Thursday, February 21, 2013

Pink Love and Plastic Surgeons


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Another crazy day that almost makes having cancer seem worthwhile. Almost. Yesterday my mom and dad came home with fresh Krispy Kreme doughnuts for me. Well, as fresh as they can be from Iowa! My favorite! And they also had a new iPad and pink case for me! This was a way beyond necessary love gift from family members and friends that are so close they are practically family. Completely blown away with their generosity! I'm so glad the color for breast cancer is pink. That's always been my favorite color, now I will just see more of it!

This morning I arrived at church for Bible study to find pink everywhere. And as the ladies came walking in, they were all wearing pink! It was a sea of pink love and support from my Bible study ladies! You know that moment when you just don't have words, and then you realize that you're holding your breath. That's what it was like. I hate surprises when I can see them coming! This was a complete surprise and I loved it! Thanks to everyone in pink today, including Jerry Meras! Your prayers and support are amazing! Pace yourselves though. This is going to be a long road and it's only going to get harder and I can't do this on my own!


I feel the love! Thank you to every single one of you in that picture, and whoever is taking the picture and to anyone that wishes to be in the picture. Thank you to anyone and everyone who has sent a text, e-mail, facebook message, tweet, voicemail, snail mail...THANK YOU! I know it's imtimidating...what do you say to someone that has cancer? I know I wouldn't know what to say, but I do know that I'd rather hear the "wrong" thing than nothing at all! No one has offended me yet! Thank you for offering to help keep Ella busy. Thank you for offering to bring meals. (My amazing husband is a jack of all trades, but there will only be so many frozen pizzas, bowls of cereal and cheese stuffed pizza rolls that I can eat. Well, except for the last. I could eat those all day long!) Thank you being the hands and feet of God and thank you for all that you're still going to do. THANK YOU!

I had to leave early to make it to my appointment with my plastic surgeon in Plymouth. (That's a sentence I NEVER thought I would say! Ever.) My dad drove me there and waited for me. He sipped his coffee made from the Keurig machine and got caught up on his current events thanks to People magazine! Everything you've ever imagined about a plastic surgeons office is true! I would like to borrow some notes from their interior designer! It was beautiful and every detail was perfect, right down to signing in on an iPad! Dr. Kadkhodayan is fantastic. My deductive reasoning with the shimmery business card and cool last name panned out! She introduced herself and then asked me to tell her everything that had happened to bring me to this point and then to tell her, in a perfect world, what would I like to see happen from this point on. I like it when a Dr lets me talk. Turns out we were on the same page. She then proceeded give me all the pre- op instructions, prescriptions I would need following the surgery, a list of things to buy and do before and following surgery. Did you know they make mastectomy bras? Yeah, I didn't either. Then she took "before" pictures. Weirdest. Photo shoot. Ever. And I did some weird photo shoots as a junior-high student.

Squirrel! Speaking of junior high girls. Jillayne and I took our small group girls out to Cosetta's in St. Paul for dinner on Saturday night. The lines were long thanks to a lacrosse game and a roller derby match, game, tournament, race. Not sure what it's called. Honestly, I didn't even realize it a real thing! That made me think of Ella roller skating over at the rink with the school PSP group. Another junior high memory. Anyway. Amazing food. Amazing girls. A couple of them had gone shopping for me earlier in the day and had quite a bag of goodies for me! How sweet and thoughtful! It was a great night. Thank you, girls! You are a huge blessing and I hope you know I love you! If your parents ever get tired of you, you can come stay with me!

Back to Dr. Kadkhodayan. She laid out the reconstructive process and smiled so sweetly and said, this time next year, you’ll be sitting here talking about the “finishing touches” as your finish treatment. Here’s the part when I start to feel sorry for myself. Pity Part Alert. My treatment, healing and reconstructive journey is going to take over a year. A YEAR! Rick and I were supposed to celebrating our TEN year anniversary on the beaches of Hawaii, not in a chemo appointment. I should be planning field trips and outings for Ella and me, not trying to coordinate who can take her for the day since I won’t be able to get out of bed. I should be celebrating her Kindergarten graduation and planning her golden birthday party, not fighting breast cancer. Just thinking about those moments is daunting. I remind myself of  Psalms 61:2- From the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint.  Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  And Philippians 4:13- I can do all things through him who strengthens me. And Jeremiah 29:11- For I know the plans I have your you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  And Deuteronomy 31:6- Be strong and courageous.  Do not fear or be in dread, for it the Lord your God who goes with you.  He will not leave you or forsake you.  And Proverbs 19:21- Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.  And then I laugh. Did I really just think that I had a better plan than God?!

So, it’s a date. Me, Dr. Ogren, Dr. Kadkhodayan, and an operating room for a heavy dose of anesthesia and a bilateral mastectomy and expander placement to start the reconstructive process. (Oh, I decided to do a double mastectomy so that A) I don’t have to go through this again. There is a very likely chance that the cancer could return at some point, and I’m not much for gambling. I went to a casino once (since that’s all you can do on your 18th birthday) and went in with $20 and left with $70. I lost all my money in the slot machines, but an old man using the THREE slot machines next to me couldn’t leave his machines to go buy cigarettes (which is something else you can do when you turn 18). So I took his hundred dollar bill and went to buy him a box of cigarettes. Then I went back cause he wanted a whole carton and then he told me to keep the change. That’s how I make money in a casino. B) I need to match and be symmetrical. The CDO (that’s OCD in alphabetical order) in me can’t have one real and one fake. Plus as I get older and gravity takes over, I’ll be appreciative for two fake! That contraption on the left is the expander. It does not look comfortable! At a later appointment I'll decided between the other two, the size and all that fun stuff that will make me feel like a Desperate Housewife.

