Friday, May 29, 2009

Answer to Prayer

Just a quick update...

My blood work today came back much better and I didn't need a transfusion. Turns out it was all an error in how the labs were done. Praise God for answered prayer!

Now I just have to continue regaining my strength before my next treatment on Monday, June 8th...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Quick Prayer Request

I ended up getting terribly sick this week and spent the last two days in bed... but this morning, I dragged myself out of the house to go have breakfast (or at least eat a few bites of breakfast) with several of my dearest girlfriends to celebrate my birthday. It was wonderful! I was in pain and struggled a lot with light-headedness, but I cherished our time of fellowship together. What a blessing it is to have friends like that who understand your heart and still love you through thick and thin!

Afterwards, I had to head down to St. Luke's to get my post-chemo blood work done. At this point, this has become a mundane task for me. Today, however, it turned out to be anything but normal. By the time I was back in the Poconos, I had gotten a call from the Infusion Center telling me that I had to come back to get my blood drawn again. My hemoglobin levels came back critically low. They suspect that an error may have occurred, like saline getting into the tube diluting my blood, but they can't be sure. With how sick I was this week and how bad I'm still feeling, I'm hesitant to believe that it was all just an error.

So, tomorrow morning, I head back down to St. Luke's to have blood drawn again. If my hemoglobin is as low as it showed in my labs today, I will have to get a transfusion. If not, I'll be sent home to continue recovering for the next week before treatment #5.

Please pray that my hemoglobin levels come back alright tomorrow and I don't need a transfusion! While you're at it, you can also pray that I continue to regain my strength after being so sick. I'm really tired of not feeling well and am just eager to get back to life as usual before my next treatment. Thank you!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Refiner's Fire

"Remove the dross from the silver and out comes material for the silversmith."
~ Proverbs 25:4

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed."
~ 1 Peter 1:3-7

I only have one thing to say...

The hotter the fire, the better the gold!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Knowing You...

Allow me to open the curtain for you on a day in the life of Heather post-treatment:

The week right after treatment is never any fun. This week has been no exception, but I was determined that it wouldn't stop me from doing what is most important to me. I forfeited my birthday this weekend because I wasn't feeling well (no big deal... I just made plans for next weekend instead), but I wasn't about to forfeit going to church. My body had other ideas in mind this morning, but I just wasn't listening. I was bound and determined to make it to church! Even if it meant that I had to sit down in my bedroom three times before I could get downstairs (and I did)... even if it meant that I had to sit down on the steps right outside my kitchen door before I could walk across the street (and I did)... I was getting myself to church! I was prepared to sit down in the middle of the street if came down to it (though, thankfully, I didn't have to do that)!

All I want is to feel well enough to do the things I want to do... and this morning, that thing was church! You see, after treatment, my white blood cell and red blood cell counts go very low. This results in feelings of exhaustion, light-headedness, and a complete inability to do much of anything (note: this sentence might just be the understatement of the year). Just walking across the street becomes a workout that makes me almost pass out. It's ridiculous!

As I walked into church this morning, I was feeling so frustrated that I didn't have the energy to really "be there." Immediately upon walking in the door, I saw a couple of very dear friends (an old Youth Group graduate and her husband), but I couldn't even muster up the simple energy to show my excitement over seeing them. I'm sure I looked absolutely horrible when I sat down because another one of my Youth Group graduates told me that he wished he could carry me back and forth, so I wouldn't have to walk to church on my own. How pathetic must I have looked for him to say that?!? Church began and I couldn't even stay standing through the opening hymn! My frustration was definitely building, but as much as it was upsetting me, I was bent on trying to just stay thankful for simply being there worshiping with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

I fought my way through the service, just trying my best to stay focused even though I was feeling drugged and just wanted to go lay down to get rid of the feeling that I was going to pass out. My frustration continued to build when I didn't even have the ability to simply sing out loud during worship. I was grateful that I had listened to a message on what makes true worship this morning before church. It came in handy as I reminded myself that true worship isn't style, but substance. I kept telling myself that, even though I couldn't get the words out, God knew my heart and my heart was still worshiping! I was starting to feel a little bit better...

