Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"Surgery Time Change"

Late this morning I talked to my surgeon's office and got the last minute news that times were changing for tomorrow. Gee, what a surprise! I don't think I had a nice tone to my voice when they told me and I had to apologize for my shortness. Unfortunately, there have been times since my diagnosis I've just been stressed and irritable. Oh, Lord, forgive me and help!

So anyway, Now they're telling me to be at the hospital 8:30ish. The sentinel node injection is around 9:30 and surgery is "supposed" to be between 11:00-11:30. Surgery will take about three hours as long as there's no lymph node involvement.

Okay, regroup, refocus, deep breath, everything's going to be alright, turn on the worship music - quiet, soft and sweet...aah.

(By the way, everything I needed to do got done...yeah!!!)

Monday, April 19, 2010

"Sitting at His Feet"

Here I am winding down to the last two days before surgery and I'm feeling like it's crunch time. I was doing alright until I spent over 1 1/2 hours on the phone with two separate customer service people and never did get one of my issues resolved. I had to get off the phone before I lost it. They were so incompetent and this wasn't the first time. Where's integrity anymore? SCREAM!  This has really eaten up a big chunk of my day and you know, I had my plans. I still have things to do...laundry, clean bathroom, bathe dog, da, da, da, da, da. I just want to get a big, iced caramel macchiato and sit down, turn on my worship music and be still.

So, you know what I did? I stopped, got in my car and headed to Starbucks. Everything else is on hold and I'm about to put on my worship music and bask in the presence of the Lord at His feet. I have to find my focus and peace, and it's only found in Him. I'm feeling better already.

I don't know if the dog will get bathed tonight or not. I'm sure Jeff will help me with some of the other stuff but for now I'm "choosing what is better."

Luke 10:38-42 - As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what He said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her."

(A page from my inspirational scrapbook)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

"He Enlightens My Darkness"

"Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously! 
The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea! 
Exodus 15:21

The waves were rising
but I saw His face
He took my hand
I stood by grace.
On an unstable surface
I seemed to stand
On the water I was buoyed
"Peace be still", was His command.
Tumultuous waters were all around me
but within there was a calm
The sea before me settled
He held me in His palm.
He looked at me so sweetly
Upon the Lord I fixed my gaze
His eyes were filled with love
the night revealed the day.
Made known, His truth and promise
even through the storm
I saw the sea dividing
and there I was transformed.
With Jesus I crossed over
my feet on solid ground
I heard the voice of singing
each enemy was drowned.
A dance of celebration
erupted all around
For the faithfulness of Father
and His mercy that abounds.
Steadfast is my commitment
and devotion unto Christ
Who meets me in my weakness
and conveys to me His might.
He holds me together
though fallen is each foe
Firm in my position
though mighty winds would blow.
His plans for me are perfect
though I may not always know
Or understand His purpose
but where He leads I'll go.
For by day His cloud's before me
His presence leads the way
His fire lights the darkness
and I am not afraid.

The title inspiration came from one of my favorite Psalms reminding me of my sure victory in Christ. Listed below are a few passages from that Psalm and one from the Book of Isaiah.

Psalm 18:1-3 - I will love You, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies.
Psalm 18:16-19 - He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the LORD was my support. He also brought me out into a broad place; He delivered me because He delighted in me.
Psalm 18:28-30 - For You will light my lamp; the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness. For by You I can run against a troop, by my God I can leap over a wall. As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.
Isaiah 43:1-3 - “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior."

Rita Springer: "If You Say So" - This song so wonderfully ties in...beautiful! http://youtu.be/fvDMzQyydZM

Saturday, April 17, 2010

"Four Days Until Surgery :0"

I had another appointment with the plastic surgeon this past Thursday to answer any final questions I had before surgery on the 21st and to pick up post-op prescriptions. I also had to read and initial about 30 pages of surgery consent forms and instructions. I'm not kidding, it was ridiculous!

I really like Dr. Lickstein but I guess the proof will be in the pudding when reconstruction is fully complete some months down the road and I see the end result but I expect it to look great! As I've previously mentioned, he certainly comes highly recommended by my breast surgeon and several others I've talked to and I feel confident in my choices for both my plastic and breast surgeons. I know I'm in the good and most capable hands of the Lord and these doctors.

