Thursday, August 15, 2013
My life mostly reflects a cycle of exercising and healthy eating and then, well, not. We finally upgraded our bicycles at Christmas and were enjoying the challenges of riding in the Texas Hill Country. We are excited for our daughter’s plans to spend her vacation with us in August. Our son is finishing his first year at UT; life is better than good. Then came my husband’s diagnosis in early May – diabetes. Earnestly, I read everything I could on his treatment and what meals I should be feeding him. Like a dog with a bone, he was diligent in following his doctor’s orders, and dropped over 20 pounds in 2 months while bringing his blood sugar down by 400 points. My hero he is!
It made my life easier to eat what I prepared for him, but I was not losing any weight in spite of the great bike rides we were enjoying at least 4 days a week and better nutrition. Nor did this improved lifestyle solve my elimination issues. I have had great success in the past with a colon cleanse, yet upon completion, my symptoms had worsened. I could tell I was accumulating water aside from the more than ten pounds I had suddenly gained. My undies rolled down from my hips, I couldn’t bend over to tie my shoes or shave my legs, a half-cup serving of anything was my full level, and I got winded just walking to the car. My husband and I had back to back doctor’s appointments. “Our” doctor is thrilled with my husband’s progress and congratulates me on taking charge from the kitchen side. Isn’t that what a wife does?
I had also seen my GYN when we returned to Houston in February for my knee shots. It was just easier and cheaper and doable to stay with what I knew. Besides, with the way we move around, getting established with new doctor’s seemed a fruitless endeavor. I now found myself in a situation that could not wait. I was so bloated one could think I was in my pregnancy’s 3rd trimester and I had heartburn from hell from what little I was eating; I was having trouble sleeping.
The doctor thumps around on my tummy, does a pelvic, then states what I already knew – there is something there that he hopes is nothing more than uterine fibroids. He recommends that I taper off all my hormone medication since they were not designed to be taken for so long and added that bio-identical drugs are no better than synthetics. He orders blood work and a CT scan.
During the interim, I researched bio-identical hormone therapy. I had done this 5 years ago when I started them, and was surprised that what I read contradicted my doctor’s advice. But this is now a problem to revisit at another time. The CT scan reveals a sinister mass, larger than my fist. It appears to be protruding from my ovary, with ‘shoots’ into my abdominal fat layer (omentum). The doctor tells us that this needs immediate attention, will require major surgery, and he has calls in to a gynecologist/oncologist in Austin that will contact us. This was on a Tuesday. Our doctor never says the “C” word, but there it is on the CT report all the same. He also says to immediately stop all hormone meds as my life is in danger.
None of this is known outside me and my husband, and this is the 2nd time I’ve been told ominous news from a body scan. A mammogram revealed ‘highly suspicious for malignancy’ images the month before my daughter’s wedding in 2010. I prayed, and I prayed, and I prayed and my family did not know what I went through until I returned home 2 months later for a funeral. I embraced the Scripture, “The Lord shall fight for you; and you shall hold your peace.” That told me NOT to discuss it, so I believed and I prayed and I kept my eyes on Him as He carried me. Biopsies from both breasts were benign. “We went through fire and through water; but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.” Psalm 66:12
This time was a little different due to the urgent status labeled by my doctor. I have heard Dodie Osteen’s story many times, and researched how she fought death. I know this is a spiritual war and the Word of God is my weapon. I wrote healing and faith Scriptures in a spiral, and twice daily I would recite them as I walked around my bed.
Adding to the chaos, this all unfolds during the week of July 4th and everyone is out of place. No one calls us. How can a patient see a specialist without a referral from another doctor? My husband is livid. He is also terrified of losing me. We feel as if we have been thrown to the wolves. This is not my diagnosis – it is OUR diagnosis. Voraciously, he is online looking for someone in Austin to see me, and I secure an appointment with a GYN for Monday – almost a full week from my diagnosis. He does a sonogram and says he will make some phone calls on our behalf, agreeing to the urgency of my need. Fear threatens to overwhelm me, but I put on a happy face. “A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.” Now we have to give our daughter a heads up so that she can make alternate plans. I am heartbroken.
Two days later, I am sitting in yet another new doctor’s office – the third one to see me. This is a terribly hectic day for someone running only on adrenaline. My son and I travel to Austin so that he could take a government exam – this was after driving to the airport to pick up his best friend whose plane was still on the ground in Houston. It is hard to explain to someone why you can’t wait when they haven’t been told the reason for your doctor’s visits, and in spite of it all, we got it all done. More bloodwork, more poking and prodding, more bad news. The doctor tells me the symptoms I describe indicate that I am ‘textbook’ for ovarian cancer. I told him that I did not look up any symptoms as it only served to invite fear into my life. It was a constant struggle to keep my eyes on Jesus and not be scared. My bloodwork markers for ovarian cancer were off the chart. My treatment will consist of surgery to remove all my female parts, plus any diseased fat, and 6 months of chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy - a death sentence and horrendous hardship on my husband who will have to take me to Austin twice weekly for my 3 hour treatments and take care of our home and me in the aftermath. I had more aversion to the chemotherapy than the surgery, not to mention that I had already decided I would not need chemo. I was believing for it in prayer, yet the surgery would not be scheduled without a written commitment to receive chemo as part of my complete treatment plan.
This is all-out war!
