It’s been a year since my cancer diagnosis.
After I discovered the lump in my neck (Feb. 14) and had ultrasound and scan (Feb. 15) and biopsy (Feb.16), I learned that there was 95% chance I had stage 4 lung cancer (Friday, Feb.17). To put it mildly, that first weekend was a numbing, overwhelming experience. I knew that this was not a secret I could keep, but the what and the how to communicate eluded me. In the end, I sent an email (Sunday, Feb. 19) to the faculty at my school and to others whom I have known and loved through the years. BA’s headmaster Curt Masters then forwarded the email to our school community.
Two weeks later, genetic testing proved that there was 0% lung cancer cells. 0%? Oh, my. This was great news indeed, but exactly what is this cancer that is inside and outside my lungs? With no definitive answer to the questions, my diagnosis was changed to stage 4 cancer of unknown origin. After attempts to use medication to deprive the estrogen-positive cells of what they wanted, I began chemotherapy. When I finished the initial six treatments on an every-three-week cycle, I began another round with only one chemotherapy drug.
The truth is that the six chemotherapy treatments did not kill the cancer cells or melt them away. Many of the cells are now much smaller, a couple are unchanged in size (“stable”), yet none are growing. In my darker moments, the reality that the cancer cells are still there is overpowering; thankfully, the whisper in my soul is that the cancer cells are under control.
I’ve spent the day rereading all of the posts and comments on this blog. What a humbling experience! So much has changed—the process of treatment, the up-and-down cycles in how I’m feeling, the presence and absence of fear, and my evolving acceptance of the diagnosis. At the same time, more is unchanged—the professional and compassionate care from the team at Tennessee Oncology, the unwavering support from family and friends, the certainty that God is tenderly watching over and caring for me.
My posts are so repetitive: the same questions, the same determination to keep my eyes on Jesus, the same rejoicing at good news, the same acknowledgement that what I am experiencing is not unique, and the same cycle of doubts and assurance. A year later I am still the same person, albeit one with a different perspective.
Here’s what I wrote in my second post on February 20:
Sending the emails on Sunday afternoon helped me realize that this diagnosis was all too true and that I needed to focus on the battle ahead. All of the notes and emails and comments have reminded me that I am not alone and that I can face whatever God has for me. Dr. George Mathews emailed to remind me of this truth: “You are the same as you were last month. Let not some information cause you to be in fear, because there is other information that you are fearfully and wonderfully made and that He will give His angels charge over you.”
That’s where I am at this moment. I’m confident that the God who made me has given His angels charge over me. Nothing has changed in that regard, so there is nothing to fear. Whatever the results of the scans, whatever the treatment plan, God will not be surprised and I can rest in His provision for me. I appreciate your many kindnesses and affirmations because they have reminded me of God’s grace and mercy.
A year ago I didn’t think I would be around another year, yet by the grace of God here I am. I wake up, go through each day, and rest well each night. I think about His mercy and grace, and I rejoice in His faithfulness and love. Psalm 27 is my favorite passage, and the last two verses catch my heart today: “I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord” (Ps. 27:13-14 NIV).
Here’s a picture taken in the last two days of Emily and me:
My hair is growing at its own pace, and I’m accessorizing with earrings every day. I love that Abigail now says my hair is “black and gray” and not “bald.” Most days I hold onto walls and the arms of friends rather than relying on my cane. I take my medicines and try to forget that I still have a blot clot in my inferior vena cava. My neuropathy is present but under control. Although I move much more slowly, I do get around. I’m trying to catch up on my life and on the many items on my to-do list, but I must admit that doing so may be a losing battle. I am thankful for James, for Sarah James and Jacob and Abigail, for Emily, for Amber and for Megan. I treasure my phone conversations with my mother by marriage and my tender visits with my own dear mother. I am blessed beyond measure by my friends and family who have faithfully loved me and by so many friends I have known through the years. For what more could I ask? God is good indeed.