I Am Cancer Free!!!!!

The Cancer Center Doctor called the night before last to deliver the pathology report from my recent oophorectomy, just eight weeks since my hysterectomy.  Her phone call was a bit surreal.  She said everything came back negative for cancer!!!!!

I was laying down when she called as I’m recovering from my surgery last week but I was jumping up and down on the inside!!!  My heart could hardly believe this most excellent news!  It was much like having a 2 ton boulder removed from one’s shoulders!  I hung up and delivered the wonderful news to my husband who was laying beside me.  We hugged and cried.  Oh, how I cried tears of relief, tears of pure joy from the depths of my soul!  My life was handed back to me and I am forever grateful to God for this second chance!

Allow me to back up and give a brief background to this euphoric news!…

In January 2016 I went to the ER with abdominal pain.  Thinking it may be my appendix, I decided to get it checked out late one night.  They did a CT scan, which showed a number of issues – two of the most pressing were my gallbladder and a large, uterine fibroid.  After undergoing a Hida scan, it was confirmed my gallbladder was only functioning at 35% and would need to be removed.  That surgery was in February 2016.

After consulting with a GYN surgeon, I decided to move forward with a hysterectomy as it would resolve many other symptoms I had but was unaware of the source until now.  Surgery was scheduled for the end of June, however, I had to reschedule it due to spending nearly five months out of state tending to my sick father…  Once again, surgery was scheduled…this time for November 29, 2016.

The three hour hysterectomy went well. I had some awful reactions to pain meds, one of which required a trip via ambulance to the ER.  It was while I was laying on the ER bed one week post-op that my GYN surgeon stopped by the hospital to deliver the mind numbing news that my pathology had come back that I had a rare, aggressive cancer.  She said it all seemed to be contained within the fibroid but she was referring me to an oncologist GYN at a cancer hospital.  My husband sat beside my bed, asking many questions and cried.  Mercifully, I was on paid meds and a little insulated from the initial shock.  This was December 6, 2016.

We met with the oncologist GYN on December 20, 2016 and set yet another surgery date for February 1, 2017 to remove my ovaries (which posed an added risk of generating more cancer as it is hormone driven) and select lymph nodes for testing.  They would also do some exploratory work to make sure no other areas had been affected by this rare, aggressive cancer called leiomyosarcoma.  It represents only 1% of all uterine cancers and there is no lab test for it, which is why it is normally only discovered after the patient dies (much like ovarian cancer).  It is by the grace of God mine was found “incidentally”, but I know better.  God ordained this and He allowed my life to be extended by His great mercy.

This would be my third major surgery in less than a year!  I was very concerned that the utter fatigue from the hysterectomy would be further compounded by another surgery, so soon.  I was just beginning to get my energy back as my next surgery was quickly approaching…

The February 1st surgery was a consequential surgery, for it would tell us the “staging” of the cancer and how best to proceed from here.

The surgery went very well and, again, lasted three hours.  I stayed overnight at the cancer hospital and was released the next day.

Fortunately for me, physically, this recovery, while painful, was not nearly as severe as the hysterectomy.  This time around in order to avoid the awful pain medicine side effects, I limped along with Toradol, and now just Advil and Tylenol.  I’ll take the pain, however, if it keeps me out of the ER.  I digress…

The oncologist GYN surgeon said to give them two weeks for pathology to come back, which is standard procedure.  So, to receive a phone call at 7:30p.m. from the Dr. the other evening, just one week post-op, was unexpected to say the least and overwhelmingly euphoric!  NO CANCER!  At this point, I’ll have a follow up appointment from the surgery in five weeks and they want to “follow me” every three months for observation.  So, I’ll go in every three months for a check up and to discuss any changes in symptoms.

If you’ve read some of my other blogs, you know I have kids at home still – 19 and 17, along with an aging father.  I also have a grown son, 28, who lives nearby.  This has squarely been the hardest battle we’ve ever faced.  It was painful to consider they may be faced with losing their mother to cancer at such a young age, just as I was at age 23.  Of course, it was scary to consider having to endure chemotherapy and radiation and the prospect that they may not be enough to stave off this dreadful disease.

