Pathology Report

Well, it happened! I just saw my FAVORITE nurse, Karen, who is Dr. Crooms’ nurse. She removed my staples, drains, and gave my report from surgery…My pathology report from bilateral mastectomies and removal of 10 lymphnodes came back, NO CANCER!!!!!!!!!!! The phrase, “no evidence of disease” that I was hoping for is not in there, but it doesn’t matter. The pathologist who wrote it just kept referring to the original biopsy slides and scars as a reference point for the cancer that would have been there.

Some of this is confusing if you’re not familiar with cancer surgeries and my particular case. So, to be clearer: Some people have surgery first, but because mine had already spread I got treatment first and then surgery. The biopsy I had was not a surgical removal of the cancer, but was gathered by puncturing the main tumor with large needles. These needles left scar tissue, which was used a reference point for the report. They did not have cancer in them at the time of removal. For a pathology report they measure “margins”, which is the amount of cancer-free tissue that is removed from the cancerous area. The wider the margins, the less chance of recurrence, because it’s less likely that loose cancer cells jumped the line before removal. My margins are wide. Probably would have been wide anyway, because of the mastectomy, but the size and location of the original tumor could have made my margins smaller. But there was no original tumor left. It wasn’t even reported as a different color, just healthy stuff around the scar tissue that remained from the biopsy zone. Cool.
All that is a long way of saying: God wins, cancer/Satan loses.

God is so good, I feel SO guilty about having thrown myself a pity party this week. I always say that He is good no matter what, but I’ve been in such a bad, crabby zone lately that it was effortful to convince myself of His awesomeness. But guess what? He loves me anyway! This is evidenced in many ways, not just by healing my cancer.

I often meditate on the fact that He loves me IN SPITE of who I am, not BECAUSE of who I am. I am overcome with gratitude and utter humility just thinking about it. He has chosen me for this journey, molded me, carried me, forgiven me, overlooked my flaws, all to glorify Himself in some way. Can you imagine? A king choosing to be represented by a commoner. A judge entrusting a hardened criminal with his valued possessions. A father selecting his outcast, worthless child to take over his company rather than all the righteous, perfect ones that seemingly deserve it.

I am overcome with joy from my father. I know the doctors will view this is a great outcome from all my medical treatment, but I know better. I know God has healed me, and only time or God himself can convince those with hardened hearts. That’s okay. In the meantime, I have many opportunities to share the news and plan to do just that.

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it–the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” –Romans 3: 21-25.

I know I owe a LOT of people phone calls and emails. I plan to reenter the real world soon, and will contact you then. It turns out that hiding out in my room didn’t help that much, but it was worth a try.

I had a PET scan today. I don’t expect to get the results for probably a week, but let’s all keep praying for no cancer at all. At that time I will send all my reports to Mayo and MD Anderson just to update those doctors on everything.

I just noticed that a different version of the Bible (ESV) has a line I didn’t catch in whatever version I used when blogging the other day. This added line sums up a fear i had at the begining of this journey–I was afraid that I would be loud about praying to be healed, because if God chose not to it would make Him look bad. And I’m sure I was at least a bit afraid I would look stupid. I remember my pastor teasing me that I didn’t need to worry about how God looks, so I made an effort to drop it. But the last line below sums up the issue of ourselves being shamed, and somehow it fits into the whole thing. Nice how it’s taken months but He’s showing it to me now when I’m ready to receive it.

Romans 5:3-5, “More than that, we rejoice in our suffering, knowng that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does NOT put us to SHAME, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Hallelujah!

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My Pity Party

I’ve been too busy to blog lately–I’ve been having a grand pity party with no time for such matters.
I’ve been learning a bit about “survivorship”, which I will define as the extremely difficult time we have between the hub-bub and fuss of treatment and returning to “normal” life. I have been sort of quiet about it considering how much mental anguish I’ve found myself in, but I’ve decided it’s important to talk about for the sake of others. I’m not officially done with treatment (I have 1 more week of chemo, bilateral mastectomy, 6.5 weeks of radiation, then down the road a reconstructive surgery and recovery), but I think my let downs are like the survivorship stuff because I already got the news of my healing and fully believe it is complete and permanent. Normally if that were to happen it would be at the end of treatment.
So, for anyone involved in supporting people with cancer (probably all major illnesses, but it could look different), please read about this issue. In big cities there are doctors with a heart and interest in the matter, but no one around here has mentioned it. Basically, it’s like a minor depression because everyone supporting you feels like their jobs are done and goes back to their normal lives and routine. But the patient (in this case, me) can’t go back to normal. Besides still dealing with all the side effects, I’m looking at everything differently. I am NOT the same person as before. In the past year I: 1) changed from a mom of 1 to a mom of 2, 2) went an extremely difficult issue with Yaacov that changed us both entirely, 3) got a cancer diagnosis, 4) got a death sentence, 5) got bombarded with massive love from total strangers for months, 6) got miraculously healed, death sentence revoked, 7) got left (feeling) alone with another year of treatment and am expected to just act and behave like 3-7 never happened.