P.S. As I type this, the sun is rising. It's PINK! God loves me! And it's going to snow! God really loves me!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

finally some good news!

After harassing calling the MRI department and my surgeon’s office for the last several days, I finally have my MRI results! The nurse I spoke to earlier this morning said that I would be hearing from Dr. Ogren later this afternoon and that she’ll want to schedule surgery “quickly”. The MRI showed the tumor was “stacked and shaped like a C.” That explains why the biopsy was done in a place other than where I was feeling the bump. Errr, I mean lump. She said to think of it as a tidal wave. Living landlocked all my life, my knowledge of tidal waves is lacking, so I googled. This is a tidal wave:
So my cancer lump is “bizarre!”  Dr. Ogren went onto say that there are no signs of cancer lumps (side note:  some of you know that there are a few words that I dislike. Greatly.  Tumor and lesion will be added to that list, effective immediately.) in the other breast and that the lump has not left the tissue and is far away from the chest wall and she is confident that surgery will remove everything.  And as she warned us, she took all of our choices off the table and will be doing a full mastectomy because of the large size of the cancer lump.  After consulting with an oncologist, it has been decided that I will now also be having radiation following the chemo.  At the time of surgery they will do the sentinel lymph node biopsy to confirm that the lymph nodes are not involved, but she doesn’t think they are.  They will also place a port so I don’t have to endure seven pokes at each chemo appointment!
Since I am “a great candidate for immediate reconstruction” I will be meeting with a plastic surgeon tomorrow.  Following that meeting, her people will contact Dr. Ogren’s people and they will settle on a date.  Although she said it would probably be the first week of March since that is a day they both set aside.  Silly me for thinking “quickly” would be anything less than a full month! 
My dad leaves for Africa on March 1st and I’d like to have it done before then if at all possible.  So I am praying for something sooner, will you pray with me?
So praise the Lord for some good news!  I know MANY of you have been praying with me and sometimes for me on those days when all I can do is sit and know that when there are no words, God hears my heart.  And your words. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Miracles of Manna and Mascara

I used to love weekends. Rick, Ella and I were all together, hanging out, exploring and making memories. The last three weekends have been the longest. weekend. ever. We're still hanging out, exploring, and making memories, but in the back of mind (or at the very front, it depends on the moment) I can't seem to shake the fact that I am waiting. Waiting for results. What used to seem to fly by in an instant now crawls by in slow-motion. Never before have I so wished for Mondays!

This past Friday I went to work. I was looking for normalcy, and nothing screams normal more than a 9-5 work day. Or in my case, 6-2. I called the surgeon's office to make sure they had my cell number. I called the MRI department to see if the MRI had been read yet. No, not yet. I talked with those of my co-workers that had heard. I told some others. One coworker asked if I had talked with the Radiologist on for the day, he was after all the Medical Director of Radiology. So we talked with him and he was going to look into it and make sure it was read by the end of the day. I knew that wouldn't change my weekend of waiting though.

On my lunch break I read some more in Exodus.  I'm a couple chapters behind in my reading plan for reading through the Bible in 40 days. I love Exodus. I love how story after story, God showed up for the Israelites in BIG ways.  The parting of the Red Sea is something I am going to ask to see footage of when I get to heaven.  Can you imagine?  And manna.  Seriously, how could it get any better?  I’m going with the assumption that it tasted like honey.  And the only thing better than honey is maple syrup!  Buddy the Elf has nothing on my love for maple syrup.  Every single need the Israelites had, God met it.  And then some.  As a God that doesn’t change, he’s still in the business of providing for our every need.  And then some. 

I picked Ella up from school.  This is my favorite part of the day.  I love to see her bounce down the steps and put her folder in her backpack, gather her stuff and then I just wait for her spill the details of the day.  I listened as we drove home.  I pulled into the driveway and noticed a little bag sitting on the step.  I read the note that came with it, and I started laughing so hard that I started crying.  I could not stop the tears!  God is creative and isn’t going repeat the same miracles over and over again.  So I may not have received manna, but I got something better! I got waterproof mascara!

Sue introduced herself, reminding me of who she was.  I know who you are, Sue!  I don’t think the women in the Wednesday morning Bible study realize that I am serious when I say that I pray for them.  Yes, some prayers may be generalized for my Wednesday Women, but I also pray for each one by name.  So, formalities out of the way, she said…”while reading your blog, I wondered how I could help.  Then I came across your entry that said you would like to find some waterproof mascara…alas, a way I can help…I am a Mary Kay consultant!”  Thank you, God, for Mary Kay ladies!  Sue’s gift was just a reminder that God meets all of our needs, and then some! 

