Bottled Up Air


(written on 1/2/13 originally on my CaringBridge page)

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 

~Hebrews 11:1

2013.  A new year, a new journey.  If I was in control of this ride, I’m quite certain my GPS would not have chosen this route…there would have been a definite “Detour” notification.   But, the good news is, I’m not in control.  It’s hard to admit that, but reality check:  I can do nothing in my own strength anyway, so I’d rather not be in the driver’s seat.

I must say, it was wonderful to wake up this morning and get back to my “normal” daily routine—packing lunches, checking backpacks, and hitting the road for school and work.  All morning, I tried to block the mental anxiety of waiting on results from pathology.  I think I anticipated that first thing in the morning I’d get the call and be able to move on with the next step (a somewhat narcissistic notion that I’m the only patient on my island of disbelief).  The morning, however, came and went with no news.   Finally, I got the call from one of the oncologists . . . results in.

Ahhhh, the news we were all hoping for:  Estrogen and Progesterone +, Her2 -.  In non-scientific terms, the best case scenario for treatment all around!   Let’s face it, I never envisioned a day would come when I would find myself giddy over cancer cell composition, but that is my new reality . . . and I’ll take any giddiness I can get my hands on.

In addition to results, I learned that the rate of growth on my tumor was at the highest end, a grade 3…3 being the most rapidly growing type of cancer.

Stage III.

Time for treatment.  Let’s get ‘er done!

My oncologist informed me that finally, with all the facts on the table, I was eligible to participate in a clinical trial for my “type” of breast cancer.  This would be in addition to standard chemotherapy, which will start next week, once a week for 20 weeks.  Basically, DFCI will be home away from home for a while.  This clinical trial works in synergy with the chemo, an antibody used to attack a certain protein found in tumors.  The side effects aren’t too bad and it would be done in conjunction with Taxol, a lovely member of the chemo cocktails.  A couple of cons with the trial . . . only 2/3 of eligible participants actually receive the drug.  If you are not picked, you still must complete 2 additional core needle biopsies.  One done the first day of chemo, the second, two weeks later.  Though it sounds like an additional burden if you’re not receiving the drug … it’s going toward cancer research, and by golly, I’m taken one for the team if it may help find new answers to this nasty mystery.  Tomorrow I will meet with my oncologist and NP to finalize the paperwork for the trial and I can get more details on the chemo regimen.  Please pray I’m one of the chosen ones for the trial.

The award-winning moment of our New Year’s “celebration” came when Logan—my 8-year old, Naturalist (his dream profession) was walking around with a container tightly sealed in his hands.  When we asked what he was doing, he said “I’m trying to preserve the air from 2012.  I’m trapping it, because once it’s open, it’s forever gone.”  We laughed at his intriguing thought process … and for a moment I felt like that trapped air, desperate to escape the bottle.  I pray soon that I will exhale this incomprehensible “breath” I have been holding.

One day at a time.



(written on 12/31/12 originally on my CaringBridge page)

If it were not for hopes, the heart would break.

~ Thomas Fuller

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling weary … a kind of weary I’ve never felt before.  My brain has been on information overload for the past week, while sleep has been scattered at best.  Though this is a celebratory evening, one where many will be “rocking” the night away, I want nothing more than to sleep the night away.

Alright . . . the whine session is over.  Finito.

I went on an early morning adventure to Boston today with my big sis and John.  I had an instant feeling of security when I arrived at DFCI… this sense of comfort started with the registration area and was further solidified when I met the medical oncologist.  Instant connection!  Sadly, though, pathology reports are still not back on receptor status, which was a bit discouraging.   I really hoped our visit would have me leaving with a definitive treatment plan, but we have to wait until we know more.  Patience—ughh, a word I have always struggled to put into action.

We did, however, spend a lot of time discussing scenarios ….clinical trials I may be eligible to partake in, chemo meds I will most definitely be having in addition to a trial, and when we can actually start treatment after we finally know these answers.  Though it’s not the typical order of treatment (surgery is often first), in my case, it’s still looking like chemo will be the best first approach.   If results are back on Wednesday, I could potentially begin chemo on Thursday.   So, though I feel like there’s so much waiting going on, the reality is…this has all moved very quickly, given I was just officially diagnosed 5 days ago.

Surgical oncologist was the next stop on our agenda.  AMAZING.  We fell in love with her, too—instantly.   Her level of energy, confidence, compassion, and thoroughness made us instantly “hire” her.  We sat with her for a long time, being completely educated on everything breast.  John enjoyed it thoroughly.  Seriously, though …we received more information in that hour and half then I’ve received in total throughout this process so far.

