After my last post, I have been once again overwhelmed by the love and the prayers and the comments and the ways in which y’all are holding us up as we trudge through this wearying trial. Many of you have asked questions trying to understand what this all means, what we need, how you can help. I thank you… and that is such a small response.
So here are a few FAQs and their answers (or as much as I’m able to answer). If you tire of the tedious, turn back now.
You say the cancer has spread to the peritoneum in your abdomen, what does this mean? Will you have surgery?
The peritoneum is the lining of the abdomen. At this point, there is no cancer in any of my organs or bones. The mets (short for metastases) are small, and she indicated that because of their size, I should feel no pain from them. There are no large masses, and there are no plans for surgery at this point.
What is your new chemo protocol look like?
The new chemo is a biologic therapy, so it is targeted to my specific type of cancer (estrogen driven and HER-2 positive for those who understand the cancer lingo). I will receive treatment once every three weeks on Mondays (this is a change) and she said it is usually pretty well tolerated. The hardest part is that my blood counts will suffer which means a lot of fatigue, susceptibility to bacteria, virus, germs, etc. Even the good bacteria in my body can cause infection, so I will have to be very careful. They will check my blood counts each week in between treatments to watch and make sure I don’t get neutropenic (an abnormally low level of neutrophils which fight infection).
I had my first treatment Tuesday and spent Wednesday in bed with a migraine and vomiting. I was ready to call the oncologist on call knowing it could meal hospitalization, but God graciously stopped the vomiting, I was able to keep something down and I am much better this morning, although very weak and weepy. I don’t know if the nausea and vomiting was from the migraine or the chemo, but will discuss it with my oncologist to see what preventative measures we can take for next time.
What about alternative therapies? Essential oils? Juicing?
I have learned how many people love me by the number of people who want to offer alternatives and ways they’ve heard about others beating this disease. I know y’all want to fix this. So do I. In answer to the question, “have you tried…?”, believe me, we’ve tried a lot in conjunction with chemo. We are taking an integrated medicine approach, which is chemo along with lifestyle changes and diet changes, etc. I take my greens each day and eat a cup of broccoli every day and only eat grass fed meats and cage free organic eggs and use frankincense essential oil (a cancer fighter) and lavender to calm, chlorophyll for my stomach, homemade body scrubs and deodorant… I could go on and on.
Please understand, though, that not everything will work for my type of cancer. Certain things I can’t do because of the estrogen driven nature or the fact that it’s breast cancer as opposed to a different type. I could (and have) drive(n) myself crazy trying to find the “right” thing to do to “fix it”, but there is no one thing that is the answer for everyone. Our bodies are all different, and we are doing (with the help of others) what we can for me.
One hard story through this… I had been seeing a nutritional therapist before my cancer even recurred. She was someone who was working to strengthen and detox my body through diet and supplements. My mother-in-law calls it her youthful exuberance, but the therapist actually told me, “If you keep this up, you’ll never see cancer again.” I took it with a grain of salt, perhaps because of her youthful exuberance, but y’all, it’s just one more proof that there is no. one. fix. for this. I spoke with a cancer navigator at the LiveStrong Foundation who told me, “If I had a nickel for every athletic vegan who said, ‘but I did everything right,’ I’d be a millionaire.”
And my precious Beth helps keep me in perspective as I cried and cried over “what should I do?” on the phone with her. “Dear Angie,” she said, “God has no plan B for your life. You are not going to get to heaven and have Him shake His finger at you and tell you if you had only eaten more flaxseed or juiced seven times a day, you’d still be alive.” We do what we can with the information we have and we leave our lives in the Lord’s hands.
How can we help? What do you need?
My first response to this is that I need friends who will sit in the ashes with me… the physical presence of a hand to hold while I weep, who isn’t afraid of the raw and the real. I need to hear the truth lovingly shared. I grew up in a church where sickness was a sign of sin, where if you didn’t handle everything “right” in your struggles, you were sinning. So you can imagine the constant battle emotionally and spiritually I have. Any struggle on my part to believe is a way for Satan to worm in with the lies of my failure, of past (and present) sins and how I must not really be a Christian.
Pray for us. For my heart, for our hearts, even more than my healing. I write on my blog as a catharsis… as a way to preach against the lies that bombard me every. single. day. I write the truth down, so I can see it, read it, believe it. I am so weary of this part of the battle. It is far worse than the physical battle we face.
As for how can you help? One of the blessings I have in working for my church is that our church counselor is right down the hallway. He and I are working on ways others can help and will hopefully have more tangible information on that soon. A couple suggestions until then? Meals are helpful. I do have a meal schedule set up, and we get two meals a week to help with my fatigue. If you’re heading to the grocery store and have time, text or call me and see if we need anything. Some days we may, some days we may not, but I’m not afraid to say, “yes.”
Are you still working?
Yes. I still work part-time for my church and we have talked through whether I need to step back. At this point, as long as I am able to do my job well and not miss too many days, we think it’s better for me to have my job than to be at home seven hour days alone. I know myself and my melancholy nature too well and would spiral into a pit of despair. At work I am surrounded by truth-speakers and those who love Jesus and can point me to Him in my weakness. And work is a good distraction from the constant battle. Not to mention I love what I do and who I do it with. We take each day at a time.
How are the children? And Brian?
The hugs in the morning before school are getting longer and longer. The meltdowns are more frequent and unexplained. “I don’t want to go to school, I just want to be with you.” is a common mantra. Brian is my rock, ever the optimist, ever holding onto hope, and holding me and praying with me when the fear paralyzes. Honestly, we are all very sad. And scared. But we still laugh and snuggle and play together. We spent last weekend at the beach being a family, and while everyone was a little more on edge and the weather didn’t cooperate too well, it still was good to be together, just us.
How can I pray?
Wow. For any and all of the above. For healing. For my family.. my parents, my brother (we sat on the phone yesterday and talked about how scared we are). For wisdom for us to know how to move forward, for my doctors to have wisdom, for strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow…
Even though I may not get a thank you note written for every gift, please know that every gesture of love touches us deeply, often moving me to tears.
My heart is growing daily with all the love you pour into us. We are grateful for you.