Thursday, February 14, 2013


February 13, 2013

What an interesting day I had today.  It was a pinch-me-to-see-if-this-is-real kind of day.  It started off as most days do in the last two years.  I’m up before the sun to get some uninterrupted Bible study time in.  I check in with my #hellomornings friends.  I pray through the names and situations on my prayer cards, or just whatever is on my heart.  I love this peace and quiet.  I love my coffee. In my favorite pink mug.  I finish Ella's Valentine’s for her teachers and thank God for making me in his image: creative! Or at least able to copy someone else’s creativity when my creative juices are stagnant. 
For Spirit week at school, it was checkerboard day.  The teacher was to let us know if the kids were supposed to wear black or white.  I didn’t know which color she was supposed to wear, so I put her in a white shirt with a black hoodie.  (Her Spy hoodie.  She wants to be a Spy when she grows up.) Genius plan, I’m a great mom. 

I feed her breakfast, pray silent prayers of protection over her as I brush her hair.  Wonder what she’ll think when I start to lose mine.  We head to school.  My heart sinks as I watch the other kids take their coats off…they are wearing red shirts.  Knowing her red shirt was at home in the rapidly growing pile of dirty clothes that I keep putting off, I make a quick run to the store for red tablecloths and a red shirt, stop back and school to drop them off, then to church with a trunk full of coffee supplies.  I was so looking forward to seeing my friends and learning and growing with the women in our Bible study. This morning I was not disappointed.  After the speaker finished, I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to tell this group of women about my diagnosis.  I had not planned on doing this at all.  I had told a few people and figured the information would get around eventually.  But God is really working on my heart in the area of asking and accepting for help. 

During Rick’s 6 months of unemployment, God provided.  I was encouraged.  But I also regretted not asking for help when we needed it, turning it down when offered and being so reluctant to accept help when it came.  I was talking to a friend that I don’t need all that often about Rick’s new job and how much he was enjoying it, and she was stunned.  She didn’t even know that he had lost his job.  And I had seen her at least four times in that time.  God is teaching me, that in order for the body of Christ to function as He plans, we all need to be cooperative and obedient.  If I dismiss someone feeling led to help, I’m missing out on a blessing, but even more so, I’m stealing their opportunity to obey God as He has called them to joyfully serve.  When I pray, expecting answers, who am I to pick and choose how those answers come?  How completely freeing!

Following whatever I said (I don’t remember what that was!), I heard a few gasps, lots of tears and suddenly every woman in the room was on her feet and walking towards me.  With at least 10 hands on me (thankfully no on feels lead to lay hands on the actual cancer site) beautiful, Spirit-filled prayers were lifted as we boldly approached the throne of the Most High God.  On my behalf.  Mixed with the prayers were still the sounds of tears, which to me was the sweet, sweet sound of my sisters in Christ sharing my burden.  Wow. 

Many hugs followed.  If hugs could heal, I would be in great shape.  The prayers continued in the copy room, echoing my own for clear lymph nodes.  My pastor sought me out to offer a hug and comfort through knowing he was praying for us as well.  Dan made me laugh as he told me how breast cancer had affected dear women in his life and that he would be “praying his face off for me.”  That and our friend, Scot, offering to shave his head with me when the time came are among my favorite laughable moments.  Ya’ll….Scot is bald, shiny bald! 

From there I had lunch with Dee and Cami then headed to school to help with Ella’s classroom Valentine party.  I enjoyed it so much, being able to be in the classroom like that again.  I miss it.  When this storm passes I need to get back into the classroom in some form!  Maybe now would be a good time to look into being a Reading Specialist, or Reading Recovery teacher.

I headed to St John’s for my 4:30 MRI.  I was early, so I sat by the fireplace with a Chai Tea Latte and continued my reading in Genesis.  I am reading through the Bible with author/speaker, Margaret Feinberg in 40 days!  It’s going to be a challenge, but when I think of what my next 40 days hold, I find it invigorating!

Don't Miss Out on the Wonder of Scripture This Lenten Season

I checked my e-mail.  Whoa.  Ummmm, friends!  If only knew the power of your words!  So encouraging and uplifting and affirming.  Thank you.  Thank you. Thank you.  What a blessing!  I didn’t even try to stop the tears streaming out of joyful thanksgiving for the ways that God is showing himself to me!

The verses that you all send are life-giving!  And Vicki, I have no words, but thank you.  Give it a week or two and Vicki has something special for us!

And honestly, when I was asking God if I could BE anymore blessed, (any Friends fans catch that?!) I walked down the stairs to Radiology and checked in for my MRI.  I was handed my paper work and a manila envelope.  I set the envelope on the seat next to me.  Filled out the questions and then opened the envelope. 

The lyrics to the song that I repeat to myself…the words I heard from God himself and the prayers and encouragement from a friend! Kara, thank you for thinking of me and for this surprise! 

And then there was the MRI.  My appointment was at 4:30.  Turns out me not being post-menopausal is throwing a wrench in everything!  Getting an IV in me proved to be quite an ordeal.  At least the tech and the SWAT nurse have a three-poke rule and stop after that.  They brought over an ER nurse with an ultrasound machine to find veins and lucky stick number seven worked!  Then for the next 45 minutes I laid on my stomach, like Superman, and tried to breath, but not too deeply.  I tried to ignore the wayward strand of hair that kept tickling my nose.  I prayed.  I sang. I enjoyed silence in God’s presence. 

