Surgery Again

Submitted by Melissa on Friday, January 28, 2011 - 15:00

Dan's picture of a flower from my birthday bouquet

Thank you for praying for me. Since my last update, I have seen the Lord open up doors, impart wisdom, provide for needs, and calm me with His peace. When the findings of the last PET scan were shared with me, so many thoughts and questions filled my mind.

At first glance, it appeared that the cancer had spread, and it’s amazing how your life can flash before you. When I pondered the possibility of my cancer being stage 4, it was a bit overwhelming. Honestly, the most sobering thoughts were thinking of my children growing up without their mother to love and care for them. But God’s Word reminds me that the Creator of the universe is in complete control, and I can rest in Him. (In case you missed this update, further testing on that area seemed to indicate it was benign.)

Pathology reports from the surgeries in September indicated that the cancer was all removed, but a lump was found near the original tumor site a couple months after surgery. This showed up on the PET scan in January, and the oncologists and surgeons I’ve seen have all recommended that it be removed.

I was waiting to schedule the surgery until after my appointment with a surgeon at Northwestern. The surgeon there agreed with the other doctors regarding the procedure so then the question came of which surgeon to choose. The Lord clearly directed as I sat down to make some phone calls this week.

I felt led to pursue the surgeon I saw at Northwestern, and when I reached the scheduling nurse, she informed me that Dr. Khan was booked until February 10. She said she would make some phone calls and get back to me. When the phone rang a few minutes later, she informed me of an opening less than a week away: this coming Monday, January 31. It was reassuring to see the Lord work out those details!

I would appreciate your prayers for wisdom for Dr. Khan and the team present during my surgery. Please pray for God to guide their hands and for the cancer to be completely removed. God is able!

This morning I was encouraged by Exodus 13:17-18 where God said that He did not choose the nearest way for the children of Israel. Instead, He led them by the Red Sea, a journey that would take much longer. In our days of GPS-guided travel, we might be irritated by such an out-of-the-way route to our destination. However, God’s way proved to be the best way for the Israelites. He miraculously parted the Red Sea and destroyed the enemy. How reassuring it is to rest in the God who is still in control of the universe! He is the One whose ways are always best.

Surgery Update

Submitted by Melissa on Thursday, February 10, 2011 - 22:49

Jeremiah 33:3

For those of you who’ve been looking for an update, thank you for your patience. The surgery last Monday (Jan. 31) went smoothly. I received the pathology report yesterday. The tumor was 1 cm, grade 3, ER and PR positive, and, strangely enough, HER2 negative. It’s considered a local recurrence, and they were able to obtain clear margins. Although the surgery was more painful than expected, I appreciated the pain meds to get me through the first day or two.

I also had an MRI last Thursday. It confirmed the questionable spot (in the pelvic area) that showed up on the PET scan to be a cyst.

The last couple weeks have held numerous appointments, and going to Northwestern (downtown Chicago) seems to turn into an all-day affair, especially when trying to combine tests with doctor’s visits. The children don’t always “appreciate” my being gone, but it is sweet to hear Matthew pray for “mommy’s cancer to be all gone.” At the beginning of this ordeal, when I’d return from a doctor’s appointment, he would ask, “Mommy, is your cancer all gone now?”

Opportunities have been plentiful to explain to the children that God allowed this cancer, and He is the Great Physician. I would appreciate your prayers for Matthew and Joanna as sometimes their lives are a bit topsy-turvy with appointments, tests, and treatments.

We would also appreciate your prayers for some important decisions we must make these next few days. I’m thankful for the promise that jumped off the page yesterday in my Bible reading: “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:3). Sometimes all we can do is call upon God, then simply be still and wait for Him to show us His great and mighty ways.

Sit Still

Submitted by Melissa on Saturday, February 12, 2011 - 21:36

I had another doctor's visit yesterday and am waiting for two more test results to come back that could affect treatment decisions.

Just the other day, I came across this poem by J. Danson Smith in Streams in the Desert. A great reminder to be still before our Heavenly Father.

Sit still, my children! Just sit calmly still!
Nor deem these days--these waiting days--as ill!
The One who loves you best, who plans your way,
Has not forgotten your great need today!
And, if He waits, it's sure He waits to prove
To you, His tender child, His heart's deep love.

Sit still, my children! Just sit calmly still!
You greatly long to know your dear Lord's will!
While anxious thoughts would almost steal their way
Corroding within, because of His delay--
Persuade yourself in simple faith to rest
That He, who knows and loves, will do the best.

Sit still, my children! Just sit calmly still!
Nor move one step, not even one, until
His way has opened. Then, ah, then how sweet!
How glad your heart, and then how swift your feet,
Your inner being then, ah then, how strong!
And waiting days not counted then too long.

Sit still, my daughter! Just sit calmly still!
What higher service could you for Him fill?
It's hard! ah yes! But choicest things must cost!
For lack of losing all how much is lost!
It's hard, it's true! But then--He gives you grace
To count the hardest spot on the sweetest place.

Any questions you have that you'd like me to cover on here, feel free to send me a message or leave a comment. Smile

BRCA Genes and Chemo

Submitted by Melissa on Monday, February 28, 2011 - 22:27

BRCA RibbonEarlier this month, we met with a genetic counselor, and I had blood drawn to test for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations.