Throughout this entire two month journey, I delved into the Word of God, finding comfort daily for my restless soul.  I wrestled with the idea of having to walk such a painful road but trusted that the same God who has brought me through countless difficulties and heartaches, would be the same God who would mercifully see me through even this painful path.  It’s interesting…the day prior to the Dr. calling to deliver the amazing news, my prayer to God had overwhelmingly been focused on the word “Surrender”!  I told God that I completely surrendered to His will, His plan and what He was doing in my life.  If that involved chemo, then I surrendered.  If that involved Him bringing me home to Glory, then I surrendered.  If that involved dreary days of feeling half dead due to the treatments, then I surrendered.  I reached the place that no matter what, I decided that God could either be trusted or He could not.  I decided emphatically HE CAN BE TRUSTED!

I made up my mind!  So, if I say that I trust Him, then my faith needs to follow that declaration.  I surrendered all.

And then we received the phone call.  Maybe that’s what God was after all along.  Surrender.  He already had my heart long ago.  But did He have all of my faith – 100%?  I don’t know.  One thing I have wrestled with for many years is that it seems easy to believe God for other people.  I have such compassion for others and their struggles and heartaches.  But, do I firmly believe that God will do it for me?

That is where I have struggled.  I struggle no more!  God has done it!  And I am eternally grateful.  I do believe that all things are possible to those who believe!  I believe in a God who can do anything but fail!  I believe that my BEST days are still ahead.

And I believe I will go dance in the streets to declare the faithfulness and mercy of the loving God I serve! …

Just as soon as I can get out of bed!

 

The Immutability of God

Now what does that exactly mean?  Immutable means: Fixed, set, established, doesn’t change, constant, static, enduring, permanent.  I absolutely love this!

God’s unchanging nature has always been one of the most precious qualities to me.  He will not change.  He cannot change.  He isn’t loving today and hateful tomorrow.  He doesn’t forgive me today and hold a grudge against me tomorrow.  He isn’t kind today and evil tomorrow.  He cannot change.  It isn’t in His divine nature, friend.  Isn’t that comforting to know?

Psalm 103:8 says, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy.”

Verse 17 goes on to say, “But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting.”

James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

Psalm 107:8-9 says, “Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness and for His wonderful works to the children of men!  For He satisfied the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness.”

That’s the character of the God I serve.  He is good.  He is merciful.  He is just.

“Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.  He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”

 ~ I John 4:7-8

He is loving.  These Scriptures demonstrate and reveal to us the unchanging character of God.

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today and for ever.”  ~ Hebrews 13:8

He will not change.  He cannot change.

He has loved us with an everlasting love.  (Jeremiah 31:3)

When my circumstances change, my God does not.  When my seasons change, God remains constant.  When my bank account changes or my relationships change, God is steadfast, unmovable in His love and grace for my life.

“I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.  The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.”  ~ Psalm 18:1-2

I challenge you today, friend, to dig into the Word of God and see God’s character for yourself.  “O, taste and see, that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8). Do not neglect the Scriptures because the task seems tedious.  Our lives can become so hectic and fast paced that we lose sight of the true source of our strength.  Get into the habit of daily reading the Word of God and not merely checking off a reading list.  God is more interested in your spiritual growth than how many chapters you’re rushing through each day.  Read His love story to us and watch your spirit soar and your walk with Christ grow in ways you never knew were possible!

Blessings, my friend!  May we continually grow in His grace.  And may you be reminded of God’s constant character and steadfast love.

You Are Never Alone

This has got to be one of the devil’s most sharpened tools he uses against Christians.  Nobody cares.  You might as well give up.  And, all too often, we fall for it, hook, line and sinker!

Nothing could be further from the truth!  If we can dodge the “Woe is me” bullet long enough to look around us, most of us are surrounded by family who love us dearly.  Above that, God promises in Hebrews 13:5 that He will never leave us or forsake us.

James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

This is so true.  During times in my life that I have felt the most alone, those have been times that I was not spending adequate time reading God’s Word and praying.  It is there we will find strength from God and sense His presence in our lives.