I headed over to church for Encounter.  I was late, but at least I made it!  Greeted by friends, supported by friends, worshipping the Lord and praising Him in this storm.  It doesn’t get any better.  Well, maybe an oops! We gave you the wrong test results.  You don’t have cancer would be nice! But where I am right now, I’d like to stay.  God is here.

I love Encounter, always have, always will.  But tonight God reminded me that he is every bit as near in the banging, claustrophobic MRI tube as he is in a church.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Yesterday was a really weird day.  Everything was normal, except it was completely different!  Ella and I went to Starbucks for breakfast and I took her to school late.  We talked.  I assured her that by letting me have a bite of her Cap’n Crunch covered doughnut, she would not catch what was making me sick. 
 I started making a list of things that I needed to get done and started checking them off!  Make appointment with tax guy, check.  Laundry, maybe tomorrow.  Grocery shopping, I’ll wait for Rick.  Hair cut, check.  Pick up order at Lifeway, check.  But back to the hair cut.  It was way past due, but as I sat in the chair, I fought back the tears while thinking this is going be my last haircut for a long, long time.  I like my hair.  I will miss it.  Then I looked across at another station and remembered sitting there as my hair was done for my wedding.  That was also the chair I sat in when we came home from our honeymoon and I cut off over 10 inches to donate to Locks of Love. Back then,  I never would have guessed that I would be where I am now.  I was floored when I checked my e-mail and there was one from a friend that was asking if she could help in a certain way.  Only God knew that what she was offering was the very thing that was weighing on my heart the most.  Only God could have laid that same burden on her heart and nudged her gently to offer her services.  Only someone that listens to the Holy Spirit’s promptings and obeys can bring a sister in Christ pure joy!  But that’s how it’s supposed to work. 
Today Rick held my hand and we met with my surgeon.  I was hoping that we would walk in to the office, sit in chairs across her desk like they do in the movies and she would tell me my surgery date and lay out the next 3-4 months of treatment for me and answer the majority of our questions.  Then Rick and I would go out to lunch and coordinate our schedules, and then we would go buy some new cute jammies and slippers for the hospital.
That did not happen. 
We did get some answers.  My cancer has a name: Invasive Ductal Carcinoma HER2 positive. (I think I’ll call it “Ike” for short.)  I will be having surgery.  I will be having chemotherapy.  I will lose my hair.  I will not wear a wig.  But there is still a lot up in the air as to what order these things will happen in.  Dr Ogren would like some more answers before any decisions are made.  While IDC is the most common type of breast cancer, the fact that I am “so young” changes that a bit.  And the size and shape of the cancer is not normal.  Unusual, rare, not typical.  I heard those words a lot today.  And “so young.”  It turns out, I am “so young.”  She gave us three options to consider:

A)    Start chemotherapy and try to shrink the cancer. Then do a lumpectomy.
B)     Do a lumpectomy and then do chemotherapy and watch as the years go by, my chances of getting cancer again gets higher and higher.
C)    Do a mastectomy.  Then chemo. Possibly radiation.  Get reconstructive surgery.

Then she said,  depending on what she sees on the MRI, she may take all those options off the table and tell us what we are going to do.  Right now, I’m praying that even though Ike has left the duct and invaded the tissue,  that he has not left the building and stays contained in the breast and does not go visiting my lymph nodes. 
We discussed the possibility of returning to infertility treatments and possible pregnancy following all of this.  I did not like her answer.  By the time we would be given the checkered flag to start trying again, I would be no less than 35.  Suddenly I am not “so young” anymore.  And then came the list of why nots.  I got tired of listening to that, and I was just overwhelmed with everything she was saying, so I checked out for a second as I tried to figure out exactly what color her sweater would be considered.  Too orangey to be salmon, but coral didn’t seem right either.  She would fit in really well with flamingos that are fed a heavy diet of shrimp, so I think I will call it flamingo.  
So, as if dealing with an invasive, aggressive cancer diagnosis wasn’t enough to deal with, the added burden of this news has made it even more difficult to handle.  This is the hardest part for me to face right now.  This is where I need to trust God and know that when He seems to be saying no, He’s probably just waiting to bring about something greater than even I could have imagined and completely blow my mind.  He’s awesome like that!  So I’ll wait.  Besides, have you met our daughter?!  My cup runneth over…
So the next step is getting an MRI.  We scheduled that before we left for the following Tuesday since my insurance company needed four days to preauthorization.  Yeah, that’s not happening! So I came home and made a phone call to the insurance company and then the scheduling department (here again, it was quite nice that I knew the inner workings of this process, so I could help it along!) and I reschedule the MRI for tomorrow.  Much better!
Then more calls to the insurance company to check additional coverage and check to see if the recommended plastic surgeons were in network and if my plan covered reconstructive surgery.  So, after examining the business cards of the plastic surgeons that she recommended and deciding on the shimmery one with the cool last name, I called and made an appointment for a consultation. 
Now, armed with more information and more specific terms to google, I googled.  Here’s the closest description I found to what I heard from the doctor in the flamingo-colored cardigan.  Invasive Ductal Carcinoma and HER2. 
There were a couple bright spots in my day, though!  I came home to some beautiful flowers from an amazing friend.  I should have been tipped off when she asked for my address earlier in the day, but I believed that she really was “updating her records.”   Then there is another friend that has an uncanny ability to time her e-mails and mail deliveries perfectly!  I’m having fun watching for all the ways God shows up each day. 
Ella and I finished her Valentine's for party tomorrow. Aren't they cute?!