The test came back positive for a “deleterious” (harmful) BRCA2 gene mutation. The BRCA2 gene mutation is inherited and puts one at a greater risk for certain cancers. Interestingly enough, about 0.2% of the population carries a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation. (source)

Since we found out about the gene mutation and some other aspects of my cancer, the doctors that we have been consulting, both here at Northwestern and in Atlanta, have advised a more aggressive course of treatment. Ultimately, God has impressed on our hearts what He would have us do next. I will start chemotherapy at Northwestern next week (March 8). 

The doctors have also mentioned future treatments that don’t sound too exciting, but we will seek the Lord for His direction each step of the way. Dan and I have certainly been learning some important lessons along the way. In many ways, this trial seems harder on Dan than anyone else. He is quite overwhelmed with the thought of chemo but is now convinced, as I have been, that this is the next step to take. Please remember to pray for him when you pray for me. Numerous times we have sensed God moving in response to the prayers of His people. Thank you for praying, and to God be the glory!

Throughout the chemo, I’ll be working closely with my doctor to receive treatments to support my immune system. Although these treatments are not covered by insurance, I believe they are vital for helping the body recover from the toxic chemotherapy. So, again we look to Jehovah-Jireh for His provision.

Even though six months of this cancer journey is behind us, I have no doubt the next few months will be most challenging. However, Christ’s words in Matthew 8:26, “Why are ye fearful, O ye of little faith?” remind me to be full of faith rather than fear. And His actions that followed--rebuking the winds and creating a calm--demonstrate His great power.

“What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!” the disciples observed. Their awe was not primarily on the action but on the One Who performed it. He is the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Creator and Calmer of our storms!

Sufficient Grace

Submitted by Melissa on Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - 17:24

“My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” Yesterday morning I woke up with that thought. Truly, God’s grace continues to be enough and more than enough. Thank you so much for praying for me.

Since my last entry, I’ve completed the first 2 of 8 rounds of chemo. I go to Northwestern in downtown Chicago Tuesday of every other week for treatments, and although it’s pretty much an all-day affair, I’m able to go home the same day. I’m very thankful to report that the anti-nausea drugs have been quite effective for the most part.

The most challenging side effect is the sheer exhaustion that accompanies the toxic chemotherapy. I’d equate the exhaustion with how you might feel the morning after pulling an “all-nighter” studying for an exam or completing a project...a foggy brain and not much stamina. Thankfully, I’ve had lots of help from family and friends, and this has made the load much lighter. I’m so grateful for those who have prepared meals, babysat the children, cleaned the house, sent notes of encouragement, prayed faithfully, or given sacrificially.

I can tell you that I have sensed the prayers of God’s people over and over. The evening of my last treatment, I posted a twitter & facebook message requesting prayer and soon after felt much relief from the nausea that was overtaking me. In fact, the next morning, when I woke up, I was amazed at how good I felt!

In addition to fighting cancer with the chemo, I’m working hard at keeping my immune system strong. I walk about two miles daily and try to eat wisely. These two things help me immensely, and I’d appreciate your prayers that I could continue in these. Please also pray for my doctors to have wisdom. The latest blood work revealed some information that will require further testing and possibly additional treatment. My husband and I certainly appreciate your prayers in this.

On Sunday, Pastor Schlagel read Psalm 30. What a beautiful, God-focused Psalm filled with hope and thankfulness. It concludes with this verse, “To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.” No matter what our circumstances, God can fill us with praises as we rest in Him! Isn’t He so good?!

Our Great God

Submitted by Melissa on Monday, April 18, 2011 - 21:57

The last treatment was more taxing than the first two--the side effects longer-lasting. As you could probably imagine, nothing about chemo is pleasant, but I am thankful for God's strength, especially in my weakness! Isaiah 40:31; 2Corinthians 12:9.

There are lots of ways we can encourage one another, and there have been so many times people have put forth the effort to encourage me. (Thank you!) A few weeks ago, a friend sent me this...

You are a great God.

Your character is holy.

Your truth is absolute.

Your strength is unending.

Your discipline is fair.

Your provisions are abundant for our needs.

Your light is adequate for our path.Your grace is sufficient for our sins.

You are never early, never late.

You sent your Son in the fullness of time and will return at the consummation of time.

Your plan is perfect.

Bewildering. Puzzling. Troubling.

But perfect.

Focusing on God's character gives such peace to the soul, especially when things around us are unpleasant. I'm thankful God's ways are best and His plan is perfect. He allows each of us to go through unique situations and sometimes hardships so He can be glorified through our lives. What a blessing that we can lean on Him!

Thank You for Praying

Submitted by Melissa on Saturday, April 30, 2011 - 19:47

Still in the Storm

Earlier this week, I was reading Psalm 55 and read these familiar but powerful verses (15-18):

As for me, I will call upon God; and the LORD shall save me.

Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.

He hath delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me: for there were many with me.

I was reminded of the many people who pray for me. So many of you have told me (or family members) that you are praying. From the bottom of my heart: Thank You!! I know God has been answering your prayers.

I can honestly say that the measure of His grace, available to me over and over, has been more than enough. I'm not implying that it's been an easy path, but I am attesting to the fact that we have a great God.

His strength is simply amazing, as I'm sure many of you can testify with me as you face your own set of challenges in life.

Right now, I'm halfway through chemo treatments. The next one is scheduled for Tuesday, May 3. Only 3 remain after that. Even though the fourth treatment was the worst so far, it's a good feeling to be halfway through!

In closing, I'd like to borrow the final sentences in a recent letter from some missionary friends serving in Germany. They seem to accurately capture my thoughts at the moment:

I never understood the term "prayer warrior" before. But I do now. The Lord has blessed [me] with an army. Thank you for enlisting.

Yes, THANK YOU!! May God bless you.