The phone call I've been waiting for just came. All four of my doctors --- surgeon, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, and pathologist --- all are on the same page and no further surgery is required. No mastectomy (only 3 partial ones!) and no chemo. Thank you God! And since the report lists that there is "exuberant healing" occurring in the biopsy cavity, WELL that just means one thing to me----only God can do that! Thank you God for exuberant healing!
This part of my cancer journey is now history (I think :) and I move to the radiation stage in the morning. Can I just shout out loud to the good God I so adore that even in a few mishaps there were overwhelming Kindnesses from HIM. I'm so grateful to HIM for having made it to the place where I am in my heart of surrender in suffering. Our wills are so dead set against suffering yet my heart has taken me to places I would not go. I had to live in the present and deal with what was going on in my heart for the beautiful God I know that I know that I know was doing surgery on my heart and I thought it was on my body! He led me to use the pain to wrestle more passionately with the character and purposes of God. This life is not about us. It's all about HIM and fulfilling His purposes----why He has us here. I exist for Him. He so wants me fully. He does not exist for me and my world. While the surgery on my body is over; the surgery on my heart continues.
Tomorrow morning at 8:30am I begin radiation treatment. I went in on Monday for a simulation and was not prepared for what happened. I didn't think that the radiation treatments would be difficult for me as they simulated the event. It wasn't. It's impossible for me and what I deal with! My body quaked in the CT Scan and, then again, in the Radiation Room. As the 3-foot thick wall door was closed on me....and when they put the band around my legs to stabilize my spine in the CT Scan, flashbacks of childhood memories of horrific things flooded my mind and I cried out sobbing to our good God. Yes, there is much trauma in my life from what has been done to me but my God will carry me through even this. I don't know how! My good God offers me HOPE not RELIEF in the midst of my suffering. I'll wrestle to find that hope tomorrow morning and ask you to join me in praying that I will be more concerned about my unholiness than any anguish I suffer.
Will I grieve more over my flailing commitment to a majestic Christ than over whatever harsh and horrible treatments I will endure? That's the beat of my heart. Let my Great Physician have his full way in my heart and body. I've dealt with so much surreal fear in my life. He knows the way I take. Our wills are so set against suffering and we don't want our loved ones to suffer. But the reality of the heart living in reality pushes us into an awareness against our will of living in this present moment of suffering and that's so good. No denial. No relief. No one has ever walked in your shoes. No one knows what you have to face. God sees. He knows the way we take. We can trust Him---so what does that look like for me tomorrow?
This is the biggest battle for me. And I embrace this suffering surrendered in trepidation with eyes lifted to the Unseen. For those of you who don't struggle with fears like this, you probably wonder about this. All I know is that when they close that three-foot door on me tomorrow morning, my good God will be in that room with me whether I sense His Presence or not. He will be there. My Great Physician!
My faithful lifelong friend, Mindy, called me this morning when she heard about what I went through on Monday in the radiation simulation. She knows me better than almost anyone except my family. I'm sobbing as I write this. Her voice cracked as she wept and read to me: "Asa cried out to the LORD his God, 'O LORD, there is NO ONE LIKE YOU to help those who are powerless. Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your Name, we will come against this.' " 2 Chron 14:11.
Radiation 8:30am Wednesday July 1st and every day for 7 weeks...
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
The phone call I've been waiting for just came. All four of my doctors --- surgeon, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, and pathologist --- all are on the same page and no further surgery is required. No mastectomy (only 3 partial ones!) and no chemo. Thank you God! And since the report lists that there is "exuberant healing" occurring in the biopsy cavity, WELL that just means one thing to me----only God can do that! Thank you God for exuberant healing!
Friday, June 26, 2009
FRIDAY UPDATE - Just met with the medical oncologist to finalize chemo. BUT, my medical oncologist's interpretation of the surgical pathology report is that all of my margins re-excised are focally positive with DCIS cancer and that means you need to have a mastectomy. She needs to be convinced by the surgeon about the surgeon's decision on Wednesday to release me and do no further surgery. Here we sit at 5:00pm on a Friday. Wait til Monday. So that's the Friday findings. I will wait til Monday to have them re-hash the mastectomy re-visit between the med oncologist and surgeon and hospital pathologist whose pathology report is quirky according to the two oncologists.
You know, I'm sitting here thinking, what settles us? I don't want to go through another anesthesia anytime soon. And I think in moments like this, it is about Truth settling deep down in our hearts where we really wrestle with the goodness of God. Psalm 51:6---David wrestled with his doubt of a good God, his sin. Is God good only if the report is good? Nope. I didn't question the surgeon til now. Actually, I still don't. I question the hospital pathologist and wonder if we should run the cancerous tumor/tissue slides back to MDAnderson for the third time for interpretation from their pathology department?
And I thought it would all be settled today. And it all started on April 1st. Ha. I'll embrace this weekend and take care of my body like my nutritionist told me to do in my appointment with him this morning. Had a great appointment with this doctor who mapped out a plan for me to build back my serotonin level naturally. He said my serotonin is depleted and we can do it with natural supplements. I've never tried anti-depressants for serotonin depletion and I have never taken supplements until April 1st---amino acids and glutamine and methyl and all-natural products. I have a super nutritionist with Lone Star Oncology who is aggressively treating the health of my body on a bio-molecular level. The supplements he has had me on are tried-and-true clinical findings from research places like Mayo Clinic and Duke University and MDA. My last two surgeries showed that I had exuberant healing occurring--- that's really good.
