31 August 2015

But If Not....

Just got off the phone with my Gyn Onc.  He let me know that he believes I am currently too much of a clot risk to go forward with the surgery at this time.  Apparently, there are three clot risks associated with all major surgeries.  In a surgery this massive, everyone comes to the table with two of the three, which is risky enough!  However, because of my current blood clotting situation, I come as a triple threat, putting the situation in a danger zone he doesn't want to touch right now.
Soooo.......I will be starting chemotherapy this week.  He said something about doing two cycles of it, which means approximately two months.  Then, we will re-evaluate after two months for the surgery.
Even though he told me in our appointment on Thursday that our initial plan had a higher survival rate, this is the direction we are going at this time.  Hopefully my body will respond well to chemo so that the doctors aren't forced into a surgery if the timing isn't right.
For anyone (including myself) who was asking the Lord to dissolve the blood clots over the weekend:  we don't even know if there are clots in my lungs at this point!  The doctor went back to the clots in my arms, which were there last week, and used them as the example of my current clotting risk.
I will still see the pulmonologist tomorrow.  Wednesday, instead of surgery prep, I will be receiving a chemo port and a biopsy.
On we go.  No faith lost.  Ugh, though.

Daniel 3:17-18

Today's news may not be my favorite, so how about a couple of pictures from yesterday?  Have you ever seen a cuter Primary class?  I love them.

This beautiful baby was blessed in California yesterday.  I love Berrett Walter Dibb! He is my newest nephew.  I also love that his face here shows how I think I felt when I got off the phone with the doctor today.  All is well (for me, and for BWD)

30 August 2015

Blood Clotting Is A Nice Litttle Feature Until It's Not

No sooner had I left the doctor's office than I got a phone call from St. Luke's central scheduling wanting to set up a CT scan.  Well, this did not make an ounce of sense to me and I assumed it must be a mistake.  I even asked the scheduler to double-check the instructions because I had just had a scan and was scheduled for a surgery.  She said it was requested by my new Gyn-Onc which also didn't make sense to me because I had JUST left his office.  I insisted she call his office back to be sure we weren't making a mistake here.  Turns out there was no mistake!  I was getting another CT scan.  He had seen something a little fishy on the scan in my chest area, to which I agreed, I had felt a little pain in my chest.  Nothing major, but not surprising.  As far as I knew, that was the end of the discussion.  As it turns out, a "little fishy" plus a "little pain" equals another CT scan.  I must admit, I wasn't even a little bit concerned about it, but happy that he was so diligent.
I went in for the CT scan Friday morning.  In and out...no one got hurt....let's get on with this treatment plan!  Not so quick, missy!  Dr. P called back within the hour.  He said that the CT scan showed multiple tiny blood clots in BOTH of my lungs.  Ugh. Ugh.  He said my surgery may need to be delayed, I would need to meet with a pulmonologist, and we may need to start the chemotherapy before the surgery.  I may be too high risk due to the clots in my lungs.
This is where so many of you come in to the story.  When a dear, sweet friend of mine heard about the clots in my lungs, she said, without hesitation, "Sounds like we need to ask the Lord to dissolve those blood clots before Wednesday."  When she said those words, I knew that was what we needed to specifically pray and fast for.  Do I know I will have no clots in my lungs by Wednesday?  Of course not.  Am I sure the Lord wants me to move forward with my surgery on Wednesday?  Of course not.  But I  knew then that would be what I would ask for, and we would put our trust in the Lord and see what He has in store for this coming week.  
More to come!  Just didn't want to leave those of you who know the lung clot complication story wondering if we are still moving forward on Wednesday.  I don't know and won't know for a few days.  
Love you all....

Plan Time

Thursday morning could not come soon enough!  It was almost embarrassing how Christmas Eve-ish Wednesday night felt. I was anxious to meet the doctor, talk about what was going on, and make a plan.  However, at the same time, it was unsettling to think another shoe may be dropping in our visit.
I had invited my sister and my friend to come with me.  They could help me sort out the information and also give me needed support.  I definitely chose my dynamic duo perfectly.
Long-ish story short-ish.  My first impression of my Gyn-Onc was very positive.  I will move forward with him unless I have any hesitations.  We all liked him.
We discussed what they saw on my scans, tests, and ultrasounds and talked about potential treatment plans.
I've got a lot going on in my body.  It looks like multiple tumors, messed up organs, and widespread cancer.  I seem to be pretty sick.
I will need a massive "debulking" surgery to cut out the tumors and messed up stuff.  Apparently, the recovery is brutal.  Good thing I've got the Lord, angels, family, friends, and a decent sense of humor because it sounds like I'm going to need them all!
A few weeks after the "gutting", then begins all sorts of heavy-duty chemotherapy to kill the cancer which may be spread from hither to yon and from heck to yesterday.  FYI, I will lose my hair and no, I will not be wearing a wig.  Hair is over-rated and takes too much time. My hair is the least of my concerns.  We actually discovered that my brother-in-law looks awesome without hair so maybe I will too.
They scheduled my surgery for Wednesday, 02 September.  The surgery is planned for 1pm and can take anywhere from 2-6 hours.  I have to be there at 9am to have some sort of umbrella like filter inserted into my body.  Because I have been struggling with blood clots in my legs and arms, they will insert some sort of "clot catcher" in my body to keep the clots from going to my lungs and brain.