I have to go back to Dr. Lickstein on Tuesday, the night before surgery at 6:15 p.m. for him to place markings on my breast. Can you believe, a 6:15 appointment?! Then I'm up early and off to surgery the next day. So please, no calls on Tuesday night. I have to try and wind down and then get to bed early and get some sleep so I'm ready for the "Big Day".

Hopefully, I'll be home the day after surgery but they'll have to see how I'm doing the next day and decide if I'm ready to be discharged or not. Besides, I can't be away from my precious critters too long. I hate leaving them even overnight. I know, I'm a sap but these are my "babies".

I've made a lot of progress towards the ten zillion things on my "to do" list before my surgery and I'm feeling a bit better about that but I'm tired. I hate it when I have to pack so many things into a short time but it will all get done. (Heavy sigh) I love it when everything is organized and clean. Order is a wonderful thing.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

"Do You Believe in Miracles?"

As I was somewhere between awake and asleep yesterday morning I sensed the Lord dropping Scripture in my heart. It was out of the Old Testament, 2 Kings 5:1-14.

The story tells of Naaman, a commander of the Syrian army who was afflicted with leprosy. Their servant girl tells Naaman's wife, “If only my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! For he would heal him of his leprosy.”

So, Naaman went over to the prophet, Elisha's house expecting to meet up with the prophet himself. Instead he got a servant relaying Elisha's message of, "Go and wash in the Jordan seven times (indicating to me a process to perfection), and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean."

This really set Naaman off and he went stomping off indignantly and quite miffed to say the least. He had his own preconceived ideas of how his healing was to take place and fully expected the prophet to come and personally greet him, lay hands on him and pray, and that would be that, end of story, healed and off on his merry way.

In his mind it made no sense to do things this way. And why dip in that dirty ole Jordan river for pete's sake? Some of the best water could be found in no less than three other rivers, which he gladly pointed out to the messenger. So, in his pride he went away in a rage.

Luckily, Naaman's servants got the guts up to confront him saying, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”

Thankfully, he came to his senses, humbled himself and heeded the command of Elisha. Scripture says, 'So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.'

Since being diagnosed with breast cancer I too had wished that an instantaneous miracle would occur in my life. But honestly I knew through so many other Scriptures the Lord had spoken into my heart weeks ago, even before a breast biopsy or a "cancer" diagnosis that He had begun to prepare me. He had determined the way He would heal me and the road He would lead me on when the time came.

As we seek Him He truly does prepare us, directing us in the way He'd have us go for His purpose and plans. I can't say I have a full understanding of why I have to go through this but I read throughout Scripture of the faithfulness of God. He transforms and raises us up sometimes out of the darkest places, revealing things to our hearts that apart from these experiences we could never know.

The Lord is performing miracles around us and in us more than we may recognize. I was most recently impressed this morning as I thought of the awesome compassion and healing the Lord works through others as He fills them with such great wisdom and skill to help bring us back to restored health and strength. There have certainly been times in my life as well where I have experienced a touch from God and been made well instantly. My husband, Jeff, has too. So much of my life has been a miracle.

God cannot be placed in a box. His ways are so multifaceted and we cannot fathom the depths of Him. I'm reminded of a passage from, Isaiah 55:8-9 - " For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. " For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."

I shared with Jeff tonight, I believe I (we) am here for a reason and it's God's reason; He has me properly positioned. There are lessons to be learned that I couldn't learn anywhere else. Sometimes there are connections to be made. Surely my life's path has changed but I can take comfort that He is sovereignly and lovingly guiding my every step and watching over my life for good.

Step by step He leads me and I will follow in all of His ways. Praise His name!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

"4:30 a.m.?!"

Sorry, Sue, I just had to borrow this wonderful picture from your blog. This is the image of this mornings event as I was awakened by my old cat, Pooca, just before 4:30 a.m. as she began wretching by my bedside. Thanks to my Honey, Jeff, for getting out of bed and taking care of the awful mess.

Pooca's been suffering from inflammatory bowel disease for several years and if puking is going on it's usually her. I can only imagine the amount of money we've invested in "Resolve" carpet cleaner over the years. Despite the fact she's on regular medication for this affliction, sometimes there just seems to be a run on throw up. In the past 24 hours this is the third time she's lost it. Of course, now she wants to eat. Well, she's going to have to wait on that and then just a tad of food will be offered and we'll pray she keeps that down.