This cancer journey has been a huge wake-up call for me to take care of my body where I have been lax in what I ate and drank way-too-many cokes every day of my life. Not anymore, not since April 1st. No cokes. No sugar. No fast food. No Oreo's. No ice cream. Diet doesn't heal alone but disrespect of my body and what I put in it isn't healing me either. Don't know how I could have tackled this simple diet without God's help. Don't know how I've done it except maybe I'm desperate because I have cancer in my body and I am going to beat this thing by the grace of God.
So, as our confusing appointment ended, I brought up the word I thought would shoot out of the medical oncologist's mouth first, ---CHEMO. Her response? Absolutely not. Mastectomy, yes. Chemo, no. Your profile and oncotype is way too low. 4% incremental benefit if you take chemo. "Not even a consideration," she blurted out. You are kidding me? I didn't even have to make a decision about chemo. After reading my profile, five different oncologists all have said "no chemo." (The medical oncologist actually did say "chemo" on the last visit but seemed to definitively change her leaning.) So, there you go. She didn't even give me a choice on chemo. The only people who said chemo was MDA---institutional policy for micrometastasis.
I'll post again Monday as I go for my first radiation appointment at 8:30am unless they pull me out to put me on the surgery table again.
Here's another silly story. I left my oncologist's office at 5:00pm and went straight to my surgeon's office next door to leave a handwritten note asking for clarification for my confused soul. While trying to slip the carefully crafted handwritten note in perfect penmanship, face up, under her locked glass door, my hand got caught under the rubber sweep guard that allows you to easily slip mammogram files under her door. My hand was stuck! I burst out laughing so hard---at least I wasn't crying. Don't panic. And you know the rest of the story because my hand is typing this post---I got it out! I could envision Bob eventually wondering where in the world his wife was and coming up to find me laying on the floor rolling laughing in a dark vacant building with my hand stuck in the surgeon's door. Who should we call for help? Bob just kept waiting downstairs in the car for me. Wondered why I took so long.
I'm so bewildered and bothered and bold and bracing myself to fall before God this weekend and let Him carry me through this. All I know to do is cry out to Him moment by moment by moment. Reminds me of Deut 1:31. "There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as parents carry their children. He carried you wherever you went until you came to this place." I am going to keep crying out and ask God to carry me and help me live in the present moment while I wait for Monday to come.
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 8:53 PM
Seems to me like the past 12 weeks all comes down to this very day. It's the day we finalize the decision to go the chemo route first, or start radiation on Monday. My surgeon released me. She was not able to completely remove all of the DCIS cancer. It is to my chest wall. No further surgery of any kind can remove that. The surgical pathology report noted that the surgical specimen has positive margins, focally positive for DCIS in all margins. That's the surgical medical diagnosis.
All of the above is just information as my good friend Kathryn says. I am safe, no matter what, in the hands of an Invisible, sometimes Silent, Good and Loving God.
I will see my medical oncologist today to finalize chemo and/or radiation. It's a hazy gray area which way to go. Mathematically, the incremental benefit of taking chemo increases my survival rate by 4%. Only four women out of 100 would benefit from taking chemo.
You know, I believed that after the first surgery, my good surgeon would get all of the cancer out. I believed after the second surgery, she would get all of the cancer out. I believed after the third surgery, she would get all of the cancer out. It didn't happen. So what do I do with that? Some think it's your faith or lack of it. Some think it's the way you handle your problems.
We all have different theologies. I do know this. I am a little more stable, a little more stronger in the LORD, and in love with Him a little more, even after going through a horrendous experience for four days this past weekend where my body violently reacted to the anesthesia. And not being able to sleep longer than a couple of hours each night of this week. It was trauma for me. PTSS is what they say. But my mind is very clear this morning even though my body still is not cooperating. I know Whom I have believed in and I am CONVINCED that He is able to keep me until that day. And no one knows what day that is. I am kept by a Mighty Present God. HE meets us in our weakness. It's my theology of weakness and I hold to it. His Strength is made perfect in my weakness. 2 Cor 12:9. I asked for Him to take away the cancer by surgery and He didn't. I believe He still will and the door of healing is always open. I depend on Him whether I feel like He is listening or I am overwhelmed with sensing His Presence. Both happens to me.
So, I'll end with a silly story on this weighty friday. I drove into the hospital parking lot yesterday and stopped to ask the attendant how much the parking was to make sure I had enough in my wallet. This older gentleman looked me straight in the eyes and said: "FREE. It's free for senior citizens." Ha. I guess my pony tail and blue jeans didn't convince him that I might be in any other category. And yes I am a member of AARP. I got a good laugh out of it, though. I'll post again on Monday and tell you where I am---in a chemo chair or under a beam of radiation.
To have friends walk alongside of me during this difficult time means much to me. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your prayers, your comments, your support, your cards, your love! HE is lifting up my head!
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 8:08 AM
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
I was walking around Dillard's asking, knocking, and seeking in my heart for the God I so love to show up and speak to me. I've just spent the most horrific four days sedated from anesthesia, paralyzed in fear, frozen in a tiny apartment. Crying out to God! The pieces began to fall in place today that I was over-medicated for a fifteen minute procedure or so I perceive. If you've ever had a PTSD diagnosis, then you know the nightmare when your mind is messed with. I'm not medical but I am asking a whole lot of questions about what went wrong with the anesthesia. I was a mess, but make no mistake, I am one glorious mess! A God Who keeps me together. No matter what, God's arm is never too short and His Hand was still on me, covering me, giving me breath. I thought about deleting my last post, but I think you know it was written while I was very upset and bewildered.
