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!"