Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Coming Up...

Dr. F called last night.  The PET scan showed that the cancer is contained in my abdomen/pelvis.  A big concern had been that cancerous cells had spread to the liver and/or lungs, but it's just not there!  Based on those results, Dr. F, along with Dr. B of M.D. Anderson fame, has decided to operate.  I will go into surgery on Monday morning to have all three masses removed.  The surgery will include a colon resection, similar to what I experienced in 2010.

After the surgery, I can expect to spend a week--maybe a little more--in the hospital (it was a 9-day stay last time--entirely too long, in my opinion).  During my recovery, my medical team will send the tumors off for chemo sensitivity testing.  This process involves treating pieces of the tumor with chemotherapy drugs and watching the effect:  do they shrink?  do they remain the same?  This is how Dr. F will know whether or not to treat me with chemo, and which drugs may be most effective.  I am not holding out much hope that this means no chemo at all for me, but I am encouraged that if I have to do it, I will be taking the right meds for my specific cancer growth.

The little cowboys have been informed of the surgery.  Here's a little bit of that conversation:

Goliath:  How do they get the cancer out, Mom?
Little Middle:  The doctor cuts Mom's stomach and takes it out.
Me:  That's right, buddy.  When he does that.....
Goliath:  Yeah, but how does he DO it?  Does he have really sharp scissors?
Little Middle:  No, he uses a knife. I think it's like the one that Dad used to kill that wild hog at the lease.

They don't like the idea that I will be away from them, and neither do I!  I am asking God to put a kind, super-compassionate nurse in place that might let them sneak in to visit. 

In the meantime, we are soaking up every available minute we have together.  They don't know that I am scared, they don't know that I wrestle with God.  What they do know is that their mom loves them.  And somehow, for this hot summer afternoon, that seems to be enough.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Courage From Cowboys

Thursday, July 26 will go down in history as one of the most wretched days of my entire life.  That's saying something, because I've had more than my fair share of bad days!

First was a visit to Dr. F, my Plan B oncologist.  He confirmed the presence of serous papillary carcinoma (read: $&#;%! cancer) in three different spots in my pelvic region.  He went on to say that there is some uncertainty among the medical team if those three spots are the only spots.  The harsh truth is that by the time a patient has a third recurrence, their body tends to be filled with cancer.  Three different radiologists have looked at my CT film, and they do not entirely agree on what is going on in there.

To that end, I will have a PET scan next week.  Hopefully the radioactive material will light up those awful cells and reveal their hiding places.

Dr. F suggested that surgery probably will not be an option.  The data for third-time cancer surgeries is limited at best, and any data that is available is probably for women twice my age. Given the location of the known masses, the surgery would be risky for interference with a few organs and their functions.

Chemotherapy is a must, and the sooner I get started, the better.  I am looking at a Taxol/carboplatin combination, every 3 weeks for six rounds.  The timing here is very important.  Each cancerous mass has the ability to double in size in as few as 30 days.  18 weeks of chemo leads us straight into the holidays, at which time there will be another round of scans to determine what, if anything, needs to happen differently.

That's the medical, practical side of this thing.  It's dry and it's terrifying...but compared to the terror I felt as I sat across from my little cowboys, it is nothing.  First, I gave them the good news:  Mom loves you very much and there's nothing you can do about it.  Then, the bad news:  Mom has new cancer growing in her body.

Immediate panic ensued, especially for Goliath.  I had just given life to his worst fear.

The only thing I care to remember about that conversation yesterday is how they all reacted with fierce emotion.  They are each so wonderfully unique, so Goliath's breathlessness=Little Middle's hung head=Baby's tears.  As much as I detest the bad news that turned life upside down for my sons in that instant, I love that their reaction demonstrates how they love me.  If nothing else goes right from here on out, I will remember that they are scared and emotional because I am important to them.  It's a terrible, but somewhat comforting, thought.