It took four days for the anesthesia to finally clear. So, I'm very slowly walking around Dillard's today waiting for the phone call from the surgeon with the news of Friday's pathology report. We're still pretty new to Austin and I've only been to this mall like twice. Never expected to see anyone I knew. I barely recognized this lady who approached me---I had met her at a luncheon. She told me that she should be home packing for an out-of-town trip, but wondered if God had sent her to the mall to meet up with me. She said God had been telling her for the past 24 hours that she needed to call me and tell me that all I needed is faith as big as a mustard seed. And God wanted me to tell you that you've got more faith than a seed in you. Now I don't know about God telling people other things to show up and tell people at a mall....HOWEVER...it was as though God was standing right there for me enveloping me in His arms. I was desperate. I mean, I had just been asking Him for help with what I had been through the past four days and how I could handle the expected phone call with His strength---the phone call that would ring within a few minutes spilling out news if my body still has cancer cells that remain. And there He was, God met me at Dillard's.
And my cell rang....it was my surgeon with the news of the surgical pathology report.
My margins were clear on the last cancerous tumor excised. But! Yes, they found cancer cells at the chest wall, BUT radiation will get those. And, you do not need any further surgery. No mastectomy. Surgery is finished. That's all.
I blurted out HALLELUJAH. And the doctor said it right back to me.
Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou God is all I could keep saying as I hung up the phone. I called Bob first then drove to the park and fell to my knees as cars whizzed by and I just kept saying thank you over and over again to Him I don't have to face a fourth surgery at this time. I didn't care who was watching. I was one happy girl!
My appointment with the surgeon is at 10:15am tomorrow, and I will find out the rest of the story because she wasn't pleased with the interpretation of the pathology report and has asked for clarification from the pathologist. So things could change. I'm reservedly ecstatic!
Then, it's off to the nutrition oncologist who is going to try to help me with this "GI" problem I am still having. I've lost 8 pounds since June 3rd. Something about eosinophils. Then off to the medical oncologist for a final consult on chemo. Will let you know how it all turns out. I'm so grateful to God Who sees it all unfolding from bizarre anesthesia to mustard seeds of faith growing in my heart. Deeply appreciate your prayers that move the hands of our good God.
PS - On April 7, 2009 when I received the diagnosis of "cancer," I taped a mustard seed into a notebook where I would keep all of my medical records. Then I taped a mustard seed into a brand new pink journal that I would start on that day. I'm always looking at those mustard seeds when I open those books up just about every day.
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 10:18 PM
Monday, June 22, 2009
I was sobbing for hours in the darkness hoping for some breakthrough. Never came. Evidence of a new morning slipped into my somber mood. I was reading the Book of Job. I made it to chapter 37 and so wondered what God was saying to me. I decided to try to slip out of bed into the stillness of the night and listen to the last four chapters on my iPod and walk, waiting for the break of dawn. I moved my weary body slowly, methodically, soaking up a sunrise no one had ever seen before. I could only walk at a snail's pace and I listened with every ounce of attention to the reply that God gave to Job and his friends in those last four chapters. I was deeply touched by Job 40:4 "I am unworthy. I put my hand over my mouth. I have no answer." It was such a low point. My body was wrecked from the anesthesia as well as a parasite that has been playing havoc with my gi tract since June 3rd. I've lost eight more pounds. But more than that my trusting heart was in a body that was on overdrive and I couldn't slow it down.
Anesthesia went so well for the first two surgeries. What happened? Not so for the third surgery on Friday. It was supposed to be the least invasive surgery. But, I had a new anesthesiologist with a different philosophy. I think he over-medicated me. From the moment I awakened, I began crying out that I felt like I was dying. Can't begin to tell you how badly I have felt all weekend. Extreme exhaustion where I couldn't even get up. Excessive depression that made me feel like I was so unloved. I struggle with that anyway, but this was unreal. My worst fear of anesthesia came true. And I listened hard to those last four chapters of Job. What are you saying to me God?
My friend JoAnn, the nurse, called and encouraged me to attend her breast cancer support group at noon today---she thought God wanted me there. Oh dear! When I went to church yesterday so longing to praise the God I just adore, I began sobbing as the bass of the music went through me and I thought everyone was screaming at me. I sang Praise Adonai and wondered how I could feel so shaken. I haven't even been able to get up out of bed hardly for four days now until this morning's brief walk that did me in. Can't go, JoAnn. She wouldn't take "no" for an answer. "I'll be your nurse and take care of you, Bev!" Maybe it would be good to get out---I'm gonna feel bad here or there. I had no idea what God would hold for me there.
I sat next to an M.D. and shared my horrendous anesthesia experience with her. She unraveled for me a mystery about my body that gave me courage. I was diagnosed with PTSD three years ago when I was separated from treasured friendships I loved then and still do. There are certain drugs you just don't take with PTSD and no one had ever told me that before. It was the exact IV anesthesia and sleep meds that had been given to me. That was why I haven't been able to sleep for three nights, they had made me feel even weirder, so hostile and horrific, such disturbed sleep. That meeting with this doctor was a divine intervention for me that gave me hope that all this anesthesia will continue to wear off. And I will continue to trust God, no matter what. No matter how I feel. It's difficult enough dealing with cancer and so wanting to move on. I will wrestle with our good God to find a rest I know not. I don't know what tomorrow brings. Tomorrow afternoon I will find out if my margins are clear. I am camping in Luke 18---the persistent widow who wants always to pray and not lose heart. I know that I am greatly loved and I'll keep pushing through to love others more than I want to be loved by them. I don't want to live demanding that people treat me a certain way. All I can say is that God is showing up. While I still have very little reserves in my physical body tonight, I believe that God is meeting me in my weaknesses. And I am so humbled that he would arrange an unscheduled free doctor's consult for me this day that unraveled a little more about me.
