Doctor Appointments and a CT Scan

Last week I met with a Radiation Oncologist. I was still shaky from the chemo thunder from round five, but I listened politely while she described the pros and cons of having radiation therapy after chemotherapy. “I know it’s a lot of information to take in,” she said.

“No kidding,” I thought. She said it was entirely up to me whether or not I wanted the treatment. I was already dreading my last round of chemotherapy on October 7th. I wasn’t sure I was ready to think about more treatment options, different side effects, and the time commitment involved: 25 sessions, 5 days a week, Monday through Friday, starting four weeks after my last chemo. I’d been through so much already. What were the benefits of having radiation too?

The doctor explained that with all “women cancers” (breast, uterine, ovarian in particular), there is a risk of reoccurrence or metastatic cancer spreading to other organs. The chemotherapy wipes out the cancer cells throughout the body but there is always a chance of lingering microscopic cancer cells at the “place of origin”, in my case, the abdominal cavity. Targeted radiation on that area would be another preemptive strike to combat reoccurrence in that area. “Of course there are no guarantees,” she hastened to inform me. I’ve learned Doctors never 100% commit to saying we are “cured”. Still the odds of living five more years past a cancer diagnosis increases with each treatment. Another statistic they use in calculating survival rates is in five year increments.

“Oh, and we can only consider radiation if your CT scan tomorrow comes back clear. We are 99.9 % sure it will…” Those were the best numbers I had heard since starting this journey. “…but if it doesn’t, you’ve got way more troubles than radiation can help.”

Thud.

The thought of more surgeries, and more chemo nearly overwhelmed me. I already knew I would do anything and everything possible to fight for as long as I was able, but I knew the struggle would take a heavy toll on me and my family. I prayed silently that God would spare me of that, but whispered, “Not my will, but Yours.”

When I got home from the doctor’s appointment, I asked my family and prayer warriors to pray the CT scan would be clear. I had all but decided to go ahead with the radiation treatments if the scan was clear. That way, I reasoned, I could say I had done everything humanly, medically possible to combat this second go round with cancer. I was at peace with the decision.

CT scans are relatively easy diagnostic tests to undergo except if you have veins like mine that hide themselves, or “blow up” when IV’s are warranted. I told the technician he’d get a gold star if he didn’t have to poke me more than once with the needle. He smiled confidently, but minutes later looking dejected he said, “Guess you can keep the gold star.” I felt sorry for him. He called for backup and briefed the young nurse how he had to give up a gold star opportunity. She was unsympathetic. “I will find a vein!”

She did, first try.

I think I’ve shared before that waiting is not something I do well. All weekend it was on my mind. Would the scan come back clear or not? A friend sent me this video last week that I’ve looked at about a three or four dozen times since he posted it on my Facebook wall. The song is so poignant and has such an encouraging message. I am so aware and grateful for the countless many who are loving me through this journey with cancer, but none so faithfully as the Lord Himself!

The doctor called me today.

“The scan is clear.”

Rejoice with me today, gentle readers.

“O God, my heart is quiet and confident. No wonder I can sing your praises!” Psalm 57:7

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Round and Round

I had to look up the word “penultimate” when she sent me the text. It means “second to last” and she was referring to my Round 5 of chemo. Sue was encouraging me by pointing out that I am nearly done chemo. The finish line is close but I’m still in the throes of battle and I admit these few days have been challenging. It seems every round has a new spin on unpleasantness. Neuropathy pain in the first round, a blood clot in the second, mind-numbing tiredness and nausea in the third and fourth rounds. Today, five days into round five it’s all about dizziness. The bouts of light-headedness overtake me so suddenly I have to negotiate my way around the house very carefully. I weeble wobble from room to room. I sort of look like Tim Conway in his comedy sketches where he portrays an old, feeble man except nothing is funny or laughable about what I’m going through. I shuffle around in slow motion, arms outstretched to maintain my balance. Climbing stairs is a cardio workout. My husband follows me, prepared to catch me if I should lose my balance. Combined with continuous joint discomfort that the last doctor is now calling myalgia of some sort, I don’t do a lot of moving. It frustrates me, but I’m okay, all things considered.

Yesterday my young friend who has been battling Stage Four metastatic Breast cancer for a few years, posted a picture of herself starting new chemo treatments after doctors discovered progression of the disease on her liver. She’s been battling like a super hero since first diagnosed while at the same time homeschooling her three young children and being a supportive wife to her husband. With a smile and thumbs up, the picture of Sarah yesterday got me so choked up I started to weep. She has to be the most courageous woman I’ve ever met! She is a prayer warrior. I am in awe of her strength and abiding faith. Gentle readers, please pray for Sarah as she battles fiercely on once again!

There are several others whom I have prayed for over these many months who bravely face their cancer diagnoses and their subsequent treatments with hopeful resolve and unwavering strength. Each one of them have admitted to me that if it were not for their walk with God they would not know how to get through each day. I understand. Clinging to His Word, every chemo round is a new opportunity for transformation. I can’t help but change! I hope my physical health improves with each treatment, but I am also counting on God to use this experience so I can be used for His purposes in ways I never thought of before.

I hope I am more empathetic and show more compassion to those who struggle with health issues. I hope I don’t try to compare my journey with theirs. One thing I have learned is everyone’s experience with cancer is different. I have reacted to my chemo treatments differently than another who is on the exact same drugs as me. My personality, support system, health care providers and a host of other tangible and intangible things affect how I handle my treatments. My personal, familial history also affects how I respond in every circumstance. I hope I am modelling more spiritual maturity now than I did nineteen years ago. My goal is to be as encouraging as I can be to others no matter what their individual journeys may be like. They are heroes in their own right. I just want to applaud and cheer them on!

