Arkansas Water Part 3 (of 3)

(…here's my main point…)

As I began wrestling with this new discovery, God gave me the most amazing privilege of seeing how He ties everything in our lives together.  Most times we don't get to know, this side of heaven, the tie-in, but by His grace, He revealed this one to me.  You see, infertility has been the most painful trial of my walk with God.  It tested my faith and pushed me to the brink of many emotional breakdowns.  It was a point of surrender, giving up and saying, "Okay, God.  I trust you.  We'll do it your way."
From that time, God blessed us with three incredible children.  They are literally gifts from God.  Jessica, Cory and Olivia are blessings, each with an amazing story of how God brought us together to be a family.
In light of my medical status, I see now that God again "had my back" on this one.  The cancer gene would stop with me and not be passed to my children.
Romans 8:31-32  "What then shall we say in response to this?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all- how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?"
I stand assured today, even in the midst of cancer treatment, that God is for me.  There is no worry about the "Arkansas water," only tremendous hope in my family lineage.  After all, I am a child of God.

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Arkansas Water Part 2 (of 3)

(keep reading…)

I was put in touch with a genetic counselor at Stanford Medical Center.  She wanted to present the whole idea of testing, educate me on all the ramifications of it, and then let me make an informed decision.  I liked her approach and felt this was a rock-solid way to have all my questions answered.
We began communicating by phone prior to the appointment.  She wanted as thorough of medical info as possible on all of my family members.  I contacted everyone and began nailing down causes and dates of death.  I ordered death certificates and even walked the cemetery to confirm last names and dates.
I was armed with quite a load of family history.  We had all pulled together and shared stories of who remembered what.  It was fascinating.  Several cousins recalled that my Grandma had had colon cancer, a fact my dad had no recollection of.  The last piece of the family puzzle that the counselor needed was a list of the types of skin cancer my dad had experienced.  Her exact words were, "Find out if he has had a cebaceous adenoma.  It is quite rare.  I'm sure he hasn't had it."
My dad's wife, Sue, contacted his doctor and got all the needed dates and types of cancer.  I was floored when she reported back that my dad had a cebaceous adenoma in 2005.  Not only that, his doctor reminded her that dad had the gene for cancer and had been told to be sure and let his son know.
Be sure and let his son know??  My dad had the smoking gun to my whole cancer mystery.  He had already been casually told that he had the genetic make-up, lynch syndrome, that they were wanting to test me for.  We were finally getting somewhere as to why I had two primary cancers in my body at the same time.  It wasn't in the water – it was in the genes.
Genetic testing at this point was just a formality.  With this latest revelation, the doctors were 99.9% sure I had lynch syndrome.  When the lab results came back positive, I began the process of spreading the word to my brother and cousins.  It all made sense.  I had the gene for cancer and would now be watched like a hawk for the rest of my life.
(…to be continued…)

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Arkansas Water Part 1

(the story goes on…)

My mom's medical history has always alarmed my doctors.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 44 and died ten days after her 46th birthday.  She was so young!  My whole adult life, doctor visits have held much discussion on this subject.  That's why what has unfolded for me took me by surprise.  I didn't see it approaching the way it did.
"There must have been something in the water back in Arkansas," has been a common remark between my first cousin and me.  We have often tried to analyze why my dad's side of the family has been so affected by cancer.  It's almost a creepy-like pattern that leaves us wondering who might be next.  My cousin' mom was one that passed away from ovarian cancer at the young age of 40.  My dad's twin sister died of uterine cancer (age 48) and an older brother's life was claimed by leukemia.  Not only that, my dad has had two bouts with colon cancer and lots of basal cell cancer issues as well as some melanoma.
As I began to have difficulties, much attention was again given to my family history.  Every doctor visit included a rendering of the past.  More attention began to be given to my dad's side of the family, rather than my mom's.  Suggestions were made to possibly consider genetic testing.  I had no real understanding of this and didn't take it too seriously.  To me, it was a fluke that I had uterine cancer, nothing connected- just another way my body was betraying me- par for the course.
I had a re-occurence of uterine cancer only 3 months after my hysterectomy.  That sent everyone scrambling.  I was quickly in for another cat-scan where a red flag went up concerning my colon.  Again genetic testing was presented because uterine and colon cancer are associated with a particular cancer syndrome.  I skirted around the issue again, still not comfortable with pursuing it.  My only focus was to make it through a huge colon surgery, followed by many weeks of radiation.
I was with my cousin on this one.  We were sticking to the Arkansas water theory.  Genetic testing seemed to modernized for me, too weird.  What was the point of it?  Would insurance drop me?  Would I become a medical freak- removing unnecessary body parts?
…to be continued…
Just for fun, because of the water reference, and because this verse is so meaningful to me…
Isaiah 43:2  "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire- you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."