Seems like people have to have answers in life for things too wonderful. We try to reduce the mystery of this life to "steps" to take to find freedom. All I'm saying is that He is teaching me to live in this present moment of what is really happening in my heart and surrendering to Him, not living for answers but living for his honor. And HE will unwind and unravel and undo all that has been done that's not of Him. I will long remember this day.
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 9:15 PM
Monday, June 15, 2009
UPDATE ON Friday June 19th Surgery: Surgery today went well. I'm in a little more pain than I thought after three surgeries. I had a huge problem recovering from the anesthesia. Versed. Oh my! Felt worse than I could have imagined. They gave me more anesthesia than expected. Thanks so much for praying that our beautiful God remove all the cancer. Trusting Him, no matter what. Romans 8:26. I sent the verse to Abby and she was sending it right back to me---that was so God! The surgical report comes back on Tuesday. Please pray for clear margins!
Britt is doing a CHARITY fundraiser garage sale w/10 families SATURDAY JUNE 20th for children in Chiang-Mai, Thailand at The Horne's---you just have to go by if you live in Austin. Twelve Hyde Park high school students have pulled this off. So disappointed I can't be there to help but the Hornse are amazing in hosting this. The students picked up donated items like wrought iron lawn furniture, designer clothing, furniture, tons of electronics. All the money they make will go to help Nat walk again---he's an 11-year-old that Britt met in one of the villages in Thailand. Brooke took him to the doctor today for an evaluation---it cost $6 for the hospital visit. He will need physical therapy. And the rest of the money raised will help buy clothing and food for tribal village children as Brooke wraps up three years in Thailand---she'll be home July 24th. Pray that people buy lots of stuff and give a few extra dollars to make a difference in the lives of these needy children who are so loved by God.
The Following Post is from Thursday: I can't thank you enough for all of you who stopped to pray for me on Thursday at 8:15pm.
A strange peace came over me as I listened to the mild-mannered unperturbed words of my surgeon this morning. I jotted at the top of my notes "5 loaves and 2 fish." God is going to have to help me get through this appointment. The soliloquy was not the measure of concern that came from the oncologist's pathology report interpretation on Friday. My surgeon was wide awake in surgical strategy actually saying: "Your margins are clear but there is now a second focus of another invasive cancer that is only 3 mm. I removed that new cancerous tiny tumor on Tuesday but those margins are not clear. You now have multi-focal cancer and need final clear margins. I don't recommend a mastectomy at this point, just a partial one. Can we do surgery this Friday at 10:30am to clear those margins?"
Can I please take like a week to mull over this and pray and ponder. No, I can't. I have one minute not one week to wonder. The words spilled out of my mouth with such ease. "Yes, I will submit again to one more surgery this coming Friday." But, I have to be hydrated and over this bacterial infection or I can't do it. So, pray that my body continues to recover. Since the two liters of IV on Friday along with antibiotics, I have been able to keep food down. I have continued to improve every day.
God has continued to open doors for me that are amazing. I'm simply awestruck over here at what He is doing in my heart. I was so upset the day after surgery thinking a "purse thief" took two $20 bills out of my wallet at the hospital. It was my husband who put the money back in the bank since I actually wasn't going anywhere. I thought differently. Funny the things we let bother us rather than choose to love. I asked God to give me back that money and someone at church handed me a normal #11 business envelope with a bunch of $20 bills crammed in it. And here I was, actually surprised at God! It was anonymous---they wanted me to know it was from God. $500 of bills. I think there's more surgery going on in my heart than in my body. Ways I look at things that don't please Him. Sin that comes out of me that so surprises me. And beautiful opportunities to repent before the God Who has taken care of all of our sins. There's hope for my sin!
Attempting Tuesday's surgery while being dehydrated was really devastating. That's the difficult thing in this cancer journey---you manage your own care. I'm not with all the same oncology group---my second and third opinions brought me to other groups. You may ask why---when a radiation oncologist answers my question that his machines are 10 years old, I think I have to find more cutting edge technology. Maybe I'm wrong and it's okay. It does create a medical team that communicates by snail mail. I carry all my own records everywhere, every time. And I'm not medical. But they know I will ask every question that comes to my mind and from my research. And most of the time, I don't know what I'm doing. But this I know----my beautiful God's arm is not too short for me. Isaiah 50:2 - when I called, was there none to answer? Is my arm so short for you? I want to hear Him calling and answer in all my moments, the good ones and the hard ones and the silent ones when I wonder if He is listening.
Bob and I walked out of the surgeon's office looking at each other in amazement with peace. We went straight to the Austin hospital to pick up the tumor, tissue slides. And Bob actually drove my tumor from that Austin hospital to MDAnderson in Houston today for a second opinion on the pathology report. I was not strong enough to take the six-hour round trip. My husband is quite amazing even though he has been accused of being a "purse thief." Isaiah 33:6 describes him well---Christ is the stability of his times and this man offers me so much hope and courage and love, so much!
I am going to take Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and retreat. I'm going to a private place by myself to read and listen and wrestle and wonder and praise the beautiful God Who is so carrying me through this. You won't hear from me over the next three days, only intermittently. I won't be blogging or answering e-mail's or texts or phone calls. He is calling me to fast my words, fast my connections and come to Him.