I knew God wanted me to live: “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospers.” 3John2
It took me a few days, but I was finally able to block out everything that was contrary to God’s Word and truly believe what I was praying for and confessing over my life. My husband and I spoke death to the mass in my abdomen; we commanded that it wither and die in Jesus’ Name; I said unto this mountain to be removed and be cast into the sea and that when the surgeon opened me up, it would blow away like chaff. I am convinced that the God of all creation Who made me could also heal me – I never doubted this. Who I doubted was me. I did not know if I could stay strong to fight the attacks from Satan. Ovarian cancer has an abysmal mortality rate and is the deadliest in terms of total number. Pierce Brosnan’s daughter died of ovarian cancer about the time I received my diagnosis. The attacks never abated. Thoughts like “why would Jesus heal you?”, “Not EVERYONE is cured you know, or else no one would ever die”. But I fought back with God’s Word, which is sharper than any two-edged sword: “I will rebuke the devourer for your sake.” – Malachi 3:11
Now I have to do the thing I dread the most – tell my family. My surgery is scheduled, bumping two other procedures and placing me at the front of the line. More attacks from the enemy. I never once told my family that my lab work and scan ‘confirmed’ ovarian cancer. I refused to believe that was what the surgeon would find and if I repeated it, I believed it revealed a conflicted heart – and my heart was NOT conflicted. “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord. A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.” James 1:6-8 My mom was upset that I was being operated on by a doctor I had just met. She was upset she would not be with me – they live 5 hours west of me. She had dozens of questions, all which tried to bring fear on me. I did not tell anyone that my surgeon was also an oncologist.
I am also noticing something else – I’m not as bloated as I had been. I decided it was not my imagination and that the mass in my abdomen was dead. I am able to lie on my stomach for the first time in weeks. I research more Scriptures to confess.
The hospital calls to do their pre-admit paperwork and get my medical history. The very next day, they call to request additional bloodwork regarding my thyroid readings. This means another trip to Austin – I’ve been there & back 3 times in the past 6 days; grueling for someone fighting a spiritual and physical war. They told me that it could be dangerous for me to be under anesthesia if my thyroid was out of whack. Satan isn’t giving up but I keep repeating under my breath: “Thus saith the Lord, Be not afraid of the words which thou hast heard.” 2Kings 19:6 Three hours later I am finally cleared for surgery on Monday.
I have five days to continue to confess my list of Scripture passages, pray, and read my Bible. We fasted one day. My pastor calls me and prays over the phone with me. My parent’s pastor says he is gonna be in my area the next day and wants to come by and pray for me. He gifts me with a stuffed bear that my parents, daughter, and the pastor have laid hands on and prayed for me.
I think a person has peace when they can sleep at night. My husband and I were sleeping without issue. We were not worried as God hath not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. The weekend before the big event, I read the Gospels. It struck me that Jesus did not refuse a single person who asked Him for healing. I know that my healing was secured on Calvary. I wanted to be a fly on the wall when the surgeon opened me up. “You shall not fear them: for the Lord your God He shall fight for you.” Deut 3:22
My husband and son accompany me in the pre-op room. My insides are as clean as stainless steel pipes after yesterdays intestinal cleanse and clear broth diet. I am dreaming of steak and baked potato for lunch. The praise leader from our church has driven to Austin and comes in to pray for me. Satan launches another attack – the anesthesiologist requests yet another blood test to check my thyroid reading. I fight discouragement that my procedure may be postponed. My mind takes flight; I get angry – at Satan. Then I become afraid. At least this emotion I was expecting and I knew how to fight it……………God has given me a spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind. Over and over. I confessed my confidence in God’s faithfulness. Just before my surgery time, the anesthesiologist puts something in my IV ‘to relax‘ me as I am clear for surgery. I don’t even remember being wheeled out of the room.
Of course from here, the rest of my day is really fuzzy. We have decided my first memory is my son feeding me ice. I don’t even know when I was told that my surgery biopsy was BENIGN. Of course it was benign, that is what I was believing for. It felt even better having that confirmation by a cancer specialist. I tried to get my guys to go home to their own beds, but they stayed that first night. I was on a catheter so I wasn't up & down the first 24 hours. I was on a morphine pump and several other pain treatments. I had an incision from my bottom bone to an inch over my belly button that had staples every half inch. I was grateful for the residual effects the anesthesia had on me as I seemed to drift in and out of sleep. My guys were finally convinced I was doing well and went home the next afternoon.
My third day saw a new round of vitals being taken and the bonus of a daily injection into my abdomen to prevent blood clots. Now I was subject to a blood draw @ 5 am which was no biggie since I had been awakened at 4 am to stand on a weight scale. I giggled to myself that the enemy just wouldn’t accept the fact that my blood work was clear, regardless of what it showed only a couple of weeks before. I was released 3 days later.
Fast forward ten days….
My staples have been removed and I try to walk at least once daily. My delightful husband is cooking and cleaning for me and my son’s attentions are sweet, sweet. I am grateful to God that not one word of all His good promise has failed. And I am grateful for His mercy. My weight is down almost 20# from my first visit to the oncologist almost three weeks ago as I can see my body releasing the extra abdominal fluid. My tummy is flatter than it has been all year. I’m not sure if there will be any surprises now that I am not only off all hormone medication, I am missing hormone-making body parts, but I am alive and do not need chemotherapy. “According to your faith be it unto you.” Matt 9:29 All I need now is for my body to heal from the surgery before I can attempt any exercise more strenuous than walking.
And I am more than grateful that I had the opportunity to see God’s Hand on my life, which also taught me a new, bold way to pray and brought me to a new closeness with Him.