan, so pray that it is clear and that she will keep getting great news. Scarlett is a new breast cancer friend who has had many health problems in the past. She has a one-year-old daughter and is going through chemo right now. She is having a really hard time feeling God’s peace and joy so pray that He would fill her with those and confidence. Yaacov also has a friend whose father was just diagnosed with kidney cancer, and pain brought him to the doctor in the first place, which is never good. Pray for faith and peace, plus of course total healing. Finally, there is a family member with a mass that we are believing is benign. Pray for an easy and accurate surgical biopsy.

“Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” Hebrews 12:12

Babies: Baby A is having an MRI in a few weeks because she has some symptoms of a disruption in her right hemisphere. Pray for the test to go smoothly, accurate results, and absolutely no problem in her brain. Just have the symptoms disappear! Also, someone we love is facing an unexpected pregnancy and we pray for God to guide her perfectly and to help the family dynamics and make all the correct, important decisions. Finally, a praise! I think I forgot to follow-up in the past–awhile back I blogged that our niece’s soft spot seemed to have closed up. The surgeon said it hadn’t and she is fine! I know that He just fixed that.

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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.”

This time last year…

It was November 18 last year, but I will always remember it on the day Abigail has her Thanksgiving Feast at school. It is November 16 this year. Today. Last year we were so excited–it was her first presentation/show ever. It was a Friday. Two days before I had gotten the call that my mass was NOT cancer. Finally, we could breathe easy! Time to enjoy the holidays!

About this time, 10:30 am, I got a call from my friend Nicole. We were chatting about how I didn’t have cancer when Dr. Crooms clicked in on call waiting. I didn’t recognize the number but I knew it was him. He had mentioned that the results of the permanent-section biopsy would be in on Friday. I hadn’t been worried, less than 5% of the initial biopsies are false negatives. He had no need to call and I didn’t expect him to. Unless there was bad news after all.

I knew as soon as I saw the number flash on the phone. My heart raced. I listened. I cried. I died a little inside. A lot, actually. I called Yaacov at work. Didn’t want to tell him over the phone but had to get him home in time to meet with Dr. Crooms to make a plan.

I had an hour to process it, then had to get my act together and go to the presentation. The Thanksgiving Feast. When things like this happen people usually report everything was a blur. It wasn’t. I was aware of every second that passed. I watched my little girl walk shyly in line with her class. Watched her hiding behind her friends, forgetting all the hand motions she’d practiced since September. Wondered how things would change. I didn’t know how bad it was yet, but knew I would go through life-altering treatments. Imagined how her fragile confidence would be shaken if her mommy wasn’t around to encourage her.

One year ago was the beginning. I didn’t always have strong enough faith to be certain of how it would end. It was hard. So hard. It’s still so hard, and my storm is over. But God helped me every second of every day. He sheltered me and yet I still remember the pain. If I didn’t have Him there is no way I could have made it through.

Philippians 3:4-11

[Paul said] though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more:  circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee;  as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.  But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.  I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

I can finally say I am truly grateful for the experience. I have moments I still hate it. Hate the fact that there is always a twinge of fear for the cancer’s return. Hate my repulsive new body and that my hair looks like Corey from Boy Meets World. But my faith has grown enormously, and I value it more than ever. I don’t mean faith like just believing in God and His goodness. I mean faith like the actual act of believing in what cannot be seen. Believing that JESUS GAVE ME THE AUTHORITY TO MOVE MOUNTAINS (Mth 21:21). Believing not than “God Can” but that “God WILL”. Back then I thought I had to wait for God to assure me He would do something, and then He would. Now I know that TRUE FAITH is believing that the nature of Him is described in the Bible, and that believing He will do things that fit His nature is what we are called to do. It is a whole new element to my world, and it is more important than anything else I know. It took me 32 years of experience leading up to my miraculous healing, plus that whole journey to get it, and there is no other way I would have preferred to learn it.

Here’s to the Lord God Almighty. The maker of heaven and earth. Creator of you and me. He loves your soul, whether you love Him back or not. If you don’t, please consider it. Consider Him. It can be hard to believe, but even harder not to.

Romans 8:38-39

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,  neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

After our death on earth we are all going to carry on for eternity. You can spend it in heaven with Him, or in eternal separation from Him. Hell. If you’re reading this it’s not too late. But tomorrow it could be. Only He knows the number of our days, and this could be your last chance. Once it’s too late it’s over. There will be no take-backs or do-overs. Love yourself enough to look out for your future. Love your family enough to do what it takes to spend forever with them and God. Love your friends enough to drag them off the path to hell and onto the narrow path of righteousness.

Romans 10:9-10

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

Revelation 22:17

The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.