Monday, February 11, 2013

Scars and Struggles On the Way

Sunday, February 10, 2013
I put together a playlist of songs that I find encouraging and that remind me that being in the darkest place with God is better than being anywhere else without Him.  They played one those songs in church on Sunday.  I felt comfort and peace with each word I sang.  It was full of so many truths that I just can’t help but feel overwhelmed by how much I am loved by God! Margaret Feinberg put my thoughts to words, "Even in the midst of hardship, God's Spirit infuses us with unexplainable joy." 

"Never Once"
Matt Redman

Standing on this mountaintop
Looking just how far we’ve come
Knowing that for every step
You were with us

Kneeling on this battle ground
Seeing just how much You’ve done
Knowing every victory
Was Your power in us

Scars and struggles on the way
But with joy our hearts can say
Yes, our hearts can say

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful

I finally sent out an e-mail to some friends to let them know that I had heard the news.  Did I mention that I really don't like having to share this news?  I really don't.  Here's what it said:
Hi friends!
Most of you know about the whirlwind week of doctors appointments and waiting I've been through. On Friday afternoon my doctor called with the news that I have breast cancer. I'm still in shock and adjusting to this news and I don't know anything else. I'll be meeting with a surgeon on Tuesday morning to find out more about the type and stage of the cancer, learn what the next steps are and what my options are. I would really appreciate your prayers as my family and I make decisions this next week. In the middle of testing and infertility treatment, this was a detour that completely caught us off guard!
For the most part I've been able to stay calm and rest in His peace. I'm definitely overwhelmed with how God has shown the depth of His love for me in the last few days. God has made it quite clear that He's got this and I'm just along for the ride as long I trust in His plan! I am having a hard time putting words to my prayers and am thankful for the Holy Spirit interceding on my behalf.
Would you join me in praying for strength for my amazing husband, Rick. He's being so strong for me and Ella, but this is breaking his heart. Pray for wisdom as we gather all the information and make some decisions.
Pray for my parents. As a parent myself, I know it would be near impossible to watch my daughter have to face this and not be able to do anything to change it.
Pray for my sisters as they are miserable and feeling helpless in Missouri (and my sister Jamie's surgery to repair her torn ACL on Thursday.)
Pray for peace and comfort in those moments where my mind drifts to the worst case scenario.
Pray for God to provide financially through this time. We're still getting back on our feet after Rick's season of unemployment and our emergency fund is not ready for this! Rick does not have any vacation time built up yet either.
Pray that I'll stay otherwise healthy and that this cancer will be easily removed and treated. And healed.
And above all, pray that God will be glorified in this situation. That I can be a light to those that need it, that God's message will be shared through this situation and something beautiful will come from this.
As I find out more I'll keep you updated as I can. Maybe I'll start a blog to pass along info. Or maybe I won't. Who knows! Writing about what has been happening has been very cathartic! I am hoping to attend the Encounter worship time at church on Wednesday (If I am able). Would you join me there? Worshipping has been the best way to keep my mind off the cancer and focused on the One who is going to see me through it! Just a thought! And one last thing, I'm still me. I know how a scary diagnosis like cancer can make people unsure of what to say or what to do and to avoid saying anything hurtful or offensive, we say nothing (or at least that's how I felt on the other side.) Please don't let that be the case. I don't mind answering questions or talking about this at all. But, I still want to know what is going on in your lives and want to pray for you, too! So keep in touch! I love you and am thankful for you!
Later that evening, Rick and I were sitting on the couch and one by one, responses to my e-mail came in.  Every couple e-mails, the tears would just start flowing.  Rick would ask, "What did she say?"  Friends are amazing! The outpouring of love makes me cry more than the initial news!  For the most part, everyone is shocked.  That's a popular word.  Along with sad, heartbroken, angry, confused and just about every other emotion.  But they were also full of uplifting words reminding me that I am strong, my God is stronger and that He will ultimately get the glory!  A cancer diagnosis is like truth serum, everyone speaks up and shares how they really feel about you!  Or they are just trying to make me feel better.  I'm going with the first one.  Either way, God used my friends to encourage me and affim my faith!  One even told me that she would be running the Susan G. Komen 5K Race for the Cure in May in my honor. That blows my mind! (First that people actually enjoy running, second that she would do it in honor of me.)

The Day After

Saturday February 09, 2013
I went to tea with my mom, Ella and GG in Minneapolis.  We didn’t want to tell GG with Ella around and my mom and I did the best we could, but it was a long tea.  Very good food  though.  The chicken Dumpling soup and Chocolate Almond cake were my favorites.  I found myself having a mild panic attack while I was there.  I couldn’t take a deep breath, and that made me wonder if the cancer was spreading to my lungs and that was the reason that I couldn’t breathe, and that made it harder to breathe.  I felt like Peter.  Exactly like Peter as he was walking on the water out to meet Jesus and took his eyes off of Him and began to sink.  Once I reigned in my wayward thoughts,  got out in the fresh air, with my mind set on what is true, honorable, just,  pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and praiseworthy, I could breathe again.

