Week 6 March 31, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — cindytripp @ 12:34 am

It’s the 6th Friday since I learned that my lungs were filled with cancer cells. The great news is that the cells are not lung cancer; if they were, the prognosis would be very grim.  The interesting news is that the source of the cancer is not known but the prognosis is much better since the cells are estrogen-positive. The good news is that treatment plan is to try to get as much benefit from the anti-estrogen pills for as long as possible before beginning chemotherapy.  The not-so-good news is that the last six weeks have required much patience because nothing is happening as quickly as I would like.

I’m used to having plans, to moving deliberately toward checking things off, to doing whatever is needed. Quite frankly, I typically stay busy and get lots of things done. That’s not possible now. For one thing, I can’t expedite the treatment. For another, I haven’t been feeling very well.

My cough returned last Friday, and the oncologist feels that it’s caused by the mass on the interior periphery of my right lung pressing against the trachea. I’m also often short of breath, and that affects how I feel. It’s a moment-by-moment thing. For most of the last six weeks, I’ve felt fine actually, except when I haven’t. That’s when I have had to go home, and so that’s what I’ve done. Right now, not having energy to do what I want to do isn’t fun, but it’s also nothing to complain about.

I am surrounded by people who love me and care about me. I feel the prayers of so many and know that is why I can get up in the morning and make it through the day. It’s always wonderful being with students and colleagues and friends and family.

My mornings are best because things sometimes go downhill after noon. Although I wish that I could do more updates, most evenings I am too tired, and I don’t know what to write that’s different or worth reading. Then a wise friend called me this afternoon and reminded me that I don’t have to try to do more than I can and that it’s okay.

Here’s where I am right now. Here. Just that—here. Not up or down. Not thinking or planning or worrying or wondering. Just here. Not forgotten and not anxious. Not stressed and not overwhelmed. I’m just here, trusting that God is working His purposes according to His timetable. I’m here, and I know deep in my soul that God is here too, even in the mess that is in and around my lungs. I am thankful for His ever-present faithfulness, and I’m thankful that He is with me here right now.

P.S. On Wednesday, the C-125 marker was down to 250 from 299 two weeks ago. The hope is that it’s going to continue to go down, and it will be checked again next week. I don’t know what will happen next, whether it will be more waiting or a change in treatment, and I cannot speculate on what may come. Next appointment is Thursday, April 5.


Moving Forward March 15, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — cindytripp @ 6:18 pm

A sign of how discombobulated I’ve been was that my oncology appointment was scheduled for Wednesday, not Thursday as I had convinced myself it was. Although an hour late, I was able to get to the office, have the scan, and see the doctor for the results. Whew. I also didn’t have an extra day and night to worry. Thankfully, Wednesday was not a day for unexpected news, which in itself was great news.

Here’s what I heard yesterday:

• Results of CT scan showed minimal reduction in size of cancers.

• There are two options: 1) continue hormone therapy; if cancer starts to grow, start chemo; 2) stop hormone therapy and begin chemotherapy

• Ideally, I’ll continue on hormone therapy as long as possible (2 yrs?) because cancer has positive estrogen receptor, which means there’s a strong chance for results with hormone therapy.

• I’ll continue 2-week visits for now to see how therapy is going and if cancer marker levels start decreasing.

• I’m to monitor symptoms closely (coughing and shortness of breath) and contact oncologist with any changes in symptoms.

Here’s how I feel since yesterday:

• I’m more at peace.

• I’m more knowledgeable about the overall plan for treatment.

• I’m confident that I am receiving the best care possible.

• I’m convinced that my doctor listens to me and wants to know how I feel.

• I’m very much loved by James and our girls, my family, and my friends.

You have no idea how much your prayers have meant to me and enabled me to take the next step each day. I am blessed beyond words and will be forever grateful for His mercy extended to me through you.

P.S. Just got a call from the oncologist.  The C-125 cancer marker, which was 585 on March 2, was 299 on the blood drawn yesterday! The hormone therapy seems to be having a positive effect.  I feel even better now!


An Uneventful Friday March 10, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — cindytripp @ 3:39 pm

After three Fridays with difficult, confusing, and stressful news, yesterday was wonderfully uneventful. Of course, I probably should state that there was no oncology appointment yesterday, hence, no update that might be difficult, confusing or stressful.

I did find out something on Monday that I have tried to stuff somewhere into the back of my brain. A blood test taken on Friday March 2 to determine the presence of CA-125, which can be a cancer marker for ovarian cancer, reported a score of 585 (normal would be 0-35). While there are many disclaimers that CA-125 is not a definite indicator for ovarian cancer, my oncologist feels that this can give us something to monitor in the months ahead.