So, I’m spelling out how I feel, but people in these situations all go through it, just with different details. There are biological reasons for the emotional part, because of a crash from all the previously elevated emotions that can’t be sustained any longer. Plus, there’s more time for reality to set it about everything that’s been going on.

I think I’m healing pretty quickly from this issue, but it could get worse after the surgery. I’ve decided to wait on the ovary removal until my mind is clearer, but the pain, time away from kids during the recovery, and anguish from the disfigurement of my upper body will not be good for me. Anyway, one of the issues all survivors have is a paranoia about every ache and pain. I am especially prone to this because, in the eyes of my doctors, I am not permanently healed, but just in a good place right now. However, over the past few weeks God has given me peace and removed that paranoia, so that’s good.

I’m learning so much these days. I have always taken issue with cancer people who continue to think and talk about their illness long after it’s gone. But now I get it. No matter how hard our loved ones might try to support us, they really will never know what we went through or go through. So we get this yearning to help others go through it. It sort of validates us and what we went through. Maybe gives it a purpose. And keeps us from haing to sweep that important time for us under the rug. There was a new girl at chemo yesterday and she was very young, very scared. She has stage 3 ovarian cancer and for some reason that’s one that tends to be chronic, really like stage 4. I could see the fear in her eyes from across the room. The poor thing, she just needed someone to talk to. I think I made her first treatment 100 times better than mine was. Not that hers was great, by any means, but hopefully at least better. This is the cheesiest thing I’ll say today, but maybe my being there for her first chemo ┬áis the reason God wanted me to keep up my treatments. If so, it was worth it.

I struggle with my ungrateful and depressed feelings, because while I know they are valid when explained to people in the world, I don’t compare myself to people of the world. I strive to be like Jesus, and to lean on Jesus when I can’t do it on my own. Shouldn’t that mean I can just pray when I feel bad, and let it go? The word says to “do everything without complaining or arguing”, “never grow tired of doing good”, and to “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ”. Plus, He already answered my big prayers about being healed. So, how do I dare complain now of the incomparable issues I’m having? I guess I’m pretty bold i doing so, and I really shouldn’t. But I met a therapist for the first time this week, and she reminded me that throughout the Bible, stronger and holier people than me are complaining and struggling. So, I’m in good company at least. Again, it doesn’t give me permission to keep it up, but I know it’s a common struggle.

The specific story the counselor reminded me of is in 1 Kings w 18-19 when Elijah (the awesome prophet who God used in much greater ways that any of us) was told by Jezebel that she was going to kill him. Something about that just screamed, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH” (which has been my motto for 2 weeks or so), and he gave up on life and ran off to hide until his time was up. That is exactly how I had been feeling. I wasn’t going to kill myself or anything, but sometimes something’s gotta give. As always, the answer for me was to cry out to God in submission, beg for mercy, and wait for help. So, the point that tends to relate to me is that I’m typically the thing that has to “give”. I gave up more of my desires and focused on Him more. I return I have found comfort, the way the angel in 1 Kings provided for Elijah when he was hiding.

If and when anyone else starts having these feelings, please feel free to send them to me for empathy. So far, the biggest thing that has helped is praising and thanking God aloud for the many, many blessings He has shared. It makes me more aware of and grateful for the grass on my side of the fence.

There is something so exhausting about all these emotions, and praying for and hearing about the enormous amount of sick people I have connections to. Someone included these verses in a prayer request earlier and they really hit the spot, 2 Cor 4:8-9 “We have troubles all around us, but we are not defeated. We do not know what do do, but we do not give up the hope of the living. We are persecuted, but God does not leave us. We are hurt sometimes, but we are not destroyed.”