In my home cancer is a four letter word. One simple word, said out loud, feels like a punch to the gut. I hate it. I hate what it does to people. I watched it strip my Grandmother’s dignity and turn her into a shell of the incredible woman I loved with all my heart. I watched it take my Daddy’s best friend/mother from him. I saw it tear my family apart. I lived it as it stretched my marriage, kept me from being the kind of mother I wanted to be, damaged my heart and changed my life forever. I hate it.
Cancer. Here we are again, old enemy. Many weeks ago I had my normal skin check done. I knew. I saw the mole two weeks earlier and I just knew. That familiar feeling in the pit of my stomach. My doctor took three moles and told me not to worry about it, they were probably nothing. I knew he was wrong. I tried to convince myself that I was being paranoid and over dramatic.
Then the call came. A call I’ve gotten twice before. Melanoma. I think it is one of the most underappreciated cancers there is. Its simply dismissed as skin cancer and no big deal. But let me tell you, this cancer kills. I have met incredible, and young, woman who have lost their lifes to this beast. I got the phone call and went to a women’s retreat. It was one of the sweetest times I’ve had. I worshiped and I worshiped. We had an incredible worship leader and it was exactly what I needed. I sang, cried and met with God.
I only told Mike, Mom and Sarah. The secret felt like a heavy weight on my shoulders. So, the last night there I sat outside and cried with my dear friends Ronita and Morgan. To understand this you should probably know I haven’t really had any friends, outside of family, for a very long time. A while ago I got burned, bad. I was hurt and wronged by christian women and I swore to have nothing to do with friends again. I put up walls and built barriers. I had acquaintances, people I talked to at church but no friends. Then God brought me Sarah and for a long time that was enough. Then he started pricking my heart, challenging me to open up and let people in. I did and it was uncomfortable and left me feeling exposed and vulnerable but in exchange I got a small group of incredible friends. So, I sat outside with them and was angry, sad, confused and frustrated all at once. They prayed with me, cried with me, were angry with me.
I went home and felt refreshed, ready to handle whatever was going to happen. My prayers were that this was stage 0 or melanoma in stu (just on the surface level) but the punch biopsy alone showed that wouldn’t be the case. My Mom took me in and I had a wide excision done. I went home sore and worried. The results came back Stage IIB at least. Mike and I were crushed. They needed to check my lymph nodes to see if it had spread and possibly stage III or IV. Plus they didn’t get clean margins and needed to go back into remove more tissue. I reached out to my family and ladies. They covered me in prayer, magical socks, and laughter.
The lymph node biopsy and re-excision were done. I was left sore, unable to sit or walk to well. Waiting for those results was the worst. Every time the phone would ring my heart would race. Finally, we found out that the lymph nodes were clean!! This is where we are now. We are making decisions about treatment options. Because this is a secondary primary site, stage IIB and a large site which caused difficulty getting clean margins, I am at high risk for a recurrence. So further treatments are necessary. We had hoped I would get into a clinical trial for melanoma vaccinations but my heart disqualified me. The options we are left with are much harsher and no one can give me a clear answer on what to do. Two of my doctors disagree on the path we should take and Mike and I are left here trying to figure out what is best.
During this uncertainty, I can tell you what I am thankful for. I’m thankful for God, friends, family and Mike.
- God. Man if you don’t know him, you are missing out. He isn’t some big guy up there waiting to come down on you. He cares. He loves you. He wants to walk with you. I am just learning, during these hard times, to press in. Sure I get angry and I don’t understand his plan right now but I just keep pressing in. There are many things in this life you will inevitably regret but following Jesus will never be one of them.
- Girls, you are the best. Sarah, Ronita, Meggan, Dani, Morgan, and T you guys are incredible. I can’t tell you how many times your texts or calls came at the perfect time. I can count on you for prayer, jokes to cheer me up, the perfect scripture or in a moment of despair group sock pictures :).
- Mom and Sarah you are the most dependable, loving and supportive family a girl could ask for. You are there for anything I need. You drop everything on seconds notice to help me. I’d be lost without you.
- Mike. If you know me at all, you know how I feel about this man. I shared earlier on this blog about our marriage. So, here I’ll just say that I am crazy, madly in love with you. You are a rock. For those of you know us, you know we’ve walked through more than our share of trials. I recently heard this song and I thought it perfectly described us, “we went dancing in the mine fields, we went sailing in the storms and it was harder than we dreamed but I believe that is what the promise is for.”