Monday, July 20, 2009

How Do You Fit Cancer Into Your Outlook?

In the last few months, I have become a big fan of Microsoft Outlook. I love having a place to organize my Calendar, To Do Lists, and email...not to mention all of it can be color-coded! How's that for excitement? I enjoy trying to bring order into chaos. So, when I received the diagnosis of cancer, then heard I would need chemo, surgery, and maybe radiation, my way of coping was to try and get out the calendar, rally the support team, and make a plan and schedule with treatments dates, doctor appointments, etc. Just when I thought I was going to be able to start plugging things into my calendar and start making sense of it all... today happened.

I had the first meeting with the oncologist today. We're still going to do all the same types of tests, surgery, chemo, and maybe radiation, but the order of everything got shuffled. I must say I would prefer that my cancer be neat, orderly, and controlled. And yes, I do realize the irony of that statement. Just another reminder today that life is not about my plans, my schedule, my trying to "control" things. Instead, it's all about HIS plan... and my learning to get out of the way and trust Him in the process.

Part of the reason for the shuffle in treatment plans is due to the fact that my cancer is "complicated" according to the oncologist. Those of you who know me well should not be surprised at all that my cancer would follow the pattern of my life-being complicated :)

One of the first things they they do with cancer is decide the "stage". One of the important pieces of information is the size of the tumor. In my "complicated" case, they haven't found a tumor to size. Now, before you get excited about a miraculous healing, let me explain... I have had 6 areas biopsied since last Friday. They have found DCIS and Carcinoma in 1 lymph node ... they still have not identifed a big "tumor," so the theory we're operating from is still that the DCIS has had micro-invasions and that we won't find a "primary tumor."

So, at least for now, the plan seems to be as follows:
1) We start with surgery. There are several reasons for this. Mainly it's the necessary first step to get in the operating room and be able to really look and see what we're dealing with, then we'll be better prepared to make the best decisions for further treatment. Also we will be removing some more lymph nodes to check for any spread of the cancer. Surgery date is yet to be determined, but it should be within the next month.
2) Between now and the surgery date comes multiple tests. These will include a bone scan, genetic testing, blood work, chest x-ray, and abdominal ultrasound. Again, we're just trying to gather all the information we can to make the most educated decisions possible.
3) After tests and surgery, chemotherapy is likely to follow. Because of all the info we will have by then, the oncologist will tailor the treatment based on how aggressive we need to be.
4) Radiation may come next
5) Then more surgery and reconstruction

So, are you exhausted just reading all this? I must admit I'm pretty tired. This week has tested my strenght and endurance in many ways... and I've learned something... cancer is NOT going to fit neatly into my Outlook on my computer.... however, God has allowed me the amazing chance to yield to His plan, which can change my "outlook" on life and what really matters.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all of you for your incredible support this week.

I will continue to update you frequently.

"For I know the PLANS I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Thursday's Update

Thursday 7/16/09

Today consisted of coordinating appointments and planning the next few days.
Tomorrow will be another test- we know I have cancer, they just need to check another spot (still in the breast tissue). I've had people ask, so let me just answer this question: we know the cancer originated in the breast... we have no reason to believe there are any other tumors hiding anywhere else in my body. I have an appointment with the oncologist on Monday at 3:30pm. This appointment will lay out alot of the details and plan for the next few months. I will be sure to send out an update.

If you're asking "how are you REALLY doing, Mer?" The answer is: I have cried some, and my mind has been on overload once or twice... however, believe me without reservation when I tell you the strength, peace, and love of our heavenly Father has been constant and steadfast. I'm taking it one day at a time.

So, now I'm going to take a break from cancer and watch "So You Think You Can Dance"

Love you all.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I'm so sorry you're all getting the news like this... below are the two emails I've sent out to my small group and friends from church... they tell the story of how I've been diagnosed with breast cancer. My parents are in Houston with me now... my brother and his wife live 20 minutes away... and my best friend Alyson Pope Miller is literally sitting by my side... I'm surrounded by love and support.

This is the first email I sent out Tuesday 7/14/09:

I don't quite know how to start this email... I want to say without hesitation that God is GOOD, he is FAITHFUL, and his plan IS perfect.

Some of you may have heard by now... I wanted to be sure and fill you in.

Today (Tuesday) I received biopsy results... I have breast cancer.

As you all know, I turned 35 in June... my mom has SURVIVED breast cancer twice... and her doctor years ago drilled it into my head that I needed to start getting mammograms at age 35. So, 2 days after my birthday, I got one. Then about a week ago, I got a call... they needed to do some more films and an ultrasound, so we did... then they needed to to a biopsy... so we did that this past Friday July 10th... they took tissue from one side and also did a biopsy of a lymph node that looked suspicious... they told me it would be anywhere between Tuesday and Thursday when I got the results.... today at 5pm I got the call.... both samples are positive for Carcinoma.