So, I never did get back to sleep but laid there tossing, turning, praying and pondering the recent turn of events in my life with this recent diagnosis of breast cancer. Still, it doesn't seem as if it applies to me and I wonder if the time it really sinks in will be the day of surgery or as I look upon my concave chest for the first time.

I've gone through quite a range of emotions, going from level headedness and faith, to anger and breaking out into tears unexpectedly. I've also experienced such great hope and encouragement from others, most recently from, "Survivors Offering Support" (SOS), a volunteer group of ladies who have walked in my shoes.

A very special lady, Janet, has become my mentor to offer support through perhaps the most challenging time of my life. We share a common bond through breast cancer but even more importantly, a faith and trust in God through the Lord Jesus Christ. This has most certainly been an answer to prayer, to connect with another whose been there and of like spirit, together to look to the One Who will see us both through. Thank you, Janet, for reaching out with the love of the Lord.

Yesterday I received a confirmation on the time of surgery. The date remains the same as I indicated on my last entry and is on April 21st. We'll need to be there at 7:30 a.m.. At 8:00 they'll take me back for the sentinel node injections to see if there's lymph node involvement and surgery is scheduled for 10:00. My surgeon has promised me he's always on time.

Well, that's it for now. It's time to go and get ready for a busy day of errands and chores.

Love and appreciate you all.

Isaiah 43:1-3 - ...Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers,they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

Thank You, Lord for Your Word to ponder which brings me life.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

"The Results Are In"

Various doctors met at the Multi-Disciplinary Conference to review my case yesterday. After going over all the findings they made their recommendations and we received some pretty good news. We met with my breast surgeon later to go over everything and to make the decision as to how to proceed.

Happily, the PET and CT scans as well as the MRI came back clean, indicating no cancer anywhere else in my body other than what we already knew existed in the left breast, revealing the size of the tumor to be 3.7 cm. The lymph nodes appear clear, which if still holds true at the time of surgery when the biopsy is done, will put me at a stage IIA breast cancer. If cancer has spread to the lymph nodes (which again, we don't expect), that would put me at a stage IIB breast cancer and definitely require radiation. Let's believe the Lord together for no lymph node involvement.

Two hours before my scheduled surgery several injections will be given in my left breast releasing dye which will then travel to lymph nodes where cancer would most likely travel were it there, to give them a better picture of what to look at upon surgery and to biopsy.

At surgery when my breast is removed, a sample of the tumor will be taken and sent to a California lab to be assessed through a test known as, "Oncotype DX" for recurrence risk and to also determine if chemotherapy will be required and to devise a treatment plan tailored to my individual cancer type. It will take about two weeks for the results to come back.

If chemotherapy is required that usually begins four to six weeks post surgery. Please be praying that the report would come back with the good news of, "no chemo necessary." A large percentage generally need it but I'm hoping I'm not in that group. Several years of hormone therapy with Tamoxifen will begin as soon as we determine what the chemotherapy plan is. Also be praying that insurance will cover the test since it's over $3,400.00...ouch! We're still seeking the Lord for provision for all the co-pays and coverage throughout this whole process, still unsure of the changes that are to take place since the company where Jeff works has just been bought out.

As we already knew from the beginning, a mastectomy of the left breast will be done with surgery scheduled for April 21st. The time of day is yet to be determined. Though I do present a marker that puts me at risk for bilateral disease, the board of doctors concluded it to be an extremely low risk. So the right breast which was shown to be completely clean will be left intact.

As I mentioned in a previous entry, reconstruction of the left breast will begin right after the mastectomy is complete and barring any unforeseen complications, I'll be at the desired breast size in about six to eight weeks. The permanent implant will go in two to three months later unless I have to have chemotherapy which will delay permanent implants anywhere from five to seven months.

I've scheduled my pre-op exam for April 12th and will have a pre-op appointment with my plastic surgeon at a time yet to be determined, probably next week to finalize everything. We will be discussing reconstruction of the left breast and breast lift and augmentation to my right breast to balance everything out so hopefully I'll have a nice matched pair.