Then, Thursday night, at 8:15PM at our Mo-Pac apartment, I welcome any of you in Austin to join me and my family to pray for me ---- about 30 minutes. Maybe some of you, like my dear friends Holly and Annette, will slip to your knees where you are some time during that half hour. I know my children will be praying at that moment whether in Thailand or Korea or California or DC---wherever they are. Let me throw in a congratulations to Barrett who came in 10th at a Half Ironman Triathlon in Korea yesterday winning a couple of thousand dollars.
Join us and pray with us, to the same God, Whose arm is not short for me--- even though some of you bloggers will be sitting miles and miles away. God will be listening on Thursday evening to you and your family---send a thought for me. And for any of you close by, just drop by at 8:15pm on Thursday. Call Bob 512.541.5772 for directions to our apartment. It will be the eve of my surgery and I'm asking you to pray. I would be so humbled by your presence before our God for me, whether in body or in spirit. God says in Isaiah 65:24: "Before you even call, I will answer." Please do! I'm still scared but surrendered! Still a mess, but a glorious one! Cannot thank you enough for your praying for me and walking alongside! I need community. I'll talk to you all after my Friday surgery. And maybe I might see some of you on Thursday night---that would be a joy!
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 9:55 PM
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Weekends like this one makes me question and think really hard about life. I'm in a tight place.
Friday morning was the deadline with our medical oncologist whether to choose chemo or not. She took one look at me and said----we have to get you on an IV. I could barely walk into her office Friday a.m., I was so weak. Dehydrated. Again. For 10 days I had not been able to keep down food and liquids. Severe vomiting. Don't know why either. My surgeon decided to go ahead with the re-excision surgery on Tuesday. They gave me an IV to re-hydrate me. I walked out of the hospital, Tuesday, or was wheeled out and felt really good by Tuesday night. Short-lived. By Wednesday, I was back in trouble again. Thursday, I couldn't even lift my head off the pillow, so nauseous, incredibly weak. So here I sat Friday morning trying to tell my medical oncologist that I wasn't going to choose to go the route of chemo. That's when she read me the report of the surgical pathology report from Tuesday's surgery. It was hard to hear. It was bad news for me again. Now the med oncologist wants to do chemo. I won't go against medical advice.
Surgical Pathology Report from Tuesday's surgery: No clear margins. Again. Tuesday's surgery to get all the cancer out was not successful. Med oncologist's recommendation was mastectomy and chemo---she's the medical oncologist. I meet with the surgical oncologist tomorrow morning, Monday, to hear her interpretation of Tuesday's surgical pathology report and plan yet another surgery. Then chemo. Then radiation. This is so dragging out. One super hard thing in all of this is that you manage your own care or that's what it seems like to me and I'm not medical.
They tried to put the IV in my veins on Friday morning, but my vein collapsed. And what came to my mind was Psalm 46:1-3 God is so present in times of trouble ----somewhere, somebody told me this interpretation one time of that verse. "God is abundantly available in tight places." I have the smallest veins ever---my wrists are the size of a child's. I also had lost five pounds just this week from fluid loss. They had to call an RN from another floor in to find a vein. Sometimes, I feel so dramatic in all this. But it is reality. As I sat for about 5 hours receiving IV saline on Friday morning, I cried out to the God I so adore. Why can't this be over? It's been since April 1st trying to get answers and we still don't have a clear picture. We will tomorrow, probably. I've thought that so many times. And, yes, HE is available in tight places.
While I was waiting for lab reports, I put my jean jacket over my head in the waiting room and prayed that God would have some compassion on me. Isaiah 30:18 - HE longs to have compassion on us. Just a few seconds later, a random teenage girl came over to me in the waiting room and whispered a question in my ear--- she actually lifted up my jean jacket, invaded my personal space and whispered into my ear under my blue jean jacket---"Can I give you a hug?" It was as though God stepped over to me and gave me a physical hug----she will never know.
In about five hours I felt like a new person & actually walked out of there with tears still streaming down my face asking HIM to keep on showing up for I am still in a very very tight place.
Don't feel sorry for me. I have an incredibly unbelievable Present Mighty God Who is carrying me through this. 2 Timothy 1:6 says kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. I have no idea who those hands belonged to in that waiting room. I just know that I know that I know that I am not ashamed. I am called with a holy calling and it means I can ask my Father anything. And I can wrestle with my good God. And I can question Him. Not demand. But I can ask Him for healing and deliverance from even this---my soul, my body, my mind. And I believe. And I know that I know that I know Whom I have believed and I am convinced, I am persuaded at 3:00am when I am awakened at nights, that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. And when I don't believe, He helps my unbelief. Now, I have to just keep living moment by moment, surrendered, scared, and a little more solid than ever. It's not about how strong I am nor how positive I can be. It's all about the ONE who guards my heart, my life, my mind, my soul. I'm a mess over here but make no mistake, I am a glorious mess!
Pray for me at 9:45AM tomorrow, Monday morning, as I hear the final results of the surgical pathology report to plan another surgery.
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 5:21 PM
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Tuesday....Surgery to remove remaining cancer cells went well on Tuesday. They ran IV fluids through me to re-hydrate me as I had a wicked flu this weekend. As I lay there waiting and praying for the 9:45am surgery, Daniel 9:23 kept coming to my mind. "As soon as you began to pray, an answer was given, which I have come to tell you, for you are greatly loved." I had not thought about those verses in a while. As I listened, I kept hearing them over and over. No one wants to have their surgery re-done. Can't tell you what it meant that God would remind me that I was greatly loved! I don't know what the answer is yet on the surgery results.
Wednesday....I have not been able to keep down water this morning, this afternoon. Severe stomach cramps have been constant all day.
