Friday, July 17, 2009

Up the Volume

I'm normally not one to publicly promote foundations, but this is something really important to me, so I'm asking you to please take a few minutes to check out this new foundation that is very close to my heart.

Naturally, gynecologic cancers, their treatment, and cure have become important issues to me over the past several months as I've faced my own struggles with being diagnosed and treated for stage 4 uterine cancer.

Dr. Silver, my gynecologic oncologist from St. Luke's Hospital in Bethlehem, PA, has recently developed a new foundation, called Up the Volume (, to not only raise awareness about gynecologic cancers, but also to fund the kind of large-scale, non-biased clinical trials that have the greatest potential for positively impacting women suffering with these cancers. His desire is to raise the standard of care in gynecological oncology and improve the lives of women facing these terrible diseases.

Consider the following quote from the website: "We pledge to up the volume on gynecologic cancers. Our primary goal is to raise and allocate funds for major research aimed at preventing, detecting and treating these silent killers of women near to us and around the world. Additionally, public awareness about gynecologic cancers and their effects on women must be elevated. By advancing knowledge and awareness we will improve the length and quality of the lives of women afflicted with gynecologic cancers. Ultimately we will eradicate these deadly diseases. We must up the volume!"

If you have any interest at all, please check out Up the Volume at You can be of help in two ways:

1) Spread the news and share this website with anyone you think might have an interest in the foundation.

2) Consider making a tax-deductible donation to the foundation. There is a simple, downloadable PDF donation form on the website that you can fill out to make your donation by check or credit card. You can even make a donation in my honor if you wish! Every little bit will help to up the volume!

Thank you so much for taking the time to consider this very important foundation. If you have any questions or would like to talk further about these matters, please feel free to email me at

Thursday, July 16, 2009

What News!

Today was the "big day."

Actually, I didn't go into my appointment today with any great hopes or expectations. I knew that I had the potential of hearing something as great as, "there's no more cancer in your lungs" or as bad as, "the cancer's not responding to chemotherapy anymore and is spreading"... though I was pretty confident that the truth would turn out to be somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. Hence, I didn't put much stock in today being a landmark day.

Well, I was wrong... very wrong! The first thing my doctor said when he came into the exam room was, "I've got some good news to discuss with you." (That's always a great start!) He read straight from the results of my PET scan and I sat in disbelief for a moment as I heard, "The primary uterine mass is responding positively to chemotherapy and continues to shrink. The lesions in the lungs are also responding positively to treatment and have continued to shrink. There is no visible cancer in the lungs at this time."

Did you hear that? No visible cancer in the lungs! Praise God!

I have some scarring in my lungs, but that's normal. My doctor also told me that I most likely still have some microscopic cancer in my lungs that is undetectable with the PET scan, so we will still need to continue with chemotherapy in phase two of my treatment plan to make sure there's absolutely nothing left.

I thought the news about my lungs would be the only big news of the morning and yet, I was wrong again. My doctor continued to tell me that we've definitely made it to a point where we can schedule surgery. Now, this isn't new news to me. I had already been informed that surgery would probably be the next step, so there was no shock there. It was the way he told me that threw me off.

From the beginning, my doctor has been very honest with me about how serious my condition is. He has said things like, "we're really far behind the eight ball," "we have a lot of work to do," "this is very serious," and "the statistics don't lie, but we will walk with you through the whole process." He's never once said to me, "you're going to be just fine" or "you're going to get through this with no problem." He (thankfully) has never given me any false hope in my journey with stage 4 cancer.

But today, there was something just a little bit different about how he shared his thoughts. He expressed to me that in the beginning my cancer was so bad that he wasn't even sure we would ever make it to the point where he could perform surgery. He said that had I not responded so well to treatment I would be looking at a much, much, much more difficult process of trying to deal with this cancer. It would have been a very different story indeed.

