If I had to describe in one word how this first week of chemotherapy has been it would be….INDESCRIBABLE.
Unless you have experienced this yourself there is no way to fully comprehend what this treatment is like. And for those of you who have traveled this road I applaud you and empathize. I am by no means writing this for sympathy or to invite myself to my own pity party, but it’s simply a fact. This is hard.
I will spare you the details, but know that this takes you to a place of complete physical and emotional brokenness and surrender. You have moments when you question if this will ever end, and then somewhere in that darkness shines a glimmer of normalcy when you actually entertain the thought of washing a dish or two. That only lasts a second, mind you.
I have asked myself many times these past few days, why? Why is this happening to me? Why do I have to face this trial? What did I do I deserve this? Why must my children watch me suffer? Why? Why do bad things happen to good people?
Now I am not claiming to be any more “good” than anyone else in fact, I’m quite flawed, broken, goofy and in process just like the next person. However, I’d like to think I don’t have serial killer tendencies, I’m kind to animals, and I am “that girl” who will go all the way back to the Target cashier from the parking lot, once I realize that small pack of gum that slipped through my cart at checkout didn’t get rung up.
So again, why did I win the “your life is going to pretty much be crap for awhile” lottery?
Well, it’s actually pretty simple. We live in a fallen world. We live in a world that is not our home and on this earth we will experience pain. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done or not done with your life, we will experience trouble.
John 16:33 says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
It doesn’t say, your life will always be butterflies and rainbows and there will be an endless sale going on at Nordstroms! No, it says, you WILL have trouble. But, you have to remember the last and best part of that verse. The promise that God wins. You win.
I believe God has allowed this to happen to me, and it is my job to approach it with an attitude of thankfulness. Now please understand, I am not THANKFUL that I have cancer. I am not HAPPY about this one bit. And do I kick and scream and cry like a baby sometimes? ABSOLUTELY. But, I can be grateful knowing a merciful God will never leave my side, and He will see me through to victory.
I can be grateful that He is giving me an opportunity to trust Him more, to see His incredible and constant love poured out on me each and everyday, and then maybe I will be given the opportunity to use this experience to help someone else in the future.
I can also choose to see the good this will produce in my family. My children will learn about a very real life struggle and hopefully gather tools about how to deal with trouble within a safe environment while they are young. I can choose to let this be an “inconvenience” on their perfect little lives, or I can choose to allow this to make them stronger and more equipped for what they will encounter as they grow.
I can choose to take this opportunity to teach them about compassion, fortitude, faith, trust, and chipping in when the chips are down. We all have a choice when it comes to how we view tough times in our life. I’m not choosing to like it, but I am choosing to except and embrace it.
I know I will have to remind myself of this all over again when it’s time to put the gloves back on and jump in the ring for round two. Because having this mindset is hard work. It’s not a flippant, happy-go-lucky attitude you just adopt. It takes daily prayer, internal wrestling, and literally throwing your hands up to the heavens and saying, “HELP!”
And even in those moments when you just can’t wrap your head around everything that is happening, making sure you are allowing yourself to be ok with not having all the answers and finding peace with that is what becomes most important.
So my question should NOT be, “Why me?” But instead….
“Why not me?”
Thank you all for your prayers and good thoughts today. I can tell you I actually felt them. I woke up this morning feeling peaceful and ready to get this party started. I did have a few “oh crap” thoughts as we were driving to the hospital, but those were momentary and fleeting. Thank goodness.
The port placement went well, and I knew I was in good hands when the doctor came in wearing a University of Iowa surgical cap. YES! Go HAWKS! My alma mater!
After the port placement I had some lab draws and then it was time to get the good stuff. After the first bag of Benadryl, I was feeling a little loopy, and managed to close my eyes and rest a bit. Then came the chemo cocktail. Again, that went down fine with no initial allergic reaction which was another answered prayer.
I was at the hospital most of the day, so I packed some essentials that I thought would make this experience a little more tolerable.
I had a Glamour magazine, (because who doesn’t want to feel glamorous while pumping poison through their body), a wonderful list of healing scriptures that I mediated on thanks to a sweet friend, some healthy snacks (it’s all about the “sprouted” seeds), my lavender essential oil that helped to relax me (I had nurses coming in to ask what smelled so good!), my fantastic 32 ounce glass water bottle from BKR, my Beautycounter hand cream containing ZERO ingredients that are linked to causing cancer, and last but certainly not least, the cute guy in the corner who was the best “essential” all day. My amazing husband.
Watch out cancer cells. Your days are numbered. Here is the nitty gritty. We decided on a treatment plan yesterday that will consist of four rounds of chemotherapy every three weeks. After those four rounds we will assess how well the cancer has responded to the chemo. If everything is looking good then I will wait a month to recover and then have surgery.
