Monday, August 3, 2009

Trust in the Lord - God is greater than cancer

I thought I would share my miracle of what God did in my life. He is so good! I am forever grateful for my blessings.

About three years ago I began to experience a pain in my left breast. The pain was so unbearable that I was in tears. I was terrified by this pain and immediately thought the worst. The doctor always tells us and asks us at our check ups to feel for lumps and anything unusual in our breast. They say that we should know our bodies and like many of you I'm sure, I never really knew what I was feeling for. Well let me tell you, on this particular night I had no doubt in my mind what I was feeling. My lump was definitely a hard ball, kind of like a marble under my skin. Boy, was I horrified! It took me a few days to call the doctor and schedule an appointment. I was in so much fear, thinking about what I did not want to hear the doctor tell me, "you have cancer". Fear will paralyze you. But, the only way to overcome fear is to face it head on. You can't win a war if your afraid to go into the battle. Ladies, if you ever feel anything out of the ordinary I urge you to see your doctor, anything.

I remember clearly that it was 06/06/06 and I had my first of many appointments at Kaiser in the Breast Clinic. I used to think that just maybe if I had made my appointment on another day things may have turned out differently for me. Just maybe or maybe not. Dr. Jennifer Matthesen, my surgeon, seen me and told me that she didn't think it was anything serious. She believed that it was only fibrosis, but because she and I both did feel something, she sent me for a mammogram and ultrasound. I remember feeling relieved, so relieved that I thought about not going through with the mammogram or ultrasound. Well I did end up going, I needed peace of mind, confirmation that I didn't need to worry anymore.
After my mammogram, the technician sent me to have my ultrasound. I was sitting in a small hallway waiting to go in for the ultrasound when the technician from the mammogram came back. She told me that when I finished I need to come back for more mammogram pictures. I immediately responded, "that can't be good". She replied, "Oh the doctor is very thorough and I missed some pictures". Then she went into the ultrasound room and told the tech in there that when they were finished with me to send me back for another mammogram, she said "because the doctor seen something". None of the techs knew that I could hear them very clearly. Tears began to roll down my face, I knew something was not right. I go in for my ultrasound. As I am laying there terrified, crying and in shock, I asked the techs if I can go to the bathroom. I immediately get dressed, and I ran out of there as fast as I could.
I ran to my car, I sat in my car for two hours crying out to God. I cried out to him for streghnth, courage and peace to return inside and face this. Have you ever been so scared of something that you felt frozen? That was me sitting in my car, frozen. I couldn't drive away, I couldn't go back inside, all I could do is cry out to my Lord and my Saviour for help. I needed the power of the Holy Spirit to be my Comforter, my Healer, my Everything. It felt so unreal, was this really happening to me? If this was a nightmare, someone please wake me up.

Well after two mammograms, two ultrasounds and three biopsies, I had my confirmation and it wasn't the peace of mind I had hoped for - it was Breast Cancer. My tumor was 2 centimeters, about the size of a quarter. I thought how can this be? I'm only 37 years old, no one in my mother's family or my father's family has ever had breast cancer. I learned a few new things; (1) breast cancer is not only genetic, (2) cancer is not a respecter of persons, (3) anyone at any age, race or class can get it. I never questioned God "why me?" I felt more like "why not me?" I felt if I asked Him why then I was now questioning His power and authority over my life. I felt like God pushed me into a corner and said "FEAR NOT! Trust in Me. "

I was scared and I was wavering in my faith. My family, friends and coworkers were telling me and pushing me to do something. I could not make a decision, fear had a grip on me. I had never had surgery, the thought of going through chemo or radiation was unthinkable for me. One month went by, then a second month went by, it was now Sept., 3 months after my diagnoses, and Dr. Matthesen told me that my tumor was now growing rapidly and I need to make quick decisions. It had grown from 2cm (less than 1 inch) in June to 8 centimeters (3 inches) in September. She told me that I was no longer a candidate for a lumpectomy. I now had to have a mastectomy. I was so scarred at the thought of 6-8 hours in surgery, I had never been in the hospital other than giving birth to my son. Then to wake up with just one breast. She told me that I had another option which was to go through chemotherapy and hope that it will reduce the size of the tumor. If the tumor shrinks then I can have the lumpectomy (lump only removed) and save my breast. She referred me to see an oncologist.

After meeting with Dr. Phan, my oncologist and listening to his expertise, I began to believe maybe it can shrink. I believe in God, "all things are possible to those who believe." Now if it didn't shrink he told me about some of the benefits I could have with a mastectomy such as; a tummy tuck, breast reduction, or even a breast lift. You see the reconstructive surgery would mean that I would get a new breast and because it's new it would be higher than my other, so the old one has to be lifted to match. If you're a woman that sounds like good news, don't you think? When you have reconstructive surgery your new breast is created with the fatty tissue from your stomach. We all know that I have plenty to lend. So that was my bright side to the possibility of a mastectomy. A free tummy tuck, breast lift, hmmm....I began to think maybe a mastectomy isn't so bad after all. After alot of prayer and thought - I sided with chemo to reduce the tumor.