I have included photos of my hospital, my dynamic duo, the surgery schedule and a list of all of the stuff they plan to do in the debulking surgery.  Warning:  the debulking list is long and might make you want to throw up.  However, since most of you will not understand a word it says, I am not terribly concerned.  I don't even know what it all means.  I do know that my eight year-old nephew has first dibs on my extracted organs if I get to take them home.:)  Awesome show and tell!

One Step Back; Two Steps Forward

At the end of my visit with my PCP on Tuesday morning, he said I should hear from the Gynecological Oncologist either later that day or Wednesday.  I was anxious to get more information and make a plan.  Tuesday came and went with no word.  Wednesday morning, the Gyn-Onc office called with the news that the dr. didn't have an openings to see me until Thursday, AND they needed two more blood tests before I could see him anyway.  Looking back now, I'm sure it should have been no big deal, but I felt instantly deflated at the time. NO!  I will not wait until Thursday, and NO! I am not going back to the stupid lab to draw more stupid blood.  I will come to your office NOW, and we will get a move-on here!
Okay, so I didn't say any of that, but I sure felt deflated.  My great friend was over visiting at the time.  I remember telling her, "I don't want to do this.  I don't even want to go do the first blood test!  I think I am just already done with this whole crazy thing."  Being the level-headed person she is, she just asked me if I wanted a ride to the lab.
An unexpected thing happened at the lab.  I walked in, gave my name and birth date, went back with the tech who poked me, took two vials of blood, wrapped my arm, and we were back in the car lickety-split.  We were done, and I was on my way home.

As we walked back to the car, a scripture and the line of a hymn came to my mind.  I thought of Matt:6:34 which is Jesus speaking and says: "Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself" followed immediately by a line from the hymn "How Firm A Foundation" which says:  "As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be."

Simply stated, two things became crystal clear to me at that moment:

1.  I must not let what is coming down the road weigh me down.  If I focus on tomorrow's challenges, it all seems too overwhelming.  Tomorrow will take care of tomorrow.  My focus needs to be on what is being asked of me right this minute.  I can do a minute.

2.  I will have what I need when I need it (and quite possibly not one minute sooner).  The Lord's succor will come according to the demands of each new day.  I will have today's manna from heaven today and tomorrow's tomorrow.  I'm not getting tomorrow's manna today.

29 August 2015

Telling the Family

I have always been a relatively private little gal when it comes to sharing personal information.  I've rarely found myself in trouble for speaking before thinking, but I have LOTS of experience with thinking so much that I don't speak at all.
This can be a dilemma when you are sitting on this kind of information.
I received the diagnosis Tuesday morning and, after that one initial phone call, decided almost instantly that I would keep the results to myself  until Sunday.  It made perfect sense to me.  My brother-in-law would be starting his pre-bone marrow transplant chemotherapy on Thursday so some of the family would be at Huntsman, and my newest nephew, Berrett, was being blessed on Sunday so some of my family was gathering in San Francisco for the weekend. (I was supposed to be in San Fran but my clots decided otherwise).  Why would I add to the stress or cast a shadow on any of that? This could definitely wait.
I was still holding strong as Tuesday night rolled around.  My sister, Stephanie, called to find out about my CT scan.  I told her there was something weird with my ovary or something like that and that I didn't really know exactly what was going on.
If you know her, you'll recognize the high pitched tone that came next, "WHAT DO YOU MEAN THEY DON'T KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON??!!!  (I have to admit I was a little frightened). "Well," I said, "I think they do but I don't think I'm ready to talk about it quite yet." High-pitched tone continues (some would call it borderline yelling or screaming): "WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU'RE NOT READY TO TALK ABOUT IT?!  YOU TELL ME RIGHT NOW!! (More fear ensues).  I am determined to hold strong amidst the fear.  I mustn't ruin everyone's weekend.  I held my ground. She pushed.  I held my ground.  She pushed.  I was not wearing down; in fact, I found myself getting stronger.  Victory was mine!
Then, she found my achilles heel and it was all over.  She said (with no more scary screaming), "Michelle, if there is one thing I have learned watching my husband battle his cancer, it is that you need every prayer, especially from all of the children, if you are going to have the strength you need for whatever is going on and the sooner you get that started, the sooner you will feel the power of their prayers." Defeat, but victory really, because I knew from watching Ronald's journey that she was right.
By midnight all of my immediate family knew as much as I did.  I won't go into the details of the tender conversations I had with my family members that night but it was just as you would expect in a situation like this. It is devastating.  It involves deep, deep, rip your heart out feelings.  There is nothing fun about it. Love seems to operate in extremes that lead to happiest of happy and the saddest of the sad.  It's the price we pay for loving each other.
Pullin' Together We Can Work It Out

Now, What?