Never fall for this lie from the enemy of our souls that we are alone.  There is always someone you can reach out to.  Now, there lies the caveat.  Sometimes, perhaps too many times, we are hesitant to reach out and become vulnerable enough to let someone know we need help.  Most people would be willing to assist, but they are not mind readers.  You have to let people know of your needs.

You will find peace in God’s Word and reassurance that truly God is with you every step of life’s journey.  Sometimes it’s a matter of us acknowledging His presence and asking for His guidance and help.

The truth is:  You Are Never Alone!

Let that sink in.

The devil wants to discourage believers because if you are a weak, anemic Christian, you can’t be effective as God’s Ambassador.  However, if we can move past this lie of discouragement, we can experience the peace of God and find contentment.

You are never alone.  It bears repeating.

Now, find someone who needs to hear this and reach out to them.  It’s so important for Christians to be God’s hands and feet extended.  The world will never know unless we show them with our love.  It’s been said that you are the only Bible some will ever read.  That’s so true.  Let someone know they are not alone today.

Two Choices

When facing a difficult challenge, we are left with a decision as to where our focus will lie.  Will we get stuck on the negativity of the situation or instead, set our eyes on the positive possibilities.  Life or death?  Blessing or cursing?  Defeat or hope?

Which one will you choose?  Sixteen days ago, my surgeon gave me the news that they found cancer during my hysterectomy.  This came as quite a shock as everything I’ve ever read or known about fibroids referred to them as benign.  Always.  That is what we were expecting.  We were pretty certain the pathology would come back that all was well.

But what happens when life throws a curve ball?  Things that weren’t supposed to happen, happen?  Events that defy all logic and human understanding.  What are we supposed to do with that?

We have two choices, my friend.  I’ve long known that wherever our focus lies, therein lies our future.  Not only does our focus affect our future, but our path that leads to our future.  Meaning we can either become bitter along the way, scoff at every negative element and hate life.  Or … We can embrace hope, focus on what we can do and enjoy life’s little blessings along the way.

After my appointment at the cancer hospital two days ago, I found myself processing and honing in on all of the information that was delivered.  While that is my reality, I can choose to pray for the best outcome, trust God and do what I am able to during the process.  I could also choose the path of negative thinking, feeling sorry for myself and wallow in depression.  I could.  But that wouldn’t be me.  It wouldn’t be the Amber I’ve known for 46 years.  Despite many, many challenges over the years, my truest default is to have great faith and hope in the greatness of our God and that my best days are still ahead!

This faith is fueled by my relationship with Jesus Christ and studying His Word daily.  I know in Whom I have believed.

My choice is to believe that God will heal my body and guide us through this process, no matter the darkness we may face.  The comfort I have is in knowing that God promises to never leave me nor forsake me.  That is a great hope.

Choices.  Right or left?  Hope or despair?  Positive or negative?

“See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil…”  ~ Deuteronomy 30:15

 

I Am Blessed…

Yesterday morning, my husband, future daughter-in-law and I met with the oncologist surgeon at the big cancer hospital nearby for nearly three hours to discuss the plan of action.  We left the house at 6:30 a.m. when it was still dark outside and returned twelve hours later when it was once again, dark!  What a day!

First of all, I absolutely love and have a lot of confidence in my oncologist surgeon.  He is an expert in his field and I greatly admire his demeanor, approach, candidness and the way he calmly discussed every facet of my care and treatment.  He exceeded my expectations and I definitely feel like I’m in competent hands.  The intern who handled the initial interview with me was also wonderful, very compassionate and thorough.  She also had some very good recommendations regarding pain meds post-op since I seem to have so many sensitivities these days.

So, the plan is to have another surgery in five weeks to remove other potentially affected areas and also to do some exploratory work.  I’ll stay overnight anywhere from 1-4 days, depending on my recovery and any complications.

After the surgery, everything goes to pathology and combined with what they find during the surgery will recommend any further treatment or follow up. So, we will see what happens.

In the meantime, my surgeon wants me to train like I’m preparing for a marathon!  What?!  Haha!  Doesn’t he know I am three weeks post-op from a hysterectomy?  Haha!  Yes, of course, he does.  To place my body in the best pre-op position, I need to help my body heal by walking daily and getting back to my usual self.  So, beginning today, I plan on taking walks, even if it’s just a short one to begin with.

