When I laid down for my MRI this past Thursday, the tech asked what pandora playlist I wanted and I responded, “anything Christian.” They got me all set up and turned on pandora and these words blared through the speakers:
Rich in mercy
You came to save me
Now I’m alive
Strong and mighty
You reached down for me
So I could rise
Now I’m alive…”
I sang along with the song, very familiar with it, nearly in tears at God’s perfect timing in playing the exact words He knew would bring me comfort and remind me of His truth.
Through this all, God has been so good to our family and to me personally. I have grown closer in my relationship with Him and I am so grateful for this journey. I have learned to turn my “but, but, but” situations in life to “but God.” Those two words, “but God” are my favorite words in the Bible (along with “but Christ” or “but when”). These two words are found over and over in the Bible and every time, they show us how God does something unexpected and usually seemingly impossible. They show us God’s grace in how he repeatedly reaches out to save us throughout the Bible. In every instance, when all seems hopeless or lost…..we read “but God.” God redeems. God reaches down to save and make all things new.
This has been the theme of my life and my cancer journey. Diagnosed with cancer at the age of 30…but God guided, provided, and healed. Moving to WA with no house, job, or insurance lined up…but God provided. Metastatic recurrence with poor prognosis…but God showed me the way to heal. Another recurrence growing rapidly…but God led me to the right Dr. and provided healing in 3 months in what normally takes 6-12 months. Little kiddo sick the night before 1st chemo, not sure who will watch her…But God provided. Not sure how we will pay for supplements….but God provided. And still, God continues to provide:
I had my scans last thursday, 13th round of chemo friday, and I met with my surgeon and then my oncologist yesterday. I had already received my scan results on Friday and was excited to hear what my surgeon thought of the scans. I am so very grateful to share with you the scans were amazing. My surgeon was “really pleased…..REALLY PLEASED” with my scans overall and how quickly I’ve responded. My two tumors, which she measured together at 7cmx7cm are now measuring 10x3x4mm….that’s CM TO MM folks!!! The skin thickening where the dermal invasion was is still present but far less severe. She performed an exam and explained how much better the overall breast is. Before, the tumors and dermal invasion took up over half my breast, they were affixed to the implant/capsule and the implant was immovable. Now, she can barely feel the tumors, the implant is free moving again, and she said I am able to safely have surgery!!!! From “inoperable” to safely and successfully operable in just 3 months is AMAZING. She explained that normally it takes 6-12 months for someone with my amount of involvement to have enough of a response to be able to have surgery. She actually said that if she had a resident come in and look at my chest, they likely wouldn’t even know which side was affected!
The only area of concern that remains is my liver. The CT of my liver was compared to the most recent PET scan. For some reason, my two liver metastasis have NOT shown up on my last two PET scans but did show up on my most recent CT scan. The radiologist did not compare the most recent CT to my other CT so he noted two spots that could be mets and we are 99% sure they are the same spots. If they are NEW spots, surgery is out of the question for now. If they are the old spots, and there is nothing new, surgery is a go. My surgeon said it’s HIGHLY UNLIKELY that I would have such a quick and nearly complete response in my chest only to have the liver have new spots but it is possible. She will present my case and all my images to the the SCCA tumor board on Friday and they will discuss/determine the next course of action for the liver. Hopefully looking at the old CT will confirm those are old mets and my liver is stable but they may recommend an MRI of my liver just to be thorough.
We began discussing the surgical options and how soon to perform the surgery. Right now, the plan is to remove my nipple and some of the skin above it, remove my implant & the capsule around it (test the capsule for any cancer), and close me up flat on my left side. I asked about removing my right implant and her initial thought is not to do anything “elective” right now so my body doesn’t go through any unnecessary trauma, which I agree with, but she will also consult with the plastic surgeon who will be involved in the surgery to get his opinion as well.
My surgeon left the date of the surgery up to me so I asked if I were to continue treatment longer and achieve further healing, would that make the surgery easier, have a better outcome, and get better margins. She responded yes to all the above. She expressed that she doubted I would achieve no evidence of disease but that the less involvement, the better the outcome of the surgery. So I tentatively decided to do more chemo and pencil in surgery for the middle of November.
Oh, I also have to share that my surgeon did say again one of her concerns is surgery causing dormant cancer cells to awaken elsewhere (yes it happens…surgery causes an inflammatory response which can encourage distant metastasis). I was prepared and brought these studies showing patients who took Propanolol and etodolac prior to and after surgery greatly reduced their risk of distant metastasis:
She looked at the studies and said she would be fine with me taking these meds but did caution that propranolol can cause low blood pressure and I would need to be closely monitored for that during and after surgery. She also agreed that I could continue chemotherapy until 2 weeks prior to surgery since I am doing weekly, low dose chemo. Normally, with high dose chemo, they wait 4-6 weeks between chemo and surgery!
I left that appointment filled with so much peace and joy. God has been so good to us and I am grateful for good news again. From there, we went to my oncologists office to discuss the surgical plans. My oncologist was on board with delaying surgery and continuing chemotherapy. He did express concern that since we killed of the majority of the tumors, the remaining cells may become resistant to the chemotherapy I am on. Therefore he recommended we add a new chemo to the mix, a 5-FU. This chemotherapy will be given alongside basically a pharmaceutical vitamin and acts in a very different way than my current two chemos to attack the cancer. This *should* keep it from developing any sort of resistance. THIS is what I love about my oncologist. He tries to stay a step AHEAD of the cancer rather than waiting for it to grow and being reactionary. THIS is why I’ve met more than a dozen formerly terminal patients, literally sent home to die by other oncologists, who are still alive years later, thanks to Dr. Chue’s thinking outside the box. We discussed stopping the weekly IV vitamin C (it adds 90 minutes to my treatment and quite frankly, we can’t afford any more treatments) and instead fasting the day before/of/after chemo each week in place of the IVC treatments. My naturopath said she’s ok with that for a few weeks but cautioned we’d need to keep a close eye on my weight and make sure I’m getting plenty of nutrition the other 4 days of the week.
So right now, the plan is about 11 more rounds of weekly chemotherapy. My surgeon will call me friday with the results from the tumor board and whether I need a liver MRI. I will have 3 chemotherapy meds & my targeted therapy (herceptin) each week for the next 11 weeks. Another MRI in November and hopefully surgery the week of Nov 11th or 18th. I will have a 3-4 week recovery period with no lifting after surgery.
I would so appreciate prayers for the following:
- my life, words, actions, etc will continue to bring God glory & encourage others in the next 3-4 months.
- the spots on my liver are just the old mets and that there is nothing new.
- my heart function will not decline with the continued Herceptin and new chemo
- the cancer will continue to respond and won’t become resistant to treatment
- provision of childcare for the kids during treatment each week
- provision of rides/friends to accompany me to treatment
- provision of finances if I do need to continue IV vitamin C, paying for childcare, ferry fees, etc.
No matter your circumstances, remember that God loves you with an intense love and He longs to have a relationship with you. Will you turn your “but, but, but’s” into “but God”?