We told Rick’s parents.  We don’t like having to tell people.  Especially when there is nothing to tell.  We told Lenny first.  Sweet Lenny.  I’ve always loved his hugs.  This one was probably my favorite.  When Linda called him on the phone a while later,  he told her to come on home, that Rick and I had some news.  From where I sat, I could imagine her asking him if we were announcing a pregnancy.  And he said, “No. Just come on home.” How I wish that was the news we had to share. 

We went over to our friend’s home, along with some other friends, for homemade pizza. Delicious!  We shared our news and then forgot about it and talked and laughed and ate and had a great time.  Before we left, they prayed for Rick and I.  How blessed am I to have friends like this!  As I walked to my car, Kara called my name and with tears in her eyes, she hugged me tight.  I think she said something too, but I was so moved by the tears in her eyes and the genuine love felt in her hug that I missed it. 

I prayed, "God, Surprise Me!"

Saturday, February 09, 2013

I try to laugh at the thought that comes to mind, as tears stream down my face, that God is going to have to find a bigger bottle for all these tears I’ve been dropping.

The news is still just hours old.  My mind is trying to wrap itself around what is happening.  It reminds me of a traffic jam.  Hurry up to stop and wait. 

It started three weeks ago. I saw a tiny little sun spot/mole like thing on my left breast.  I thought, “That’s new.” So I touched it, and I felt a bump in my breast.  Although I’ve come to learn that in the medical field they call it a lump.  So to avoid confusion, I’ll go with that.  At the same time, I knew that in a matter of days because of what should be an every month cycle but my body makes it an every other or every three month cycle, I would soon live in constant pain for two weeks.  And knowing what I know about mammograms, this lump would have to wait.  After the pain subsided and I could go down steps without pain, I called and made an appointment with Dr. Burroughs.  Side note:  If you are looking for the most caring and compassionate OB/GYN in the metro area, he is it.  The end. I am most familiar with Dr. Burroughs because of the infertility path we’ve been on, but I’ve seen more of him than my general practitioner, so I called his office and made an appointment for later that day, January 31st.

He confirmed that there was indeed a lump and I should get it checked out.  As soon as possible.  The scheduling department called me and we set up a diagnostic mammogram with breast ultrasound.  This is where is started to get weird.  I work in mammo support at the hospital.  All these terms and mammo lingo that began floating around me, were words I hear and use frequently.  But now they were personal.  I left Ella with Papa who was going to take her to her favorite restaurant, Olive Garden, and my mom and I headed to the breast center.  I went in at 11:20 for my baseline mammogram.  I think her name was Liz.  Or Elizabeth.  Or Beth.  Maybe it was Lizzie.  She was fabulous.  Healtheast would be proud to know that she has perfected AIDET.  For something that she does all day long, there was nothing about this routine for me.  I accepted the Oshibori towel, only because I wanted to smell the lavendar! Oh, so calming!  I put on the official mammogram attire.  For those of you trying to picture it, think of a hospital gown, but no gown part.  Just the shirt.  And missing a button.  On purpose.  I did like the white robe though.  After the squeezing was finished, (Ouch) I got dressed and went with my mom to get a Red Machine Naked Juice.  We sat by the fire and talked.  I love my mom.  She is the most patient person I know. My sister Jamie is next in line.  (If you want to avoid the lines at rides and character greetings in Disney World, bring my mom with you.  That way, you go and ride the other rides in the area, come back forty-five minutes later and it’s your turn!)  So we waited about a half hour, went back and put the mammo attire on again and went in for the ultrasound.  I ended up waiting a while for the Radiologist, and thankfully the ultrasound tech didn’t sit there with me trying to engage in small talk, but left me alone with my thoughts and my phone.  The words to a song I had heard earlier in the week kept floating through my mind, “I will bring praise.  I will bring praise.  No weapon formed against me shall remain.”  Can you name that tune?!  When my mind tried to wander to a dark place, I would repeat those lyrics over and over.  I don’t think I got the tune right though, and I didn’t know any more lyrics to that song.  What do you expect from a girl that can’t clap and sing at the same time!  I checked my phone and was encouraged by the texts and e-mails from the few people that I had shared this information with.  God has blessed me with some truly great friends.  That’s what happened in my life between 12:35 and 1:40  that day.  The Radiologist came in and pointed out shadows and white spots and things that to her looked like a Christmas tree, but to me looked like what I think the surface of the moon would like.  Or like spilt milk.   She said something about not being sure what exactly it was and that she recommended an ultrasound guided core biopsy.  Ah! Finally something familiar.  Where I come from, if you come in for an ultrasound guided core biopsy, you sit in the main waiting room.  Not the mammo waiting room. 

I met with the Nurse Navigator and she told me when I would be coming in for the biopsy. Told me all about the procedure and then told me I would n’t remember what she said, so she gave it to me in writing and I left.

The not knowing was too much, so I did what everyone does when they want to find out more about what they’re going through.  I googled.  I found a really cool teaching websites for those in school to be radiologists.  I starred at images of ultrasounds, looking for one that looked like the Christmas trees, moon dust and spilt milk I saw earlier.  I found one.  Something about a 28 year old…no risk factors…ductal carcinoma…ooh.  Let’s google that.  BIG mistake.  That led to other searches with ultimately ended in life expectancy and survival rates.  This was at 6:15pm.  Ten minutes later we left for small group.  So you can imagine what happened when my sweet friend Kara looked at me and asked, “How are you doing?”  This is when the tears started.  I felt loved and cared for as I sat on the couch, friends all around me.  What a great place to be. In fellowship and community with other believers to talk about the only thing holding me together; Jesus Christ. 