Yesterday as I walked around the large cancer hospital, I saw many patients in various stages of treatment.  My heart went out to all of them.  Some were in wheelchairs, some using walkers and some just their own two feet.  I passed by the wig shop.  I spent nearly three hours in the clinic.  By the time I left, I was on emotional overload, especially since I began the day on very limited sleep.  I felt like I did not belong there.  It was all surreal.

I cannot escape the reality of my situation but I must focus on the fact that I am incredibly blessed!!  My cancer was found in time!  Most with the type of cancer I had cannot say that.  It is most always found after death.  That fact, in and of itself, is deeply humbling.  My heart is filled with utmost gratitude to God for His mercy.

God has given me a deep peace that despite having to walk this journey, He will not only be with me, but also see me through to the other side.  I truly believe that with all my heart.  It does not, however, negate the level of difficulty of the path.  God never said it would be easy.  He only said that we’d never go it alone.

My future daughter-in-law texted me yesterday after attending my Dr. appointment with us,

“I hate that you’re on this journey but I can promise you that you will not go through any of it alone.”

That not only speaks volumes of her character, but is a great comfort to me.  She’s a special young lady.  She already plans on taking time off from work when I have my surgery to help me.

Then my older sister texted me that she would try to take off the week of my surgery and come down to be with me.  I was so touched by this.

And my husband and kids have been stellar.  I know this road is hard on them as well.

Despite the difficulties, the challenges, the emotional roller coaster ride, I recognize that my situation could have turned out totally different if it not for the Lord’s intervention.  And I have to believe that if He spared my life by allowing this cancer to be found in time, that He is also able to heal my body and walk beside me during this trial.  I have to believe that.

When I learned that the fibroid tumor they removed during my hysterectomy turned out to contain a rare, aggressive cancer just fifteen days ago, the Lord directed me to focus on Him and His character rather than my present situation.  If I solely focus on the situation, it will soon magnify and multiply.  However, if I also focus on the greatness and majesty of our great God, my faith grows and my prayers become more powerful as I trust Him.

So, that’s where I am … I am blessed.

…Oh, and if you’re wondering why we were out for twelve hours yesterday …

Hubby and I had a date.  We had a nice lunch together after my appointment, did a tiny bit of Christmas shopping, grocery shopping (’cause no date is complete without!), got ice cream, etc., etc.  It was so sweet of my husband to take off the entire day and really gave me something to look forward to after my appointment!  He’s so good to me.  Yes, I am blessed.

 

The Lost Chapter

Luke 15 is often referred to as “The Lost Chapter” because it contains parables concerning “the lost coin”, “the lost sheep”,  and “the lost son” or the “prodigal son”.

As I was contemplating something lost earlier today, the Lord reminded me that there are no “lost causes”, no situations or scenarios beyond His reach.  Sometimes we can get in our heads that certain things are hopeless or just things of the past when that isn’t exactly true.

The prodigal son has long been a favorite parable of mine.  I love it for its rich symbolism to us as God’s children.  Once we were afar off from God, separated by sin, eating in the troughs of rubbish until the day we came to our senses.  We heard God’s voice beckoning us to come and dine at His table.  And then, our Heavenly Father, who saw us coming in the distance just as this dear father did in Luke 15, began to run toward his wayward son, wrapped us in His loving arms and welcomed us back into the family.  What love!  What redemption!  All was not lost.  Not anymore.

Then we have the parable of the lost sheep.  One might think that the shepherd would not waste his time looking for that one who had gone astray.  He has 99; that’s good enough, isn’t it?  99% isn’t bad, right?  This parable once again demonstrates the vast and unending love our Heavenly Father has for us.  He is thrilled to have the 99 sheep, but His truest desire is that none should perish but that all will come into the fold of His love.  According to this parable, you and I are worth the search, worth the effort.

Have you ever lost something highly valuable?  I have.

As I contemplated this thought today, the Lord reminded me that He remains in the restoration business.  He is the Redeemer of our soul and is able to heal us in every way.