We were also grateful to get a complete tour of the infusion area, where I will be every couple of weeks during chemotherapy.  I can’t help but think the staff were each handpicked for this call on their life.  My impression of every face I encountered was that of earnest compassion.

On the way home, Michelle pointed up to a rainbow peeking through the clouds . . . an overwhelming reminder of God’s promises.

Though this dark cloud in my life prevails, my prayer is that very soon I will be basking in the afterglow of the storm.


Divinity at Work

Heavy Downpour

(written on 12/29/12 originally on my CaringBridge page)

O Lord, give me a strong hope in you that dances in the rain and sings in the silence.

Leslie, the amazing oncological NP who’s been by my side since my first appointment, (calling me every day since)—failed to disappoint yet again.  She called me with the MRI results, which have already been sifted through in preparation for the appointments with the Dana-Farber team on Monday in Boston.  The sensitivity of the imaging allows them to really assess the situation which will impact treatment and surgical measures.  As we already knew, the mass covers a large area.  The MRI results, however, reveal two additional lesions beside the main tumor which have ultimately enhanced the overall “size”.  So this is and isn’t breaking news.  Bottom line:  it’s great they’ve moved quickly on analysis, so that the oncologists Monday will have a more complete picture of my case.  Though I’m ready to get the show on the road … ASAP, I trust that God knows the perfect timing.

When I get down, which I anticipate to be…ummm… a true reality over the course of this journey, I will try to recount the many ways I have seen Divinity at work.  Happenstance is Hogwash.  Seriously.  Remember that every time someone “coincidentally” crosses your path at the right time.  Yesterday’s divine appointment came first thing in the morning prior to my MRI, when I ran into Nancy Jageselvan.  I was a bit edgy at the time, and when I happened to glance over and see her pretty face, I immediately relaxed.  That’s not happenstance.  She blessed me more than she knows with that hug and smile.

Ahh, then there’s Lauren Mathisen.  God is GOOD.  They say we entertain angels unaware, right?  Honestly, Lauren probably doesn’t realize the extent of her anointing, but she has texted me and encouraged me on several occasions . . . exactly what I needed at the exact moment I needed it.  I’ll go with angel.

Thank you for lifting me up.  Through your support, I’m able to keep the down emotions in check.

Exodus 17:8-13 says: “Moses stood on top of the hill with the rod of God in his hand overlooking the battlefield, and as he lifted it up it showed their dependence upon the Lord and there would be no victory without God’s intervention. The Israelites prevailed while the rod was lifted and when Moses’ arms were too tired to lift up the rod, Aaron and Hur found a rock for Moses to sit on and they held up his hands.”

Please continue to pray for me … my arms may get tired along the way.

Hope Floats

hope floats

(written on 12/28/12 originally on my CaringBridge page)

Dear Lord, please let my hope always float … always be buoyant and unsinkable … because I am certain of one thing:  Your Love.

If you didn’t know me and my arms were bare, you’d be very concerned that I have taken a walk on the wild & reckless side, with the lovely track marks along my arms.  My veins didn’t want to behave today, and each time they thought they got a line…a valve decided to jump in the mix.  Okay, not to sound like too much of a wuss, but man that really hurts!  So needless to say, switching arms and veins and location over the last few days has really made a mark on my li’l arms.

I started the day with a 45 minute breast MRI.  I didn’t quite know what to expect, given I’ve never had an MRI of any kind, but let’s just say it was awkward.  You are on your stomach, IV in arm, earplugs in, with your breasts hanging in two holes . . . not exactly pictures I’d want to place in my scrapbook.   Pictures, however, were what that little adventure was all about as they took well over a 1000 during my circus act in the capsule.

Next up, echocardiogram (after a tall cup of Joe).  The results from this test will ultimately provide a baseline for the physicians involved in my care, as well as be used as a tool to determine if I can handle a certain chemo med that can potentially cause damage to the heart.  Lovefest continued with the Cardiovascular group who proved also to be fantastic to deal with—kind, compassionate, thorough and knowledgeable.

I bravely meandered into the cancer boutique (to glance and start a wig conversation) and met an incredible woman … a breast cancer survivor who showered me with encouragement, advice, materials and Godly wisdom.  She also runs a support group which I plan to attend.  While in there, she introduced me to a young woman who divinely entered the boutique.  This woman was at the tail end of her breast cancer treatment, in the Center for a massage (there may be perks I wish to tap into down the line).  I was able to talk to her and listen to part of her journey, and she was an incredible beacon of hope.

It was a good day.  I am blessed.