Monday, August 5, 2013

Happy Birthday To Me!

So, here I am at 48!  My 47th year was obviously eventful with my Stage IV Melanoma diagnosis.  Oddly enough, it was a great year in many ways.  I found myself surrounded by the best support system I could imagine.  Family and friends drew nearer and poured on the love.  So many, actually were the hands & feet of Christ in our lives.  It's what I would expect from this bunch, though.  My appreciation for everything that is wonderful was highly intensified.  My moments with my babies are more precious to me than ever.  Things I once worried about, I barely give notice to.  I find myself actually in the moment & living one day at a time. When you are a Christian, on your walk with Christ, you strive for a close relationship.  You turn to Him in times of trouble, praise in times of joy, and long to be even closer.  I can tell you now, after my 47th year, and my diagnosis, that there is more to gain for your soul.  There are ways to have a closer walk with Jesus. Although it is hard to explain the phenomenon, we find the explanation in His word.

Romans 8:26,27 "Though the infirmities of Christians are many and great, so that they would be overpowered if left to themselves, yet the Holy Spirit supports them. The Spirit, as an enlightening Spirit, teaches us what to pray for; as a sanctifying Spirit, works and stirs up praying graces; as a comforting Spirit, silences our fears, and helps us over all discouragements. The Holy Spirit is the spring of all desires toward God, which are often more than words can utter. The Spirit who searches the hearts, can perceive the mind and will of the spirit, the renewed mind, and advocates his cause. The Spirit makes intercession to God, and the enemy prevails not."

If you read that passage and truly take in all of what it is saying, it can change your life.  If you are able to let go of your circumstances and the fears connected to them, and let the Holy Spirit work, you can find great peace.  My 47th year was important for my walk with Him.  I would not have chosen this path; it was set before me.  But I can tell you I have experienced the Holy Spirit "working and stirring up the praying graces" and "silencing my fears", first hand.  When I don't even know what to utter, I feel covered.

I hope my 48th year is just as full of the peace, joy and love I have had.  Let's try to be thankful in our circumstances, because there is such a bigger picture.  Concentrate on seeing Jesus in front of you & enjoy all the birthdays!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

He is able!

Today was results day...Scanned from head to toe at M.D. Anderson for 2 days.  Dr. Kim was all smiles & found NED (no evidence of disease)!  In Melanoma world that is always your goal.  Melanoma is never cured.  From dizziness & pain at my surgical site, I wasn't so sure how this 3 month check was going to pan out.  It's funny that I feel a little stunned that I have still been spared.  In faith I decided, from the beginning, that whatever goes down with this, it's all part of His plan.  I've always lived my life that way. Wonder what God thinks of me being stunned that I'm clear for now?  It kind of feels like I am insulting Him.  It is very humbling to have been given such a bleak diagnosis and then being clear.  It is my prayer to use this time for His glory.  I  live life now in 3 month increments, holding my breath for the  next scans.  My goal is to get over that.  It is too much of a burden.  The last 10 months have been a precious gift.   I'm going to honor that by not being anxious for the future and just concentrating on the joy!  Which is what we should all be doing.

Thanks to everyone for the love & support!  I am surrounded by the love of family & friends, both new and old!

He is able!

Friday, July 12, 2013

"All Clear!"

So, I got the "All Clear!" call for my brain MRI results from Wednesday!  It had been 6 months since the last brain MRI so I was pretty anxious.  The nurse said there was quite a bit of movement/motion on the scans.  I was fully sedated, because that is how I roll getting an MRI.  I guess not being awake comes at a price for a poor quality view.  I can live with that.  So funny that you can put me through anything, surgery, pain, all forms of poking & prodding & I am a very good sport.  Just don't ask me to get in to that MRI machine!  So praise God for that good report.  The rest of me gets scanned on the 24th & 25th of this month.  With Melanoma you start to work yourself up as you approach scan days.  They call it "scanxiety", very appropriately.    Maybe mine won't be as bad this round since the brain just got cleared.