After all is said and done, yearly I will have a chest MRI and mammogram on the right, healthy breast, alternating tests on six month intervals.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

"Hospital Hair"

Oh my gosh, I look like a little boy or a pin head! When I went for my hair appointment on Friday, I decided to go really short in preparation of my upcoming surgery and the fact that I won't be able to take care of it for awhile. I guess if I lose all of my hair as anticipated later, I'll wish I had at least this much.

I was so blessed to have a good deal of time to talk to both my hairdresser and another hairdresser in the shop who have both been through breast cancer. They helped tremendously, honestly answering many of my questions and were a great encouragement. They have offered ongoing support and even gave me some "wig" advice for the future if needed.

Another blessing came later that day in the form of a sales clerk at Macy's as I was checking out. She was a precious little old lady, no less than 80 years old who was asking if my purchases were in preparation of going away. When I told her, 'No, but I'm having surgery and need some comfy clothes', she boldly asked me what kind of surgery. When I told her a mastectomy, her eyes widened as she pulled back the sweater she wore over her blouse to reveal her flat chest. She replied, "Thirty two years." She had her breasts removed thirty two years ago, never having breast reconstruction since then it was not covered by insurance. She was like a gray-haired angel sent especially to me that day offering soothing words of life and hope.

She shared with me how for many years after her mastectomy she visited women in hospitals who had just gone through the same to help encourage them. The Lord knows how I especially love and am drawn to the old ones, so to me this was a double blessing as we continued to talk. Now, I can't remember ever giving my name and telephone number to a complete stranger, but when she asked me to give it to her so that she could check in with me later to see how I was getting along, I found myself readily offering it to her. You never know how the Lord might work through another to speak to you. I was so grateful and amazed how the Lord touched me and revealed His love for me in this unlikely place through a sweet sales lady named, Arlene.

So sorry I really couldn't blog over the past few days. I was too busy, exhausted and mad! Last week was a long, busy and difficult week physically and emotionally as I entered an "angry" stage. I was overwhelmed with doctors appointments, PET and CT Scans, and MRI. Then it was running to the mall, Petsmart, Walmart, and drug store, that as much as possible things would be in order so that Jeff and me and the pets would be all set for a month or so. I still need to get the house cleaned. Anybody who knows me knows I'm a planner and like to have things organized.

Then to kind of top things off Jeff's windshield got hit with a big rock as he was driving home from work and has a big crack in it. Thank God he wasn't hurt and it will be replaced on Wednesday. Bummer is, there's a $100.00 deductible...just when we don't have it. Then there's all kinds of diagnostic, doctor and hospital deductibles. All of this is a pricey proposition. We are certainly praying and trusting the Lord's provision for all.

I also had to leave my car at the shop on Friday afternoon when it went bonkers on me after I came out of the mall. When I started my car the front windshield wipers went on by themselves and I couldn't get them to stop. The windshield washer didn't work and the back wipers, radio and turn signals were dead as well. So here I was on a beautiful, dry, sunny day traveling from Whitemarsh Mall to the Jeep dealership, windshield wipers going all the way, sure that everyone was staring at me and laughing at the crazy, ditsy red-head who didn't realize it wasn't raining. It was like a comedy skit!

Originally, I was headed toward the Goodyear shop where we normally take our cars for maintenance when I'm telling you, a voice came into my head that said, "Under warranty, go to Heritage Jeep." And you know what?, it's covered! Thank you Lord, for helping me to go in the right direction. Unfortunately, a rental car isn't covered and I don't know how long they'll have my car. It depends on the problem and if they have to order parts or not. I haven't rented a car yet, since that's about $35.00 a day, though I may have to if I don't get it back right away so I can get to my appointments this week. They're not even going to be able to look at my car until Monday. Please pray it's not too serious and that I get it back pronto.

I wish I understood sometimes why so much is happening all at once. I find myself going throughout my days just crying out to God, "Help me, Lord!" He's the only One who can see us through, no matter what's going on in our lives.

This coming Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. we have a follow-up appointment with my surgeon to go over all the diagnostic findings and recommendations on exactly how to proceed. I'm guessing I may receive a surgery date then but I'm not sure.

Please pray that cancer is found no where else and for all the right decisions to be made. This is a very stressful and scary time for Jeff and I as I'm sure you can imagine and at times quite challenging to remain focused and upbeat. I'm leaning hard into God's everlasting loving arms to know His strength and support.