My plastic surgeon, who has to be the funniest doctor ever (behind such much wisdom and medical knowledge and truly a heart for his patients), turned on me Friday morning with sternness to say that I had to get my right arm moving upward. There was no messing around. I was pretty proud of my movement when he asked me to show him the touchdown, two arms raised straight overhead. I thought I was there! He quickly corrected me saying, I needed to get there with no hesitation. Back to the exercises we go, pressing in harder. I am thankful for the increased range of movement, as I have seen great strides this week with pain and movement. So, I will work with more vigor and determination.
We started Thursday onto Jude Plum, the wig salon. Another dear and close friend, Allyson, has been helping me with this side of things. She lives around the block from the salon, and has so graciously offered to be my liaison with Jude and his sister, Theresa who run the salon. She also has come to these appointments with me to be the "second opinion" and her sweet baby Priscilla is in tow. Priscilla is nearing one and just a pure delight. She puts a smile on my face and a joy in my heart. My heart overflows with love for this family as God has knit our hearts together these past two years through first her own trials and now mine.
I must also interject that this whole wig process has opened my eyes to a reality of disease. That when disease comes, not only do you meander down the physical road of that disease....but there is a financial component. God has blessed our family beyond measure. To Him I am grateful for His provision. But unexpectedly, you are faced with co-pays and expenses that weren't there before. And for most cancer patients, the reality that if chemo is needed, you will lose your hair.
For a woman, at least me....this has been hard to think about. And as I began looking at wigs, synthetic versus real, there was the stark reality of the expense and the guilt of spending that money. But the reality that I just don't know if everyday I can walk out of my house bald? How is that for my children, the constant reminder that mommy is sick? How is that for me as a woman who first has lost first her breasts, and now her hair? And it has me thinking a lot about the whole vanity part of my existence. It is another level of the stripping down to what is important on the inside as opposed to what is seen on the outside. And I'll be honest, losing my hair on my head and body might be one of my hardest obstacles.
Jude Plum is sensitive to this transition for a woman and he works with you to go through the transition. I am grateful for what he does. I know that a real hair wig is a luxury that not every woman can afford and that breaks my heart. (to tell you the cost would cause your mouth to drop!) Not that every woman would choose to wear a wig, but that for some, it isn't even an option. Jude lowered the price for me on the wig chosen. We have it reserved and about a week into chemo, I will go to his salon, he will cut off all my hair and fit the new wig upon my head. He will style and cut the wig to my previous hair, and this will adorn my head for probably the next 18 months. I am so grateful for his generosity and trusting God for the provision. As for the inside part, God is still doing a work on my heart.
Thursday afternoon and Friday morning we met with two different medical oncologists. (chemo docs) A lot of data was given. Their personalities were quite different, but both gave the same information just presented it differently. My prayer has been that all three chemo docs would give the same protocol at the end of the day, making our decision much easier and clearer. They both had the same conclusions. The recommendation is a treatment called "dose dense ACT." It is a 16 week course, every other week, with 8 total infusions. The first 8 weeks would be a combo of A and C....Adriaymcin and Cytoxin. The last 4 infusions (or 8 weeks) would be of Taxol. The chemo will work systemically and toxically to kill all the microscopic cancer cells that may be still be in my body. While it kills the bad, it also kills the good. This is where I hope Dr. Bazzan comes in, to help rebuild as they destroy. This course of treatment brings my percentage of recurrence down to 10-13%, the national average for everyone getting cancer. My hope certainly is not in those numbers, and I hold little weight in statistics, but again, the survivors cannot be ignored.
I think the harder part, was that based on how quickly my incisions have healed, I could start the week of August 16th. Whew....that was a lot to absorb. It means traveling back to the OR to have a port installed for the infusions. I meet with a general surgeon on Monday to discuss this. It means another appointment in ambulatory care at the hospital. Another doctor. This surgeon operates on Wednesdays, and then my chemo could start the next day, possibly August 19th.
If this is the chosen path, I would be done with chemo the first part of December. I would have December off (which looks quite appealing!) and then if radiation is chosen, would start that in early January for 28 days.
I was told a couple months ago by a breast cancer survivor, that breast cancer steals a year from your life. From the time of finding the tumor to the time of final plastic surgery, a year goes by. That will be my same walk. But instead of looking at a year being stolen, I am praying each day that my eyes will see the gift that this cancer has brought into my life. How many people I have met along the way, the gift of allowing others to use the gifts God has given them to bless our family in the body of Christ, the gift of a deeper relationship and intimacy with my creator and Father. The gift to share the love of Christ with others, the gift for my children as a family we are brought to our knees, the gift of growing and learning, being transformed. There are many gifts.
"The thief does not come except to kill, to steal and to destroy.
I (Jesus) have come that they may have life, and may have it more abundantly." John 10:10
Last night I had a fitful night's sleep. I awoke 2x with a dream that still haunts me this morning. I awoke Barclay in the middle of the night to pray for me, as I felt Satan looming so ever close. There was a door in my bedroom that lead to a porch. In the dream, I awoke and the door was open. On the other side of the door were two (thugs), one armed with a gun the other with his arms across his chest. They had these smug looks on their faces and they were leaning against a railing, as if there was a porch outside my door. They didn't move. But they were armed and ready. I became frantic and got out of bed (in my dream). I awoke Barclay to get the gun in defense, that these men were going to come in and get us and hurt us. As I was frantic, Barclay just stood there, doing nothing. Not in an indifference, but in a steadfastness. I kept looking out the door. The thieves didn't move. And I awoke feeling an oppression and Satan's lurking like never before. It sends chills down my spine.
This morning, Barclay and I talked about the dream. And what it could mean...and I picture those thugs and say...they couldn't walk across the threshold of that door! They couldn't take me. As Satan wants to bring me down. He can't! I am held by the hand of the living God. I am sealed by the power of the Holy Spirit. And I know that a war ensues. As Barclay stood in that dream, so I pray that I will stand firm in Christ that He will bring clarity and unity. He is my protection and holds my heart in His hands.
There it is, a snapshot of the last two days. Next week is packed with appointments....general surgeon, physical therapy, Fox Chase, Integrative Medicine, Plastic Surgeon....touches in the lives of many along this cancer path. For each of them, I am grateful, just as I am for each of you walking beside me! Thank you.