A tough nut to crack…
Tonight Maren and I were sitting at the kitchen counter eating out of a small bowl of pistachios and going over her Christmas gifts-to-give ideas and spelling words. How’s that for multi-tasking?
I said, “Man, these pistachios are hard to open.”
She giggled, “I know!” she said. “I ate all the easy ones a few days ago.”
It was kind of a great metaphor for the day. Let me explain…
This morning I got up early and drove to the hospital for a PET scan. I was intentionally silent before this scan because of some extended family logistics (people who love me are away from their supportive people), so I didn’t want to cause “scanxiety”. In the quiet of my heart I prayed over and over, “Please God. Let me be NED (No Evidence of Disease.) NED. NED. NED.”
Dr. Wonderful looked at the scans himself (he doesn’t normally do that), and his read of the film was confirmed by the official report from the radiologist a few hours later. My entire body is NED… except for that one little lung spot — the asterisk from my September 2014 PET scan — that we’d hoped was inflammation. Today’s measurements: 10mm x 7mm with an uptake >4 means that this is a pulmonary metastasis. It is on the suture line from my first lung surgery so is almost certainly a stubborn straggler group of cells that survived the Rainbow Chemo.
Dr. Wonderful is great because he doesn’t give you time to think about that or absorb it or crumple into a ball. He just rolls right into what are we going to do about it.
His feeling is that it is quite remarkable that I have no other lesions or tumors other than this one small ugly spot. PET scans often discover multiple tumors, sometimes in multiple organs. Sometimes the body looks like it has been hit with buckshot–the cancer is so widespread it can’t be counted and measured. Praise be to Jesus, that is not my story. Because I only have the one spot, he is suggesting go against normal treatment protocol for metastatic lesions. He suggests we approach Dr. Wizard about repeating the same/similar procedure he did in November 2013: a lung surgery to take out that one ugly spot. He did say that, in general, chasing metastatic lesions with surgery is not effective. However, my current drug combo seems to be effective except for this one marble-sized spot, so it is worth considering.
The call went out to Dr. Wizard, and he is reviewing the films and my chart. I should add that Dr. Wonderful personally called Dr. Wizard to advocate for me. (I’m still humbled by the above-and-beyond measures of Dr. Wonderful. He’s awesome.) I have an appointment with Dr. Wizard on Friday afternoon (which is really fast for normal people, but seems like forever to me.) Since I want to have the spot cut out right now, I am hoping it gets bumped up and also I’m learning patience.
So, remember my prayer? “NED. NED. NED.”? It turns out I should have been praying “NED (with no surgery/chemo required). NED (with no surgery/chemo required.)” Because God answered my prayer: I can still have the NED I prayed for… I just have to have a surgery first. How’s that for a lesson in the power of praying specifically?!
And that is why this is all okay. It’s not ideal, but I see the course. I’m planning for NED, I’m not planning for bad things. I am grateful. I can do this. God has blessed me.
One surgery and I get to continue my drug current protocol. For a variety of reasons, I will continue with my current drugs during/after surgery: we will not do chemotherapy at this time. That is Dr. Wonderful’s call, and he explained all the science-y reasons to Brad and I. We trust his judgement and feel we are being medically aggressive. I am visualizing NED in my future.
Things that are happening:
-Dr. Wonderful did a blood test today to see if there are cancer cells in my bloodstream. We are hopeful there are not. Results will be back in a few days. Pray at the cellular level.
-Dr. Wizard is in the driver’s seat. I’m at the mercy of his appointment calendar and then his surgical calendar. With Christmas less than three weeks away, logistics for my childcare, and holiday travel/hosting plans I am downright twitchy at not knowing the date/timing of surgery. Rest assured, I’ll let you know when I know. If the stars aligned and I could have surgery this week, I would. It’s possible, and also possible it might not get scheduled until after the holidays. I just don’t know. Pray for logistics and doctors.
-The message blasting from these circumstances is: Do Today Well. I must focus on the present and doing the task(s) at hand. I read Maren two chapters from her book tonight. My house needs cleaning. Greta and I watched ten minutes of Angelina Ballerina with no multi-tasking on my part. Laundry bins are full. I talked on the phone to people who matter. Healthy food does not yet magically appear on my counters despite my dreams. I can do good and important work while I wait. Pray for my mental game, my energy, my focus, and my faith during this tumultuous turn.
-I told Maren that I have a cancer spot and I’ll probably be having another surgery. We talked about the good news that it is one small spot, and I gently probed to make sure she understood what it would mean if there was a lot of cancer. She gets it, at what I hope is an age-appropriate level. Pray for protection over my sweet sweet girls.
-Brad and I are throwing our December To Do List up in the air and seeing what we can pick back up. Paint the family room? Christmas shopping? Planning vacations/trips for 2015? Travel to family before Christmas? Host family after Christmas? Pray for our priorities to be clear and our relationship to deepen.
-Our army is mobilizing. We’re calling our Help Coordinators back to duty: if you are trying to figure out what to do, email them at help4andersons ( at ) gmail ( dot ) com. This surgery, assuming it is same/similar to what I did before, is a doozie. But I can do it because it gets me NED. Pray for those who love me; this is tougher on them in many ways because watching is harder than doing when it comes to people you love.
Do you know how unusual it is for a person to gain and lose her NED status as often as I have throughout my cancer life? It is bizarre and miraculous. God cannot undo the miracles that have been done in my body thus far, and I am trusting Him for another one.
Just like those darn pistachios I shared with my precious daughter tonight, I have to fight for the good stuff. It will make me appreciate my wellness all the more. This cancer spot is a tough nut to crack but I’ve got my eyes fixed on things eternal. Thank you Jesus.