It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since I wrote last – I’ve pulled out my laptop countless times, but each time I’ve come up short – the alphabet soup of thoughts & emotions jumbled around my head & heart just can’t seem to find their place on the page.
But here goes…
Last April (2019) I completed proton radiation therapy, which should’ve zapped any residual cancer cells hiding out along the chest wall or surrounding areas. A month later, I had an unwelcome discovery of a new palpable node that my doctor suspected could’ve been new cancer, so again we went in for surgery – which (gratefully) was not malignant – but I didn’t get out without a good story (you guys all love a good story right?) While vacationing with family in Florida a few weeks after that surgery, I developed a post op infection, which landed me a 5 night all inclusive stay at the water front Tampa General Hospital. I was put on sepsis alert, which included another (emergency) surgery, all you can eat green jello, and an open bar of IV Keflex.
Since then, I’ve had two reconstructive surgeries and a partial hysterectomy – two in, two out if you know what I’m saying…and like my old friends at Fox News, I can now say I’m on my way to being Fair & Balanced.
3 weeks out from my last (and hopefully final cancer related) surgery, I am finding myself pausing and reflecting on this season of my life. If I’m honest, I’m a little traumatized. Maybe a lot. When you’re faced with a crisis, you’re faced with decisions. A lot of them. Those decisions have irrevocable consequences, and those decisions carry with them, your life and the care & well being of those you love most.
What I never considered before my own cancer, was the gravity of all these decisions. Doctors don’t tell you what to do. They lay out your options, and if you’re lucky, give you an exhaustive list of the benefits & drawbacks, statistics where you might fall, and then let you decide.
If we take out your ovaries, we can decrease your chance of Ovarian cancer by x %, buuuttt premature menopause ushers in a host of other health issues and has also been linked to neurological disorders…OR, If we do proton radiation, we can further kill residual microscopic cancer cells, but that radiation exposure of several hundred thousand times more than the average person over the course of a life time, could lead to future heart problems.
So this is not like choosing between the red or the white clam chowder.
All this choosing has got me thinking about hope. It’s tempting to hope in these things. I can see my doctors, my medicine, my treatments – and because I can see them, and in many ways, measure their effectiveness, I’m prone to want to put my hope in them.
But what about the cancer cells that are floating, unseen, through my lymphatic system? I can’t see them, but I believe they are there.
Do you see the irony?
When you have cancer that has entered your lymphatic system, you are not a survivor. You are not “done” with cancer, nor have you “beat” cancer. These are all misnomers. I am still a cancer patient and will be treated by my medical team as such, for the indefinite future. And as my medical oncologist so delicately put it when I asked her “Can I ever say I’m cancer free?” She responded with “Would you ask a diabetic if they had beat diabetes?” Hmmmmm.
So, what do I hope in?
I hope in a Who. How about you?
“Because our peace of heart does not rest on how much we know, how much we have figured out, or how accurately we have been able to predict the future. No, our rest is in the person who holds our individual futures in his wise and gracious hands. We have peace because we know that he will complete the good things that he in grace has initiated in our lives. He is faithful, so he never leaves the work of his hands.” (Paul David Tripp – New Morning Mercies)
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”. Phillipians 1:6
Every morning I remind myself of this truth, before my feet touch the ground – and I pack that scripture down deep into my heart, like fingers pressing soil into a pot.
He will bring it to completion..not till I’m 90, not till I’ve completed my bucket list, but when the good work that he’s begun in me is complete.
He is faithful so he never leaves the work of his hands.
I hope in a Who. How about you?