Tips for those getting assessed for breast cancer

Well, I’m an “expert” now so I’m going to make some lists of random things that have or could have helped me through cancer and beyond. Maybe I’m not actually an expert but I know more than I wish I did about it. Today I’ll write up some things I verbally advise people about for early days in the diagnosis process, and then sometime soon I’ll put in one about surgery tips and how to support people with cancer. These tips are from my own experience and remember I am very, very unique (just like you!) so just consider these guidelines.

The secret reason for this post is that people give me inside info (yes, gossip) about some of the doctors in Tallahassee, and one in particular has done something so awful his patient is unlikely to recover, even though his cancer was initially curable. But the other day I ran into someone who sees him and I found it really difficult to hold my tongue. I did, primarily because she’s almost done with treatment so it would have just been gossip. But it got me thinking that maybe I could help people be aware of ways to prevent awful situations like that.

Cancer and health problems are scary, so I hate the idea of adding fuel to anyone’s fears. But I know of lots of horror stories, and my own could have been one. Very narrowly missed being one. So for the few people whose fears become reality here are a few tips starting with diagnosis:

1. Do your monthly self-exam ALL the time. By the time you can feel a lump (which is called being “palpable”), it’s well-developed. If any women in your family have had breast cancer, you could be eligible to get early mammograms. My doctors recommend having my girls get screened 10 years before my diagnosis. That’s when they’re 22 years old. I am BRCA1 positive and thus can get them tested via blood test for that when they are 18. If you can’t demonstrate a genetic or other cause for early mammograms, your doctor will recommend them starting at either age 40 or 50, there is some debate on this. Remember that mammograms are not enough–I know someone who had a clear one last year and this year was diagnosed at Stage 4.

2. If you have a lump of any sort, don’t panic! Pray and repeat important Bible verses, like Ps 56:3, “When I am afraid I will trust in you.” Don’t let your mind wander or worry. Just call your doctor immediately (general practitioner or gynocologist will be fine) and get in right away. If he won’t find a way for someone to see you within a business day he’s not a good doctor. You might think I’m kidding. I’m not. (There might be an exception if you freak out about everything, because then they might not take you seriously. Not sure how to fix that, but try!)

3. Most lumps are nothing. Almost all of them, actually. The younger you are and the less family links to cancer make it more and more unlikely to be cancerous. Still, there are tons of stories about misdiagnosis, etc. My general practitioner sent me for an ultrasound and scheduled a mammogram, but the ultrasound technician misdiagnosed me then canceled my mammogram. So, no matter what they say it is (a cyst, galactocele, fibroid, adenoma, etc.), I would say pray about it (of course), but at least consider demanding a biopsy. The biopsy is a tangible way to determine what a lump is, whereas the others require more human interpretation and thus mistakes.

4. So, you still don’t panic, whether your tests come back as clear, abnormal, or cancerous. Just keep praying. There are a few types of biopsy (needles are not intrusive, surgery is). I had a fine needle one and core needle one. Neither hurts, it’s just a mental issue. Just feel like a shot. My fine needle one came back as abnormal, which is again, very frequently NOT cancer. I saw Dr. Crooms (my general surgeon) after that, and he could have chosen to do a surgical removal (lumpectomy probably), but decided on a core needle biopsy first. That is a really, really big deal. If I had gone to a bad general surgeon, he might have skipped the second needle biopsy and done a surgical one instead. It happens all the time. That mistake can kill you! If you have a lot of cancer you often need chemo BEFORE surgery. If you have surgery first it slows you down because you have to recover before treatment. Sometimes they cut you open and can’t even get all the cancer, so you have tons of extra stress and trauma.
The point? Always, always, always get personal recommendations for your surgeon and doctors, AND a second opinion or hard evidence before surgery. In my case Dr. Crooms chose to get the evidence* before recommending surgery. I’ll talk about that below, but it definitively showed it was cancer so he ordered a PET/CT scan and brain MRI to see if it had spread BEFORE surgery. Good move!!!!! Great move!!! I didn’t get a second surgical opinion, but the oncologists I saw all agreed with that decision.
*Abnormal biopsy results are not always cancerous, especially as I was also breast feeding which can confuse cells. That first biopsy could have come back as conclusively cancerous then there wouldn’t have been a need for another biopsy. So the second biopsy was basically for more info. The frozen section is a way for doctors to get a quick look at the cells that were removed. They are only slightly less accurate than a permanent section and take much less time. I believe a permanent section is always done, but ask your practitioner (and insist on one) first. My frozen section came back as an adenoma even though it was cancer. So a few days after receiving “good” news, we got the call that it was actually bad.

