I went in today to get a physical examination and have my pre-chemo blood work done... both with the hopes of being given a clean bill of health, so I can get on to Round #2 on Monday. Since I'm feeling well, I figured this would be a pretty mundane morning. It turned out to be monumental!
I learned from the doctor that my white blood cell counts were lowered significantly from my first treatment. He said that they were low enough that if I had caught anything, I would have landed in the hospital. (A note to my Youth Group kids - this is why I've been avoiding hugs!) Praise God that I didn't pick anything up! To prevent from anything like that happening, I now have to make my way down to St. Luke's the day after I come home from treatment to get a shot to help boost my white blood cell count. They're also going to give me some additional anti-nausea meds while I'm there... every little bit will help.
My first gift this morning was little and it came when the doctor walked in the room and commented on my full head of hair. Apparently, he was expecting a bald Heather. He was surprised that my hair loss has been so gradual (at least so far). That little gift, by the way, gave me the ability to get my soon-to-be-expired license photo taken this week. Now I don't have to look at a bald picture of myself for the next four years! Thank you, Lord, for those little blessings!
The second gift was even better and not so little. Since last week, my pelvic pain has decreased significantly. I'm on less than half the amount of pain relievers I was using before; I'm no longer attached to my heating pad; I can sleep through the night now; and I'm getting along quite well throughout the day. I didn't want to get my hopes up, but I couldn't help but think that maybe this meant that the treatment was already working. One of my doctor's assistants told me that it certainly could mean that, but she didn't want me getting my hopes up because they usually don't see any changes until after at least a few treatments. Well, today I got the official word...
My doctor told me that the mass in my uterus has decreased in size significantly! In his initial examinations, he measured it at 12 cm. Now, it's down to 8 cm!!! That's a third of the original size! He used words like significant and notable and then he said this... "Let me put this in perspective for you, Heather. We just don't see changes like this after only one treatment." He didn't say it's unusual. He didn't even say it's rare. He said they don't see things like that! God gets all the praise for this one. I'm counting it as my little miracle along the way.
So, the news gets even better - According to my doctor, if they can measure one mass, they will use that as a marker for the rest of the cancer throughout the body. I can safely hope that the treatments are having similar effects on the distant sites in my lungs and kidney, too! We won't know for sure until after my PET/CT scan in May, but this is such an encouragement to me. It definitely makes the prospect of my upcoming treatments easier to take. My doctor also said he is hopeful that we will continue to make good progress with each treatment, so please keep praying that God uses these treatments to miraculously rid me of all the cancer.
Now... as a side note, I was informed today that my pathology results came in from my surgery and I am now being considered a uterine cancer case again. Because of my age and the way it has spread, my oncologist originally labeled me as a cervical cancer case. Now, he is sure that it had its origin in my uterus. He said that it's highly unusual for someone as young as me to have uterine cancer, but this doesn't change my prognosis or treatment plan. It just changes the label. It's simply a matter of symantics, except for the fact that uterine cancer tends to respond to treatment a little bit better than cervical cancer (again, another little piece of unexpected good news).
So, on this monumental day of small (and not-so-small) praises, I'm just overwhelmed with thanksgiving for God's faithfulness through this journey. I've been praying right along... and tons of people have been praying on my behalf. Yet, I didn't assume that I would receive such solid encouragement so early on! God is good and I'm amazed at how willing he is to work on our behalf when we trust in him!
One final note... a good friend informed me that my six-day silence after my first treatment was a little unnerving. Unfortunately, I was just incapable of sitting at the computer with all the symptoms I was dealing with. So, in honor of my friend, let me give you an advanced warning:
I'm going into the hospital on Monday morning, the 6th, to start my second treatment. I'll be returning home on Tuesday evening, the 7th. For that next week, I'll be out of commission as I wade through the symptoms I'll be facing from the chemo meds. If you don't hear from me, just know that I'm alright. I just need to get through that time on my own.
There are so many people who have offered to help in so many ways and I want each of you to know what a blessing it is to me to know that I can call on you when I have a need. The problem is... when I'm really feeling bad, there's nothing anyone can do (and to be honest, I can't even fathom having anyone around for that time). Then when I'm beginning to feel better, I need to be up and about as best as I can (doctor's orders). Unfortunately, that leaves precious little that anyone can do to really be of help to me in a practical way through these treatments. The biggest thing you can continue to do is go to the throne room of God and pray on my behalf. Beyond that, I'll be sure to let each of you who has offered to help know when a need arises. Just don't feel like you're somehow out of the loop... because you're not! :o)