What we had studied throughout the week in Francis Chan’s Forgotten God study had me excited.  Between that and Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg, that I was almost finished reading, I was so pumped for what God had for me, and what he had called me to.  I had been asking for his guidance in deciding whether or not I should take on the position as the director of our women’s ministry since my friend Dee was stepping down.  I had talked with friends and family and knew that God was leading me down this path and was excited to step up and follow God.  I love the women of Five Oaks.  I love worshipping and listening and learning with them on Wednesday mornings.  I pray for them.  I am blessed to be able to use my spiritual gift to serve them. 

The same chapter I’d read at least two times throughout the week suddenly took on new meaning as we all sat there discussing the Holy Spirit.  James 4:3 says “You ask and do not receive, because you spend it on your passions.”  Right there, that was God telling me HOW I needed to be praying through the position I found myself in.  I would definitely be praying that after the biopsy and when the pathology report came back, it would be normal.  But my top priority and the prayers on my lips would be that God would be glorified in the circumstance.  Whichever way it went.  At the end of our time together, Erik echoed my heart and issued a challenge to the whole group to live and pray this way.

Highly suspicious.  Those words rattled around in my head all day Wednesday.  Rick and I drove to school to pick Ella up.  The conversation of babies comes up every once in a while since Ella prays every. single. night for “a baby brother, baby sister or both.”  We briefly talked about what our next step would be with infertility treatment.  Then we talked about baby names.  We have a boy name picked out.  We don’t agree on girls names.  It’s nearly a miracle that Ella was named.  I told him that we didn’t have a choice, that after now five years of trying, possibly more, we would name a girl Halle Joy (that would be short for “Hallelujah Joy! Look what God has done”) I convinced him that he didn’t need to come with me to the biopsy.  All he would be able to do is sit and wait.  If you know my beloved husband, rarely does he sit!

 I stayed up late studying Ephesians 6:10-18.  Good stuff there.  My takeaways can be summed up into 2 tweets!

Eph 6:10 be strong in The Lord! You can't put armor on a weak soldier!

Eph 6:13-17 Put on the full armor of God. You only hold the ground you fight for.

Which led me to Ephesians 3:16-19: “that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith-that you being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Wow.

I woke up Thursday feeling refreshed and ready to face whatever came.  I made Ella breakfast.  Egg IN toast.  How clever am I?! She was not impressed.  She told me that when she went to Nan’s house she would have oatmeal.  I was able to convince her that I could make her oatmeal and she would like it.  She ate her oatmeal and watched “What’s in the Bible with Buck Denver:  Volume 2”  I  jumped in the shower, knowing that I couldn’t shower for 24 hours after the biopsy.  (I read that on the instruction sheet they gave me.)  I was half listening to the movie with Ella and half scrolling through Twitter when the puppets on TV started singing.  Do you know what they were singing?! “Hallelujah! Look was God has done!”  Mind blown.

With Ella safely dropped off with Papa, my mom and I headed back to the breast center.  We were late.  My fault.  And the orange cones that blocked me from making a right turn towards the hospital.  Once there, I talked with the Nurse Navigator ( I feel like she should be wearing safari garb under her white lab coat!) once again about what to expect, what to do, what not to do and so forth.  I put on the half gown thing again and covered it with the white robe and wondered if I took it home with me, would they deduct the cost of it from my paycheck?

Back on the ultrasound table Melissa Kathleen introduced herself and got everything ready.  The Radiologist came in and told me what to expect, what he was going to do, what I shouldn’t do and so forth.  My worlds collided again.  I had written his name many times as the reading radiologist on the schedule for the day and now I was his patient.  He had great bedside manner, and he said THE word:  cancer.  It was the first time I’d heard it out loud since I started down this road.  I had thought it, I had read it, I had heard others skirt around it, but this was the first time I had heard it out loud.  Strangely, it was calming.  The procedure went smoothly and quickly and for the most part, pain free.  They taped me up and wrapped me up and I headed home.  To wait.  This was Thursday.  They would be calling me with the pathology results on Monday.  That left all of Friday, Saturday and Sunday to be alone with my thoughts and Google.  Not a good idea.  My dear friend, Kara, brought dinner over for us.  White Chicken Chili, salad, bread and cookies.  It was really good, Ella loved it.  I was blessed.  I am astounded by how something as simple as a meal can shout love so loudly.  Rick and I filled the weekend schedule: Coffee House at church, Tea with my mom, Ella and GG, dinner with friends, church, picking up horse poo etc.  Anything that would keep us busy.  I went to Bible study that night and listened to Beth Moore talk about the fruit of the Spirit.  It was encouraging to be there with new friends, to discuss what we learned throughout the week and to have them pray for me.  I laughed out loud when she quoted someone that has said, “If God ain’t messin’ with your life, he ain’t Lord of your life.”  I took comfort in knowing that I was right where he wanted me.

 My iphone shuffled to just the songs I needed to hear on the drive home which included: “I will bring praise.  I will bring praise.  No weapon formed against me shall remain.  I will rejoice.  I will declare. He is my victory and he is here.”  Sweet worship right there in the car!