5. Always get multiple opinions BEFORE surgery or treatment starts. If it looks bad you will be anxious to hurry up but if you start the treatment first it can be much worse to change it later. For example, many (or all?) types of chemo can only be given once in a lifetime because your body builds up immunity to it. So if you go for a few treatments then ask another doctor what he thinks, you either can’t take his advice or have to waste your chance to ever get the original treatment again down the road. And who wants to doubt that choice forever?
One trick about getting the multiple opinions is to schedule them at the same time. You don’t need to meet with one doctor then make an appointment with the next. Just call them both and schedule for ASAP. It’s your life.
When possible, try not to tell your other doctors what the original said. That way they won’t accidentally be biased by evaluating the original advice. You want independent information first, then you can ask each what they think of the other.
Take notes on EVERYTHING. Remember to get lots of doctor recommendations, but go with the one you fit with best. Some people prefer a good bedside manner over certain medical training, especially if their cancer has a relatively standard treatment.

Psalm 112:7 “He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.”

6. If you end up with cancer you’ll probably have a medical team treating you. You still don’t panic though because God is in control. He IS!!!!! At many hospitals the cancer doctors work together so you don’t have to figure it all out. Mine don’t exactly work together so I sort of make sure they know what each other is up to as needed. My medical oncologist is (or should be) the boss though. This depends on the whole issue, but he should be very aware of surgery and radiation stuff/scheduling before you do any of it. I know of a case where a patient started radiation without his oncologist being aware, and they were supposed to be done in conjunction. That will keep your treatment from working. Boo!!!!!!!!!!

That’s all I can think of right now. If anyone has things to add, put them in the comments section. There are more details and verses about my own experiences throughout this blog,  but I couldn’t explain much without including some personal details.

Psalm 86:2, “ Guard my life, for I am devoted to you. You are my God; save your servant who trusts in you.”

Update and Biopsy

There’s sort of a lot going on. I had my seventh Taxol treatment and am still doing well. I figured out that the daily side effects I struggle with (something akin to restless leg syndrome that keeps me from sleeping is the worst) are actually from a steroid I get with my pre-drugs. I feel better knowing that, because sometimes I feel like I’m going crazy. For example, I get this weird anxiety/claustrophobia sometimes, especially during the chemo, that takes everything in my power to keep from ripping the needle out of my port and running into the parking lot.

So, five more Taxol treatments. I’ve been praying about electing to have radiation even though Rassam says I don’t need it. I don’t know the answer yet. I will ask more about it Thursday then go from there. Along those lines, I need to have a sentinel node biopsy for insurance purposes. I’m considering going to Gainesville for a better reconstruction than I can have here, and to do that they need to see if I need radiation beforehand. If there is cancer in the node, they will say I need radiation. Even though I might want radiation, I really don’t want the biopsy to show cancer. A sentinel node is the node from which your breast cancer spreads. Supposedly once it has spread from there it doesn’t matter if you remove it because the cancer is already loose in your body. But, I still want the biopsy to show that every cancerous cell has been destroyed (or is just gone). I am waiting for the biopsy date for that, but it’s a minor outpatient surgery that I can have even though I’m still getting chemo. Please help me pray that there isn’t even one cancer cell in my nodes. In fact, I want to pray that they appear as though there has never been any cancer there at all.

“I know that all God does will last forever; there is no adding to it or taking from it. God works so that people will be in awe of Him.” Ecc 3:14

I woke up with a tick attached to me today. I normally wouldn’t have been too bothered, but one of the people I’ve been praying for has Lyme disease so now I’m sort of stressed out about it. It is very rare that  a tick bite would result in a problematic disease, so I hate that I’m worried about the exception to the rule. For no reason. I hate that cancer has changed me into one of those people who frets about everything. I’m so disappointed in myself for letting it affect me so much, but I can’t stop. I have already been the exception to the rule multiple times this year, so I can’t tell myself the next time will be different.

But I will try. I will remember what God has done for me. I will trust in the only one who is trustworthy. I will stay close to Him so I can hear His sweet whispers and distinguish between  satantic fears and legitimate concerns. There are no more reasons not to.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding; think about Him in all your ways, and He will guide you on the right paths.” Prov 3:5

As a follow-up from my last post, giving my testimony went okay but not great. I don’t think I focused on the right things, but the next day I had the opportunity to tell a woman about it during chemo. I normally keep pretty quiet there for many reasons, but she was trying to convince herself that God would heal her. I could hear my voice in hers. She was saying the same things I did–we all do when hoping for a miracle–but she didn’t have the authority behind it to convince anyone she meant business. In case you didn’t know, that’s exactly how I was until just before the PET scan. You know God can do it, but you’ve seen enough bad stuff happen that you can’t explain away. You feel like you just need a promise from Him that the specific healing scriptures are for YOU, on EARTH, not when we’re all restored in heaven. The point is, this woman was across the room, talking to someone else, but I knew all these things about her and couldn’t ignore it. So I shouted all this business across the room to her (through tears, again), with everyone else trying to sleep and whatnot. Hearing His deeds encouraged her so I feel like it was a second chance from the one I kind of messed up the night before.

1 Thess 5:11, “Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.”