There is a possibility, I could need an additional two chemo rounds. But, as far as I’m concerned, that won’t be necessary. I will begin treatment this Thursday, starting with the port placement, and will then be given the “chemo cocktail” that the doctors have prescribed.
These past few weeks, beginning the day I was diagnosed until now, have been like nothing I have ever experienced. It has been a combination of a few very joyful and happy days, and a lot of rock bottom days with a few “meh” days mixed in.
Andrew and I have experienced all of the emotions that come with a cancer diagnosis; fear, denial, anger, disbelief, and extreme sadness. It has forced us to confront the realization that we can’t “do” this life on our own. We always knew and understood this concept. But, until you are faced with something as tragic and uncertain as cancer, you don’t really grasp the scope of it.
Cancer strips you of any inkling that you can “fix this” or muscle through it on your own will-power, and takes you to a place of complete dependence on something greater than yourself. At some point, you have to take your hands off the steering wheel and say, “Lord, take over.” The peace that comes with allowing yourself to do that, regarding any struggle in your life, is indescribable.
I was explaining that feeling to a friend using an image that has been coming to my mind recently. The image is a cloudy, stormy, sometimes sunny landscape that represented my life. Some days are sunny and beautiful, and others are downright tumultuous. But within that landscape is a thin silver thread that is constant, unwavering and strong.
This thread represents the peace that I hold onto and have found through my faith. It’s the one thing that doesn’t change throughout the changing landscape of each day, and it’s the one thing that keeps me going, and looking forward with hope. There are so many verses in the Bible that support this concept, but the one that spoke to me, of course on the day I needed it most, was Isaiah 12:2.
“Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.”
So, some may say that “every cloud has a silver lining”. But, I like to say mine has a silver thread, and I am holding on for dear life.
LETS DO THIS.
Some have been asking what my treatment plan is and when it will start. Well, we are still in the information gathering stage. This week I will meet with a genetic counselor to begin the process of determining if I have a genetic marker for breast cancer.
This will be helpful information not only for deciding on the extent of traditional treatment, but it will also be crucial information for our girls in the future. Then, I will have an MRI to make sure the cancer hasn’t spread to other areas of the breast and/or lymph nodes. Once we have all of this information, which could take up to three weeks or more, then we will have the pieces needed to formula a battle plan.
Until then, it’s “Operation Green Machine”! We are in a full-scale reconnaissance mission to gather as much information about cancer busting diets as we can. I’ve currently cut out refined sugar, and I’m filling my diet with organic fruits, and vegetables, and other ultra “healthy” whole foods, juices, and smoothies. Probably how I’m supposed to eat anyway! Ok, not gonna lie, I MISS PIZZA!!!! (And it’s only been a few days.). I’ve had a few “hangry” moments, (hungry and angry), but I’m getting it figured out and actually feeling quite satisfied with my new diet.
Here are a few of my favorite books that I have been reading to learn more about anti-cancer diets. I particularly love, Breast Cancer Smoothies by Daniella Chace.
Another fantastic resource we have been using is a blog called Anti-Cancer Mom. We met Courtney, the author of this blog, a few months before I was diagnosed. She and her husband have been a great resource for us. If you’re looking for some fantastic resources for “cancer busting” recipes, this is the place to go!
I am also kicking up the exercise routine and getting myself in top fighting form. I will be focusing on increasing my pilates workouts and forcing myself to jump on the treadmill. (Not one of my favorite things to do.) But, I have to say it does feel good being able to put my own action plan in place now while I wait for more answers.
God has been strengthening my spiritual armor everyday. I love how God’s word will speak to me right when I need it most and touch a part of my heart that is yearning for peace or knowledge. One of my favorite devotions books is Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. It has been a great tool for quick devotions every morning. I’ve been using it for years, but it’s so cool to see how He makes it fresh every day. Here is today’s devotion:
“I have promised to meet all your needs according to My glorious riches. Your deepest, most constant need is for My peace. I have planted Peace in the garden of your heart, where I live, but there are weeds growing there too: pride, worry, selfishness, unbelief. I am the Gardener, and I am working to rid your heart of those weeds. I do My work in various ways. When you sit quietly with Me, I shine the Light of my Presence directly into your heart. In this heavenly Light, Peace grows abundantly and weeds shrivel up. I also send trials into your life. When you trust Me in the midst of trouble, Peace flourishes and weeds die away. Thank Me for troublesome situations; the Peace they can produce far outweighs the trials you endure.”
“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 4:19
“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all.” -2 Thessalonians 3:16
“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” -2 Corinthians 4:17
I will continue to trust Him daily and know that He will provide all my needs! Even if it’s something as simple as, lunch.