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(my journey through cancer… continued…)

As my doctor finished the colonoscopy he stated that he wanted to talk to us before we went home.  Alarms were going off in my somewhat drugged, foggy mind.  This can't be good was the most prevalent thought forcing me to try and focus.

"I'm pretty sure it's cancer," he began saying, "but we will biopsy it and make a plan from there.  The doctor described the cancer as being black and appearing on the right side of my colon.  My "let's just be extra careful, we'll probably not find anything" procedure had resulted in talk of an up-and-coming fourth surgery.

The pathology came back malignant and the surgery date was set.  I began to reflect over the past couple of years and realized some warning signs had been there and unfortunately, ignored.  When we were in the process of adopting our youngest child, Olivia, two years prior, Eddie and I each had to have a physical and blood tests.  I had just arrived home from the lab when the phone rang, and it was the doctor on duty.  She began by saying, "You must be exhausted.  You are extremely anemic."  I thought about that and said, "Why, yes I am.  I often have no energy."  In fact, moments before, I had said to Ed that I just want to crawl into bed.  Mind you, it was only 7:00 p.m.  

This caring doctor ordered all kinds of tests to be done immediately.  However, when my primary doctor called a few days later, she talked me out of pursuing this.  Looking back, I am convinced the cancer was already there and growing, causing the anemia.  

Colon surgery is not for wimps- very, very hard.  My difficulties began in the recovery room.  For whatever reason the epideral failed, leaving me writhing with pain.  The anesthesiologist could not get to me for 9 hours!  I was suffering and literally crying out.  The post-op nurse was beyond kind.  She, along with Eddie, did their best to comfort me.  What was so amazing was that when the anesthesiologist FINALLY  had a minute to deal with me and make the needed adjustment, there was instant relief.

I stayed in the hospital six long, hard days.  I got very sick and was extremely sore.  They had removed 12" of my colon as well as cleared the margins where the uterine cancer had been.  I had stage II cancer that had penetrated the colon walls, but not the lymph nodes.

I was flooded with all kinds of cards, flowers and visitors.  There were many blessings during my hospital stay.  My friend, Wendy, was even kind enough to help me wash my hair when it got so gross I could hardly stand it.  Another friend, Janet, would "babysit" me when Eddie needed to run a few errands.  She even became my "bouncer" when visitors were insisting on seeing me and I was SO sick.

On the sixth day, Eddie and I were visiting with my surgeon in the hospital room.  He couldn't believe Ed had stayed all those nights with me, sleeping on a little cot.  His comment was, "Everyone should have an Eddie."  He was thoroughly impressed with my considerably caring husband.

In spite of all the extreme difficulties that came with this surgery, I found myself being very thankful that there had been a reoccurrence of the uterine cancer.  If the uterine cancer had not returned with the follow-up catscan  ordered, the colon cancer would not have been found, and I could have been in real trouble down the road.  This horrible week in my life became an acknowledgment  of a profound miracle God had done on my behalf and I was sincerely  grateful.  

Phil. 1:19  "For I know that through your prayers and the help given by the spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance."  

(Actual date of this surgery was Feb. 2009).

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Outpatient Surgery

(the next part of my story…)

 “Is this an outpatient surgery?” The surgeon was trying not to smile as I asked what I
later realized, was a most ridiculous question.  

 “No,” he said.  “You can expect to stay in the hospital three to five or more days.  I could feel the tears beginning to brim over.  I was not prepared for his answer.  I had expected no more than a one night stay.  The thought of almost a week was overwhelming to say the least.

It was yet again a different twist in this journey than I had anticipated.  The details were closing in on me.  As a homeschooling mother of three young children, a week away from my family did not seem even possible.  How would I get through the next couple of weeks, let alone my children and husband?  It was too much!

Isaiah 26:13 “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.”  God has this amazing way of flooding us with peace and grace when we just simply ask.  He seems to shield us from knowing too much of our future because we would be paralyzed with fear if we knew what was ahead.  Instead, He nudges us forward as we exercise our faith and saturates us with His presence as we trust in Him. 

The details for my “hospital get-away” actually fell right in to place.  I ended up staying six days and my children were well-cared for and my husband graciously spent each night with me.  As I was released on that sixth day, a precious friend flew down and stayed with us a week- taking care of me and homeschooling the kids.  Family and friends provided dinner each night for the next ten days.

So, while it would be overwhelming to know the future details of our trials, it is also overwhelming to realize how God is going to walk us through it and provide each step of the way.  As my path continues to have unexpected turns, I am learning to look for God around every corner.  It seems He gets a kick out of surprising me… and THAT makes me smile.  

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