Psalm 23:3

“He restores my soul.”

I am comforted by the thought that God orchestrates my paths and ordains all of my days.  If I trust Him, He will lead me in paths of righteousness.  Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all of my days.

He can be trusted, friends.  No matter what you may have lost.  Your reputation, your job, your home, a relationship.  Regardless of your circumstances, there are no lost causes with God.  He is the God of the second chance.  And the third and fourth …. and ninety-ninth.  You are not beyond His reach of redemption.  There is hope.

 Luke 15:20-24,32:

“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’

But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’

 

I Will Catch You

As I lie on the CT scan table, the gracious and very thoughtful technician gave me these simple instructions – “Just fall back in my arms and I will catch you and very slowly lower you.”  Me, in my pain wracked state just one day post-op from my hysterectomy, said, “Are you sure?”.

He assured me he was more than capable of supporting my weight and making the transition as gentle and easy as humanly possible.  I was deeply touched by his compassion on me and empathy as I endured this ordeal.

His instruction required trust on my part and the ability to fully place my life in his arms.  I was reminded of this scenario yesterday after I received a phone call from my health insurance company notifying me of a cancer support program they offer.  Anything from wigs to out of state hospital and lodging requests to community resources, etc.  The representative on the phone was very chipper and upbeat as she reiterated all of the wonderful facets of this program and the fact that I do not have to go this road alone.  As she concluded our mostly one-sided conversation, she felt the need to add that with a diagnosis like this, “Perhaps it causes us to pause and contemplate our priorities and the important things in life.”  I’m sure it was an attempt to comfort and encourage, however, what she doesn’t know is, I’ve been a deep thinker all of my life and since losing my mother when I was 23, I’ve perpetually considered life’s true priorities.  At any rate, we ended the conversation with me thanking her for the call, despite the fact that I was left with the feeling that certainly this should’ve been directed toward someone else, not me.

As I stood in front of the bathroom vanity, tears began to fall as I told God that I could not take this cancer journey.  His reply: “Just trust me.”

I said, “I’m not strong enough.”

God said, “In your weakness, I am strong.”

I retorted, “I don’t want to go through this.”

God said, “If you don’t, many won’t see your testimony of my goodness.”

Trust.

God said, “I will be with you.  I will never leave you.”

Clearly I have some work to do in the trust department.  I have walked with God for forty-one years and we have overcome some real mountains, giants and obstacles that I thought surely would swallow me alive.  They didn’t.  I’m still here.  Cancer won’t overcome me either.  Ever since I received the news just nine days ago, God has constantly been assuring me that He will walk this journey with me and that I will get through this.

Yesterday I actually felt somewhat well enough to unload the dishwasher and noticed a 3×5 card I taped to the inside of our kitchen cabinets as I put the plates away, which read:

“When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” ~ Isaiah 43:2

Later in the afternoon, there was a loud knock on the front door.  My son peeked out the front window and noted it was our neighbors, a young couple in their early 30’s and their year and a half baby girl.  I happily greeted them as they inquired about how I was doing.  They also shared about a time when they were newly married, the wife was referred to an oncologist due to some highly irregular lab work.  It turned out to be nothing in the end but they wanted me to know they understand the emotional ups and downs of news like this.

I was very encouraged by their little visit and touched that they would take the time to stop by and see how I was doing.  God has orchestrated such timely encounters over the last several days to combat the discouragement and fear of the unknown.  When it all comes down to it, do any of us know the future?  No.

I had a great aunt who was a little eccentric, let’s just say, but we loved her dearly.  She never married and lived to be 89 years old, despite having long survived a brain tumor the size of a grapefruit!  She was very stubborn.  Perhaps that was her secret to longevity, along with good genes.  She was my grandmother’s sister and my grandmother lived to be 98.

This great aunt said something I must’ve thought profound because it has stayed with me for many years:

“It’s a good thing we don’t know what’s ahead of us.  Just do the best you can.”

For a simple, country woman who used to raise chickens, she sure had a lot of wisdom.  No truer words were ever spoken.

Life sometimes throws us curve balls.  No one can anticipate them.  They simply come.  Our response must be trust.  God will catch us if we merely trust.