I answered their questions as best I could, and reminded them what is really important:  Cancer doesn't change God.  God loves us just as much today as He did yesterday.  God isn't surprised, even though we sure are.  God knows that we're angry, and He understands.  We can make a choice to trust Him or to stay angry. 

This morning, on the way to an appointment, Goliath and I cut through the high school parking lot.  We rolled down the car windows and started yelling:  "I HATE CANCER!"  "CANCER STINKS!"  Construction workers turned their heads, but we didn't care.  We felt better.

Somehow, I will make it okay for my boys to yell.  I will encourage them to express their distaste for this horrid disease that has reared its ugly head once again.  I will do everything possible to make sure they know that they are THE reasons I will fight, and fight I will.  I will tell them and show them that I love them.  I WILL NOT DIE.  God gave me one life--one chance--to be their mom.  The cowboys give me courage.

I am waiting to be able to talk with Dr. B, my Plan A/M.D. Anderson doc.  She and Dr. F will put their heads together to make final decisions about treatment.  Unless she offers a miracle experimental drug that can only come from MDA, I plan to remain close to home for treatment.  I will update early next week as plans are finalized.

I wish I could understand, but I don't.  I wish I had a glimpse of the big picture, but it eludes me.  What I am sure of is this:  He is close.  As long as I am able, I will run to Him.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Twenty-four hours ago I was at the swimming pool with my kids, just enjoying them.  Right now I am sitting in my living room trying to wrap my head around the news I got today:  I have cancer.  It's back.  In three places. 

I will meet with my dr. here in Dallas tomorrow morning; test results and reports are being sent to my team at M.D. Anderson.  We will decide what to do, although I am told that surgery may not be an option and chemotherapy almost certainly is.

What in the world will I say to my sons?  Christ, have mercy.

Monday, July 23, 2012


Two days before we went to camp, my Plan B oncologist (the one I see when/if I can't get to MDA in Houston) discovered a suspicious spot during a routine follow-up physical exam.  He actually referred to it as a "nodule", which I think in medical speak covers a multitude of possibilities.  Today I had a CT-guided biopsy of that nodule so we can find out what it is and what to do about it.  The procedure went well, except for the part when the radiologist told me that there were several spots of concern.  I might have panicked except for two things:  1.  I knew that God is in control of everything, however many nodules there may be, and 2.  The sedation meds kicked in just when the doctor finished his last sentence. 

The radiology report will be completed within 24 hours, but the pathology results will take a couple of days.  I plan to meet with my doctor on Thursday morning to get those results.

Friends and strangers alike are praying faithfully for favorable results, and I am grateful.   

"When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You."  Psalm 56:3

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


The three little cowboys and I are at kids' camp with our church this week.  The people, the worship, and the teaching are fantastic.  The food is questionable; the weather is hot.  Both of those were to be expected.
On this day, my heart is heavy.  Precious leaders in our church who I have been privileged to count among my friends moved halfway across the country to serve another church just weeks ago.  This morning their fourth child, a daughter, was born.  Baby Blake has a severe heart malfunction and she remains in critical condition, her hours-old life hanging in the balance. 
My cousin is the mother to a darling five-year-old girl who suffers from a rare muscular disease.  Her enzyme levels skyrocketed today, and she has been admitted to the hospital.  Each "episode" that Ellia has is life-threatening.
I had a regularly-scheduled CT scan a couple of weeks ago.  I received an "all clear," only to have the doctor and radiologist re-read the film and find a small mass.  I will have a biopsy done on Monday to determine what it is and what to do about it.
There is another situation happening within my home that is too large and too hard to put out there just yet.  I am in a place that is isolating and terribly frightening.  My three boys are why I get out of bed each morning and give it my best, in spite of my fear.
Crippling fear.
And then, in a worship service in the middle of nowhere surrounded by hundreds of children, God gave me a song.  He promises to do that, you know:  "He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God."  Psalm 40:3

I am begging him for favor and mercy for myself, and for those who are close to my heart.  He is able, and He is good.