Thursday....Feels like the same flu I experienced on Sunday. I've had a little reprieve since 8pm. I was able to get up and eat a little banana, a couple spoons of rice, a bite of toast. The heavens are also rumbling above as a summer storm and tornadoes are in the vicinity. Some pea-sized hail is hitting our windows as I write. My medical oncologist wants to see me in the morning to see if I need another IV. I am supposed to give my medical oncologist my decision tomorrow morning about whether I choose to take "chemotherapy" or not.
We've prayed. We've done our research on micrometastasis in the lymph nodes. We've gone for second and even third opinions. All of my oncologists here in Austin will support my decision to choose not to have chemo. So, I'm not against medical advice here. I'll deliver my decision at 8:30AM tomorrow. I think you know what that will probably be. We still have to wait for the surgical pathology report--- which should have been back by now--- to see if the margins of cancer within me are clear. That's what we are waiting for this night!
At least, tonight, I can sit up again. For that, I am most grateful!! I haven't been able to lift my head off the pillow most of the day today, Thursday. Deeply appreciate that you are checking on me and praying for me and my family. Britt has been at UT representing his high school with 800 other boys from around the state at the American Legion's BOYS STATE all week. They end tomorrow with Governor Perry addressing their final session. I won't be there. Wish I could.
Someone gave me a necklace that says "fearlessness." We've known for two weeks that June 12th is the chemo decision day. What God has continued to bring to my mind over these past two weeks was a verse I read 30 years ago that really gripped my heart. Three decades later, I remember that moment and that verse. Isn't that amazing? It's Phil 1:20 in the Moffatt version, "My eager desire and hope being that I may never feel ashamed, but that now as ever I may do honor to Christ in my own person by fearless courage." So, I'll wear that necklace tomorrow as I visit the oncologist thinking about how my God is moving and working in me fearless courage. Fearlessness. HE is so working in my heart and I am so alive in HIM. It's not about how strong we are; it's all about His Strength made perfect in weakness. 2 Cor 12:9.
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 7:57 PM
Monday, June 8, 2009
Tomorrow is my planned surgery to re-excise and attempt to remove all the remaining cancer. Again. Please pray that the Great Physician guides my good physician to eradicate every single rogue cell. I am wrestling with my very beautiful good God that all of the cancer be removed. Again.
I have had the flu over the weekend and it has been rough. Very rough. I vomited for about 5 hours during the early hours of Sunday morning. Couldn't even keep down water. Pretty spent on Sunday. I'm much better today and have been cleared by my doctor to move ahead with surgery tomorrow. I plan to try to get re-hydrated today---still rather weak from the flu. But the best plan I know is Isaiah 40:31 that those who wait for the LORD will renew their strength---and then I can walk and not faint. He knows. Yes, He knows.
This morning my husband read to me Psalm 131. It's only three verses long. He could not have picked a better word for me this sultry morn. Last summer this chapter meant the world to me in what I faced at that time. And, again, this morning, God showed up at our breakfast table and I have tears streaming down knowing this word is really from Him to me. It's what I need to do to repent, to surrender, to think about as HE continues to make me into the person He created me to be. So here it is. It's my heartfelt humble scared prayer for tomorrow's surgery. I'm depending on HIM to do what only HE can do in my heart and in my body.
O LORD, my heart is not lifted up;
My eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things too great
and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child is my soul within me.
Oh my soul, hope in the LORD, from this moment and
God determines the length of our days, doesn't HE? What I can look for as I face surgery, as I face life, is to look for rest and peace in HIM. To learn even in my fifties to more fully love my God, my husband, my family, my friends. And to learn how to receive His Love in the ways HE is caring for me which is sometimes different than what I thought would be. HE is asking me to surrender my body tomorrow to a surgeon and surrender my heart, every moment I grasp, to the Great Physician. I praise Him greatly for all HE has done for me to this very day and all HE will do. HE is a good God, no matter what happens! Please pray for a successful surgery tomorrow. God just loves that we knock on His door and ask Him. He is bending His Ear to me and to you this moment. Bending low from Heaven to the earth. Trying to get more of heaven in me. Psalm 18:6 - my cry has reached His ears. Would you please ask Him for me that no cancer remains in me after tomorrow. Or even today! Such a privilege to be a fellow struggler and walk this journey alongside people who care! I'd be so touched if you prayed for me when my God brings me to your mind tomorrow. I'd be honored if you left a comment on this post. My last post was closed to comments because of the weightiness of the issues we face, but all comments are open from now on.
My Gratitude and Love,
Scared and Surrendered, Bev
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 9:41 AM
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Dropped Britt off for the SAT College Board test (the final SAT out of four kids) and headed toward Town Lake for an early morning jog. I have to make a final decision by this coming Friday if I will do chemotherapy or not. I wanted to listen to what God was saying to me. It has been an emotionally charged week spending three days at MDAnderson and then back to Austin for appointments with three of my oncologists here. Part of me is more sure of the love of God than ever before. Part of me is so searching for my beautiful God to please help me in the swirling opinions of dealing with cancer.
I jogged three miles around lovely Lady Bird Lake to the Lamar Boulevard Bridge. I passed hundreds of people but made no eye contact this morning. You see, the tears were flooding my face and wouldn't stop as I listened to Chris Tomlin's "I Will Rise." Did anyone even notice? There is a peace that is flooding my soul not based on my cancerous circumstances. I can't explain it. "Though my heart and flesh may fail, there is an Anchor for my Soul." I will rise when He calls my name. No more sorrow; no more pain---on that day. But it's this day and I do hold sorrow and pain in my heart. And I wrestle with a very good God in the midst. And I do wrestle.