I have been like a dog with a bone this week reading blogs and hearing people's stories about this disease.  I feel like I need to know everything going in.  I was anticipating some depression in this exercise.  What I did not count on was the blessings this would bring.  I now have about 40 new friends who are on this journey also.  Most just have Facebook pages, some have blogs.  We all "friend" each other without question.  We have this need to bond.  The stories from each are all over the spectrum.  Some are having amazing outcomes with their treatments and that is the blessing I was searching for.  So I will "follow" my new friends and maybe we can learn from each other's journeys.  One funny thing is that on some of the Melanoma sites our friends are called "Melahomies".  Well that just about cracked my Zachary up (one of my 12 year old twins).  Now when he sees me on the computer he asks me if I am talking to my Melahomies.  The human spirit is beyond amazing.  Even in our battles there is joy & laughter & bonding with each other.  I love that.  An awesome God designed that!

I think that having the great MRI result today, starting this new blog  & having made my new circle of like-minded friends, I am finding a little comfort zone.  I'm trying to befriend the unknown/uncertain future, so that we can get along with each other.  I feel I have moved past the initial fear zone.  I didn't like it there.  Thanks for listening to me.  I hope your day is full of joy!

Monday, July 8, 2013

How this all started...

I thought I might give this blog thing a try.  I think it's a nice way to tell my story as we go & a way for family & friends to stay in the loop as events occur.  The event prompting this blog is my diagnosis last September of Metastatic Malignant Melanoma.  I share a lot on Facebook but some of my very dear friends & family are not on Facebook.  I hope that this turns out to be an account of my journey in life and not just an account of the Melanoma in my life.

This time last summer I was noticing discomfort in my left side while just sitting & watching T.V.  After ignoring it for a while I decided it wasn't going to go away on it's own.  Primary Dr. sent me for a CT scan & before I even returned home after the appointment she was calling me on my cell phone.  I knew that wasn't a good sign.  She said that I have a large mass on my left side near my adrenal gland.  So, off to a surgeon I went.  I could tell this wasn't anything good because the surgeon & his two residents stared at my scans, speechless for quite a while.  With both of my parents having died from cancer this happening in my life wasn't too much of a shocker.  I had had uterine cancer about seven years earlier.  That time I was pretty scared because my twins were only three years old & my daughter was ten & my oldest son was thirteen.  That cancer was contained to my uterus, so getting a complete hysterectomy took care of it.  Big sigh of relief.

So this time my 6cm tumor was in the soft tissue near the adrenal gland.  Surgery was scheduled for a couple of weeks later.  It turned out to be a very long surgery and left me with about a 12" scar under my left breast.  I was in ICU for several days.  On day three post-op the surgeon came in and just sort of blurted out that he had received the path report and that I have malignant melanoma.  I said okay and he didn't say too much more after that.  I had to let that sink in, then I called my family to come for moral support.  I was there alone when I got the news because it was about 7:00 A.M.  

After being released from the hospital I scrambled to get everything together to go to M.D. Anderson, world renowned cancer center here in Houston.  I was scanned from head to toe and searched repeatedly to try to find the primary site of this Melanoma.  No primary site has ever been found.  I, along with all of my doctors, find this very frustrating.  I was declared Stage IV because the Melanoma had become internal.  On initial scans (my PET scan) I had five suspicious areas for Melanoma, or hot spots.  Four of the areas have since been cleared of suspicion and only a couple of small nodules in my lungs were left.  Those had not grown any on my scans 3 months ago.  So, my current treatment is no treatment, other than getting scanned every 3 months.  This lack of treatment for cancer really scared me at first.  No chemo, nothing to slow it down?  My oncologist, Dr. Kim, has assured us that this is the protocol for now.  So we watch & wait.  I have learned through research & other's experiences that this is how it goes.  The outward appearance of someone (me) with Stage IV Melanoma can really fool you.  I do not act or appear sick & in reality that is the case.  Unfortunately I have this monster inside me that can rear it's ugly head at any time.

So now I am trying to learn how to process this information & learn how to live life to the fullest, knowing that things can change very quickly.  I feel like I do this pretty well.  I think about Melanoma all of the time but I am trying to train myself to just breathe & live.  I have a very deep & strong faith in God.  So, of course it's easier for me to give God the burden that I can't carry alone.  It's absolutely what sees me through.

I am not one to be a sun bather or tanner, not by a long shot.  So it is pretty crazy that I have this cancer.  The fact that we never found a primary even made me angry.  But if I have to find a silver lining, it is the fact that I had no evidence of disease on last scans and that I have a very real reminder every single day to love completely and deeply.  That is actually a gift.

Because of some recent dizzy spells I will have a brain MRI this Wednesday.  I hope to report to you that it was nothing, when next I blog!