Hi all! Happy 2017! I’ve been dark for the last few weeks, and its high time I fill you in. (If you’re not one that enjoys a lot of detail, please feel free to stop reading here! I have a lot to report.)
The last time I wrote, I was about 2 weeks post-surgery. Even though I was in quite a bit of pain, I thought that that pain was just par for the course. A few days after I posted, my recovery took a weird turn…one day I woke up and had significant swelling around my feet, ankles and hips, not to mention a lot of pain on my right side. So we spoke with my doctor, and she requested that we go to ER to determine the cause of the swelling.
Did I have an issue with my heart? Did I have a blod clot? The ER doctors did all kinds of tests and ruled out all the serious concerns and deduced that I had something called 3rd spacing which occurs when too much fluid moves from the intravascular space (blood vessels) into the interstitial or “third” space-the nonfunctional area between cells which causes potentially serious problems such as edema, reduced cardiac output, and hypotension.
With this information, I returned home and was told to continue to rest. Then the next day, after having my drains removed, I spiked a fever of 102.5 and felt like there was crackling in my chest. Concerned about the fever and the risk of contracting pneumonia, back to the hospital we went. This time, though, I was not released. A team of wonderful doctors and nurses attended to me at Saddleback Hospital (great experience there in every way), and proceeded to do more tests, while giving me heavier pain meds and IV antibiotics. It was discovered that I had somehow been infected with some kind of bacteria. I stayed in the hospital for IV treatment and observation and was discharged on December 23rd.
Predictably, my family was right by my side. My Greg, his mom and dad, and my mom and sisters were there around the clock. My Sarah flew in from San Francisco (thank you Jori Ann) to be with me and Michael and Val dropped everything too. All of the kids had travel plans set and plane tickets purchased to travel to their Christmas vacation destinations (Michael and Val to Honduras, and Sarah to Park City) and were willing to forego their trips if needed. Thankfully, being discharged on the 23rd allowed them to keep their plans for Christmas.
With my supply of heavy duty antibiotics and pain meds, I returned home on Christmas eve eve. I was so very grateful to be home. My big event of the day was to shower, dress and don one of my fabulous wigs and take a walk around the block with Greg.
I know it doesn’t sound like much, but being able to get through a shower and take the walk was no small feat and being able to be out of the hospital and home with my love was the best gift I could have asked for!
So in the weeks to come, I finished my antibiotic and was so grateful that the fever did not return. Also, in only about a week, I lost all of the 25+ pounds I gained as a result of the edema. The pain, however, persisted and with each passing day, I searched for signs that I was getting better.
Then, last week, it was time for a few doctor appointments. On Thursday, I saw my oncologist and received my next Herceptin infusion (thankfully, no side effects and no additional pain.) On Friday, I saw my plastic surgeon for a check-up. In my mind, I thought there would be no way he would do my first saline expansion. When he learned about my existing pain and also the fact that I was still nursing a burn I inflicted upon myself when I used a too-hot heating pad, I was quite sure he would hold off until I was feeling better. NOPE! He had a different plan than I did.
He explained that it was important to begin the saline expansion and that by doing so, he could alleviate my pain. I was like a deer in headlights, dreading anything that could possibly cause more pain. But, when he explained why I was having the pain, it made sense why he was persisting in doing the expansion. He told us that the expanders are anchored with a stitch on the bottom and on the sides and the air-filled expander is resting at the bottom, putting pressure on the bottom stitch, which is aggravating a nerve. By filling the expander with some saline, he said, the pressure would be moved off its current painful position.
I have great news! He was right! Having the saline injection, new meds and directions on how to give myself physical therapy (aka boob massaging) I have FINALLY been relieved from most of the pain. I feel like a new person. I’m sleeping at night and have more relief during my days.
It has occurred me that if I had been like most women and had the surgery first, followed by the chemotherapy, it would have been very daunting. To get through this painful chapter and head into the unknown world of chemo, I would have been scared to say the least. Chemo was a walk in the park compared to the surgery. I am grateful that that is already behind me.
Obviously, I have had more than my fair share of time to think. Let me give you a window into my inner world:
- First off, I am very grateful that I believe I am turning the corner. Having relief from the pain has made me a new person.
- I have a greater compassion for people who have chronic pain. Living with constant pain is debilitating, to say the least.
- Several people have called me a hero. I am not a hero. I just have a faithful God who has walked this journey with me and never forsook me for a second. The real heroes are all of you who have lovingly, faithfully prayed for me, carried me and encouraged me when I just didn’t have it in me to push through. The heroes are the doctors and the nurses who expertly treated me and helped me navigate a very difficult path. And last, but not least, the heroes are my loving husband, my kids, my moms and dad, my sisters and the rest of our family. They’ve traveled this journey every step of the way with me and in many ways, I think this has been more difficult on them than it has been on me.
- I know that there are people out there who have understandable questions about why a loving God would allow this in my life. In response, I love what Job said “We take the good days from God- why not also the bad days?” Job 2:10 Job, who was a faithful man of God, went through trial after trial and He never lost his trust in God. I hope my life can be characterized in that way. I don’t ask “why me?” Rather, my focus is to trust that God has His purposes in all of this. He didn’t cause this, but He allowed it and my greatest desire is to discover what are God’s purposes and to faithfully accomplish them, giving Him the glory. Romans 8:28 says “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Also, I know that “I can do all things through Him that gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13. Perhaps you are reading this and are skeptical about the existence of God. That reality is very sad to me. It is sad because I would hate to think that our lives here on earth are that meaningless, that everything is haphazard and chaotic. To me, that is the ultimate pain and suffering, to think that there is no sovereign plan for my life. I know I may sound “preachy” , but when you have cancer, you take more liberty in speaking the truth, because the stakes are higher, and time is more precious. It is my faith that has carried me through so far, and will continue to be my main source of strength going forward. Romans 5:3-4 reminds us that “…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character’ and character, hope.” I have received the gift of hope. I want that for you too.
Has this post been long enough for you? Sorry, but not sorry. So much to share…now we’re all caught up. Better days are ahead! After all, I am cancer free and on the mend!! I think it’s amazing that alongside of all the difficult trials our family has had, there have been many moments of joy, laughter and gratefulness…those are also gifts that can only come from God, considering the struggle that could have easily consumed all of our time and energy.
My wish for you in 2017 is that as you have your own times of struggle in the future, you will also experience inexplicable moments of joy that are your own smiles from our loving God.