Now we're in October, the 17th to be exact and I went into surgery to have my lymphnodes removed. The doctor said they needed to know if the cancer was spreading. If my lymphnodes came back positive, then later they would all have to be removed. Two days later I begin my chemo and find out that my lymphnodes came back positive, the cancer had spread. I didn't know what to expect, I had no idea what I was in for. 3 1/2 hours sitting in a chair with an IV in my arm. Feeling miserable for several days following, no strength or energy, nausea, diarrhea, a constant yucky taste in my mouth (like metal - I couldn't taste anything), insomnia, and the list goes on. I don't know how I would have gone through if my mom, family and friends weren't there with me. They showed up with food, snacks, magazines and all sorts of stuff. Like if I was moving in there. I have to tell you that every three weeks when I went back, I was ready with my lil bag filled with my snacks, books, magazines, hard candy (for the ugly metal taste in my mouth), oh and I would take Joshua's Nintendo DS too. Had so much fun playing those games. I always made sure to wear sandals so they would bring me those blue or beige hospital socks for my feet, you know the ones with rubber stuff underneath so you don't slip. I love those socks. I was so blessed through every treatment to have wonderful people in my life that would come with me and sit with me for long hours at a time. Special thanks to my mom Beverly "Pepsi", Oscar, and my dearest friends Linda and Debbie Robison. Even though we would get scolded by the nurses for making too much noise and forced to close the door to my room for laughing too much. We forgot that there were sick people on chemo in rooms next to us. They helped me to forget I was sick with an IV in my arm.

During this time I was always praying, reading, researching - doing what I needed to do to educate myself spiritually, emotionally and intellectually. I would ask the Lord to heal my disease, to give me triumph over the cancer, to give me strength and endurance, but never did I ask for His will to be done in my life. I was so terrified that what if His will was to not heal me. What if His will was for me to suffer and exit from this life. I would look up every scripture in the bible where people were sick and Jesus was healing them. Till one day my eyes were opened, Jesus never turned anyone away who asked for their healing. His will is that He may be lifted higher and that He may be glorified. Realizing this I had no choice but to fear no more and ask that His will be done in my life. We can't be afraid of what Gods will is for us. Just always know that whatever it may be, that it's His will is His best, it brings joy and fulfillment, but most of all peace. That's exactly what I needed during this time - peace. Thank you Jesus for removing the scales from my eyes and allowing me to understand.

In late February I finished my chemo and I was ready for surgery. A lumpectomy, I was sure the tumor shrunk. March 8th, 2007 I went into my surgery. One week later I went to see Dr. Matthesen for my follow up and results to my pathology report regarding the lumpectomy. I remember sitting in the waiting room nervous and scared. You see all this time I never knew what stage the cancer was. I never wanted to ask. All I knew was that it didn't spread into my organs. I had tests done for that, but as far as I knew we didn't know the stage. They take the tumor to pathology and test it there. So I'm in the waiting room and Dr. Matthesen comes in with tears rolling down her face and tells me that before she can ask me how I am feeling she just wants to give me the news. She hands me my pathology report and says that the cancer is gone 100%. There is NED (no evidence of disease). The lump removed was now only scarred tissue from where the tumor once was. I had tears running down my face because it was the first time I was given any good news. She sat right next to me and put her arm around me and cried with me. She said she knew how scared I was through this whole ordeal and that the chemo got it all. No, My God got it all! He is a miracle working God, a merciful God; the chemo was only a tool in the Masters Hand.
They say that God will only give you what you can handle, well I still didn't know what stage I was.
(I found out in Sept. 07 that it was Stage IIIA) On July 16th, I began radiation, and completed 6 weeks, Monday-Friday. It wasn't as bad as I thought it be. I returned to work after 9 months of disability and I felt great! I was ready to live my life to the fullest. Ready to stop taking anything for granted. Ready to be the best person I can be at everything. Ready and able to love, live, laugh, lend, forgive, and contribute to anyone who is in need of me now. Lord, here I am.

I'd like to encourage all the women in my family, my friends, and even those I will never meet who read this please don't ever take your health for granted. Don't wait until you feel pushed into a corner to take action. You know your body and if you feel something, even a slight pain in your breast see a doctor. I had been feeling the same pain but not as intense about every couple of months for over 3 years and never told my doctor. Not because I would forget to mention it but because of fear, remember that Fear is not of God. Fear is what keeps us from making the right choices. I had to think really hard about what would happen to my son if I wasn't here? Who would love my son the way I love him? How would Joshua feel if I wasn't here for him when he's growing up and needs his mom? If you have children who is going to love your kids the way you do? Who is going to be there for them when they need you if you're not around? If your doctor tells you that you're too young for a mammogram then ask for an ultrasound. No one is too young. Do it for yourself and for your children.
"Fear knocked at the door and faith answered. No one was there."