What do you do five minutes after you get this kind of news?  Nothing prepares you for that first five minutes.  I instantly found myself calling my great friend, BB, who is currently being treated for cancer.  I knew she would understand the shock, and I knew she could keep her mouth shut until I figured out when and how I was going to tell my family.  The call went to her voicemail, and I remembered that, as it was Tuesday morning, she was probably getting her weekly chemo at that very moment.  (Turns out that is exactly what it was.  She said she saw my name come up just as the chemo was going in).   She called back within five minutes and was just the right person to tell first.
If you are more awesome than I am, you probably head for the nearest House of the Lord to seek peace and comfort.  If you are me, however, you want to start throwing away paper!  I know, right? I'm sure some psychologist has a theory on that one.  As soon as I got home, I wanted to throw out all unnecessary paper in my life.  I actually knew where that thought had originated.  I've never wanted my loved ones to have to sort through boxes and bags of my "stuff" one day--airline tickets, sentimental receipts from lunch with a sister, an expired coupon for $10 off of $25...all tossed in the garbage. I thought of the personal belongings I'd left in storage in Phoenix and knew it was time to get them up here to Boise. The thought of my family having to drive to Arizona one day and go through all my "stuff" deciding what to keep, what to toss, what to give to whom...the thought of it made me sick and sad for them. I needed to relieve this burden ASAP.  I called my dear friend in Phoenix and asked her for a ginormous favor with regard to the storage unit.  She responded with greater generosity than I could have ever imagined. More de-cluttering was going to take place.
I wasn't doing this because I thought I'd be gone in 15 minutes, it was just because I immediately went into, "How can I make this easier on my family and less of a burden for them going forward?" mode.  Even though I wasn't ready to tell them yet, this was my immediate response to how to make this easier for them.
Throwing away paper was the obvious answer :)

28 August 2015

How I Found Out

I have felt crummy for over a month.  It started with the development of blood clots in my calves (DVT) in late July for which I received blood thinners.  Independent of that pain, I developed random, seemingly harmless symptoms.  I have had NO appetite since 28 July.  All food looked and smelled yucky and if I managed to force down a couple of bites of something (usually cottage cheese, or bread), I was completely full after a couple of bites.  I have had abdominal pain and frequent, painful urination (TMI, I know), and a low-grade fever which have worsened over the past month.  I was treated with antibiotics for a UTI which made sense at the time.  I also got a HIDA scan to evaluate my gallbladder function. (My gallbladder is awesome, btw, if anyone wants it).

Fast forward to Monday, 24 August.  Knowing I had a dr. appointment at noon that I wanted to maximize, I called a brilliant dr. friend, told him my symptoms, and asked how I could get the most out of my short time with my physician that afternoon. I wondered if I was just being a whiny baby who couldn't deal with some random, flu-like symptoms for a month.  It was with this insecurity that I approached my dr. friend.  I felt some validation when, after hearing my symptoms, he said. "Your symptoms have my attention."  Then he said, " I'm going to say something I know you've already thought of but which you may not have really considered and that is that some cancers present with blood-clots."  Ummm, nope!  cancer had NEVER crossed my mind.  (In fairness to my brilliant dr, brother-in-law in Utah and my brilliant pediatric oncology sister, they had both wondered about cancer but were just waiting for further test results).  He told me to make this list and request the following tests:

Later that day, when I met with my Family Practice Physician, (love him and his staff, by the way), I shared with him my symptom list and then started into my test request list.  Two tests in, he stopped me and said, "Yep, we will do those two and now it's time for a CT scan, and this blood test, and that ultrasound and.....I knew my list had gotten his attention as well.

I had the CT scan that same evening. I had been told that my FPP would get the results the same night and that I'd hear from him.  Monday night, my dr. called and told me some nice things they saw on the scan.  He said there was maybe an enlarged ovary but he needed to consult the GYN to get more information.  He said he wanted to meet with me in the morning (which was his day off) to look at the swelling in my arm.  I found it thoughtful that he'd follow-up on my arm problem (more blood clots, btw) on his day off.

After looking at my arm, he said, "Now to the meat and potatoes of why I had you come in this morning.  Last night when we spoke on the phone, I didn't tell you the whole story.  I wanted you to get one more good sleep before you knew what we found."  Now he had MY attention!  He said I had advanced stage Ovarian Cancer (IIIC or 4 depending on how far it had spread).