As I ascended the spiral ramp to the Lamar Pedestrian Bridge, Bebo Norman's "I Will Lift My Eyes" came on. "God my God, I cry out---your beloved needs you now. God be near, calm my fear. Take my doubt with Kindnesses. Your love is all that draws me in. I will lift my eyes to the Maker of the mountains I can't climb. Yes, I will lift my eyes to my Healer of the hurt I hold inside. I will lift my eyes to the Calmer of the oceans raging wild." I stood at the peak of the prominent pedestrian bridge spilling my tears into this Reservoir on the Colorado River in downtown Austin. My God met me there and though my tears were many, the lake never noticed either. But my God did! He collected them from all of the billions of gallons of water below. Not a drop was left.
MDAnderson diagnosed even more cancer in the pathology report they generated from the tissue slides that I had sent from the tumors removed and stored in the Austin hospital pathology lab. The MDA oncologists concurred that chemo along with radiation was my hope for recovery from cancer. Make no mistake, MDA was thorough, pristine, and emphatic in their diagnoses and prognosis.
But on Wednesday when I faced my surgeon, my medical oncologist, and my radiation oncologist, it was a remarkably different scenario. They customized my care and gave me options. My medical oncologist took way over an hour with me to explain adjuvant therapy and playing the percentages. We had been waiting for the Oncotype DX Test Assay to return a LOW score. You are safe if it is 1-10. My score was 11. Pretty safe on a scale of 0-100. Over 64,000 women have participated in this clinical trial. MDA wouldn't give it any weight. My oncologists did. Their prediction is that if I take chemo, I will have a 4% greater chance of survival than if I didn't take the chemo. That's only 4 women out of 100 will have a greater survival rate. Does the risk outweigh the benefit? Hardly for me. Not 4%. But...
The microscopic cancer they found in one of two of my lymph nodes has been removed. It's gone. But it's systemic and it is in your bloodstream. What is the significance of microscopic cancer cells in your bloodstream? I can't seem to get a good answer to that question except that chemo will destroy all those cells, even microscopic. It also destroys good things as well like all your white blood cells. So what do I do to take care of this body that God has given me? My oncologists have said that it looks like adjuvant therapy of radiation and hormonal therapy for five years could take care of "it." They have put the final decision whether to take chemo into my lap.
It's a hazy gray area dealing with microscopic cancer cells obtained by an HCI stain. They push the envelope to find them. My God will lead me by Friday in a decision. This I do know--- He loves me so. HE determines the length of my days. I look for peace and rest. I long to love more fully my husband, family and friends He has given me. And I stand in awe of being loved by such a beautiful God in the ways He is caring for me in all of this. He is asking me once again, every day, to surrender and let Him re-make me into a lover. Do you love Me? Do you love Me? Do you love Me? No person can fill my empty soul but Him. My God has so opened doors for me as I have walked these past eight weeks. He'll open the door this week and unlock the decision. I cling to Him.
Please pray for me as my husband and I make this decision of whether to do chemo or not. I am not going to open this post to any comments. I don't want to put on anyone the weight of helping make or influencing this weighty decision. No comments on this post... but know that your friend loves you and values your life. I will continue to talk with medical people this week. I'll continue to do what research I can do. And I will continue to spread out my "news" before our very good God and continue to wrestle and deal with my doubts, my fears, my failures. Our God has already taken care of all that! I have been sick with the flu for the past couple of days and have had to take it easy. I'm back to normal today, gratefully.
I stood on that pedestrian bridge this morning and listened to the Voice of Love. And I told Him a gigantic thank you for all of you who are walking alongside me and my family. Cancer is a daunting journey. If God brings me to your mind, I'd so love for you to ask Him for two things:
Tuesday is surgery again for me. I'll post about it on Monday. My surgeon will remove the cancer that she missed the first time. Oh! Please pray that my surgeon is able to remove all of it this time. I need the Great Physician to show up! He will! And then pray for us as we decide on Friday if chemo is the right thing for me to do. Just like Hezekiah spread out letter that didn't hold good news that arrived in 2 Kings 19:14, here is our not so good news, oh God! Hezekiah went up to the temple of the LORD and spread it out before his God. Give ear, O LORD, and hear this letter. Open your eyes and see my own letter---a pathology report on Tuesday, oh my LORD, and listen. And Hezekiah's God answered in verse 20. May we hear the words on Tuesday: the cancerous tumors are all gone.
All comments on this post are CLOSED. Come back on Monday and I'd so love for you to leave a comment about my upcoming surgery on Tuesday.
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 9:43 PM
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
The rain is dancing against the gigantic picture window as I sit inside the windowseat on MD Anderson’s 5th hospital floor. The text from Sarah just arrived and it said: 365. It's the number of times Jesus tells us in the Bible not to be afraid. He knows I am afraid at MDA this day!
This place is a metroplex of hallmark hurting humble souls. I met some Christians here and God says about them Heb 11:38 - “The world is not worthy of these people.” My daughter Brooke’s college friend who works at MDA told me the story of how she walked into a room to check on a patient not doing well on their chemo. The patient’s reply was: “I’m blessed!” I looked hard into faces I’ve never seen weathered with pain, attached to appliances so foreign. We walked the halls of a house of suffering. 365.
Why is it God always seems to be doing big things in my life when it’s raining. It’s raining in my heart. Tears are storming down my face as I walk out of my last appointment in my stay at MD Anderson’s Breast Cancer Center. 365.
Here’s what happened at MDA…and I must say that this will probably be too long of a post for most. So the punch line is this: I didn’t get the good news I had hoped for---I need to have both chemo and radiation after my June 9th surgery because I have cancer in my lymph nodes.