I still don’t understand how ovarian cancer could be possible, but then I am still in shock about the entire cancer diagnosis. If that swollen lymph node had not appeared in my neck, I guess that I’d still be thinking things were okay. My cough has not been in my chest, so no one suspected that the lungs and bronchial tubes had cancerous patches and a mass. I’m taking a little anti-estrogen pill every morning and hoping that the CT scan on Thursday will reveal that the cancer is not growing and maybe even shrinking somewhat.  My mind won’t go to the question of what happens if that proves false; I’m glad that I have such confidence in my doctor to handle that kind of question.

I don’t like surprises. I really don’t. I want to know the ending because then I can better enjoy the experience. Since fifth grade I have never read a book without first reading the last 2 pages to be sure that it would “end.” (Chalk that one up to my reading a fabulous YA mystery in fifth grade, only to discover that someone had ripped out the last several pages; the local librarian discounted my insistence that she find another copy so I could see how it ended. Little did she know I would be affected for life by that!). It doesn’t matter to me if the ending is good or bad, happy or sad; I just want to know that the author will tie things up and that the story will “end.”

I don’t like uncertainty or surprise parties or questions that have no answers. I’m fine with delays and postponements and promises yet to be fulfilled. Tell me what the situation is; tell me that I can’t know the answer in this lifetime; tell me that what I desire will not be realized. I have learned that God gives strength when I need it, and I’ve experienced the adage that God is never early and never late but painfully last minute.  I am confident that He wins in the end, on a Creator-of-the-universe scale and also in my personal life.

I want my next oncology appointment to be definite, to be a here’s-what-we-face-and-here’s-how-we-will-move-forward. I don’t want another surprise or another uncertainty.

I also know that this experience is not about what I want and that it’s not a test of some sort that I can fail. It’s another opportunity for me to trust Him with everything, especially with the surprises and uncertainty. My life has been a testimony to His faithfulness, and I know this too will affirm that He is trustworthy. I think that I might have to try to find something to appreciate in surprises and uncertainty.

Right now every day I am going to school, teaching my classes, grading papers, proofing comments, attending meetings, and talking with students about March Madness and our brackets. My family and I are enjoying the wonderful meals and gorgeous flowers and plants, and I am cherishing each thoughtful and kind note that I receive. I am not pushing myself past the limits of my endurance or even coming close to those limits (shocker, I know). I sleep fairly well at night and do often take a bit of a rest in the afternoon, and I am not running around as much as would be usual for me. My birthday last weekend was a precious time and a reminder to me of how very blessed I am to have family and friends who care about me.

Life may be hard, but God is good—all the time.


A Different Direction March 3, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — cindytripp @ 7:51 pm


I imagine some of you are wondering about my oncology appointment yesterday. I have had a hard time processing what this actually means, but I will do the best I can to explain. Perhaps then I may understand it also.

Two weeks ago I learned that there was a 95% chance that I had stage 4 lung cancer; a week ago I learned that the cancer had not spread beyond the lungs and lymph nodes and that the cells from the biopsy would be genetically tested, but the same statistic—95%—was still the likely outcome.

Yesterday the other 5% became relevant.

The genetic profile indicated that the cells are not lung cancer. All of the cancer is in both lungs, in the bronchial tubes and lymph nodes in the lungs and in the neck; however, the cells tested are not lung cancer.

The genetic profile indicates that the cancer cells are most like ovarian cancer cells (70% likely). The cells are NOT ovarian cancer cells but are LIKE ovarian cancer cells. I had a complete hysterectomy 26 years ago and have no ovaries.

Of the cells tested, 85% have a positive estrogen receptor. A week ago, I started taking an anti-estrogen drug, and I’ll have a CT scan on March 15 to see if the cancer is shrinking. If so, then I’ll be taking this drug from now on; if not, then chemotherapy may be the next step.

Confused? I know. This is bizarre.

When I asked if this was good news, the oncologist said that this offered more options for treatment and also a better prognosis. I still have stage 4 cancer (as evidenced by the PET and CT scans and also by the biopsy); however, it’s not lung cancer.

Last Sunday fellow faculty member Matt Brown responded to my email about the PET scans finding no new cancer with these words: “In my classes I’ve been praying for either nothing new, less than they thought, or no cancer at all.  We’ll keep praying that stuff out of here!”

I believe that those prayers are being answered in a way that only God understands.

I believe that He is doing something in my life through this experience and that I must trust that He knows the unknowns.

I believe that He will do with the cancer what He wills and when He wills.

I believe that I will learn more about Him and about patience and about grace and about mercy.

My life continues to be weird, but God is always good.