My favorite definition of courage is "Courage is the gazelle turning to face the lion." While we often talk about faith and fear, not often do faith and courage get linked. Faith and courage walk hand in hand. Today I feel like the gazelle. What I have is faith that as Paul says in Romans "we know that for those who love God all things work together for good."
My last letter left you praying for my meeting with the medical oncologist Dr. Johal. I had that meeting on Monday
April 30. I wish I could tell you that everything went well and it is all going to be fine. But it isn't.
The mass in my lungs proved to be Stage 3 lung cancer. So that's three primary cancers. Left Breast Cancer. Right Breast Cancer. Lung Cancer. The lung cancer is an adenocarcinoma. As it has already metastasized into bronchial lymph nodes it is Stage 3. It is also inoperable. I am now awaiting a positron emission tomography (PET) scan to determine the extent and precise staging of the disease.
Did I mention how unusual this situation is? In all the mixed scenarios that the doctor had seen over the years this is a new one. The biggest challenge is determining the order of treatment. At this point it sounds like I will be starting an aggressive chemotherapy/radiation regime in about 4 weeks (end of May - beginning of June) to address the lung cancer first.
The treatment will last 5 weeks consisting of chemotherapy Monday to Friday. Also Monday to Wednesday I will receive precisely targeted radiation treatments. Saturday and Sunday will be days off to recuperate for the next round. For some reason it was important to the doctor to let me know that I would be losing all my hair. Nausea medication is part of the regime so I suspect that nausea will be one of the side effects.
So what does it all mean and how do I feel about it?
The five year survival rate for lung cancer is about 20% according to the doctor. That means that if a 100 people were diagnosed today, 20 will be alive in five years. Add in the complication of breast cancer and the prognosis is not good.
There is good news though. I am grateful:
- It isn't stage 4.
- 20% do make it to five years.
- I'm fit and otherwise healthy.
- I won't need to pay $15 for a haircut for awhile.
As I woke this morning I was hearing Psalm 23 in my head. One of the few moments that I remember of my mother's funeral is this Psalm being sung. When I was in La Ronge the high school Sunday school class I was working with took on the challenge of memorizing it. Now I understand in some small measure why it was such a comfort to Mom.
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me."
Death's shadow is stalking me these days. As Pastor Aaron said when I told him what was happening. "Are you taking this as well as it sounds like you are?" While this has knocked me for more of a loop than the breast cancer diagnosis did, I sense the Lord's comfort. One translation uses the word "guide" rather than "comfort." And I feel that guidance as I move through difficult decisions. I think the reality is slowly sinking in. I'm appreciating the rhythms of work to carry me along for the time being. I find myself forgetting a few things here and there because my thoughts are wandering. Like forgetting my fireproof coveralls in the car trunk yesterday. I had to move them to get my hardhat and lunch kit out of the car and still managed to leave them behind. Easy to go back and get them though.
The workaholic in me is a bit sad. There is a little bit of sorrow as I gave notice for my First Aid work for the end of May. I'll miss the camaraderie, the exercise (ten km of walking and 18 stories up once a day) and the sense of providing a vital helpful service. At this point I'm not sure what I'll do with the web business. The doctor suggested that I not take on any new projects.
I'm a bit shaky today, feeling tears at the edge. I had a great talk with Sandy last night and Evan the night before. Still praying I'll have a chance to talk to Nathaniel.
I can hardly believe the outpouring of prayer on my behalf. Thank you all. If nothing else it assures me that I am in God's hands. Continue praying for strength and the boys as they come to terms with all this.