Friday, December 5, 2014

12/5/14 Scan Report

Dear friends and family (all readers!),

It was a week of trying to trust God, but frequently giving in to worry, stress, fear, and binge eating chocolate to calm my nerves.  At last the moment was here and off we went to the hospital this morning.  After drinking two large bottles of contrast solution, with another shot of it in my chemo port just for good measure, they CAT scanned my entire torso.  We then went straight to the oncologist's office to await the results. 

After the assistant took my blood pressure and other notes, my hero, Dr. McGonigle, briefly poked her head through a crack in the door.  We held our breaths and locked eyes with her, trying to read the news in her face.  Then came forth the two best words we could possibly hear: "It's good!"  We breathed, broke into huge grins, and began to thank God together while waiting for her to come back a few moments later for her full visit with us.  Oh my goodness.  I am still in remission from my advanced ovarian cancer!

The long and short of it all is that the scan showed no cancer and the one worrisome clump of lymph nodes remain stable.  I will continue with my maintenance infusion of Avastin every three weeks (which starves cancer cells so they can't grow), and barring any new symptoms or bad blood work, I get to extend my three month chemo break this fall with another 18-week chemo break!!! 

That means I won't be nauseous, sad, or fearful at Christmas, at New Year's, on Valentine's Day, on my 55th Birthday [2/18 if anyone's wondering ;-)], on Daniel's spring break, or on Daniel's birthday (April Fool's Day). 

I will close this short report with two HUGE thank you's.  First, I thank with all my heart (with every fiber of my being!) those of you who have prayed with me and encouraged me in a million ways on this unwelcome journey.  I honestly don't know how I, or my family, would have made it through the past two years without you.  And second, I offer unending glory, praise, and thanks to God my heavenly Father, who is always in the boat with me during stormy seas, keeping my head above the waves, calming my fears, and without whom I would have no hope, peace, or purpose for this life or the next. 

"He caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed.  Then they were glad because they were quiet.  So He guided them to their desired haven.  Let them give thanks to the Lord for His loving kindness.  And for His wonders to the sons (and daughters!) of men!  Let them extol Him also in the congregations of the people.  And praise Him at the seat of the elders.  Psalm 107:29-32

Love, joy, and peace to you all this Christmas!  Now I'm off to watch a cheesy Hallmark Christmas movie which will have just what we need after the week we've had--a happy ending!


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

12/2/14 It's that time again

Dear Family, Friends, and all the people who have read our blog that we don't even know (!),

Gabrielle here.  For those who follow the church calendar, last Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent.  Advent's Latin root means "coming."  (I don't know Latin...I read that in my Advent study book!)  And in my church on Sunday, we began our yearly time of remembering what Christmas is all about--that Jesus came to earth to show us God's love, reconcile us to God, and bring us hope.  Thanks be to God!

But there is another thing "coming" for me--in just three days.  My next ovarian cancer scan.  Scan week is something we start to dread when we get about two weeks out, and the fear and anxiety for me starts to snowball when I get to the final few day's countdown.

So I thought you might be interested to hear how I tried to calm myself down on this cold, sunny Tuesday in December.  I awoke late, after much trouble falling asleep last night, threw on my swimsuit and sweats, ate some breakfast, and went to my 10AM appointment with my therapist.  She and I first met when I needed some help accepting my diagnosis of Lupus ten years ago, and over the years, I have headed in for "tune ups" as we call them, whenever I feel the need for a little extra help.  After a great session relieving some burdens with her, I headed straight to our public pool and swam for a solid hour, praying the entire time.  It was very calming casting all my cares, for myself and others, on God, knowing He cares for us all.  (1 Peter 5:7)  And if you are a swimmer, you know the peace you find as you immerse your head, the noise of the world drops away, and you feel the whoosh of the water rush over you.

With my hair dripping wet, I headed to Costco because we needed some bottled waters and toilet paper.  Never, never go to Costco when you are starving and worried about your cancer scan!  I couldn't believe the "0's" I saw when the final item had rung up.  Retail therapy.  Gotta love it.  After unloading the packed car, I ate some lunch and sat in a comfy chair to read my devotional readings for the day.  But after, I was still having anxious thoughts about the scan.  What if the cancer is back?  How will I tolerate a third five-month round of chemo??  How much longer do I have on this earth?  How should I be ordering my days?  And on and on it went.  So next I did one of those relaxation exercises Daniel had on his I-Pod to help with med school stress.  It lasted 12 minutes and you relax your entire body, focus on your breathing and try to let go of your stresses.  I don't normally believe in that stuff, but research has actually shown it helps, as it calms your brain into releasing less cortisol (stress hormone) and sick people do better.  I did feel better.  But not better enough.

So I went and had an hour-long massage with my favorite massage therapist, Dee.  Wow, my third therapy of the day.  That tells you how anxious I've been, for sure.  And Dee, being her sweet, giving self, handed me a bag of homemade rolls she made today to take home to the family for dinner. 

I arrived home to cheery Christmas lights, and a little gold box with a drawer in it, suspended from my golf ball on a string that keeps me from bashing my car into our refrigerator as I enter our garage.  A note on the box said "Mom--Open This."  Inside was a beautiful note from Daniel, telling me how much and why he loved me, naming some of his blessings, and with a wonderful Scripture verse that I will share with you in a moment.  I then ate a lovely dinner with Steve and the kids, including 1-1/2 of the BEST homemade rolls you have ever tasted.

And now, relaxed, full, and decidedly more peaceful than in earlier stretches of this day, I am writing this blog post.  I am asking once again for your prayers that my scan might show "no new evidence of disease" on Friday morning.  What a blessing that would be for my family and me to enjoy a FOUR-month chemo break, after the glorious three-month break we have just had. 

I am guessing you have some worries and anxieties this Advent season as well.  In the past week alone, I have encountered friends and family who are homeless, in poverty, in poor health, without jobs, worried about their kids, and experiencing loss and loneliness.  Most nights of our lives are not like in Silent Night, where all is calm and bright.  But God came.  He came for me, and He came for you.  He loves us.  He is with us.  In Him we can find hope and peace through cancer and all of life's trials (with a little therapy thrown in now and then for good measure). 

Now here is the verse on Daniel's note to me:  "I have told you these things, so that in Me, you may have peace.  In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world."  John 16:33

Love to you all,