That statement combined with the very serious tone in which he candidly shared his thoughts simply overwhelmed me. I sat on the couch silent for a moment (which is very uncommon for me)... until my doctor felt the need to remind me that this is all very good news.

I just wasn't expecting news of any real consequence, let alone such great news! All this time, I had taken for granted that surgery was the next logical step in the process. Yet today I found out that my doctor (who, may I remind you, deals with this stuff all day every day) is thrilled with the fact that we'll be able to go into surgery next. In his words, my progress has been "unbelievable!" At the time, I was in too much shock to even form words beyond the questions I had already written down for him... but I look forward to sharing the Source of my "unbelievable" progress with him the next time we talk!

Matthew 19:26 ~ "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible!"

Go check out the story in which Jesus makes that statement. It's in Matthew 19:16-30. Jesus is talking about what it takes to get to heaven (it all boils down to following him, you know)... but as I read that story I figure that if my God is big enough to save my soul - He's also big enough to heal my body! I can't even begin to express how thankful I am that through technology, medicine, and a wonderfully knowledgeable doctor, God is right now in the process of ridding my body of cancer. Again I say, "Praise the Lord!"

So, here's the breakdown of what's coming next in Phase Two:

~ Friday, July 31st, I'll have a radical hysterectomy and my doctor will see if he can remove the tumor that has spread in my reproductive organs from the primary mass. I'll most likely be in the hospital for three to five days and my recovery time will be somewhere in the range of four to six weeks.
~ Before I leave the hospital after surgery, I'll get the first of three more chemotherapy treatments. Since I responded so well to the chemotherapy I received in Phase One, we're going to continue with the same treatment. I'll have an overnight stay in the hospital every three weeks, which will take me into September.
~ After the third treatment, I'll go in for another PET scan. At that time, my doctor will determine whether or not I'll need more chemotherapy.
~ Once I'm done with chemotherapy, we'll move into radiation. My doctor is still saying that I'll most likely have two types of radiation done (both external and internal). It sounds like radiation treatments will take me into the winter, but that's too far out to really be able to say definitively.

What we can say is this: So far, I am well on the road to getting better...

There's one last piece of great news I received today. I asked my doctor about where he thinks I'll be by the end of February. I assumed that he would say that's too far away to be able to tell, but I had to ask anyway. You see, right at the time when all of my medical issues began this past February, I was scheduled to go on a missions trip to Haiti. I was so excited to return to an orphanage called the House of Hope to see Jenny, Linda, St. Germaine and all the kids. I was eager to help their ministry in any way I could and just love on the kids with the heart of Jesus... but at the last minute, I had to back out because I was experiencing too much pelvic pain to make the trip. Since I wasn't able to go visit them, all of those kids down in Haiti have been praying for me right along through my journey with cancer. I want so badly to be able to go see them and share all that God has done for me through this trial. They have so little in this world and yet they are so full of the joy of the Lord! I want them to be reminded that God is always with his children through any struggle we may face in this life.

Needless to say, I've been praying that I would be able to join the team planning to go to Haiti again this upcoming February... so I very tentatively asked my doctor if he thought it might be a possibility for me at that time based on how I've responded to treatment so far. Again, I was quite sure he would say that it's way too early to tell... but he didn't! He said that I should definitely begin to make plans to go! I may not even be in treatment by that time and even if I am we should be able to schedule things so I can make the trip. I nearly jumped out of my skin when he said that! It was all I could do to keep my composure enough to not hug the poor man right then and there!

What a day... what answers to prayer... what wonderful news!

Philippians 4:4 ~ "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!"

Monday, July 13, 2009

So Marks the End of Phase One

I had my third PET scan today, which marks the official end of Phase One of my treatment. (Needless to say, I'm looking forward to getting some semblance of a break before moving into Phase Two.)

