Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Living Life Openly

This is one of those post that you write in your head, then blog, then retype and you're still not sure if you wrote it right. It's SO easy for me to share my life. I've always said that I'm an open book and while that may be true, I tend to share chapters like my hobbies, kids and home much more willingly than my faith or cancer diagnosis because the coordinating pictures are just much more fun. I LOVE talking about God with my girlfriends but I'm not as bold as I should be with strangers... probably because I'm too much of a people pleaser and tend to run from controversy just enough to still know the scoop but far enough away to not be in the center of it. Another chapter of my life (that feels more like a book in and of itself) is my diagnosis in 2007 of Hodgkin's Lymphoma, cancer of the lymph-node system.

I thought that I already shared my cancer story but I can't find it on my blog. I know I've shared bits and pieces but I thought I'd share today the road leading up to my diagnosis. One of the the most common questions I get is "How did you know you had cancer?" Obviously, my goal in answering this question is never to scare people but to encourage people to be advocates for their own health care and listen to their bodies.

Daniel and I were married on April 20, 2007 (4/20.... I know... everyone points that out to me but I didn't realize it until too many vendors were booked!... also.... FRIDAY is our 5 year anniversary! WOO HOO!). On our honeymoon, I started to not feel well. I blamed it on being stressed from the wedding and the Dominican water. When we came home from our honeymoon, I still wasn't feeling well. I blamed it on job stress. Then, I started to notice that I couldn't walk up the stairs to our apartment without feeling winded. I blamed it on a lack in exercising since the wedding... basically, for 2 months, I blamed my yuckiness on whatever I could think of.

The defining moments for me were at 2 weddings. At my friend Katie's wedding, I had NO energy to dance. I couldn't seem to get a full breath. By Jessica's wedding the next weekend I couldn't get out of bed. Jessica was my best friend growing up so I wasn't going to miss it! I literally had Daniel bathe me and I put on an ill fitting dress, my glasses and no make up. I was a vision but I was there. By the reception, I was running a fever. The next day, I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with pneumonia. After 3 days and continuing to get worse, I went back and was diagnosed with bronchitis, pneumonia and flu like symptoms. FINALLY, by the third visit, in tears, I begged the doctor to do something. She did a chest x-ray and determined that I needed a CT scan.

The next day we did a CT scan. I was expecting to hear I had scar tissue from an extremely bad case of pneumonia. The following day, I got a call at work that the doctor wanted to talk to me and do blood work. I left work immediately and went by myself. I remember what I was wearing... a black strapless a-line dress from the Gap that I wore to high school graduation with a pink cardigan over it and cute strappy high heels. The doctor told me she suspected I had lymphoma but needed to do a PET scan to confirm. I remember only being in the office for 20 minutes tops. I called my boss and asked for the day off. Obviously, she agreed. I got in my car and drove to my tiny apartment in tears singing "It is well with my soul." I didn't feel that way at the time. It wasn't well with my soul... it was very not well but I wanted it to be so I kept singing those words until I believed them. I sang "Walk by faith" by Jeremy Camp and "Praise you in this storm" by Casting Crowns over and over and over as my attitude anthems. My parents also kept me occupied with house projects like refinishing a table.

My PET scan confirmed Hodgkin's lymphoma. After the longest month of my life (with the exception of Parker being in the NICU for the month of March/April of 2009) filled with test EVERY day for something, port insertion surgery and moving out of our apartment and into our 1st house, I started chemo August 5th, 2007. After 12 chemo treatments and 7 months, I was finally cancer free. I have been cancer free now for 4 years and no longer dread my 6 month check ups because I have a faithful God who has completely healed me from that awful disease. I really look forward to next February 1st when I can say at the 5 year point that I am in full remission. Doesn't that just sound glorious!?!

We already claim victory in the name of Jesus over my cancer but continue to have routine CT scans not because I don't believe in my healing but 1. for insurance purposes  2. its the standard course of treatment that can essentially get my oncologist in trouble if we don't follow and she'd drop me as a patient and she's been awesome so I wouldn't want that. 3. I sleep better at night. I'm a human and and I believe I'm healed but I sure like a piece of paper confirming it.

Tomorrow is my routine CT scan and while I know God is still victorious over my cancer, I covet your prayers for continued healing. A woman who I don't even know was recently given a verse to share with me from a book of the Bible I didn't even know existed. Am I the only person who's never heard of Nahum?

"Whatever they plot against the LORD
   he will bring to an end;
   trouble will not come a second time." ~Nahum 1:9

I take a lot of comfort in this verse as a confirmation that my cancer is gone. It's a chapter in my life book that is many pages behind but that shapes all subsequent chapters. Thank you for your continued prayers and please know, I really am an open book and welcome questions and comments even about subjects like this that seem too touchy. My cancer is a part of my life that I embrace and harbor no ill feelings towards because I KNOW in my heart that I serve a God even bigger than cancer. :) Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow!


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