...Then the song came. It's one we've sung in church probably hundreds of times. It's one that's always meant something very special to me. Yet today, it took on a whole new meaning as I sat there battling my way through worship:

Knowing You

All I once held dear, built my life upon
All this world reveres and wars to own
All I once thought gain I have counted loss
Spent and worthless now compared to this

Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You
There is no greater thing
You're my all, You're the best
You're my joy, my righteousness
And I love You Lord

Now my heart's desire is to know You more
To be found in You and know as Yours
To possess by faith what I could not earn
All surpassing gift of righteousness

Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You
There is no greater thing
You're my all, You're the best
You're my joy, my righteousness
And I love You Lord

Oh to know the power of Your risen life
And to know You in Your sufferings
To become like You in Your death, my Lord
So with You to live and never die

Knowing You, Jesus, knowing You
There is no greater thing
You're my all, You're the best
You're my joy, my righteousness
And I love You Lord

As I did my best to sing this song along with the rest of the congregation, I just couldn't stop the tears from flowing. The words I had sung hundreds of times before suddenly became real to me in a new way. Truly, all I once thought gain I have now counted as loss. All I once built my life upon suddenly doesn't matter anymore. When everything else is stripped away, the only thing that matters is knowing Jesus. He suffered more than I could know and gave everything to give me eternal life. How could my one desire not be to know him more?

Yet, how do we come to know him more if we don't go through some very deep valleys? How would I have come to cherish worship as much as I did this morning if I hadn't had to fight my way there in the first place? In this life, it is far too easy to take things for granted... and it is far too easy to get caught up in that which simply does not matter. Dealing with something as major as cancer has been the most difficult thing I've faced in this life, yet it has been a blessing. Yes... you read that right... cancer has been a blessing. It has helped me to start stripping away all that extra veneer, even those things that were good, and focus in on what is really best. I now count myself tremendously blessed simply to know God, to be loved by him, and to be able to worship him freely.

Cancer has taught me a lot. I've learned to not be so aggravated by little things like bad traffic and scheduling mishaps. I've learned to reconsider my priorities and strive to live each day with a focus on what God thinks is important, not what I think is important. I've learned that there is precious little of real value in this life and I am thankful to simply be able to cling to those truly important things.

Here's the reality: No matter what it takes, no matter how much I have to struggle or suffer, all that matters is that I know Jesus more. It doesn't matter what I have to go through to get there; it only matters that I do. My prayer is that I will continue to know him more deeply through this journey with cancer... and I'm sure that God will continue to answer that prayer in wonderful (though sometimes painful and difficult) ways!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Half-Way Mark

Three chemo treatments down... three more to go...

Now that I've made it to the half-way mark, I had a PET/CT scan done to see exactly how I'm progressing. Today, I got the results and what great results they were!

Here's the breakdown:

- There is still cancer in my pelvic lymph nodes, but there is no sign of cancer in my right kidney anymore.
- Some of the spots in my lungs have completely disappeared. What is left has shrunken significantly.
- The cancer in my pelvic region has also shrunken significantly.
- In addition to the cancer shrinking, the cancer that remains is also being affected by the chemo. It's not showing up on the scan as strongly as it originally did in my first scan and it's not actively growing.
- When the doctor did his physical exam, he said that he could tell that what had spread in my reproductive organs has shrunken significantly. He also said that this is the first time that he feels like he should be able to remove all the cancer in my pelvic region once we get to the surgery stage... if I keep progressing this well through the remainder of my chemotherapy.
- Overall, my doctor said that he's very pleased with my progress... and I'm only half-way through my treatments!

Isn't that wonderful? God is so good! I may not have gotten my prayers answered exactly the way I was hoping, but all this is certainly good news and I got additional good news that I wasn't expecting! Plus, knowing that the treatments have been this effective so far certainly makes it a little easier to face my next three treatments.

Thank you so much for your prayers and please... keep them coming!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Prayer Request

Tomorrow morning I go in for my second PET/CT scan. There won't be much of note actually going on during the scan, but I'd like to ask everyone to pray with me for the results. I'm half way through my chemo treatments and this scan will give us a definitive look at how things have progressed so far.

I'm hoping in faith that the cancer that has spread to the distant sites (my lungs and right kidney) is completely gone. I'm also hoping that the cancer that has spread in my reproductive organs from the primary mass is shrinking considerably. These requests are bold considering I'm only at the half-way mark, but I know that my God can do amazing things. Please pray with me that he will!

I'll get the results next Thursday, the 14th, when I go in to see my doctor to be cleared for treatment #4...