I meet with my doctor this Thursday to get the results of the scan. Please pray that my lungs are clear of all cancer! That would be really wonderful news to me because the less distant cancer I've got, the less chemotherapy I'll have to do in Phase Two. I'll also find out what the plans will be for the next stage of my treatment, so I'll post those details when I get them.

By the way, thanks for your continued prayers. I've been uplifted and truly blessed to hear of so many of you praying for me. Trust me when I say that you're definitely making a difference as I wait on the Lord through this time!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Best Teacher

Well, I've made it through phase one of treatment and am feeling like I can finally look up and take stock of all that's happened in the past four months. To be honest, it feels a bit anti-climatic. I'm at a place where I feel like I'll never be done with treatment and life will never be normal again... but I'm trusting -no hoping desperately- that's not the case.

So, since the very nature of this long process has me feeling like I'm not making leaps and bounds physically, I started to consider all that I've learned through this experience... and, boy, have I learned some things so far!

I know that I'm not near the end of this journey, so I take hope in the fact that God is still working through it - even when I don't feel or see his work myself. I've come to a real appreciation of the fact that it's always harder to see the beauty of all the strokes in the big picture when you're standing right smack dab in front of the painting.

I've also learned patience in a new way. As crazy as it sounds, there's something comforting and even freeing about being able to rest in the hands of a sovereign God when you just simply can't have answers for the future. I've been told that I seem somehow resigned or less passionate about certain things. I can assure you that's certainly not the case! I've just found a new peace in knowing that no matter what comes of tomorrow... whether it's good or bad... I can trust God in it (at least I know that for today - something's telling me that's a lesson I'll be learning over and over again in the years to come).

I know that, even though I don't feel like I'm making a difference for God through this time in my life, everything I do speaks to the One in whom I've placed my trust to get me through. I've learned anew that what matters really isn't what's going on in my life; what matters is what I do with what's going on in my life. Whether I see it or not, I have faith that God is at work in it all and it's all an opportunity to be a witness for him.

I've also learned in a new way that the times in which we grow the most are always the difficult ones. It just seems to be a principle of life that we don't learn things as well when everything is going smoothly. Adversity gets our attention and tightens our focus. I've come to a belief that God divinely ordains suffering from time to time to do the work in and through us that he otherwise would not be able to. So, how can we balk at the trials in our lives? Yes, they are painful, but they are the fields in which God can stir up our hearts and grow us beyond what and who we are today. How can that be a bad thing in the end?

One more thing I've come to know is this: Through facing this adversity, I've found that I have a resource to draw on in Christ that may never have been realized quite the same way before. Certainly, he was always there... but how often in good times do many of us forget to look to the Lord? Through this deep and long valley in my life, I've learned that Jesus is there for me in a way like I cannot even explain with words. He has given me grace and strength for each day well beyond what I can conjure up on my own. I wish I could say that I feel like I have the strength to face the rest of my treatment with hope and joy, but that would be a lie. All I know is that Jesus has proven himself faithful and has given me what I needed for each day so far and I'm trusting him to continue to do that throughout the remainder of my treatment. The beautiful thing is that his grace doesn't change through good times and bad. It's always there for us to cling to!

I know that God has been growing me through all of this. That's for sure. The very fabric of who I am seems to be shifting into something else entirely. Though I'm still not quite sure what the end product is going to look like, I pray that it more closely resembles my Lord Jesus. That alone would be a lofty enough goal, but God is never one-dimensional in his work. For now, all I can say definitively is that the Potter's wheel and his furnace are still in good working order. I'm placed in them every day.

Before I go, let me be clear about one thing... the lessons I've been learning are not new perse. Rather, God has been peeling back the layers of my heart like an onion... driving me to a deeper understanding of him, myself, my faith, our relationship, and my purpose in this world. This is some crazy journey he has me on with detours I never would have expected, but I take comfort in knowing that he knows where he's going and he still has a good grip on the wheel!

"Prosperity is never a good teacher, but adversity is always an excellent teacher." ~ Dr. David Jeremiah