Specifically, I have Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS) ... you can go to the website and search for it. It is a great source for accurate information, and you will find that as cancer goes, it's a "good" one to have and very successfully treated. The possible twist is the lymph node... it may not be too difficult to treat, or it may be a sign that there is more to the story and therefore more steps needed for treatment.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) at 4:15 pm I am meeting with a surgeon who is going to review all of the test results with me and talk about a plan of action from this point forward. After that, we should know alot more about the scope and general time frame of what we're facing.

God was with me EVERY step of the way on this journey this week and I can honestly say that He provides a peace that transcends all understanding. I had just finished with my last patient of the day when I got the call. My best friend Alyson came to my work and followed me home... she helped me pack a bag and I'm staying with her for a few days. My parents will arrive in Houston in the morning, and my brother will join us. All of them will be with me tomorrow for the appointment. I feel so blessed and loved.

To my small group.... Girls, I love you all dearly. Please know that I wasn't trying to keep this from you. It happened quickly and was overwhelming at first. I had to tell the people at work because I had to suddenly be away for doctor visits... and I had to tell my family and best friend. Church was the one area of my life that seemed to be contained... I knew that this past Sunday might be the last "normal" Sunday I had for a while, and I wanted to savor it.... Thank you all for praying for me and supporting me... and THANK YOU Casey for being my "messenger", especially after I hung up on you! (ask her about that story :)

Please pray that I will be able to think of all of the questions I need to ask at the appointment tomorrow.Pray for my mom and dad to have safe travel from Arlington in the morning.Pray for wisdom and discernment in the decisions over the next few days.Above all else, pray that God will continue to be glorified through all of this... I will update you when I know more.
In Him,Meredith (Mer Mer)

This is the second email I sent out Wednesday 7/15/09:

My sweet Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Thank you all so much for your text messages, calls, emails, and most of all your prayers.
Today (Wednesday) was a good day and God again provided peace. The highlight was when I was filling out the forms at the doctor's office... Under my information the form asked for spouse's name- I wrote "to be determined" :) I still believe... even now... I still believe :)

The appointment with the surgeon went well... God provided exactly the doctor I needed to talk me through everything with compassion, wisdom, and sound medical advice. As you can imagine, today has been a long day and I'm exhausted, so I'll just cut to the chase:I do have DCIS according to my pathology reports which usually is a very contained, easily treated type of cancer.However, that is not the path that we're going to take. The lymph node biopsy was positive... that means that I also have an invasive form of cancer... DCIS normally stays sealed in the ducts only.... the cancer in the lymph node had to come from somewhere, so either there's a tumor hiding that did not show up on the films or ultrasound (unlikely), or the more probable explanation is that it's microinvasion, meaning the cancer cells leaked out, but did not clump together and grow into a tumor large enough to see or feel.

Because of the positive lymph node, the fact that it's an invasive cancer, and that it is rapid growing and aggressive means that Chemo is necessary and will probably start in the next 2 weeks. Most likely 21 day cycles, ie. get a treatment, then feel sick for 3-5 days, then feel good for 2 weeks, then get another treatment. I'll need 6-8 courses of chemo total... then 21 days off for my body to rest... then surgery which will mean 4-6 weeks recovery time.

There's still some testing we need to do to decide a few more things about whether radiation is necessary and how and when we will investigate for any more lymph nodes that might be involved. So, the next step is I need to talk to an oncologist. My surgeon is going to try to call in a favor with an oncologist he knows to get me seen tomorrow, and I have some other high-placed connections that are checking as well, so I'm confident I'll be seen soon.

Prayer requests:
1. That God makes it abundantly clear which oncologist I need to see and that I have total peace and confidence in the decision
2. Continued strength, peace, and good sleep for my parents, brother, sister-in-law, best friend Alyson, and myself
3. Clarity of mind to know all the best questions to ask and wisdom to navigate the treatment options

I have shed some more tears today, but still know God is in control... His plan is good, and His timing is perfect.I appreciate all of the offers for help... I can't begin to tell you how blessed and loved I have felt the last 24 hours. The main thing you can do for me right now is pray. In the coming weeks and months, there will be more specific needs, and I promise to be honest and ask for what I need and allow you all to minister to my needs along the way.

Some of you have been asking about my job... again God's plan is good... he has me at a job where the people genuinely care about me and are completely supportive. My boss (the doctor I work for) tonight told me he is "behind me 1,000%" and will support me in any way he can... translation: even though I may need 3-4 times my allotted time off this year, he will work it out with me. Then he asked me to "keep him abreast of what's going on"... Did you just laugh out loud?... "abreast"- get it?! Ha Ha...he didn't realize he had said it until I cracked up laughing.

I think that's all for now... I'll update you again soon.
In Him,