My prayer life has definitely changed as a result of my experience with cancer. How could it not change? I have sought prayer for myself and others and have seen God answer prayer in miraculous ways. I have expected God to intervene in every instance and I’ve not been disappointed. It doesn’t mean God answered according to my will but His. It’s being okay with that. Relinquishing control is a daily surrender.

My relationships with family and friends have changed. I pray I never take them for granted. I am so blessed! Cancer continues to teach me that I am not meant to go through any hardship relying on my own strength or thinking I am alone. I can be “real” and share my ups and downs with them knowing they will immediately pray for me. There is a tendency for me to put on a brave front and not show my vulnerability. My family and close friends allow me to let down my guard and share openly about the challenges I face going through treatments. I’m not Super Woman, I’m just me. I’m scared, I hurt, I get discouraged, but God is bigger than my fears and anxiety and He’s surrounded me with people who remind me of that every day!

I continue to covet all your prayers, dear readers.

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Join Me In Support of the Terry Fox Foundation

A year from now, God willing, I intend to be in Victoria, B.C., participating in the 40th Anniversary of the Terry Fox Marathon of Hope run. I know one of the key organizers of the “Great Canadian Hair-Do” event, and when I told Linda I plan to be there on the Island next year, she asked if I would consider being one of the guest speakers.  I have a year to prepare, but I already know what I want to say.  After two go-rounds with cancer, I am one of the many thousands of cancer patients who have benefitted from the Terry Fox Foundation, through their efforts to create awareness and raise money that goes towards cancer research.  If you look up other cancer charities that vie for your charitable donations, the Terry Fox Foundation surpasses them all statistically in that 79 cents from every dollar raised by the Foundation goes directly to cancer research.  That’s important to me!  I want my children and grandchildren to never have to personally experience cancer in their lifetimes.  I believe in a future where all cancers are once and for all eradicated.  I pray in my lifetime that there will come a day when all cancers are easily treatable and preventable due to breakthroughs in cancer research.  Terry Fox had that dream too.

Would you join me in making that dream a reality?  If you haven’t donated yet, knowing every dollar counts, please support the Terry Fox Foundation this year.  If you haven’t signed up for a run in your city this year, would you set a goal to run in one next year, or join in one of the many other events that support the efforts of the Terry Fox Foundation?

In 2014, I wrote a blog post about Terry Fox – A Great Canadian.  I reblog it here:

“I was a young bride and studying at the University of Calgary on my way to finishing my education degree.  My husband was going back and forth from Calgary to Comox, B.C. to visit with his mother who was battling cancer.  We did not know that cancer would affect us so much then or later when his mother lost her battle in 1981, my mother would lose her battle with the same disease in 1990, and I would be diagnosed with breast cancer eleven years later.  To say that cancer has touched this family would be a drastic understatement.  It is no surprise then that one of the people I admire the most is Terry Fox.

Terry Fox is considered one of Canada’s greatest heroes of the 20th Century.  Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1958, and raised in Port Coquitlam, B.C., Terry lost his right leg at age twenty to cancer.  Instead of wallowing in self-pity and remorse, the young athlete decided to run from coast to coast in order to raise awareness and money for cancer research.  He began by dipping his leg in the Atlantic Ocean at St. John’s, Newfoundland on April 12, 1980, with the goal of dipping it again in the Pacific Ocean at Vancouver, British Columbia several months later.  He ran an average of forty – two kilometres a day, a unique running style evident in a hop-skip approach that took tremendous effort and stamina to maintain the grueling pace.  No one had ever done anything similar to the task Fox was undertaking.

At first there was little media attention for the young runner, and his “Marathon of Hope”  but slowly and surely word of the courageous young man began to spread.  It began as idle curiosity and then spread to admiration across Canada.  Communities welcomed him and others began to prepare for his arrival.  It was like a national cheer or wave starting at the east coast and spreading to the west.

I remember watching the news reports and catching the “wave” with millions of other Canadians who cheered on his progress.  Terry and I were the same age and I marveled at his determination and strength.  Then on September 1, 1980 just north-east of Thunder Bay, Ontario after 143 days, running 5,373 km. (3,339 miles) through Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario, Terry was forced to abandon his run.  Cancer had spread to his lung.

I remember the interview he gave so vividly as I watched the news on T.V. that day.  His voice was hoarse, arms crossed over his chest as he lay on a stretcher, tears in his eyes; he promised he would return to the run as soon as he was able to.  Terry had raised $1.7 million dollars for cancer research during his run.

Unfortunately Terry died on June 28, 1981 at the age of 22, one month before his 23rd birthday, but not before becoming the youngest person ever to be awarded the Order of Canada.

Two-and-a-half months after his death, the first Terry Fox Run was held on Sept. 13, 1981.  More than 300,000 Canadians took part in the event at 760 sites across Canada.  The run raised $3.5 million.  Since then the amount raised in over 30 years of Terry Fox Runs is well over $600 million!

Fox’s heroism inspired other Canadians to similar feats in the name of charitable causes.  Steve Fonyo, another runner who had a leg amputated to cancer retraced the same route as Fox and completed the run in the name of cancer research.  Rick Hansen, a paraplegic athlete, made his own trek around the world in his wheelchair to raise funds for spinal cord injury research.

In 1982, British singer/songwriter, Rod Stewart, wrote the song “Never Give Up On a Dream” as a tribute to Terry’s Marathon of Hope and proceeds from the song went towards cancer research.

Terry’s goal was to persuade every Canadian to donate one dollar for cancer research.  Now the run has become a global event with over two million people running world-wide in organized Terry Fox Runs.

I’m not a runner, I’m a writer, but if I can help raise awareness through this blog, I will have done my part.  I encourage my readers to click on this link and generously donate to the Terry Fox Foundation  today.”

 

 

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