Friday I went to work.  My sweet worship in the car continued.  I used my short commute into work to share with God what was on my heart.  I told him that I wanted my life to bring him glory.  If that meant negative test results and continuing my new journey in women’s ministry with a fresh fervency, then so be it.  If that meant praising him through cancer and chemo, so be it.  His Spirit stopped me there and asked, “If you having cancer will be what glorifies me most, will you trust me?” Pause.  Heartbeat quickening.  Deep breath.  “Yes, Lord.”

I spent the morning half losing myself in my work, and half trying to get my hands on the reports from my appointments to have something to hold that made all of this seem real.  I finally got them on my lunch break.  I wanted to see the ACR score.  My training in mammo had taught me what each number, 0-5 meant.  I knew that I may have to wait until the official report came back on Monday to get the official results.  But reading through the report, seeing phrases like “if malignant as suspected,” “if breast conservation is considered, ” and finally, “ACR CATEGORY 5: HIGHLY SUGGESTIVE OF MALIGNANCY.”  I knew the truth.  I had breast cancer.  31 years old.  No risk factors. No family history.  But I had cancer.  My first thought as I stood in the cafe’: Here we go, God!

I discussed the findings with yet another mammo tech and my boss.  They knew it too.  She tried to get me to go home early, but I finished the day.  Contacted my job share partner to ask her to cover my shift on Monday when the official results came in.  I got in the car and for the first time, I cried.  I pulled myself together, picked Ella up from school and headed to get tabs for the snowmobile.  The weather people said a winter storm was coming and we needed to be prepared.  Then the phone rang.  Ella was being a backseat driver and telling me this was not the way we go home.  I saw Dr. Burroughs’ name and quickly thought, “Awww.  He’s checking in on me.  How sweet!  But this is how the conversation went:

Dr: “Hi Melissa.  This is Dr. Burroughs.  How are you?”

Me: “Hi. I’m doing okay.  How are you?”

Dr: “Are you in a place that you’re able to talk?”

Me: “Yes.” ( I lied.)

Dr: “The pathology results are in and unfortunately they are not what we were hoping for.  It is cancer.”

Dr: ”…something about Tuesday, something about Dr. Ogren, something about infertility and pregnancy, something about surgery, something about cancer.”

Me: “Mmm Hmmm.  Yup.  Okay.  Okay.  Yes.  Okay.”

Dr: “This is not a phone call I was looking forward to making.  I don’t like this part of my job.  We will be praying for you.  We have a prayer list at the clinic and we will pray for you.  After your surgery, if you are okay with it, I would like to come see you.”

Me: “Thank you.”

Somewhere in the early part of the conversation I glanced in the back seat.  The little girl that was just bubbling over with endless chatter was now sound asleep.  Thank you, Jesus.

I hung up and I cried.  Thank goodness for the auto pilot switch in my car that got us safely home as I cried and cried and cried.  I left Ella asleep in the car, in the garage.  I ran into our bedroom where Rick was out cold having worked overnight to finish a project at work.  I shook him awake and through sobs said, “Rick, it’s cancer.”  Stunned, shocked, Confused, thinking he was dreaming (I guess nightmare would be more appropriate here)…I could have been a little more gentle.  I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me and tried to catch my breath.  He held me as I cried.  As we cried.  When I was finally able to catch my breath, I relayed what Dr. Burroughs had said about Tuesday and Dr. Ogren.  I searched for my phone and the number I had scribbled as I drove home.  I made the phone call, got everything settled for Tuesday and hung up the phone.  Numb.  In shock.  Yeah, that’s what I felt.  And then scared.  Not for me so much, but for my sweet, loving husband and our amazing daughter.    Not sure what to do next, I did what anyone else would do.  I grabbed my computer.  I saw my reflection in the blank screen and almost smiled at the black mascara tears rolling down my face.  I didn’t laugh though.  I just made a mental note that investing in some waterproof mascara was going to be necessary.   I called my parents.  My dad answered the phone.  Somehow in the two or three words I choked out, he knew and e and my mom were at our house in minutes.   I called the insurance company.  We talked about prior authorizations and deductibles and coinsurance and whether Dr. Ogren was in network or out of network.  It was a lovely conversation.  I looked into short term disability and FMLA and my Health savings account balances and felt like maybe I had done something since there really is nothing I can do.  Although I don’t remember anything that  I read.  There really was nothing I could do.  Except wait.  And cry and pray without words, knowing that the Holy Spirit would intercede for me.  And rest in Him.  Tuesday please come quickly. 
Friday night we went to church as planned for the coffee house.  We hadn’t decided if we were going to tell anyone or not.  Rick’s parents were out so we were not able to tell them.  My parents had filled my sisters in for me and I talked with them while Rick helped clean up.  We negotiated where our parents should be.  Jamie has surgery to repair her torn ACL on Thursday in Missouri.   I love my sisters.  I don’t think you could find any three people more different.  But I love them for that.   We didn’t have to tell anyone.  It never came up.  And I’m glad.  It was nice to have one last night of normal before it all begins. 

So that brings me to now.  Today.  Saturday, February 09, 2013.  I slept soundly in Him last night until 5:00am.  Then I woke up and read and I was encouraged, I feel God’s love for me so strongly and I feel his presence so near.  I hear him whisper to my weary soul: “Don’t worry, my child.  I’ve got this.”