Many of you are interested in hearing the practical details of my progress. Because there's a whole network of people praying for me who aren't all connected in the same way, I wanted to find one general location that everyone can go to learn of my progress. This blog seems to be the best answer for that, so here's the first installment of what I'm sure will become an ongoing process of updates...
Though I was originally told by my gynecologist that I have endometrial cancer, I have now been officially labeled as a cervical cancer patient by my oncologist. Based on his physical examination and how my symptoms developed, he believes this is a more appropriate diagnosis. We may never know the exact origin of the cancer, but that won't affect how it's dealt with.
The biggest thing I was hoping for and many of you were praying for was that the cancer wouldn't have already spread beyond my pelvic region. However, after having a PET/CT Scan done on Monday, I met with my oncologist yesterday and learned that the cancer has spread beyond my pelvic region to my lungs and my right kidney. I have several small spots on both of my lungs (the largest of which is almost the size of a quarter on my right lung) and I have a small blockage in my right kidney. It's most likely that it spread through my lymphatic system. Who would've thought?!? I've felt perfectly healthy other than the pelvic pain I've been experiencing over the past few months!
Additionally, because the cancer has traveled out of my pelvic region, it's now officially labeled as stage 4 cervical cancer. Now, for those of you who will go online and look up the statistics, let me warn you: it's not pretty! The five-year survival rate for this type of cancer that has spread to this extent is only 15-20%... BUT my doctor reassured me that, though we have to appreciate the statistics for the reality they present, we also have to keep in mind that they span every case, which would include women who are much older and women who have underlying medical conditions. I am young and otherwise very healthy, so my doctor keeps telling me that they're going to get me through this... so THAT is what we must focus on!
So now what's next? Over the course of the next week, I've got a lot that I'll have to get in order and then the wheels start spinning and they won't be stopping for quite some time. I have an outpatient surgery scheduled for Friday, the 13th, to do more biopsies of my reproductive organs and to implant a port in my chest for chemotherapy (from what I'm told, the port will make the process of intaking the medications much, much easier). Then only a couple days later, I'm scheduled for my first chemo treatment on Monday, the 16th.
I'll be doing six treatments, one every three weeks for 4 1/2 to 5 months. After the third treatment, we'll do another PET/CT scan to see if the cancer is responding and receding.... and then another at the end of the six treatments. Our hope is to get it to clear up completely in the distant sites and then deal with treating my pelvis locally afterwards with radiation. Only after we make it to that point will we have any idea if I'll need to have a hysterectomy. All we can do is take it one step at a time. It's a real lesson in patience for me!
My doctor did say that we're behind the eight ball and I'm in for a rough five months, as the treatments he's going to be giving me will be very aggressive. For each treatment, I'll be given two different types of chemo medication and I'll be in the hospital overnight... and then I'll be dealing with two to four days of nausea, a week to ten days of exhaustion, and possible numbness or tingling in my hands and feet after each treatment. Also (and here's the icing on the cake), within five days of my very first treatment, I'm going to start losing my hair... all of it, eyebrows and eyelashes included! Needless to say, all of this information was a lot to take in and I'm still processing everything, but I'm continuing to go to God with my fears and concerns and trust his plan. It's daunting and at moments overwhelming, but I know my God is bigger than all this! Besides, I'm already strapped in and heading up the first hill of this rollercoaster ride. There's no backing out now, so what's the point of dwelling on the negatives? I might as well do my best to stay focused on what God is doing through all this and look for his amazing work, right?
Thank you so much for your continued prayers as I go through this journey. In the midst of a million emotions, they really are carrying me through! There's a part of me that's almost afraid to ask for more prayer because it feels like every answer I've received so far has been a no... but the fact is, "Prayer Changes Things!" Please pray that the cancer responds well to this cycle of chemotherapy and that we're able to get me back to full health with reasonable measures. I'm still hopeful that this doesn't have to drag on for a rediculously long time. You can also continue to pray for my strength, faith, and testimony through this experience. I know God uses trials like these to shape us and do things that we otherwise would not see him do. I'm trusting that he'll work through this in many ways... both in me and in the lives of my family, friends, church, and youth group. Thanks for joining me through this as we see what God is up to!