My hospital stay started with a simple mammogram---except it was anything but normal. Dozens and dozens and dozens of bi-lateral scans reduced me to heaving and sobbing. I knew right away something had to be way wrong when they called me back again, twice. When alone, I slipped to my knees in my dressing room and sang “Jesus Loves Me” to myself.
An hour later, the ultra sound imaging tech showed up and I wasn’t ready for what would happen in that next couple of hours. I watched as the technician took 47 pictures---about every five frames--- she would click on them and they would light up like fire. Not good. She finished and said: “I have to go get the doctor to take a look at this.” In comes Dr. Dryden, dressed like he was going to a wedding. He took all those pictures over again as I tried to lay my head on my Lord’s lap and ask HIM to speak to me as those pictures kept lighting up like a fire in my breast.
The news was terrifying to me in that moment. 365. “We have found another tumor in your breast and in your lymph node and suspect it to be cancer. The size of the lymph node was very suspicious. We need to biopsy it. “Can my husband come back with me?” The answer was no---something about how he might faint on their floor. Actually, I’m the one that usually faints in stress---vaso-vagal syncope.
You’ll do fine. “You’re in good hands with Dr. Dryden.” I replied that I was really in Good Hands with my God.. They weren’t listening. Too busy prepping me for the procedure. All four of them had to walk out of the tiny room and the doctor made me promise I wouldn’t burst out the door and take off. Funny comment. Great idea! I guess he read me right. Could he see the sheer terror in my face when he said that if the biopsy came back cancerous, they would need to take out all 26 lymph nodes. I was alone in the room for a moment. I smoothed out the sheets and invited the beautiful God I so trust and love and adore to hop up and sit real close to my scared self. 365. Take my hand! 365! Say it to me God, one more time. “Don’t Be Afraid.” Cause I am.
The friendly four returned armed with gadgets and needles and draping and stuff. Too much for me to look at. All of a sudden, God brought to my mind: “A bruised reed He will not break; a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish.” Isaiah 42:3. The team moved quickly and walked me through every step. Local anesthesia---I would be awake for this. My recent lymph node dissection surgery had not healed fully and they were messing with it. Peace flooded my self---no other way to explain it.
It was over. Armed with my tissue in his hands, my new doctor friend went straight to the pathologist on the other side of the wall to look for cancer. 10 minutes, he said, and I'll be back with the news. It became the longest thirty minutes of my life as I cried out to my good God. I begged for them to let my husband come back and they did. He cried when I told him what I had just been through. I tried to prepare for the worse.
Dr. Dryden burst through the door and I searched his face for an answer. “We’ve got it. It’s benign.” Could you say that one more time? I burst out sobbing.
I’m still sobbing, but this time it’s because of my visit with the next oncologist to go over my case. Even though the cancer in one lymph node is microscopic (that’s the controversy), this ancient doctor firmly believes I need chemotherapy and radiation of the worst kind. It’s a systemic disease and it has metastasized into my lymph node. That means it is in your bloodstream. The chemo that will soon make me sick and drain my white blood cells of life will save my life. The radiation that will destroy my cells will kill the good and the bad cells. It’s toxic. It’s necessary. I’ll lose my hair. I’ll lose some of my good health. I’ll lose my energy. But I will never lose the love of my beautiful God. He’ll be with me every step of my lonely dreaded way. And No One will snatch me out of my hand. John 10:29. I’ll fall forward. I’ll advance His Kingdom not my own.
And I won’t lose the friends that matter to me. I think you’ll stick with me. I met Annette and Kathy in Houston and they both so brought God to me after a very tough biopsy. I’ve lost some things through my life but losing my friends has been harder than most anything I’ve faced. I hope I can do something for you during these next 12 months or so while I undergo chemo and radiation. Maybe you’ll talk with me by phone or text or blog. I’m actually out of cell phone minutes already for this month. Last month our bill was $1,200 and I was flabbergasted---can’t do that anymore. I’m just grateful we don’t have to live in a box on the street. The medical bills stream in every day of our lives now. They say this will topple $1 million plus. And God keeps on providing in ways I never imagined every day.
So, I’ll lift my sobbing head to the Maker of this mountain that I cannot climb. I love that Bebo Norman song. He’ll pull me up. It’s not what I had hoped for. My other friends have clear margins and their lymph nodes are cancer-free. But that’s not the way it happened for me. And my Jesus says: “What’s that to you. You follow Me.” John 21:22. I’m incredibly sad. And, yes, I know there are people and some of you that have been through far worse. But don’t minimize my pain. I’m hurting. I’m scared to put toxicity in my healthy body. I’m so disappointed. But this one thing I know and am convinced of and rest assured---my Jesus loves me so. So, I’ll trust Him in this as I wrestle with Him and embrace my loss of being sick during my son’s special senior year. I’ll fall forward and long to advance His Kingdom, not my own. Somehow, I will welcome this trial as my new friend. Again and again, I’ll wrestle through this. I’ll embrace my loss somehow. I’ll find my beautiful God even when I won’t feel beautiful. And for those of you who will stay with me, I’ll deeply appreciate your love. 365.
I'll be back in Austin on Wednesday for appointments with my surgeon getting ready for my upcoming surgery June 9th. And I'll meet with my medical oncologist to decide the final protocol---chemo and then radiation. And one more appt. with a new dermatologist to see if I have skin cancer for two spots that have changed in all of this.
My Love & Gratitude, Bev
Posted by Bev Brandon @ The Fray at 9:41 PM